The Sweet Service Award goes to Nu-Line Elevator Products, the company servicing the lift in the new apartment block in which I live. For the first time since living in the apartment I exited it via the lift, as I do every day, but without taking my car and apartment keys. To get to the basement garage, I press a lift button, but to get back to one’s apartment, one needs to insert the lift key. As soon as I got to the garage, I realized that I had left all my keys in my apartment, but wouldn’t be able to get back into it. I was on my way to see a movie at the Labia, and could see myself spending the night sleeping in my open car in the garage. I called Stuart Bailey who has my spare keys at his home, but he was on the Garden Route. Carel Liebenberg of Constantia Nek had a key to Stuart’s room, so he could find my keys, and very kindly offered to drive them to me. Henry, our Operations Manager, suggested calling Sea Point Locksmiths, to open my apartment side door, but it took them a while to return my call! But the surprise in this drama was Nu-Line, the lift company, which I had contacted on an emergency number, intended for persons stuck in a lift. Llewellyn, the lift technician, arrived ten minutes after my call to that number, and with the luck of the Parisian owner Magali above me being at home, the lift man was able to climb on top of the lift via her apartment, like they do in the Tom Cruise movies, and get it to stop on my floor, jump off, and unlock my side door! This sequence of events was more exciting than the movie itself.
It was a call from Nick, who handles Social Media for Haas Collective, an advertising agency, art and interior decor consultancy, and coffee shop, that motivated my colleague and I to return to the new Haas building on Buitenkant Street yesterday, to write this piece.
Haas became a firm favourite when it first opened more than three years ago on Rose Street, giving life and energy to this Bo-Kaap street, being a convenient stop with parking usually available and devoid of parking marshalls. It became a second office (even though wifi was always problematical, with changing passwords) and a welcome meeting place, all first-time visitors being impressed with the art-focused interior. The food was always secondary, prepared from a kitchen across the road in a rented building, adjacent to where the Haas advertising agency had its offices too, in addition to the upstairs offices. Service deteriorated over time, as the waiters became more arrogant and slack, jiving in the entrance section, talking noisily, and not proactively following up with the kitchen. Inge has been the only efficient manager on the coffee shop side of the business, but Continue reading →
About a year ago I wrote an e-mail to Franschhoek Wine Valley, as the tourism association is now called, and fed back my experiences about the off-putting security practices of wine estates in Franschhoek as far as their booms are concerned. Yesterday I went for a drive to some of Franschhoek’s leading wine estates with my colleague, and this is what we experienced :
* Allee Bleue – having had a history of tight security and rude boom operators, new GM Wolfgang Leyrer turned the security staff at the boom into his ‘welcome committee’, dressing them into smart blue shirts, black pants and blue bow-tie, even if they work for outsourced Centurion security company. The boom is usually open, or is opened immediately, and it wins the top boom award for professionalism and friendliness.
* Solms Delta – the boom off the R45 was closed on our arrival, and we had to hoot for it to be opened, but mercifully there was no sign-in procedure. Thereafter the gates are open at Solms Delta itself. I am surprised at the variability in the security – on many days the boom is open anyway, on weekends in particular, and one wonders why their boom is not open during the opening hours of the wine estate.
* L’Ormarins has a non-negotiable security person, and one may not pass go until something/anything is filled into the security sheet. This is more important than anything else at this wine estate, one gets the feeling. They are absolutely consistent in applying the rule!
* Graham Beck uses Peaceforce Security. I have experienced variability in its boom operations in the past, the previous time the security guard sitting in the window of his ‘hut’, but facing outgoing traffic, so that we had to hoot for him to open. There was no signing in then. Even when he saw us, we had to hoot, so that he could press the button to let us out. Yesterday we had to hoot to get him to come to the car, and we had to sign in. He was signing in someone else when we wanted to leave, and he arrogantly let us wait until he finished with the sign-in before he let us out! Once again, the attitude of this boom operator does not reflect the amazing welcome we received inside the tasting room, and does not reflect the Graham Beck ethos.
* La Motte has mostly had an open boom since Pierneef à La Motte opened in September, or one could tell the boom operator that one had a booking at the restaurant, and then one was allowed in immediately. On Sunday I observed the first ever signing-in, with the resultant queue building up, not an ideal situation for guests running late, as I was, and it was just a further hold up. I smiled sweetly at the security man from Xone, gave him my name, and asked him to fill in my details, and he obliged. When I arrived yesterday, the security person Inge was chatting to a person in a security company vehicle quite far from the boom, and she did not acknowledge my presence at all. I thought they were her colleagues, as they were chatting. I hooted, and overtook this vehicle. She ignored me completely. When she came to my car, she gave me a mouthful, and referred to me breaking the rules on Sunday (I had not dealt with her nor seen her then), and gave me the rudest “welcome” of the day, and almost put me off driving inside. Her interaction with me was completely the opposite to every friendly interaction I have ever experienced at La Motte. She is an absolute liability to the La Motte brand, and does not share this wine estate’s promise of “a culture of excellence”!
* Maison is always open and welcoming, although it was closed yesterday. Its gate is closed when the tasting room is closed, and there is no sign-in procedure at all, and this is a reflection of the friendly welcome one receives at this wine estate. One hopes that it stays this way.
* Grande Provence has a security presence via ADT at its entrance, but has no boom at all, and the security staff is a token presence.
* Holden Manz is the newest wine estate to be boom-ing, and ADT operates the security. I mainly visit here at night, to eat at the Franschhoek Kitchen, and they should see the car lights approaching from their ‘hut’. I have not once had them proactively open the boom or even walk to it! Last night I was allowed to drive in without signing in when I said that I was going to the restaurant. On my way out the security person was at the boom already, and opened it to allow me to drive out without stopping. I suspect that Chef Bjorn Dingemans had done the necessary to achieve this service efficiency.
One wonders why some Franschhoek wine farms feel the need for security, and others don’t. Other than Allee Bleue and Solms Delta, it appears that the boom-ing Franschhoek wine estates do not realise how irritating it is to have to sign in. I scribbled my name in all instances, and no security person stopped me from entering. Most have security cameras anyway, and will capture on film any attempted criminal activity. In all cases, other than Solms Delta, security is outsourced, and not unsurprisingly, the outsourced security staff tend to be the rude, arrogant or inefficient ones, with the exception of Allee Bleue.
My advice to Franschhoek (and other) wine farms : let your customers enter as easily as possible. Make your security staff your ambassadors, guiding the visitors directionally as to where they want to be, and use them as part of your PR program. Train outsourced security staff in customer interaction, and the values you and your wine estate stand for. Make the arrival as welcoming and efficient as possible – if you have to have a boom, get the security guys out of their ‘huts’ and let them stand at the boom, to open or close the boom before the cars stop at it and have to hoot. Then business on your wine estate should boom!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage