Wednesday 7 May 2014


I've been sitting on this post for a while now because I waited a long time for a response to a complaint. I then escalated it further by contacting the CEO. Please share with other parents! Here's why you should always check the label...

On route to our holiday last month we stopped off at a Harvester restaurant for dinner, the Harvester in Beaconsfield to be more exact! I've always found them family friendly, certainly not gourmet but not a rip off for the food they sell.

We ordered our food and a jar of baby food for Eliot. We wanted to eat quick and continue with our journey so a jar seemed like the best option for him. Our meal arrived but there was no sign of Eliot's. I asked the waitress who apologised it hadn't been warmed and she bought the jar in some hot water to the table. And boy am I glad it wasn't served out of the jar! When I went to open it I happened to catch the use by date, March 2014. We were now in APRIL!

I'll continue via the complaint I sent via Harvester's online form...

Myself, partner and nine month old baby boy visited the restaurant whilst on route to our holiday destination.

We ordered our meal and asked what baby food options were available, there was only one.

When our meal arrived there was no sign of the baby food and I had to mention it to the waitress. It had not been prepared so it was brought to the table in a cup of hot water and my hungry son had to wait. As I was about to open the jar I happened to check the use by date which was 03/2014. As well as being served food after ours, my son was served food that could potentially make him unwell. I told the next member of staff who came by and asked to speak to the manager. When the manager came over several minutes later he didn't appear too concerned about the matter. He apologised and when asked, said there were systems in place to check the baby food and he would sort some more quickly.

The waitress who served us came over and also apologised. We could then see her searching for more baby food. It was apparent there wasn't any and after some time she returned to apologise again for not having any more baby food available. She said that not many people order baby food so they don't stock much. As a chain of restaurants that won an award for being family friendly in 2013 I think it's poor to say the least that there was only one jar in stock. One that was out of date! You cannot have staff giving that excuse to customers when baby food is advertised on the kids menu and you hold a family friendly award!

We ordered some pasta off the children's menu for our son to eat, who had obviously then been waiting a long time.

The manager came over and said he would take half off the bill, then later said he would take care of the whole bill. I'm fairly satisfied that the situation was rectified as well as it could be in the restaurant.

However,I would like to know what systems as a company you have in place for keeping on top of sell by dates of baby food? Why was there only one jar available when the menu says something along the lines of 'choose from a selection'?
 I expected to get a response pretty quickly, even to just acknowledge they'd received my complaint. A couple of days passed and I hadn't heard a peep. I called Mitchells & Butlers who manage a range of brands including Harvester to follow up my complaint. The first time it was the weekend and I spoke with security. When I tried again I was told the Harvester customer care team were not in and to call back later. I was annoyed to say the least so I attempted to find another way of contacting them. I'd already discovered they didn't have a Twitter account but found a page on facebook, so I sent them a message.

I was told my complaint was being investigated by the area manager and that I would hear from someone soon. I left it at that, intrigued to find out how long it would actually take for them to get back to me. A week passed...nothing.  It had been over two weeks since I'd sent my original complaint, I was fuming. Was my sons health and that of other babies of little concern?! Ok, Eliot didn't eat it, it didn't make him ill but the fact was it could have done, not to mention they would have been in breach of some sort of health and safety regulations.
 So  I wrote another message via facebook asking them to give me the CEO contact details (which I'd already found through the wonder of the web, I was just curious to see their response) as I felt my complaint hadn't been taken seriously.
Shortly after I received this response...


No mention of the CEO's contact details as expected! Then another response... 

I'm assuming Julie got in contact with the relevant people with a bit more haste as an hour or so later I received a phone call from the area manager.
To cut a long phone call short...He apologised and took full responsibility for nobody getting in contact with me sooner, he told me what measures had taken place since the incident and I was told I would receive some gift codes if we chose to visit a Harvester in the future.

I still felt unhappy that it took so long to get back to me, I felt unhappy that I didn't really get a clear explanation as to why there was out of date baby food in the restaurant. Was my sons health to the value of a Harvester meal?

Prior to the phone call with the area manager I already knew I would be contacting the CEO of Mitchells and Butlers, Alistair Darby.  

The only real positive I got from this was how long it took for him to respond, he was very swift! But all he did was pass it back down to the people below to deal with.
 I understand he's the 'big fish in the pond' but I'd specifically asked him questions that were directed at him. Questions that required his personal response but he didn't answer them. No 'sorry' was received either. It's an utter disgrace that a CEO couldn't apologise that Eliot was served out of date baby food in one of their brands. Ok, not his fault but sorry doesn't cost a thing!

 The fact that Harvester has won an award for being 'Best Friendly Restaurant 2013' is a joke considering how we were treated.

Have you ever experienced something similar? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

                                                    Binky Linky

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