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Crouton

Fixing Britannia Restaurant

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I sailed on QM2 in April and have been reading posts on Cruise Critic for several months now. I'm a huge fan of QM2 and think Cunard has achieved something extraordinary in the entire process of building and marketing her.

 

That said, it's clear that there are problems with Britannia Restaurant. The good news, it seems to me, is that the problems are consistent -- which suggests to me that they are eminently fixable.

 

But since I know next to nothing about restaurant management, I'm very curious about what people who do understand the business think should be done. Since I imagine Cunard has been made well aware of the problem at this point, I'm also hopeful that someone will offer some insight as to how company management might view the problem and what the possible solutions are.

 

More specifically, here are several questions that reflect some of the problems passengers have mentioned about Britannia on the boards and my own curiosity:

 

How do you address problems like uneven service, or overtasked waiters and waitresses?

 

What can be done to make such a huge operation work more smoothly, and still keep the employees happy and available enough to have relaxed, pleasant interactions with the passengers?

 

How can you address the unrealistic expectations and rude behavior of guests when things aren't just perfect?

 

What about the conflict of marketing/delivering an experience of 1930's (class based, socialized?) glamour to a much more mass market 21st century clientele?

 

Thank you, in advance, for your replies. I think this could be very interesting.

 

Crouton

 

qm2%20britannia%20restaurant1.jpg

 

(Disclaimer: I have posted this same thread on Cruise Mates in the hope that Captain Wright might comment.)

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Wow. Captain Wright already replied to my post on the other board. I wanted to share it (below). I know some of you Cruise Critics are in the hospitality business. I'm sincerely hope you'll take a stab at addressing the Brittania operational challenges -- if for no other reason than I, for one, am fascinated and curious to hear what you have to say.

 

Crouton

 

Captain Wright's reply:

 

"As you have sailed on the QM2, I know you appreciate just what a visually magnificent ship this is both inside and outside. I also know you will understand it would be inappropriate of me to comment on areas of the ships operation on a public website. Having said that I can assure you every area of the operation is always under scrutiny both from shipboard and shore management. Believe me it is our combined wish to get everything as near as perfect as we can humanly do. We pay the utmost attention to our guests comments and strive for improvement where it is perceived there is room for same. The Britannia, as you know, is a beautiful and most impressive restaurant which has had its challenges in the first 6 months of operation. It has, and is receiving a great deal of attention to the operation and we will get it right. We do notice a trend of improvement in the ratings for guests dining here and please be assured if anyone experiences any shortcomings [as in all other areas] then they should make these known at the time and they will be addressed by shipboard management. We would like the chance to do something about it before the guests disembark. Like you I'm no expert in restaurant management [ I'm just a simple sailor!] but I am most interested in doing my best to ensure all our guests receive a first class vacation which is why I do read these boards for feedback. I am limited to my access to the web while I am on board so please do not be offended if I cannot answer all posts.

"We look forward to welcoming you back on board the QM2 and thanks for your objective posts.

 

Best wishes

Captain Paul Wright

p.s I do share appropriate and helpful posts with onboard management."

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He's anything but a "simple sailor" and it's nice to know he's answering the mail! Now, if only he could do something about Cunard leaving Herlan behind... :mad:

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He's anything but a "simple sailor" and it's nice to know he's answering the mail! Now, if only he could do something about Cunard leaving Herlan behind... :mad:
What assam said.

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Captain Wright is so wonderful, I have sailed with him twice on QE2 and in Jume on QM2, I hope I get the opportunity again in Nov as I will sail QM2 again.

 

Thank you Capt. Wright for such great crossings!

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To solve the problem in Brittania......

 

Free Style dining?????????

 

The problem ,as I see it

is trying to deliver all those meals at once.....

 

Free Style wont work.....

We all know that .......

 

but how about some sort of a stagerred arrival time

at Brittania???????........

 

Just a suggestion.....

I want to see it all work, just as much as you.....

