Inside track: ‘Call yourself a Michelin-starred restaurant?'

30 November 2021 by
Inside track: ‘Call yourself a Michelin-starred restaurant?'

David Moore finds himself in a bit of hot water with uppity customers.

Tell me, am I wrong? Am I being unfair charging £3.50 for hot water? For the past 30 years I have charged for hot water, but last week was the first time I had a complaint about it.

It started with "I can't believe you are charging us for hot water", to which I replied: "Like every restaurant, we offer free tap water, but when hot water is requested, we charge for it".

They retorted: "We've been to many Michelin-starred restaurants and have never been charged". I cited the cost of the glass teapot at £13, the Villeroy & Boch cup and saucer at £7, a teaspoon at £1.50, the waiter at £27,000 a year, and oh, heating the water. This exchange ended with the table refusing to pay the service in retaliation and the "Call yourself a Michelin-starred restaurant?" put down.

I find that the Michelin star is commonly used as a jibe in confrontations with a complaining, disgruntled customer. Firstly, the customer has to let me know just how many Michelin-starred restaurants they have been to, as in their minds this somehow gives greater gravitas to the complaint, that they know what they are talking about, while on my part I find it a struggle not to yawn and I'm definitely saying silently in my head, "f* o".

The real point, and one that customers don't get, is that we don't call ourselves "a Michelin-starred restaurant" – we leave that to Michelin. It makes the decision and gives the accolade based on the quality and consistency of the food. I just wish someone would explain that to the great British public and stop them taunting me for having had a Michelin star under false pretences for 28 years.

Pied à Terre is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and in the past 30 years I have never met so many rude customers as I have since we came back from lockdown in May. I think it's a post-lockdown syndrome. People have not been out socialising, they have been confined to smaller spaces, communicating only with family, where rudeness can be accepted, and then, when they are allowed out, they don't have the same filter that was working before lockdown.

Rudeness to me is fine – I can take it and give it back – but when customers are rude to my team, it's a zero-tolerance policy. I won't have it in my restaurant. Hopefully the filters will reset shortly and polite society will return.

So it is just over 30 years ago that I left Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, where I worked for Raymond Blanc for six years, to open Pied à Terre with Richard Neat, on 16 December 1991. For the whole of this December we are celebrating the brilliantly talented chefs that have made Pied à Terre what it is, by creating an ‘Alumni' menu available at lunch and dinner, formed of some of my favourites from all the head chefs. One not to be missed.

I'm hoping that December will be a blockbuster month, it looks like it should be, but the new variant is worrying and cancellations have already started. Pied á Terre is reinstating all Covid procedures to keep the team safe, and I would encourage booster jabs, flu jabs and all reasonable safeguarding – our people are our biggest asset and we must take care of them.

Fingers crossed we don't have another lockdown.

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