Consistently Good Service Should Be Simple To Get Right

So why does a restaurant like Zizzi's manage to get it wrong?


Chiswick was the first branch of Zizzi's to open in 1999

Zizzi's Restaurant 235 High Road Chiswick London W4 2DL Tel: 020 8747 9400


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I was talking to a restaurateur friend recently who was telling me how his business had remained strong throughout the credit crunch. He believed that although people certainly had less disposable income, they were still prepared to spend money on eating out as long as they felt they were getting good value and good service.

Good value is of course very different from simply being cheap and differs from person to person depending on their budget. Good service on the other hand should be much more straightforward to get right, so why is it that restaurants still get it so wrong?

The inconsistency of the service has always been my issue with Zizzi’s but my daughters love it there and their Bambini menu is, I believe, good value for money and the portions are more generous than most restaurants.

The visit didn’t being well. We were ignored by every member of staff for almost five minutes (I timed it) which did not put me in great humour, neither did the surly response when collared a woman who looked like the manageress and asked for a table for four I was told that I would “have to wait because there were tables that needed cleaning”.

Our waitress wasn’t much cheerier which was a real shame because the restaurant’s new décor has certainly tries to create a warm and welcoming ambience.

Undeterred the girls ordered Spaghetti Bolognese and Margherita pizza from the children’s menu, my teenage son ordered a Sofia pizza (£9.25) from the adult menu and I asked for Aubergine Parmigana (£9.25).

Drinks are not included on the children’s menu which means an extra £2.05 is added to the £5.95 price tag. The children drank diet cokes and I had a glass of Valpolicella which was pleasant enough although couldn’t help thinking that I’d be able to buy a whole bottle for not a lot more than the £5.75 price of a glass.

The food arrived promptly and piping hot. The Bolognese was declared as delicious as always and the pizzas were perfect - the generous portion sizes of the children's meals are worth another mention - it was only the fact that my parmigana arrived with an assortment of breadcrumbs on the top that spoilt things.

One of the increasing number of irritations in my life – apparently it’s my age - are ‘secret ingredients’ which more often than not have no place on the dish and invariably have no mention on the menu. For someone who can not eat wheat, finding unannounced breadcrumbs atop your parmigana is somewhat annoying. I asked for them to be removed pointing out that there was no mention of breadcrumbs on the menu which was why I felt it was not necessary to mention my allergy to them.

An un-breadcrumbed parmigana arrived quickly along with a stream of apologies so profuse that rather than appease me, as was no doubt the intention, only served to make me feel uncomfortable. Thankfully the dish was worth the fuss with slices of aubergine smothered with a rich tomato sauce and finished with a generous topping of mozzarella cheese.

To finish the girls had a bowl of ice cream (included in their menu) and I had a cup of coffee.

The bill came to £50 on the nose.

I deliberated over whether I should leave a tip for service and decided against it much to the mortification of my children. “The food was good,” I explained to them, “but I'm sorry I didn't feel that this evening’s service merited a reward.”

We left we my offspring mumbling about my meanness and, although my hearing is going slightly, I'm certain there was a mention of me getting grumpier with age.

We have been to Zizzi’s on a number of occasions because we enjoy the food however, we have found the service to be either utterly delightful or completely dismal which is a great shame especially since the restaurant clearly does employ some staff who really understand the importance of good service. If they could encourage all their staff to reach this understanding then they would have a really good thing going.

Emma Brophy

March 6, 2010