Sunday, July 25, 2010

Changes aren't always for the better

Cafe Sweethearts
263 Conventry St, South Melbourne 3205

I think it is always disappointing when a favourite regular is crossed off the list due to change of ownership; I think it is even more disappointing when such an event inspires and motiviates one to return to food blogging. This was the exactly what transpired out of my experience at Cafe Sweetheart today.

After hearing that Guy (previous lovely owner) has decided to move on from the industry, we thought we'd pay Sweethearts a revisit to see if the change in ownership had left any battle scars in the quality of the food, as it had always been one of my favourite places to fall back on for Sunday brunch.

Arrived at just past noon, the place was surprisingly quiet for a Sunday. By that I meant there were actually tables availble, without any signs of queues reaching out to the door. We were seated promptly and offered menus, and to have our drink orders taken. So far so good.

The chai lattes (soy and normal) arrived in an upgraded teapot, with a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon. Our meals arrived shortly after; the eggs benedict still worked its spot on hollandaise magic, albiet the scrambled egg whites were missing a lot of the smooth, creamy punch-factor. Possibly the healthier version, although I would still much prefer to have the extra taste and remain in denial about the accompanying calories.

And Then (the famous last words). And then, things started to go slightly pear-shaped. Sure the service at Sweethearts was mostly amicable, although somewhat  inconsistent and inefficient at times. Having known most of the wait staff by face, we had never had any problems with their service standards. We were even OKAY when we had to wait for 40 minutes for our meals to arrive because the waitress had forgotten to put in our order.

So this time, when we waved the waitress over and asked her if she could bring our waters we ordered at the beginning, politely using key words such as 'please' and 'if it's okay', I didn't think twice about it. But apparently, as we found out 10 minutes later when our water was brought by another waitress, we 'shouldn't snap our fingers and scream at waiters' if we wanted something. And apparently, the said waitress is now very upset and angry, and would not come to our table, so it would be good if we could 'refrain from asking her for anything for the  remainder of our time there'. 

Now, it may be a while since I've blogged, it also may be a while since I've visited a breakfast venue, but since when did the waitresses decide who the customer should and shouldn't ask for glasses of water from? Especially when they are all EMPLOYED to have that as I would imagine part of the job description!? Also when did it become OKAY for staff to start reprimanding customers for something they had complete zero knowledge of?!

I also found that feedback wasn't taken specifically well, or at all. When we tried to raise our concerns before leaving, we might as well be talking to a plate of unorganic, over-buttered, and under-sauteed mushrooms. The final nail in the Sweetheart coffin was when we brought up our 5 years of dining relationship with the resturant and ex-owner, we were told 'well, Guy's not around anymore, Darling'.

Looks like we won't be either, Darling.

Rating: 1/10
Encore: only if they lose the attitude


  1. I have been a regular at cafe sweethearts for over 19 years, and I have meet the new owner and his wonderful he makes wonderful coffees best I have ever had. I find the coos still the sakes as he has keep all the old staff guy had inluding the female mananager has been there for the last couple of years from what I remember. If what your saying is true why don't you contact the new owner and inform him of what happened.

  2. My sister also informed me that she goes everyday for breakfast and all staff are the same including week day staff and the chefs and the new owner work with guy for months before taking over. Don't be so quick to judge the new owner based on guys old staff.


    After reading your blog, i know exactly who you are. On sunday i was there when the incident happened. But not as you put it. I was sitting there with my friends enjoying lunch on table 9 when we noticed the way you called and spoke to the waitress. You acted as if you were some king and she was a peace of scrap. We were discussed the way you spoke to her and clicking your fingers at her to move along. In regards to the food. If you were a regular as you say, you would know that the chefs havent changed and nor has the staff. So how has the quality of food changed if its still being cooked and prepared by the same people. As for years i have tried to get Guy to make a proper coffee. But what do you expect when he didnt even drink coffee. Also to say the quality of food has dropped, I find extremely funny you could say that. In regards to being seated i rememeber you because you entered with your female partner and demanded a table because you were close friends to guy and he never made you wait to be seated. The restuarant on weekends has always been based on bookings as its so busy i always book so i dont miss out. Or take the chance and hope to get a table. As it is a popular venue and the food speaks for itself. You did say as you were leaving that you and Guy would have the last say.

    Thats why after reading your blog, i had to respond.

    The first time i walked into the cafe after the new owners took over. The waitress called the owner over and said who we were and our history with the cafe. Robert who is the new owner introduced himself and have found him to be a warm and friendly person. Robert and his staff even remember what coffee's me and my wife drink, and as soon as we arrive and are seated, and our coffees are being made.

    So i dont think you are much of a regular or you would know not much has changed but the tea pots. And is that was has upset you or has your close friend guy put you up to this to destroy someones lively hood, as i know for a fact that Guy regrets selling the business.

    So for anyone else who has read this please go down to cafe sweethearts and try it out and i promis you, you will be back there again.

    Thanks Cafe Sweethearts We will be back definetly

  4. Thank you to everyone who responded. Perhaps if I had known both owners personally (minus the dining experiences) I would've taken the next step in discussing my concerns with Robert. In reality, I do not even know who he is. I am (rightly or wrongly) allocating him the responsibility of this bad experience, purely based on my last and previous personal visits to the Cafe.

    I have always found the spectrum of people's perception an intriguing aspect; although I am especially interested by mel's depiction of the day's events.

    I find it 'extremely funny' that we 'demanded' a table, as I remember clearly we took the bar stools initially, and of course were more than happy to accept when one of the waitresses offered to seat us at the next available table. I also have no recollection of ANY existence of the dialogues you proposed you heard, least to say the suggestion that us and Guy would have the last say?! I can only, perhaps, contribute that to the affect your long awaited proper cup of coffee has had on your senses.

    I am sincerely happy to hear that after your 23 years of history at Sweethearts, you have been privileged with the level of service you are protecting with admirable loyalty. I unfortunately, or fortunately, do not have that many years with the venue. I am however under the belief that the level of service you have depicted should be levelled and extended to the general public, or at least consistently. I do not see why you would be condemning the verbalisation of my less than pleasing experience, just because your wife and yourself (note my use of the sequence) are seated promptly with your coffees ready. Is that not a slightly hypocritical expectation?

    I am comforted to hear that you will 'definetly' be back, with the 'promis' that others will follow suit. I can only propose your future efforts would extend to spell-check and utilising the correct grammar in sentences, as would your pursuit for using apostrophes when appropriate.

  5. You can get the number in the yellow pages if you want to speak to the new owner. My sister has told him this morning about your blog and he said he was happy to speak to you regarding what happened. After I read the other post by Mel I'm shocked that you could be so rude to click you fingers at someone. Also all your other bloggs seem to be the same about other places you vist. I think you seem to complain about service all the time your not god so stop acting like you are and grow up. Sorry my grammar is not perfect I don't have as much time as you to stay on my computer all day and complain about service and use spell check.

  6. after many weekend breakfasts at cafe sweethearts i find it hard to understand how u can be so opposed to the new ownership,, with such a busy little cafe service is always hit or miss,, interesting how you never wrote about the good experiences before the change of ownership which made you 'a favourite regular'...
    i have been a customer of cafe sweethearts for a few years now and will always reccomend it to my friends..
    i certainly hope the new team keep up the reputation of the cafe, but with big shoes to fill you have to give them a chance..

  7. Went in today for breakfast was so busy and breakfast still hit the spot. New owner was in and all the staff where friendly and speedy service as always. Congrates to the new owners well done. Keep up the good work..

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