A bit of flexibility goes a long wayLast night I went out for “one” drink after work with a friend. We hadn’t seen each other for a week or so, so had lots to catch up on. The first bottle of Prosecco disappeared pretty quickly, and food was thought to be a good idea.

The place we were in – the local branch of a small chain that prides itself on being an “informal, neighbourhood food led cafe/bars” – invites visitors to think of it as their “home from home”. They have a number of daily deals, and yesterday’s was three plates of tapas and a glass of wine for £9.95.

We spent the next 15 minutes or so trying to decide which tapas dishes to order (it’s a slow process after a bottle of Prosecco!) and agreed that we didn’t actually want wine, but would like more of the fizzy stuff.

We went to the bar and ordered the food and then asked if we could upgrade the wine that was included in the offer, to a bottle of Prosecco.

“No”. Was the reply.

Right. Just no?

“We are a chain and I can’t order anything different to the deal”.

Really? That’s not very “home from home”, now, is it?

Ok. So we suggested a compromise of us buying the Prosecco at full price and her giving us a couple of tapas dishes for the value of the wine included in the deal.


Wow. Ok, so no flexibility at all then?

“You could have a glass of beer”

No, we want fizz.

“I can’t do that”.

We tutted and told her that wasn’t really good enough, and cancelled the food order completely, telling the server that we would eat over the road instead. She just shrugged.

Now, bear in mind that this was a rainy Tuesday night in the sleepy town of Market Harborough. We were two of about eight people in the whole place. We wanted to spend money with them, but by not deviating at all from the brief, they lost our custom.

We went next door and had an extremely nice dinner, that was customised with no issues whatsoever.

It made us very angry that we couldn’t take an upsell. We wanted to pay extra to upgrade, but the staff member was so rigid, that she lost a sale, and irritated a couple of regulars. Whilst I understand that tilling systems may not allow for total flexibility, a conversation with the manager would surely have resulted in happy customers. No offer was made to speak to someone more senior just to check, and no apology was given for not being able to help us. We really didn’t think we were asking that much!

The two lessons of this are to always have a slight degree of flexibility in what you offer, and to always have an upgrade or upsell available. Especially where food and drink is concerned!



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