A tale of Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend.
A new campsite for us, we are always on the lookout for sites in the Oxfordshire or nearby area, as it’s kind of in the middle for our friends who we meet up with over the summer (and occasionally in the winter).
A lovely site, friendly staff, good facilities, well maintained and several different areas to camp in.
On to the cafe. A new venture for 2016, this cafe has recently opened. An on-site cafe is usually a guaranteed money spinner – a captive audience of campers, many of whom will often fancy a break from cooking at some point during their stay.
We made several visits over a busy Bank Holiday weekend – the weather was pretty good throughout, which meant the camp site was fairly full – lots of potential customers.
We started Saturday morning with breakfast, predictably a full English for me:-
Mrs MOFAD had the “half full” and regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel had a full and half respectively. My breakfast was very tasty, although the beans and mushrooms could have done with being a larger portion than a spoonful. My dining companions found the sausages a bit of an odd flavour, but I was ok with them. Matt woud have preferred the eggs to be cooked more thoroughly, I like a runny yolk. And you can’t argue with a cup of tea for £1.
Onwards to Saturday evening. A hog roast was advertised, and a hog roast was duly delivered. It was set up just outside the front door to the cafe, and had been rotating and roasting all afternoon long. Delicious slow cooked pork in a bun, with your choice of salad, cous cous, and some other bits and pieces, as well as apple sauce, and lovely roasted new potatoes, which had been cooked above the pork. Go in to cafe, pay for food, receive poker chip, exchange for food. Simple mass catering with good ingredients makes for a perfect evening camping meal. Everyone who partook thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sunday morning arrives. Time for breakfast again. I enjoyed it yesterday, and with the likelihood of lunch being later on today, it was time for the full English again. Same issue as yesterday – more beans and mushrooms please! Tasty bacon again, and good sausage. Someone else to help out behind the counter or clearing tables might have come in handy. The bacon rolls on offer this morning were using up left over baps from last night’s hog roast.
To Sunday night. Like last night, they were advertising a special. Beer battered fish’n’chips. Sounds great. Everyone likes fish’n’chips, and if you’re advertising that, then perhaps some kind of van is arriving to cook fish’n’chips for everyone.
Err, no. It’s all being cooked in the cafe kitchen. Shouldn’t be a problem, because I’m sure they can cope with it.
Err, no. Their fryer can only do 2 fish at a time. So when the people before you order 6 portions, and you’ve ordered 3 portions, you think you might be in for a little bit of a wait.
Err, no. It turned out to be almost an hour that we had to wait.
I think it’s pretty irresponsible to advertise something like this knowing that you can’t really cope with all that much demand. If you put up a board outside with “Join us for fish’n’chips tonight – all welcome”, then you might rightly expect that board to increase demand. You need to increase supply to cope with that!
A dissapointing wait, but very nice fish’n’chips eventually!
On to the final part of this increasingly sorry tale. Breakfast on Bank Holiday Monday morning. We arrived at 10am, after starting to strike camp. We took a break for breakfast. It seemed more people had been doing this, as when we ordered, we were told that the sausages had run out. I guess someone forgot to look in the fridge yesterday lunchtime, and go out shopping for supplies. 2 sausages were replaced by one rasher of bacon, and an additional hash brown. Still no more beans and mushrooms though.
We waited for our teas and coffees. And waited. More customers arrived, and soon they were being turned away because the cafe had run out of breakfast completely.
Teas and coffees then arrived (again, a lack of bodies behind the counter) and then breakfast arrived. Again, tasty stuff, and well cooked (although they did mess up part of the order).
As the weekend wore on, the cracks started to show. I’m not sure they were ready for the level of customers you’re going to get on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend. They desperately needed more staff to help out, and they really need more space for a bigger kitchen and more tables. The quality of the food is good, but the premises is not big enough for the size of the camp site.
Look at somewhere like Merkins, who have a slightly larger cafe but a much smaller camp site.
Keep up the good work, but get more staff and think carefully about offering something you can’t cook a lot of! And don’t forget to go shopping!