Goodbye Ca’Fish, we hardly knew ya’!

I recently had such a incredibly and unbelievably bad experience trying to have brunch at Ca’Fish, a relatively new and virtually customerless cafe on Istedgade, that I was inspired to pen the first entry on my blog in quite some time. If you don't feel like reading an entertaining story, allow me to summerize: DON'T GO THERE!

Ca’Fish opened a few months ago with a simple premise: good coffee and good fish. It is the only fish restaurant in the popular Istedgade cafe quarter of Vesterbro in Copenhagen. A friend who loves trying new restaurants went there and told me it was worth a visit, as the food was affordable and outstanding.

Recently, I came across a 50% off brunch offer for 2 on Groupon for Ca’Fish, so I bought one, thinking this would be a good way to check it out one weekend.

This morning, rolling out of bed after an evening of partying, provided exactly the sort of moment I envisioned for wandering across the street to use our brunch voucher.

But where are the customers?
Now here’s the thing: Ca’Fish sits largely empty day in and day out - utterly devoid of customers. I live 50m away and pass by the place on average between 2-8 times each day. I know for an absolute fact that there are VERY FEW customers ever visiting the place. The owner and his family are normally found sitting in a booth in the back corner, chatting together or looking bored.

Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where Jerry starts feeling sorry for the Pakastani restaurant across from his apartment which never has any customers? Ca’Fish is that kind of place.

Here’s another more important thing worth noting about Istedgade.

If ya' don't have customers, you really do suck...
Stroll along Istedgade any time of the day or night, and the numerous cafes more often than not surprisingly chalk full of people – even at unlikeliest times of the day (weekday mornings, Sunday and Monday evenings, etc.). In other words, any cafe on Istedgade that isn’t regularly filled with customers is almost 100% certainly doing something WRONG!

Yes, I’m talking to you Ca’Fish.

Which bring us to today’s experience. We walked into an absolutely empty restaurant, there was but one other couple in the place.  I repeat: THE RESTAURANT WAS EMPTY. There were no reservation tags on any tables.

Hello, goodbye!
The waitress arrived and the conversation went like this:

Me: ”Hi, we purchased your Groupon offer for 2 brunches.” (There are 5 relatively standard brunch options to choose from on the Ca’Fish menu.)

Waitress: ”Have you reserved a table?”

Me: (looking around the empty restaurant and laughing in a friendly way) "No, we haven’t."

Waitress: "The Groupon offer is only valid with a 24 hour advance reservation."

ME: (Staring at her in utter disbelief, and again looking around the empty restaurant.) ”Are you seriously telling me that you would rather us leave than allow us to use this offer - even if we didn’t make a reservation?"

Waitress: ”Do you have the offer with you? I can show you the terms.”

Me: "That’s not the point. I accept that we failed to make a 24 hour advance booking, but given that your cafe is absolutely empty, perhaps you could make an exception for us?" (I truely hadn't noticed the small print in the offer that said this was necessary - it was an honest mistake.)

Waitress: "No, we can’t do that."

Me: (Steam beginning to come out of my ears at the stupidity of what is transpiring) ”So you are telling me you would rather have 2 pissed off customers leave your empty restaurant, than to allow us to use the Groupon voucher” (Note: as a Groupon offer, we had ALREADY PAID FOR OUR BRUNCH!)

Waitress: ”Would you like me to get the owner?”

Me: ”Absolutely!”

Customers? We don't want those!
There is no way the owner will allow 2 paying customers to walk out of his restaurant, I thought to myself. That would be insane!

Out came the owner whom I recognised immediately, having passed by his cafe several hundred times in the past months with him sitting in the window. To my astonishment, the owner immediately began to repeat the same bullshit the waitress has just told me. Then, to my increasing disbelief, he added in a number of unbelievable excuses to justify his position.

"You a bad man Jerry, a bad man!"
These included:
  • These are the terms we have agreed with Groupon (implying that somehow, even as the owner, he couldn't do anything about it!)
  • We have to be able to plan our food ordering. (Yes, but if were just normal walk-in customers, you would still need to have enough food on hand to serve us, right…)

I wanted to be clear: was he telling me that he would not be paid by Groupon if he served us without a 24 hour advance booking. I knew full well he would be paid regardless.

”Well yes, he would still get paid,” came the reply, ”but those were the terms he agreed with Groupon.”

I decided I would make one last appeal to his common sense (clearly unncessary at this point, but I  simply couldn’t help myself!). 

Small business consulting lessons for moronic idiots
I mentioned that I was a small business owner myself (100% true – www.SomethingPersonal.dk) and that I also occasionally ran Groupon offers (also 100% true), so I understood exactly how it worked. Therefore I understood that the most important thing was to get customers into our shop and give them great service, in order to increase the likelihood they would return (I mean, otherwise why bother running a Groupon offer!!???).

But it was to no avail.

I now understood fully that I was dealing with a hopeless cafe owner who would NEVER succeed in running a popular and profitable cafe, and that inevitably Ca’Fish would close down for lack of customers and lack of profits. I almost felt sorry for him.

And so we left the cafe, our stomachs rumbling with hunger, pondering how it could possibly be that an owner would seriously run a cafe on the premise that turning-away (and in the process pissing-off) whatever few potential customers actually turned up, was a smart, long-sighted strategy for running a business.

A short post-script...
Incidently, after having brunch at another nearby, bustling cafe with great service, I walked by Ca’Fish, now about 1 hour after this incident had transpired. There was all of 3 tables of people. In other words, the restaurant was still about 80% empty.

What more needs to be said? So long Ca’Fish, we hardly knew ya’!

1 Response to "Goodbye Ca’Fish, we hardly knew ya’!"

  1. Thanks Tim for this entertaining read! I'm eager to see that Seinfeld episode again, to prolong the laugh...

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