We went to the Powder Monkey in Exmouth a couple of weeks ago, expecting the same level of service as we get from our local Wetherspoons, the Imperial in Exeter, and that we have experienced elsewhere. We were very disappointed. It was lunchtime on a lovely spring day and the restaurant was busy enough, but nothing like as busy as it will be getting in the summer. To get in you go through an outside area full of tables and smokers - this isn't surprising but the way it was set up and the type of clientele made it an intimidating experience.
I am a picky eater and I don't eat chili or black pepper - I saw there was peri peri chicken on the menu and thought - that is probably not for me, but as I am aware that sometimes the only thing that entitles a dish to be called peri peri is a sauce I asked the person who served me at the bar, who was wearing a white shirt rather than the usual black so I assume she was some kind of supervisor or manager, whether the chicken was coated with peri peri seasoning or whether it was a sauce that was served separately. I was told, in a very off hand way, that there was a sauce that was served separately. When the chicken came it was absolutely covered in a spicy coating. Granted - the sauce was served separately, but any member of staff worth their pay would surely have thought to tell me that the chicken itself also had a spicy coating? Effectively that meant that I had to remove all the skin of the chicken and to avoid any part of the chicken or the chips that had come into contact with it - ruining my meal.
I am not complaining about the taste of the meal itself or the way it was cooked, I can't comment on that as it isn't to my taste anyway. I went back up to the bar to get a spare plate to put the bits I didn't want onto, and to get a glass of water. The bar itself was completely deserted with no customers and no staff. After a minute or so the person who had served me originally came back to the bar with a glass in her hand and told me somebody would be along in a minute to serve me, with barely any eye contact and no interest at all, however the young man who did serve me was very pleasant and polite and did provide eye contact.
At no time did any member of staff come round to ask if our meal was satisfactory, and they were not so busy that was impossible.
Both I, and my partner, have worked in pubs and restaurants for several years, including in management, so we know what to look out for, we know what good service consists of, and we know what level of service we should expect in various kinds of establishments. We both came to the conclusion that whereas the level of service provided by the staff in general was below average to poor, ultimately the responsibility is that of the managers to ensure that they intil a sense of pride and respect in their work in their staff and themselves, and this seemed sadly lacking.
Having said all that about the Powder Monkey at Exmouth - try the Imperial in Exeter. I don't know whether part of it may be the fact that Exeter is a University city so there is a huge pool of students available to work there and they tend (at work anyway) to be have better manners, to be generally more well-informed, and more able to pick up the niceties of good service, but we find the staff there to be pleasant, polite, interested and knowledgable. And of course this may be down to excellent management. The food is Wetherpoons usual standard, we always enjoy the steaks, and the gardens are lovely.
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