Very recently I had the grave misfortune of taking my young daughter to breakfast at Partridges of Sloane Street http://www.partridges.co.uk/ – or more accurately Chelsea given the main store is now just off the Kings Road. I have been visiting these local general grocers since the 1960s, and putting to the side a noticeable drop in standards over the last couple of years, nothing could have prepared me for such an utterly repugnant experience.
Forget the fact that I asked for an English breakfast whereupon I received something completely different – we all make mistakes. Forget that it took more than 40 minutes for a very simple order to arrive. These things happen and, well, there were customers on one other table…? No, what was such a shame was the fact that what eventually did arrive can only be described as a mound of utterly cold and gelatinous yellow swill, which, according to the waitress was supposed to be scrambled eggs. To the side were four pieces of totally uncooked and un-browned bread that was officiously described as “toast”! On picking up a slice, I discovered that the bread was utterly stale and that it should have been thrown away days ago.
Sadly, this tip of the iceberg experience highlights a more troubling fact about this once proud business. Having been granted the branding advantage of a Royal Warrant, one suspects that Partridges is not only resting on past glories but that it now appears to be largely devoid of any effective quality control at street level. For what emerged from the kitchen was symptomatic of a business that is no longer worthy of a Royal Warrant. Instead, it is becoming an embarrassment to London and the Royal household. Indeed, given apparent levels of under performance it is a disgrace that in 2008 a senior executive of Partridges held the position of President http://www.partridges.co.uk/royalwarrant of the Royal Warrant Holders Association http://www.royalwarrant.org/
Now, mindful of the power of the market, I will not give up here. In the future I will continue to visit Partridges because I understand that customers really do have sovereignty and they can make a difference. Next time I will expect the basics of good service and good food. But to focus minds and aide the right incentives I will covertly take along my digital video camera. If my recent experience is repeated once more then there will be no blog or web article to follow. Instead, there will be a You Tube film and a press release requesting that the Royal Warrant be finally removed from this once proud institution.
For in the 21st century, businesses really will live or die according to the economic laws of customer sovereignty. If quality and value are not maintained even the mightiest will fall. Today, the world really is flat. http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/the-world-is-flat