Fat Chance at Fat Bagels
There is an upscale tavern on Main Street here called Fat Bellys. They serve some nice single malt scotch, good burgers, and even have salads. They do a healthy lunch and dinner business, so when a storefront became vacant directly across the street, the owners figured that this was the opportunity for them to get the morning crowd, and they opened Fat Bagels. And now the difference between strategy and implementation:
There are a dozen or so coffee shops within a half-mile on Main Street, from the thriving Dunkin’ Donuts (where the dogs get stale munchkins) to Steve’s Café (where they get fresh biscuits) to Starbucks (where they get nothing, so we don’t go there). It’s a highly competitive business, and I was eager to see what Fat Bagels was like.
As the stars converged, it so happened that the first opportunity to visit was on Friday, when I work out without my wife; when my car was being serviced so I was driving her Bentley which has no cup holders; and when the dogs were not with me.
Entering the establishment, I walked up to the register and the guy behind it totally ignored me. When I said, “How are you doing?” he replied, “Struggling with this.” A woman wandered over and looked at me. I looked back. Finally she said, “Can I get you something?” No one had yet greeted me in any manner at all.
I asked for two different types of coffee, and two flavored bagels. She took forever to get the two cups, and had to ask me twice what I wanted in each. I noticed that she didn’t seem to retrieve the right bagels, after asking me about those twice, but she assured me they were what I requested. She rang me up without a “thank you.” She brought new meaning to the word, “lethargic.”
I asked for a tray to carry the coffee.
“Tray?” she said, as if perplexed. “Joe, do we have coffee trays?” It was as if I had asked for a square circle.
Joe, the register-challenged guy, never looked up from now stocking the soft drink dispenser. “Nope.” The woman shrugged. It turns out, they also didn’t have those circular things that allow you to hold a hot cup safely, nor did they use the quality of cup that Dunkin’ uses so that you can hold it without discomfort.
I was stunned. I had two very hot cups of coffee in my hands, the bagels under my arm in a bag, and I guy who must have been the manager or owner wanders over. “Do you need help?” he asks.
“I’m not sure I can get these home,” I reply.
“How far do you have to walk to get home?” he inquires.
“Over to that car,” I point out, “and it has no cup holders.”
“Shouldn’t Bentley provide at least three cup holders in a car that expensive?” he irrelevantly asks me.
“Bentley makes driving experiences, not drinking experiences,” I helpfully explain, “but it seems you ARE in the drinking experience business. Why don’t you have trays?”
“We’ll probably be getting them,” he says, dubiously.
If I only had the dogs, I could have retrieved Koufax and created a stir. These people needed the sense of urgency that an unhappy German Shepherd can create.
I balanced the coffee on my leg in the car, burning my fingers three times, and arrived home. The coffee was pretty good, but the bagels, big surprise here, are not the ones I ordered.
How do you create a retail operation with comatose, uncaring staff, improperly supplied, and apparently clueless? This isn’t about the economy. It’s about having enough brains to either do it right or ask people who know how to do it right.
There’s nothing there for the dogs, so I probably won’t go back. Then again, there’s not much there for me, either.
© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.
Welcome to my world! = )
You have to ask, “What are you thinking??!!”
Probably another case of “You build it they will come,” syndrome. But like a smart man I know always says…”Past success is not a guarantee of future success.” = )
Based on the experience they create, it’s doubtful they will be around long. How sad for the owner. I suggest they read Joe Pine’s book, “The Experience Economy,” to understand how customer experiences influence future patronage. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with applying a little common sense either. In Twitter, this would be a customer service #fail.
It’s not sad for the owner, since that’s where the buck stops. The owners hired the help and stocked the store and planned the business. It’s like most airports: They are built for airplanes, not for people.
In my “new home town” (10 months) I have tried eleven “coffee” places. My three favorites have excellent coffee, teas, and baked goods and terrific service.(They are NOT chains.) I have received poor to lousy service on every visit to Starbucks and Panera Bread.
Three times I got sugar in my latte having requested “Sweetner.” I asked the manager to “Please remake it.” She said, “Well, sugar is sweet. What do you want?”