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We read that Cunard says it will have service up to Cunard standards by the new year or something to that effect. Is there anything besides an inexperienced crew that needs to be fixed? Many ships have just as many passengers in large two seating restaurants and handle it well (although Carnival does stagger a little). Does Cunard standards mean that the service on mass market ships are say, like where they're at now and needs to be brought up to Cunard standards? Or, are they really below mass market standards right now?

 

Wish QM2 was our next cruise as well as the one after next.

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Another view NOT mine

 

A travel agent friend of mine who

been selling Cunard for 40 years tells me that the Miami Cunard

office was always disorganized just like the previous New York

office. He had/has to call dozens of times to get reservations

straightened out and was/is liable to get the documents the day

before sailing. He claims the old New York crew that did come to

Miami had the same smug attitude they always had and the new hires

were bungling idiots. He thinks Princess will be a breath of fresh

air for them. He has high respect for Radcliffe. Furthermore, he

feels that the vast majority of passengers could care less where the

Cunard office is.

 

Somebody in a previous post mentioned on how they requested twin beds

in their cabin but found a gueen. The stewardess said something like

nobody told her. That is typical of Cunard, IMO. Somebody else said

something about their party of 4 being put at different table. Also

an example of poor shore to ship communications. At the prices Cunard

charges why should the passenger have to straighten these thing out

once he is on the ship? On my very short QM2 cruise last January, I

noticed lots of minor problems. I thought they would have been

straightened out by this time. Why would I have to ask for a cup of

coffee 5 times and that was in the Queens Grill!

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The impression I get is that QM2 does not have enought staff accommodation and basicly is permanently understaffed. This seems to be typical for a new ship.

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It's quite simple. I'm sailing shortly and I expect to receive good service. Telling me the problems will be fixed after I have sailed simply isn't acceptable.

 

If this was a restaurant ashore it would have gone out of business by now. Qm2 have known about the problems since the ship had her first guests onboard for a shakedown cruise in january. They've had seven months of making excuses and saying we'll fix it.

 

Friends have just returned from the cruise to Norway. Nice ship shame about the service in Britannia. Travel again? No thank you. Been there done it. Now that's worrying.........

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The impression I get is that QM2 does not have enought staff accommodation and basicly is permanently understaffed.

Hello Reint!

 

This is what the Caronia staff were saying in January BEFORE the maiden (Southerly) Trans-Atlantic. On QE2 there was always a degree of flexibility with the aft Deck 5 cabins transferring to Staff/Crew from Pax, so increasing crew capacity if needed. Not sure QM2 has similar flexibility. Does anyone know the level of Hotel Staff on QM2 per pax compared with similar (pax) sized vessels?

 

Peter

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We traveled on RCCL's Radiance Class ship Serenade of the Seas last September when it was only in service 6 weeks. The main dining room is identical to the Britannia. Although I did not find the menu inspiring, the service was efficient, professional and always timely and the food was well prepared. We were in a deluxe balcony cabin and assigned a table near the Captain’s. We met up with others from CC that were located all around the DR and they only had praise for the experience.

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We read that Cunard says it will have service up to Cunard standards by the new year or something to that effect. Is there anything besides an inexperienced crew that needs to be fixed? Many ships have just as many passengers in large two seating restaurants and handle it well (although Carnival does stagger a little). Does Cunard standards mean that the service on mass market ships are say, like where they're at now and needs to be brought up to Cunard standards? Or, are they really below mass market standards right now?

 

Wish QM2 was our next cruise as well as the one after next.

We're going to totally enjoy our cruise on the QM2. New ship for us, new places for us (except PR), and new cruise line, probably above the cut for us mass market line cruisers. Just wondering though if anyone can answer our question asked above? What exactly is the problem? Get the impression not enough staff or inexperienced staff, or is the layout of the dining room in conjunction with the galley a problem? How easy is this going to be fixed? If Cunard is saying by the new year (ok with us cause we're sailing next year), what does that entail? We believe that Carnival will attempt to keep the Cunard reputation up to expectations. Guess this goes back to Tony's original post. What do they have to do?

