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Declining standards...



Had a rather disappointing lunch today, in several ways. Ventured down to Cambridge to see someone, and stopped at a pub near Duxford for lunch. I’ve been here occasionally over the years, but shan’t be going again...


The once-rural setting of this former coaching inn has been progressively eroded by piecemeal light industrial development, and it now has no garden left at all. The parking is now charged (you enter your registration on a screen inside to get exemption, but there is no sign outside explaining this). Ordering now takes place at the bar, not the table. I never regard either of these as encouraging signs. The over-stretched staff also appeared lacking in experience, and the chef enlivened proceedings by entering the (mostly empty) bar and delivering a terse homily to one who appeared to have particularly displeased him.


Food was unexciting, if filling and we didn’t bother with dessert. The general impression was of a business coasting downhill, living off past reputation; possibly not for much longer.


Sadly, this seems increasingly common. Several of the pubs around Peterborough have passed into the hands of a chain who have built a reputation for reasonable food, but slow and erratic service by hopelessly over-stretched staff (No 1 Son tells me that they shuffle the staff between pubs, depending on where things seem worst at the time). I’ve had some very mixed experiences in my travels to Birmingham, the North West and South Coast in the past couple of years.

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Having just finished a cruise where the waiting and bar staff were all from SE Asia, we then went to a 5 star hotel, and the drop in standards was considerable.....sad, really !

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It’s not that simple, though. I usually reckoned that Cathay Pacific or Korean Air were top flight airlines, but Indonesian Airways are pretty poor. Indonesia has a very large “budget airline” sector, and I think that rubs off on the national carriers. Emirates, another favourite of mine, don’t use Asian cabin staff, and seem to be the employer of choice for Australian staff in the NH, and THEIR service is well regarded.


I’ve seen a fair amount of U.K. hotels over the past couple of years, and my heart sinks a little (or my expectations do, at least) when I see East European staff. The FSU countries are not places associated with high standards of hotel keeping, and East European staff seem to me to be willing enough, doubtless pretty poorly paid, but all too often, lacking sufficient idea of their actual role to be effective.


You can cut costs so far, and then you cross a threshold where the quality is undercut and cuts actually damage the business. This unfortunately tends to go together with the development over time, of a management who don’t know any other way.

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