Sunday, February 24, 2013

Smug Scone Witch

The Scone Witch on UrbanspoonWith a desire for some afternoon tea and scones, my wife and I set out to the New Edinburgh area of Ottawa.  We took OC Transpo Route 9 northward from Hurdman Station along the Vanier Parkway and got off at Beechwood Avenue.

From there we walked eastward along Beechwood Avenue to the Books on Beechwood store to see what the famed local reading establishment was reading. The bookstore also shares a building with  to The Scone Witch (35 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa) which is terrific if you wish to purchase a book and skip over for some tea and a nibble.

We continued over to the Scone Witch and got in a lengthy line.  We were expecting a lengthy line as The Scone Witch's two locations are a popular outing for both locals and tourists alike.  We had previously enjoyed the other Scone Witch location on Albert and thought we would rediscover the New Edinburgh area by visiting the second. The line though was not moving fast at all but that was not the only issue.

Upon joining the end of what seemed to be a well thought out line process to order and pay for your food, we started contemplating our order.  We agreed we wanted six Scones and would have one of each of the five regular scones and one of the sweet and savory scones.  Next, we started looking to for tea and coffee options as well as the cost.  This is where the wheels fell off  of the improved organization.  The single chalkboard with coffee and tea choices was hidden on a pillar facing away from the line.  To make matters worse we couldn't find the pricing or sizing of the tea.  We knew they served tea as there were listings of different types of tea on the hidden chalkboard and tea pots coming and going from the nearby tables.  But we didn't know whether there were individual cups for take away purposes. So we decided to skip this option and finished formulating our order.

The Order: 6 scones to go.

Unlike our last visit to the Albert Street location, there were actually customers here looking for the famous Scones and a spot of tea. The line seemed to drag on and on as we waited not moving that fast.  We watched employees behind the counter dash back and forth.  Somehow the end of the line where we were standing happen to intersect the main traffic path for employees coming out and back from the main tables with hot pots of tea going one way and empty dishes going the other. There were a couple of near misses of employees with dishes and customers surprised to be almost road kill on the Scone Witch Highway.

We continued to wait watching the older person at cash ringing up the orders.  Periodically she would lightly cough into her hand, study the cash register, ring up the order and hand change back.  Seemed to take a little while on ringing up each order even though the customers were not the issue.  Not sure if she was coming down with the start of cold, but this was wear the slowness of the line was.  The other two employees were doing Yeoman's work.  Inquiring with customers what they wished, gathering the order and putting it next to the cash register or adding any required spreads.  The help was nice but getting through the cash seemed to be the issue in terms of speed and friendliness of service.

The cashier looked lost entering the order into the cash register and finally came up with $12.60 for a total which was correct.  Next we handed the cashier a $20.00 bill.  Normally at a coffee shop like Tim Hortons, the cashier then enters in the amount given (i.e. $20.00) and lets the cash register calculate the change.  Not at the Scone Witch where the cashier seemed flummoxed and gave us the "I'm calculating the change in my brain" type of look.  Eventually we got our change and left The Scone Witch.  

The Scones were not as good as the ones we had from the Albert Street location.  I chalk this up to the first time trying something is the best time and nothing ever shall come close.  At the time of this review, my wife and I have enjoyed about five of the six scones.  They taste far better when either fresh out of the oven at the Scone Witch or microwaved for twenty to thirty seconds accompanied by your favorite cup of tea.

Overall, both Scone Witch locations seemed smug in their delivery.  The whole ambient feeling from the customer's point of view is that the Scone Witch has the best scones in Ottawa, but the service is quite lacking.  It is like the management knows that service can be sub-par or disorganized but customers will return because of the terrific tasting scones.   At the Albert Street location it was finding where to place and obtain to your order followed by where the cash was.  It seemed to be that management expected the customers to know exactly where to go.  Thus, new customers end up frustrated with very little help from the employees unless you inquire.  At the Beechwood location it was the lack of prices, sizes and visibility of the tea and coffee menu to where a customer would normally place an order for food and drink.  The Scone Witch needs to learn to be a little more welcoming to new customers by having things visible and service quick and efficient.  Sure the Scones are terrific, but there are other tea places starting to make noise in Ottawa with pastries.  Thus, both taste and service will need to be be superb especially at the prices being charged.  But perhaps the service issue may not be resolved.  Since returning home, I've deduced, with a little help from Google, the cashier  was actually Heather Matthews, the owner and founder of the Scone Witch.
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