Yesterday I visited Splash Café at the Vineyard Hotel, having parked close to it, to attend the Strauss & Co Art Auction. Clearly named after the king size pool onto which the Café opens, I was left with a sinking feeling of despair about one of the worst service experiences in a long time!

I was in celebratory mode, having attended my first ever auction, and having successfully bid for a special lot, for which I had driven to Newlands especially, enduring a parking confrontation on my arrival, with the auction company truck blocking the opposite lane, and a Paarl-based BMW driver deciding to drive head on into my lane, and expecting me to make way for him, blocking all access to the parking area. I had sat at the auction for one and a half hours, awaiting my lot number, a boring process if one is not interested in Chinese snuff bottles or three hundred or more other auction lots. Tea, coffee, juices, and a poor selection of two biscuit types alleviated the auction experience. 

On bidding successfully, having to pay for the lot, and then check it at the Collection station, I felt I deserved a dry cappuccino, and a bowl of ice cream, nothing else on the menu being of interest to me in the late afternoon.  Entering the guest-less Café, I veered to the bar counter, asking the staff member in a white shirt whether they are still open for service. He affirmed. I asked if it was possible to order a coffee and to receive a menu. He said I should take a seat outside and that a menu would be brought to the table. I explained to the male waiter how I wanted my dry cappuccino. I asked him which flavors of ice cream and sorbet are available, and how many scoops are served for the dish. He told me that he would have to check. The waiter returned, having written down the options, which included mixed berry, mango, vanilla, mocca, and mint. I ordered the latter three flavors. The male waiter was very unsure of himself, getting the reading of the list of flavour options mixed up, even though he was reading it off his pad, giving me the feeling that it was his first day at work. 

Abongile (name of the waitress on the bill) brought the three-scoop ice cream bowl to my table, and I was surprised at its plain presentation, just three scoops (R55) without any garnish of a mint leaf or a flower! Surprisingly, the mint ice cream scoop was cream-coloured and not green as one would expect. I asked the male waiter about the cappuccino, as it still had not arrived. He said that it was coming from the hotel restaurant, as they cannot make double shot coffees at Splash! I asked for the manager, and he told me that she too was in the hotel building, and promised to call her.

Manager Melanie King arrived simultaneously with the dry cappuccino, made perfectly, but having taken more than 20 minutes. Melanie explained that they have an automatic coffee maker, which does not allow double shot coffee making. As they have had issues with this before, she ha$ requested hotel management for a manual coffee maker. She asked me to complete a feedback form in the billfold, which I duly did, saying that it would strengthen her case in this request. 

Until this point I was cool and calm, but when it got to payment, I lost it. I had to walk inside to the bar counter, to request the bill, as neither of the two waiters came to check up to me or if I wanted another coffee or more water. Abongile provided the bill, and brought a credit card machine to me immediately, without asking me how I would like to pay. When I gave her my R100 note, Melanie told me that they don’t have change in the restaurant and that she would have to fetch some from her safe in the hotel! I was finished! Melanie explained that waiters are given a change float at the start of the day, and that Abongile’s change had run out! This meant waiting another ten minutes. By now my respect for Melanie in her role as Manager had hit rock bottom, and I asked her how their international guests at the 4-star hotel cope with the ineptitude of the restaurant and its staff. It is clear why the hotel guests and outside visitors do not use Splash Café.

On Thursday I had attended a Preview of the Auction lots, and had received similar poor service in the hotel lounge, for which the Vineyard Hotel received a Sour Service Award on Friday. I received no communication from the hotel in response to it!

Twelve Apostles Hotel Sweet Service Award; The Vineyard Hotel Sour Service Award!

The Service at Splash Café is shocking, resembling a training school for newbie waiters and managers who have no clue as to run a restaurant. It appears that Service Excellence is a foreign concept at the Vineyard Hotel, despite its large percentage of foreign guests! Pardon the pun, but I was left with a sinking feeling of despair for our tourism industry, at such poor service delivery! 

Splash Café, Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town. Tel (021) 657-4500. www.vineyard.co.za Twitter:@Vineyard_hotel Instagram: @vineyard_hotel

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein