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“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Price Of Prezzo

So yesterday, we two, Laura and I, met up for a spot of lunch in the town. As chance would have it, Prezzo had one of their special deals running where you just print off a coupon on your computer and hand it to your server, and this time it was 2 Main dishes for just £12, which, considering most of their main dishes are around the £10 mark, is a pretty sweet deal.

We have eaten there before so we knew what to expect. The restaurant is in a building that is quite old and has lots of exposed beams etc., lots of Hockney prints on the walls and a wine list as long as your arm. The menu is what I would term high-end chain-restaurant Italian, so it's usually pretty damn good and the stuff is nice and fresh. However, with it being a chain, it's pretty formulaic. All the same though, it is good tuck.

We entered and a young woman behind the bar/counter bid us good day and we asked for a table for two. She glanced around at the near-empty restaurant and said we'd have to have a table inside as she didn't have any more outside tables. I remember thinking, "Did we ask for an outside table?", but said nothing, though I thought it a little peculiar. It is worth mentioning at this point that all three of the waitresses/managers we came into contact with were all European (could have been German/Serbian/Italian?) and none of them seemed to be in a big hurry to serve us, and we did notice a couple of other tables getting their food before we did even though they came in after us. Anyway. I'm here to talk about the food, though service is a big factor, and having been a waiter and restaurant supervisor, I do know what it's like to work in that environment, and I grant you it's not easy, but the one thing that pisses diners off more than anything else is the illusion that others are getting preferential treatment or speedier service. Just putting that out there.

Anyway, on to the food.

Little tip... when you ask for water and the waitress asks "Still or sparkling?"  just reply, "TAP". Otherwise you will find that you are paying almost the same for water as your partner is paying for Coke. Nice though it is, Acqua Panna is for poseurs de l'eau.
On the menu there was a special section of Pizzas created by Chef Aldo Zilli.  He calls them his V.I.Pizzas, and this one is the Vegetarian model. Served on a wooden board, with a special sharp pizza-cutting knife. Nice.
I chose a veggie salad called the Arrosto, which contained goat’s cheese and plum tomatoes baked on focaccia bread with roasted peppers, caramelised balsamic onions, chargrilled artichoke hearts, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, marinated olives, mixed leaves (including baby spinach, my favourite) and balsamic glaze. Phew! 

Lovely lunch, and not bad value for £16 including drinks. I do have a couple of niggles though. The service was appallingly slow. I realise it was lunchtime but the place was not packed, there were plenty of empty tables. When the waitress finally came to clear our plates she asked if we wanted dessert and we answered in the negative, so that would surely have been an indicator that perhaps the check was due, as we had also finished our drinks. However, I had to make eye contact with two waitresses before one of them brought the bill and again I had to signal someone to come get it as we needed change. I appreciate the difficulties involved in waiting tables (like I said, I waited tables for three years), but it was like waiting for Christmas.

Perhaps Prezzo, like so many other companies, have the appearance of a wonderful company to work for but after a while, the cracks start to show, and for the employees, the honeymoon's over. This never fails to happen in all companies when they get beyond a certain size. They try to maintain their 'one big happy family' ethic but find it difficult to balance that with trying to 'expand or die'.  I'm all for Prezzo (which can translate as 'value' but also as 'price') staying alive, as the food is good, but they, like all companies, need to focus more on treating their employees right. Treat your employees well and they will feel better about working for you, and the customers will see and appreciate that. 

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