NOTE: I don’t like writing negative blogs.. I find it very difficult. But I do feel that this time, I’m obliged to write about my experience because I think it’s such a pity that such awesome premises just don’t get anything right. We felt we had ended up in an episode of ‘Fawlty Towers’. Santé needs serious help with training their staff and management and getting their systems into place.
They offered an incredible agent’s deal: ZAR 600 per room, Bed & Breakfast. Of course when I heard about it, I JUMPED on it. Wow!! To stay in this awesome spot for close to nothing would be such a major treat. I had been to the place many moons ago on a site inspection. The location is superb, all surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the Cape Wine lands.
To make a booking as an agent was already quite complicated. I was contacted by a company called www.topplacestravel.co.za. I made the booking on the 29th of July and eventually got the correct invoice (VAT nr, name, right amount…) at Friday 5 August in the evening. We were checking in on the 6th. I think I emailed about 10 times and phoned a couple of times to ask what was going on and if the booking was really confirmed (systems down, no electricity, don’t know…all kinds of answers..). I didn’t want to drive all the way there to find out that there would be no booking. Upon arrival we were met by a somewhat confused receptionist who needed help from someone else to do the check-in and get the key card. Some staff wear uniforms but most don’t so it’s very difficult to see who’s in charge of what…We were accompanied to the room by a very friendly porter. BTW, most staff was very friendly, they just had no clue.
The Spa Suites are very spacious, great beds and beautiful bathrooms. And from everywhere you can see those stunning mountains. But our mini bar was empty and very smelly (ya, we do check that one first to make sure we’re sorted for drinks, NOT!), the safe was not working, there were no bath robes nor slippers in the room and there was no hair dryer.The TV was old and the reception was awful. Watching TV was not an option. Now we wanted to go and enjoy the Spa but we had no where to put our valuables and we could not change in the room so we needed to ‘trek’ back to the Spa with all our luggage which is quite far.
At the Spa we were welcomed by an intern, I guess (I think most staff are interns). We asked for the changing room and lockers so we could get ready for the Spa. She sent us to the far end of the pool and we ended up in the toilets, no lockers, no robes, no space, no nothing. This couldn’t be right. So we ‘trekked’ back (all our luggage…) to the reception area to find out. A friendly little lady, completely stressed out, told us Oh no, this girl doesn’t know, she just started (How about a 10 minute briefing before new staff starts in the morning and give them a quick tour??? yes, it sometime can be that easy…) so now she would take us to the changing rooms. FINALLY, we made it!
The Spa areas are all beautiful and nothing wrong with BUT of course, being from the hospitality industry we noticed some missed opportunities. I think most guests were there on a Groupon voucher or were agents like us. I guess they were operating at cost price (or a loss) as not much profit can be made from those deals so you have to make sure that you make revenue from Food & Beverages. It took literally half an hour before we got our drink by the pool. The pool bar was not operational. We were first given a food menu. There was no drinks menu, only wines, we were told. How can you only serve wines in a Spa?? Open that pool bar, make sure you have a guy making awesome health smoothies and cocktails and SELL!
Another missed opportunity. When you have a hotel full of agents, surely the GM should come and say hello, invite us for a cocktail (or 2) and explain to us what’s going on, what the plans are, build relationships with the people that will book this property in the future, right? Small effort, BIG gain. He could have even explained why things are not up to scratch, ask for our feedback and build rapport. It really is not very difficult at all.
We were sat down at a table. 2 minutes later a ‘manager’ came to check if we were fine, another 2 minutes later another ‘manager’ came to ask the same, 2 minutes later another ‘manager’ asked the same question. By then I lost my patience and I kindly asked: We’ve seen now 3 ‘managers’ (not sure if they really were because it’s not clear from the way they were dressed..), is it perhaps possible to see a WAITER and ORDER something??? The menu? Bread? Water? Wine? You know, the usual things you would like when you go for dinner. We did have to giggle though..So now we ordered a bottle of Merlot and some tap water with lemon. The jug of water came, no glasses. The wine took for ever. I said to my friend: Just wait, he’s coming back now with the message that there’s no Merlot. And so he did, 2 minutes later. By then we knew, if we wanted to get anything before midnight, we could not be too picky. My usual question then is: So what DO you have so we can choose from available options? He wasn’t really sure…(briefing staff before a shift is KING!!). We got a bottle of Shiraz I think.
After 15 minutes we saw that the ‘managers’ were actually now also getting more into action and were actually carrying plates and helping out. Another thing I don’t understand in this country. Managers seem to have the idea that they no longer need to work and that they can’t get their hands dirty. A manager in Europe works 3 times as hard as his/her staff, makes sure everything is prepared, comes early in the morning, leaves the last in the evening and knows EXACTLY what’s going on in the restaurant / hotel in every single department! That’s the only way to know where staff needs help and where systems don’t work.
The pricing on the food menu, I found a bit weird. ZAR 125 for a steak or fillet, ZAR 120 for a chicken stir fry. It didn’t make sense to me. The quality of the food itself was not bad. I enjoyed my chili prawns and my friend enjoyed her chicken stir fry (although sent back once because it was a bit dry). For dessert I had a Pana Cotta. I think there was nothing wrong with it but I was very sick the next day. I couldn’t eat breakfast (which in my case means I’m REALLY not feeling very well). I don’t think it was from the food in the evening but I’m not sure what made me ill.
My friend did have breakfast and I think she was happy with that. I did take a look at the buffet and it looked good (so if you know you can handle a buffet, just have a nice buffet for dinner as well, until you can handle a la carte, idea?). Check out was another disaster. I wasn’t there because I went back to bed. I had prepaid the room, ZAR 599 and gave them the voucher upon check-in. On the invoice at check-out there was a room charge of ZAR 800 something..When my friend complained, they just took it off. We did give tip at dinner but that was not on the invoice. We left. And that was it.