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Scottish Hospitality: A Lament

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Scottish Hospitality: A Lament

October 21
20:07 2013
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Here we go; another moan about substandard Scottish hospitality. I don’t want to whinge and be all cynical but after a weekend break in Elgin, I can’t really help it. The staff in the hotel were pleasant enough, and the optional room service dinner on the Friday was actually first class. Alas, breakfast the following morning was not. With no buffet to speak of (something of a relief) I ordered some haddock and poached eggs, plus some ham and cheese from the Continental menu. The response from the waiter was resolute and grim: ‘You’re not allowed that,’ he said. At first I thought he was joking. Then, in the same huffy tone, he clarified my position, saying that I could have only one choice of main dish, and that I was not ‘permitted’ to have a second. Well, pardon me for spending a large portion of my sons’ inheritance on two nights in your hotel. Worse was to follow. Although my rations were a bit clammy, they weren’t quite as wretched as my wife’s ‘Full Cooked Breakfast’. This horror of festering, processed carrion featured saturated bacon, flaccid potato scones, carbon-dated black pudding and two offensively low quality sausages filled with what I can only assume was mashed horse. Now, I’m no critic – I’m not even a good cook! – but you’d have to be clinically dead not to notice how bad the food was here. I felt like AA Gill at Little Chef. The waiter wasn’t much cop, either. After witnessing my disbelief when he refused me the second course, he could have rescued the situation with a simple, light-hearted ‘Well sir, we don’t normally do that for guests but seeing as you’re hungry, I’ll see what I can do’. I daresay most people wouldn’t ask for two dishes in the first place but for those who do, it would no doubt foster a certain degree of goodwill for them to know they had received special treatment by the waiting staff. Instead, the grumpy old curmudgeon just shrugged and stomped off to the kitchen. And then it dawned on me; the management just didn’t care about guests who weren’t paying extra for something. The reason we had received such a high standard of food when we arrived was simply because we were paying an additional premium for it. But if hotels are hoping to woo guests with first impressions, and then keep them impressed for the duration of their stay, wouldn’t it be easier to serve food of a consistent standard (and by that I mean edible) for the duration of one’s stay? It was glaringly obvious in this case that cost had been placed firmly before quality and that was a shame, as the kitchen team clearly had the capability to produce top class fare when it suited them. But why does it have to be like this? Why ruin a perfectly good, hard-earned reputation by cost cutting at the most basic level? It’s like they were saying: ‘Sorry, sir; if it’s not included in your staggeringly overpriced nightly rate, then I’m afraid it’ll either cost extra, or it’ll be shit. The choice is yours, but you can’t have both.’

Now who’s the cynic?

This article has been edited from its original version. For the complete feature, please see Catering in Scotland magazine August/September 2010.

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When he spent a weekend away (in Scotland) with his family last July, Alex Buchanan found, to his horror, that many of the typical stereotypes of grumpy hosts, lazy service and substandard food were alive and well…

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