Sunday

Jones the Grocer - bustle is the answer.

To say that there has been an air of anticipation regarding the opening of this fantastic shop would be an understatement. The fact that it is an Australian franchise has made me (prior to actually going) more than a little biased.



This is also a franchise that is moving ahead it seems - a JtG opened in Chadstone (the biggest shopping centre and the fashion/style capital of Australia if you believe the hype) just before we left to come to the great desert island that is Abu Dhabi.

Apart from all the hyperbole, I harboured a desire for a café that was run by people with some kind of emotional investment in the project.

People who wished to use milk in their coffee steamer rather than coffee mate.

In short: People who gave a crap about what they were doing.

I’ve been now. The review is mixed.

I was to meet my most excellent wife at the emporium de Jones. She was in meetings that would enable her to be there at around one, while I, being a blogger of leisure, decided to arrive and feel the place out at 12.30 with a view to sneaking a cup of coffee before the main lunch event.

I’m glad I did, the place was PACKED - a good sign.

The seating gods were smiling on me it seems, for as I walked tentatively into the crowded room, 2 people kindly got up from a table, 2 feet from where I was standing with a slightly forlorn look on my face. I moved liked a large cat pouncing on doona covered foot, and sat even as the staff were still clearing the detritus from the previous customers. I sat while smiling a latte order at the same time.

The hot bevvy arrived pretty quickly, and ladies and gentlefolk, we have a new contender in the race for best coffee in AD. Jones, simply by virtue that they appear to be using good beans and, controversially, MILK instead of coffee helper in the steamer pot, are WAAAAAY ahead of the coffee game here in AD.
Way ahead. WAAAAAAAY ahead.

So the rest of Abu Dhabi’s coffee shops are now on notice it would seem; either adopt the ‘rocket science’ of using real-plain-ordinary-milk in your lattes or Jones will have to buy up the entire building they are currently situated in simply to accommodate the customers who I suspect will soon be lining out the door for coffee. (those late to the game may like at this point to select "the coffee project - mission impossible?" in this blog's category list over there on the right for an insight as to how bad it can be here in AD)

What they won’t be lining out the door for is the service which, unfortunately, is abysmal.

Okay, abysmal may be a bit harsh. I guess it was up to Abu Dhabi standards if you overlay a “still working the systems out” filter. Even so, the lack of waiter ability was epic.

Food orders not being taken. Or when taken, would come out in rocket fast time, ferried by bus-staff that had no concept of table numbering systems, if indeed there was one in place… while the person I had witnessed actually take the original order sheepishly slinked away to the back of the store - for reasons I don’t understand - there’s no tables back there. OR in the case of work colleagues of "she who arrived just as I had finished my coffee and while I was fending people off from stealing her chair" ,whose food was not hot enough. Their belief was that the wait staff simply overlooked the delivery aspect of their job... so it sat in the pass area, cooling it's heels.

Karma was a little more pleased about the coffee thing than I am comfortable with (she doesn't drink coffee), perhaps she hopes this will end my incessant whining about a lack of options when it comes to latte's. I commented on the coffee greatness to Karma as she sat, while delicious looking food was being paraded about a room full of people, many of whom (I suspect) willing each unclaimed dish to be theirs - so they’d call the waiter over, have the food placed in front of them, then complain that it wasn’t what they had ordered.
I think I know the problem. It’s been bugging me for the entire duration of my residence here in Abu Dhabi.
No staff here have any ‘bustle’.

Perhaps because they have been working in an environment that has a policy of… “If it gets too busy, more staff will be put on” as a result there’s not many professional hospitality staff at a small restaurant/café/franchise level.

There’s just no bustle.

Perhaps it’s because the staff are not paid enough to have any emotional investment, nor do they seem to have much interest in what they do.

No Bustle.
It came to me on a recent trip to Vienna (I’ll write more about it in the travel blog) while having breakfast at our favourite coffee place (world class coffee, I could go on, but I won’t). We went to this place 4 of the 6 mornings we were in Austria, and were served by the same person, who was more than good at her work. The shop she worked out of had all its seating outside, on the road side of a wide footpath, with busy city foot traffic between where the food was produced, to where it would be masticated.

We watched her with no small amount of awe, as she, working the tables on her own, effectively looked after 40 covers.

Order/food/ billing.

On her own.

She had bustle.

People noticed it too. I don’t know what a waiter gets paid by the hour in Vienna, but ours was raking it in in tips. Which she accepted with thanks, while still maintaining her unhurried appearance.

Fast forward to yesterday at Jones. Maybe 90 covers. 5 floor staff. 2 floor managers. Pandemonium.
My opinion? (coming from my extraordinarily high horse fuelled by 10 years in the hospitality trade)
  • Pay more and get professional staff, not just dip into the cheap labour market and hope that no one will notice. Even if it’s only for the busy period.
  • Forbid staff from saying “Mamsir” for any reason whatsoever. No matter how hard the smile behind it, the passionless term automatically makes people associate the place with every other ‘coffee’ place on the island, instead of taking the opportunity to set itself apart.
  • If you’re going to give staff electronic order pads, make absolutely sure they can use them. If someone gets it wrong 2 tables and 3 orders in a row, find out why and resolve the problem.
  • Sort ‘who ordered what’ issues by making the staff member responsible for all aspects from order to delivery of food. Get the bussies to clear/clean and set.
I really like this place - our food was delicious. Truly good. Even if we did lose our first order to a table that decided to claim the apparently unallocated food as their own. A situation that would have been repeated with the second round, if one of the floor managers hadn’t all but rugby tackled the waiter before she delivered our food to a group of people at another table who had been waiting so long that they resembled baby birds in a nest - mouths open awaiting the mother-bird-waiter to stuff anything into their mouths.

The problems will be sorted out in time I hope, if they don’t, while it may continue to have great food, it will still have the stink of “franchise comes to AD then adopts a half-done attitude” about it.

Interestingly, for me at least - while it has been suggested that Jones the Grocer AD has Wi-Fi as part of the customer experience, and while the mighty Eeepc (more on this little device later) had a signal from a source called ‘Jones the Grocer’ that was so strong that it would have been rude not to avail myself of, upon asking for the password, the helper went away for 5 minutes only to return to say that Wi-Fi wasn’t working… I hope they weren’t hinting at anything, I’m pretty sure I didn’t offend anyone, I wasn’t wearing ANY of my geek t-shirts that some may find offensive (I own an excellent one with Darth Vader suggesting something about lack of faith) AND I didn’t complain once… allowing them to play the "Still sorting the bugs out" card, thus sparing me from bending the manager's ear.

I hope the staff problems gets sorted, and that the magic Wi-Fi machine finds it's password changes, I have visions of occasional mornings with good coffee, and getting some blogging done.

I’m sure it will.

Unless on the off chancesomeone at Jones sees this entry and takes offence…

If offence is taken, and my considerable girth is no longer welcome, then I’ll have to continue bitching about the lack of coffee in Abu Dhabi, until I can champion a (yet to be discovered) café who gets it 100% right.

Rather than almost.

2 comments:

  1. Stella16:46

    Pfffff very confusing, hard to read blog!

    08/12/2009

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yup.

    Contents page.
    Archives.
    Labels

    Rocket science.

    Try YouTube. Less strenuous.

    ReplyDelete

Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to www.athwebber.com

Thanks for visiting.