Seaside star 28 February 2020 Simon Hulstone, owner of the Elephant in Torquay, on riding the wave of running a Michelin-starred restaurant for 15 years
In this week's issue...Seaside star Simon Hulstone, owner of the Elephant in Torquay, on riding the wave of running a Michelin-starred restaurant for 15 years
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The Caterer

Letters: 05/02/2010

05 February 2010
Letters: 05/02/2010

LETTER OF THE WEEK: Hotels need to clean up their act

It is with heavy heart that I write this letter, but I have come to the end of my tether with regard to the cleanliness of hotels in the UK. I feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness and it is to be hoped that your weight may at least get hotel managers starting to think about clean hotels. Can I say at this juncture that I am willing to accept "clean" as meaning no stains, no grubby marks, no water marks - I do not expect (but would like) hygienically clean.

The final straw came last weekend when I stayed at the Hilton Glasgow Grosvenor. The carpet in our room was filthy, with ingrained stains; the walls were grubby; the throw on the bed was stained; there were crumbs on the carpet; the bottom of the bathroom door was starting to deteriorate; the paintwork was yellowing; the shower curtain had pink and black mould; the towels were grey and thin; there was a build-up of dirt in the corner of the bathroom; and the back of the bedroom door was stained. I did not do an actual room check - these were all obvious to the naked eye. In addition I had to ask for clean cutlery at breakfast.

This is not the worst Hilton in the area - that accolade goes to the Hilton Strathclyde in Bellshill, which excels in cracked sinks.

My weariness was compounded when speaking with the duty manager, who was unable to tell me whether these points were acceptable - each time he was asked, he said he would need to check with the housekeeping manager. This merely confirmed what I thought - that members of management were incapable of taking ownership of any problems in the hotel - they believe that a reduction in the bill pacifies the customer and they do not need to address the issues. Our room was free so the hotel was unable to reduce the bill (which is not what I wanted anyway - I want the issues addressed so that I can confidently choose a hotel with a clean room). It is my belief that not only do managers not know what cleanliness is; neither does the public as they are accepting these standards.

If there are any clean hotels left, shout about it - let people know!

I hope this letter assists in starting the clean-up of our hotels. All I want is a clean room. Is that too much to ask of the UK hotel industry?

Ona Ramsay FIH Ona wins a bottle of Champagne, courtesy of Bakehouse

We should all remember: tips are optional

I've worked as a part-time bar waiter since I was 16 for a large hotel chain, and, as a student, tips are a welcome addition to my hourly wage. Cash tips are preferable but of course room charge and credit card tips are equally much appreciated and, where I work, are distributed according to the number of hours you've worked, which seems fair enough to me.

When I go out, I always leave a tip unless the service or food (or both) has been particularly bad. Equally, I will try to fill out a comment card if I've received good service as non-financial gratitude is all too rare but much appreciated.

Despite this, what really winds me up is when restaurants, bars and cafés add that "discretionary" 10%, or, worse, 12.5% to the end of your bill. How offensive.

First, although tips are appreciated, we must, as an industry, accept that some people do not tip and, after all, you are being paid at least minimum wage to do your job.

Second, the tip amount should be my decision, not the restaurant's. I'll leave what I think is appropriate - for me, this tends to be 10% for good service and up to 20% or more for exceptional service.

Third, although the tip is discretionary, when it is calculated into your total bill, it can often be unseen, leading to an additional tip being added on top. I also don't know if my specific server gets my tip, or if it goes to a kitty to be shared out later, or, worst of all, if my waiter only gets what the establishment wants him to get - which could be nothing at all.

I feel that this "stealth-tip" addition is not only incredibly presumptuous, but also takes advantage of our better nature. As a nation, we are renowned for not wanting to offend; such establishments take advantage of this as I may just decide to pay it anyway to avoid confrontation, no matter how good or bad the service.

The industry does itself no favours by accepting this practice - it is especially difficult when you have received poor service when out, while at the same time trying to convince your non-waiter, non-tip-paying friends of the appropriateness of leaving a tip. A tip is an optional reward, not an additional extra.

Matt Bennison
Student
Thundridge, Hertfordshire
Concurring with Michelin's stars is an act of faith

Caterer is entitled to bless Michelin as some sort of extra-terrestrial force for good (Leader, 22 January), but none of your supposed "defences" of the French tyre company is persuasive.

Few upmarket French restaurants of note have opened lately, so the fact most new awards have gone to non-Gallic restaurants tells us nothing. And so what if a lone London gastropub gets a star? Michelin has long tried to defuse the obvious criticisms of its approach by making tokenistic awards to obviously under-represented categories. There is no sign that the single award to the Harwood - itself, of course, related to a newly two-star restaurant! - shows anything general.

Equally, you explain away Ducasse's third star - which, so far as I know, no professional London critic believes is justified - on the basis that his restaurants "have won so many stars across the world" because his brigades always maintain standards. How do you know that? Unless you can independently verify that all these restaurants are actually "worth" their stars, all you really seem to be saying is that Ducasse must be worth the extra Michelin star because he already had so many Michelin stars elsewhere.

Like belief in God, belief in Michelin is an article of faith - not an area into which inconclusive "proofs" should be allowed to intrude.

Richard Harden

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