This is the first time I have written a review about a restaurant. Although I am not a restaurant critic, I would love to be paid to eat out in the finest restaurants on a regular basis! Sadly, I will have to make do with producing my own independent reviews of my customer experiences and reap the reward of the pleasure others get out of reading them. Café Rouge is a regular haunt of the Golding family. Found all over the UK, they have built a reputation for no-nonsense French food at a reasonable price in a family friendly environment. On Bank Holiday Monday in the UK, we decided to pay our local Café Rouge a visit for dinner having spent a couple of fun packed hours at the Fun Fair.
|Date Review Conducted||5th May 2014|
|Restaurant Visited||29 Bridge Street, Chester|
|CX Review Total Score||32/50|
I remember Café Rouge when it used to be a lovely authentic French Bistro. Naomi and I used to visit the one in Kew on the banks of the river Thames for a Sunday morning breakfast treat – long before little Golding’s came along. We have continued to be customers of the nationwide UK chain as our family has grown in size. Café Rouge is now owned by the Tragus Group, the company also responsible for Bella Italia, Belgo and Strada among others. Café Rouge is also one of the restaurant brands on our high streets that accepts Tesco vouchers. Our reasons and motivations for continuing to be customers of the brand are influenced by some of these factors.
How would the Café Rouge Customer Experience shape up for the 5 Golding’s on Monday 5th May? Read on to find out….
Accessibility – CX Review Score 8/10
Café Rouge score pretty well on accessibility – 8 out of 10. With 125 restaurants all over the UK (including airports), you can find one without too much trouble. Their website is pretty good, enabling you to find your closest restaurant and book a table with relative ease. Most, if not all, of their restaurants cater for disabled guests, and the one in Chester is no exception. This is despite the fact the restaurant is in an ancient building. The Café Rouge in Chester is also Wi-Fi enabled – important to many customers these days.
As I said in my introduction, Café Rouge are a brand that has made itself accessible to Tesco Clubcard customers. If you are that way inclined, you can exchange your Tesco Clubcard points for restaurant vouchers. This is something we do on a regular basis, usually exchanging them for both Café Rouge and Pizza Express vouchers. In the past, you have been able to decide which restaurant to use them in after you have received them. Recently, this changed – you now need to decide before you exchange. This scheme has made Café Rouge even more accessible to many families – we see a trip to Café Rouge as a ‘little treat’. However, what I have never been able to ascertain is whether or not the voucher scheme has tainted both the Café Rouge brand and the customer experience. It certainly does not feel like the authentic French Bistro it once used to.
The restaurant loses marks in this category for ‘child friendliness’ – whilst the chain purports to be family friendly, it is vital that it is able to carry this claim through to fruition. having been to Café Rouge before, my children are fully aware that they usually provide a little activity booklet with stickers and crayons with the menu. This is pretty standard fare in ‘family friendly’ restaurants these days. Yesterday, they were not offered anything with their menu. It took my eldest daughter to go and seek out the waitress to ask for them. The waitress returned with three photocopied sheets of A4 – not quite what the children were expecting. Inconsistencies like this in the customer experience damage the credibility of a brand.
Range/Choice – CX Review Score 5/10
The biggest disappointment for us on this visit was the quality of the food – as a result I have awarded 5 out of 10 for range and choice. The menus are actually quite good – a separate children’s menu caters for all tastes and the adult menu is relatively well balanced. It is not the healthiest of menus – it is not a destination for the dieter – but it suits our needs pretty well.
The first issue came with Caitie’s food choice. Caitie and Ciara both chose a cheese pancake for their main course. On ordering the pancake, we specifically requested that it not be too ‘cheesy’!! The waitress confirmed that the pancakes were freshly made, and that this would not be a problem. On receiving the pancake, the look on Caitie’s face said it all!! The pancake was VERY cheesy – not surprising considering the cheese used was Gruyère – not a mild cheese. Ciara did not have a problem with it, but Caitie could not eat it. The waitress was very understanding, and very kindly replaced the pancake with some chicken.