You ought to write to the franchise holder and/or Panera corporate and have her fired. People with diabetes could become seriously ill with her attitude.
I know you have been loads of time, but that beahviour is polite in many parts of London. It’s loads better to be honest. My best was last week –
me: two lattes please, one with no sugar
them: both with no sugar
me: no just one
me: you just put sugar in both
them: that’s what you said
me: turns to next customer to get shrug
them: shall I make you another
me: up to you, do you wnat me to buy two coffees or one?
them: what do you mean
me: I mean yes please
The funniest one was I was in the new hip steak place in London and asked for a bernaise sauce, to be told they were out? How can you be out? They buy bernaise sauce in a microwave pack, heat it and pour it into a mini gravy boat thing. Charge £3 – cant they make bernaise sauce? At least I saw the funny side. What sauces have you got? I’ll check….hilarious…
No offense, but service in London, with very few exceptions, is dreadful. My favorite:
“What kind of cheese can you put on the burger?”
None taken. I whole heartedly agree and don’t get me started. I can name only one place to get a great burger (great, not good or okay) in London – who ask questions that they can actually answer like?
How would you like it cooked?
The Eagle Bar – but the ribs are better than the burgers and the only place I have found that do good ribs in London too. They do good beer too.
Most places in London will not cook you a burger medium rare because of health and safety. Could you imagine? I once insisted it be done MR and had to sign a till receipt agreeing “on my head be it”.
I’ve been waiting to hear it but, “You just can’t make this stuff up!”
An arrogant entrance by Fat Bagels, indeed. I was looking forward to stopping in. I thought they had a good opportunity to come onto this competitive strip and take a slice of business through good bagels/coffee but great customer service to build on the positive local equity established from across the street. I went in and was insulted by the lack of effort and interest in my business. No effort to build customer relationships or loyalty which is exactly what they will need to survive. Classic ‘build it and they will come, we don’t need to do anything more.’ They get 1 more chance…
The ownership doesn’t get it. Ironically, the employees in Fat Bellys across the street are quite good.
Agreed. The ownership doesn’t get it. That’s a shame because I pull for, and try to support, any good business on Main Street in EG and Fat Belly’s has provided a nice experience for me and my family on several occasions. Are you in EG Alan?
Yes, I’m the former chair of the planning board. Try the new restaurant, La Masseria.
My name is Jody Sceery and I am a partner at Fat Bagels. I am writing to apologize to you for your bad experience at our bagel shop. While there is no defense for poor customer service, I can assure you that I printed your article and showed it to all of our employees. I have also posted it in our establishment as a constant reminder of what we are NOT looking for in an employee. I am new to the business of bagels and coffee but I have been in the business world for some time. As such, I am eager to hear constructive criticism and do respond accordingly. Having said that, please be aware that we are a very small business trying to “make it” on Main Street and would appreciate some encouragement. I invite you to contact me, Jody Sceery, at anytime and I will meet you at Fat Bagels for another try!
The truth is the best encouragement you can get.
Jody, I’m in Honolulu, but I’m back next week and will stop in. You’ll see either a Bentley, white German Sheperd or both! My wife and I continue to patronize Fat Belly, by the way, across the street. See you next week.
There are some exceptions in London and these establishments are the ones who have flourished despite the downturn. Full list available to those visiting London.
I have been to this establishment recently and was nothing but pleased. I have been living in Rhode Island my entire life and had yet to find a great NY style bagel. The service was great and my order reflected my demands.
Happy to hear you had a good experience.
Seems like they got the message. Each visit of mine seems to be a bit better than the last. I’m really pulling for them. Continuous Improvement will save once again save the day!
I hope they make it since small business is the heart of our economy. I’ll give it another try, but if that guy ignores me one more time I’ll turn my German Shepherd loose on him.
Ya’ don’t stand a fat chance any longer since the place just CLOSED!
Hard to figure that would happen!
Did they close, or are they just renovating? I thought I saw that sign last week?
You don’t renovate a failing business. I believe it’s been sold, maybe to someone who knows how to hire competent employees.