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I enjoyed reading the Captain's response. It was thoughtful. 'Though, the problem, if you want to really examine it, starts at the top with Cunard management. These are the people that are in charge of overseeing customer service needs. Having sailed the maiden voyage in January, I came away with an unfavorable opinion of Cunard upper management. You could see the staff was trying, but everyone has their limitations. They can only make due with what they were given. What they were given were too few staff members and a poor menu selection. Again, this goes back to upper management which is Pamela Conover, Deborah Natahnson, and the rest.

I can't imagine these people have not sampled other cruise line food and said, 'We should have food like this.' I hear the menu, the number of courses, and the portions have been altered somewhat. What was given to me, before I gave up and ate exclusively in Todd English was indescribably bad. I work in the customer service industry ( not food ) and live on basic things due to time restraints so I am not too picky, but the food that was put before me was outright unpalatable. Cunard really needs to spend money to make money. They cannot cut back as they are leaving a wake of bad reviews and have to deal with the loss of long time customers.

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I'm very surprised that there haven't been more posts with specific suggestions in response to this thread. Maybe we cruise "critics" are better at identifying the problems than the solutions.:rolleyes:

 

For any who are interested, here's a link (below) to the thread I posted on the other board. Nothing very specific/professional there either, but some there are some different perspectives that are interesting:

 

http://cruise-forums.com/forums/read.php?f=11&i=2660&t=2660

 

My two cents department: the three things I would do (in no particular order):

 

1) Fire anyone on the Britannia staff who doesn't genuinely want to be there, hire new waiters with experience who do want to be there, and then bump the salaries of everyone who remains 10 - 20%.

 

2) Set 3-5 clear, simple service standards which "guarantee" a minimum level of service (e.g. first course and drinks served within 5 minutes of being seated) -- and ensure that those are met by whatever means necessary.

 

3) Reassign current Britannia management. Hire a new management/culinary team with proven experience of making upscale restaurants work well at sea with both happy employees and customers, get them to sign a two year contract with specific performance objectives/incentives, and give them the room and resources to suceed.

 

Crouton

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Thank you Crouton for providing the link and the ideas.

On the other board I especially liked the sentence:

"It's a hard one to call but I guess waiters should take note of their passengers "expectations" on the first night and try to adjust their service speeds to the table their are waiting on."

In my opinion this a key point. I, maybe in a quite European fashion, like to spent two or three hours at dinner. I do not need my first course within five minutes of seating, I might not even have had a look in the menu when the conversation already started before. And for sure I want leisurely breaks between the courses instead of a "constant flow" like somebodyelse wrote. Looking at other posts many people have other preferences. Thus it is a hard call but a valid one: Adjustment to individual preferences is a must.

 

This requires not only more and well trained waiters, preferably with experience in five star environments, but also a organisation of the kitchen and "back operations" that allows to give everybody what he wants the time he wants it prepared in the way he wants it.

And of course clear indiviudal responsibilities for other problems like table assignments, interactions with guests who do not comply and so on.

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Thanks for your great observations, carlmm. I really hadn't gotten the point about such different dining preferences, but in retrospect it echoes throughout the comments that many have made.

 

My suggested service standard was just an example. After reading your post, I would -- again, just for example -- something like "Ensure that each passenger is having his or her (initial) expectations/needs for dinner met within 5 minutes of being seated."

 

Your comment also raises a concern for me that Britannia's problems may be more ingrained/endemic than I initially thought. The concept is obviously derived from the great rooms and service of the golden era of ocean liners, but those standards were much more formal, uniform, and understood by crew and passengers alike. Expectations were fairly rigid...so it seems to me that it would have been much easier to define what good service meant across the board. (This might have been less attention to the individual and more adherence to expected decorum/manners/practices.)

 

If what's missing in Britannia is attention to individual preferences, it could be fundamentally at odds with what Cunard is trying to replicate. In other words, it's not just coincidence that the exceptional service of Todd English is in a restaurant 10% (or less?) the size of Britannia.

