What would your Mother say?

Published 7 March 2020

CODE founder Adam Hyman has some beef booking Sunday lunch 

During the week I found myself looking for somewhere to book for Mother’s Day lunch. Somewhere unfussy, but cosy, serving a decent Sunday roast, where the music isn’t overly loud for certain family members. Thumbing the imaginary restaurant rolodex in my head I stopped, remembering a very agreeable Sunday lunch I enjoyed at a central London hotel shortly before Christmas.  

This particular hotel restaurant did tick all the boxes, with a great Sunday lunch that was excellent value to boot. Decision made, I called up to book a table and was told that a table for 7 people wouldn’t be a problem, but rather than their usual set menu, being Mother’s Day they would be serving “a special menu to celebrate it”. 

I was directed to look at this alternative menu online, which appeared to be the same as the normal Sunday lunch menu, but an extra £25 per person. Well, why not? An easy opportunity for an operator to make a quick buck from punters looking to celebrate a hallmark holiday. It keeps the accounts team happy and who wouldn’t pay an extra bit of cash to look after their Mum? 

Well, I for one would not. And it’s got nothing to do with not wanting to spoil my mother. In fact, it’s the opposite. She deserves better than being hoodwinked into spending extra for the sake of it. To me this feels rather like going into a restaurant and the team finding out it’s your birthday, and deciding to up the menu prices by half.  

There’s a lovely phrase from a restaurateur that I often refer to about how generosity can so often get in the way of providing good hospitality. In this case, rather than being viewed as a welcome guest, I am being looked at as a way to make that P&L look healthier. And this is where it all falls apart for me. As soon as I’m seen as a cashpoint, I’m not interested. I won’t spend my own money there and I’m unlikely ever to return let alone recommend it. We all know how being made to feel special not only wins you over as a loyal customer, but increases the likelihood of you spending more once there. You order that extra bottle of wine, indulge in some cheese before dessert as you’re happy and don’t want the experience to end.  

In an uncertain climate where restaurants and hotels are reporting worrying figures over a fall in customer numbers thanks to this pesky virus, should we all not be trying to get more people through the door and winning them over as customers? We can all appreciate businesses have to make money – I run my own – but it’s a shame when they lose sight of their brand and ultimately their values, for the sake of an extra £25.  

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