Review: Cau Didsbury, Manchester: “10% “Service Charge” Leaves a Bad Taste in the Mouth.

This is a review for CAU DIDSBURY, 700 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2DN. Tel: 0161 448 1883.

I *really* wanted to love this place (I used to go to the same building when it was Zizi). I have been to Cau in Amsterdam, but this one isn’t up to that standard.

They have only been open 4 weeks, so we should perhaps make allowances for that.

I trundled along here tonight with my two kids to try it out. After some consternation among the door staff as to where they might seat us, I was finally led through a half empty place to a booth.

Ordered some food and drinks. The carafe of white wine I ordered (called a “pot” here) arrived as red. Easy mistake, right? Wine glass had fingerprints on. Let’s move on……

They have customer wifi. Why no card on the table about it? The password is 1111111111.

Food was pretty slow to arrive, and the place wasn’t busy, but I can live with that if its cooked fresh to order and worth the wait.

No starters or desserts. I ordered a Lomito steak, 11 year old son a ribeye, young girl had a kids pizza.

After the order, the waiter returned to tell me they didn’t ‘recommend’ the steak the way I ordered it cooked (medium well).

Well, I have been cooking and eating steak for decades all over the world, that advice may be helpful to some, but not to me.

I want it cooked how I ordered it; it isn’t up for debate.

CAU Didsbury

Food arrives and its alright. Not earth shattering, but nothing much to complain about. If I was rating on food alone, I would maybe go for a 4/5. The wine was OK (once they had got it right).

After we finished I flagged a girl down for the bill as our guy had vanished. The bill duly arrived, remember this is 500ml wine, two soft drinks, two steaks and a kids main, no starters or dessert. I see a bill of £79.20 there.

Upon examination, there is a greedy “10% service charge” on there. Apparently “optional” (which when I went to school made it an ‘optional gratuity’ rather than a ‘charge’ per se). The real bill was £72. Which is enough.

This is psychological manipulation that makes my teeth itch. If the service is good, I’ll happily cough up 10% or similar on my own, thanks.

To phrase an optional gratuity as a “charge” (which implicates it is mandatory) and then include it in the bill by default will make most people pay it. Simply because they don’t want the potentially confrontational conversation to remove it. If they need the extra 10% so badly, why not just include it in the main prices?

I don’t see two steaks, a kids pizza, two soft drinks and two glasses of wine at £80, certainty not when the wine arrives wrong, the glass has fingerprints on and the food is nothing exceptional.

For those reasons, I removed the “service charge” and they got £72.

Dear reader: You should do the same. It is the only way we will teach them. Request the bill sans service charge in advance.

Is it a bad place? No, not really. The decor is nice, the food alright, service a tad patchy, but that “service charge” irked me. I’ll overlook simple mistakes and fingerprints as the staff are all new here. I’ll give it another shot when they have found their feet, ONLY IF the policy of “service charge” is scrapped.

Note to Cau: You might get away with a 10% “service charge” in Media City or London. In Amsterdam, the service is exceptional so nobody minds.

But in Manchester, this wont really go down well and will alienate you from your potential future clientele.

Had I have been impressed overall, I would have made a £1k booking for my staff Xmas party, as I did in the same location under the previous management last year.

This year I will find someplace else.

So overall, I think an ‘average’ is fair.

Don’t pay that service charge people. It is in fact an optional gratuity. If you don’t resist it, it will become commonplace.

 

Review by @MottramBypass via Twitter.

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