 

That said, the chefs on the original Queen Mary prided themselves on being able prepare any meal a passenger requested, and anything is possible. Maybe they need to think of Britannia as a dozen small, intimate restaurants instead of one big one. I don't think the kitchen is set up that way at all though...

 

Tony

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In regards to comments made about the original Queen Mary.

It was only in first class or cabin class that the chefs prepared anything requested. My Grandmother and Mother always said the service and food was terrible unless one was in first class. They preferred the French Line and always said Tourist class food and service was better on French Line.

 

My Mother says the QE2 didn't get her act together until the early nineties.

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I have heard the same things about the "grand Cunarders" of the past: If you were not in First or Cabin class everything was appalling.

 

Also, the QE 2 was a bit of a mess in the 80's, n'es pas?

 

Michael

NYC

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1) The Brittania restaurant needs new management. We brought two specific concerns to them, which remained problems. The managers are in over their heads- quite obviously trying to live through another day, not deliver excellence.

2) Chuck the current desserts program and start from scratch. The desserts throughout the ship (save Todd English) were frozen supermarket cr**. Ban cool whip and other Dupont products, which today comprise 80% of the raw ingredients put into desserts.

3) Buy first-quality restaurant ingredients- higher quality meat, fewer frozen entrees, and premium quality ice creams. Ban reconstituted mashed potatoes.

4) Serve fresh vegetables, serve them separately and serve them in sufficient quantity. Today vegetables (frozen) serve as garnish only.

5) Serve decent salads. QM2 salads are from the 1950s and smothered in Kraft (definitional drek) dressing.

6) Expand the kitchen staff because 80% of the problems for us were in the kitchen.

7) Hire English speaking waiters- we encountered two who couldn't speak or understand English.

8) Train the wait staff.

9) Add an additional dining room at the first refit such that some cabin passengers could book a single seating restaurant at extra fare. Two seatings are awful, IMO.

 

Hopefully the departures of Conover and Nathanson demonstrate a commitment by corporate management to turn a mess around.

 

I'm quite negative on QM2 given my 10-days and 60% of the blame goes to the Brittania restaurant.

 

Tom

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In regards to comments made about the original Queen Mary.

It was only in first class or cabin class that the chefs prepared anything requested. My Grandmother and Mother always said the service and food was terrible unless one was in first class. They preferred the French Line and always said Tourist class food and service was better on French Line.

 

My Mother says the QE2 didn't get her act together until the early nineties.

I didn't have a clue about this. It suggests something about the culture of the company which may be a significant part of the problem....and would be exacerbated by Carnival's pulling them more into a mass market kind of service. To the extent that Cunard may have already been looking down it's nose at Britannia -- there wouldn't be much hope or genuine leadership to care for the passengers' dining experience.

 

Lots of, um, food for thought.

 

Crouton

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A friend of mine just returned from the QM2 this week and had excellent Britannia service. He informed me that the Head chef, Head Maitre D' and their cronies were fired.

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That is encouraging news. It would be so nice to hear some positive reviews for a change.

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He informed me that the Head chef, Head Maitre D' and their cronies were fired...
Based on what I observed in April, this is an essential step.

 

If the report is accurate, it suggests to me that Cunard is starting to get serious about fixing Brittania.

 

Crouton

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How will firing shipboard employees help in the Britannia? The problems seem to persist when staffs are rotated (or jump ship), to me that suggests that the staff are not be the cause of the issues.

 

Food and beverage operations are often tightly controlled by shore management particularly staff numbers and food budgets. Perhaps the design of the galley, waiter stations or restaurant as a whole is causing problems.

 

Firing staff is easy and gives the illusion of progress. Unless the Cunard management are sure these staff were causing (or not addressing) the problems nothing will improve by removing them. Staff changes can actually delay improvement as new people take time to understand the problems.

 

I agree that he problems in the Britania need to be resolved urgently. It must be the most criticised aspect of the ship in reviews. In the long term this cannot be good for repeat and new bookings. Other lines manage to run acceptable two sitting restaurants, it should not be beyond the ability of Cunard.

 

Best wishes, Stephen.

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