In general, everyone else was happy with their food, although my burger was overcooked. The biggest problem came with desert. I am a BIG desert man. I will usually look at the desert menu before ordering my main course!! Firstly, Café Rouge do not put deserts on the main menu – it is on a separate menu – I think this is a mistake. Naomi and I decided to share the ‘Assortiment de Desserts’ – a trio of mini chocolate fondant, tarte au citron & tarte tatin – sounds lovely doesn’t it?! I have to say that when the desert arrived, I have NEVER been so disappointed in all my desert eating life – have a look for yourself:
It was a very sad excuse for a pudding. What makes matters worse is that this desert was £6.85!!!!! I have never in my 41 years sent a desert back. Yesterday was the first time. I could not bring myself to eat it. The waitress was very understanding – I think she was a little embarrassed. Having discussed the desert with her manager, she returned to advise that we would not be charged for it – she then asked if we would still like to eat it (it was only going to be thrown away) – I respectfully declined – I had lost my appetite.
People – CX Review Score 7/10
On the people front, Café Rouge score a 7 out of 10. Our waitress was actually very nice. She dealt with the issues we experienced well, and was a positive reflection on Café Rouge. The service was a little slow, and it took a long time for our bill to arrive (which may have been the result of ‘pudding gate!’). I was less impressed with the restaurant manager. Despite the issue with the desert, the manager made no attempt to talk to us about the experience. In fact, I would say that the manager did all she could to avoid eye contact with us. If something goes wrong in the restaurant you are responsible for, as the manager I would expect that you would speak to the guests who experienced the issue. I would then expect that you deal with the cause/source of the problem. I know the manager did not do the former – I am not sure if she even did the latter. The manager of any team has a responsibility to her team members. Leaving the apologising to her waitress was not very fair – in my opinion.
Value – CX Review Score 7/10
Café Rouge also score a 7/10 for value. At £6.25, the children’s menus is pretty well priced for the food they receive. Most of the main menu is also good value – you can find a decent main course for around the £10 mark. There are more expensive options on the menu, but with the quality of food I experienced, I am glad I did not select them. The deserts are expensive (in my opinion), none more so than the ‘Assortiment de Desserts’ – the most overpriced menu item I have ever seen. If you are using Tesco vouchers, then value takes on a slightly different perspective. If I were to visit Café Rouge without using Tesco vouchers, I would expect the product to be of better quality. Price is not the issue.
How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 5/10
I was left with a distinct feeling of disappointment. The horrible looking desert had actually tainted the whole experience. It just felt like a place we visited because we happened to have vouchers. That is not a great feeling. Maybe if the restaurant manager had given me some confidence that the problem had been acknowledged and that it was being addressed I may have felt slightly different. On leaving Café Rouge, we went over the road to Carluccio to source a decent desert – that is how the experience made me react.
Would I use them again? Yes and No
I am answering ‘Yes and No’ to the question – would I use them again? In the main, the answer would be no – the experience was poor. However, if we have Tesco vouchers to use up, then I will. In future, we are likely to stop exchanging Tesco Clubcard points for Café Rouge vouchers – we will stick with Pizza Express. The bigger question to ask is ‘would I visit Café Rouge again without vouchers?’ – the answer is categorically no. I would not visit a Café Rouge and spend my hard earned cash – the quality of the food is just not up to scratch. Until or unless they address the quality of their product, the Golding family’s long association as a customer of the brand will come to an end.
Only been to Café Rouge once about 15 years ago. But I think most waiter-service restaurants tend to have a separate menu for desserts – Pizza Express certainly do. It’s only where you order at the bar that it’s felt to make sense to have everything on the one menu.
It’s a complete tangent, but have you found that in waiter-service restaurants it often takes an age to get and pay the bill at the end of the meal? If you’re delayed for twenty minutes it can really take the gloss off a previously good experience.
I very much agree on the bill paying experience – it can be very irritating!!