On Monday afternoon we ventured into the city with one destination in mind. Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. The previous evening my sister had taken part in her very last ballet performance at the Sydney Opera House (next year she moves on to a different school/company/whatever you want to call it), and celebration seemed due. Unless you have squillions of money screaming to be spent (both at the chocolate bar and the dentist) or possess the superpower to eat/drink as much chocolate as you like and be none the worse for it, Max Brenner is not going to be your everyday, regular café. For most ordinary citizens it’s a café for special occasions. A place to frequent when you wish to spend some quality time with others and eat a lot of chocolate. Consequently you would think that Max Brenner would be jumping over houses to provide a space that facilitates savoring the moment and encourages customers to ‘stay a while’. For some unidentifiable reason they have failed to do so.
Whilst I’m going to have a bit of a gripe at Max Brenner here, my points are not solely related to this chain, but to all eating spaces, whether they be cafes, restaurants, canteens or any other commercial sit-down food-consumption venue. So what exactly is the problem with Max Brenner? The service is reasonable, the food exceptional – and guaranteed to give you a ginormous sugar rush post-consumption –what else could you want from a café? Okay, how about a comfortable place to sit? A place where you can really enjoy that $7 hot chocolate or $15 ice cream.
Both times I’ve been to the Syndey CBD branch of Max Brenner it’s been on cool, windy, rainy days. For reasons unbeknownst to me the inside seating area is set at a constant just-above-freezing temperature. In my chocolate course earlier in the year we were taught that chocolate should be stored at cool temperatures, yet I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t need to be that cold. Let’s just put it this way…it’s not your cozy kind of chocolate bar with steamy windows. If you’re going to sit inside you’ll want one helluva big hot chocolate to warm up your frozen innards. On second thoughts perhaps their extreme temperature regulation is a clever marketing ruse? In any case we always regret not bringing a winter coat and subsequently end up sitting outside on the large balcony. You have to give them a little credit here – it’s quite a large spacious area with relatively comfortable seats. Unfortunately there’s one significant pitfall with this area. It’s completely exposed to the wind that hurtles through the CBD, due to the funnel effect of the skyscrapers. Additionally, rain has a tendency to blow in leaving customers wet and bedraggled. Listen up head honcho’s at Max Brenner. A nice ivy covered wall would be appreciated. Or because it’s the real world, some plastic blinds or screening. Because to be honest with you, your wall heaters (oh yes there are heaters, but only outside) don’t quite cut it when battling gales and rain.
On Monday we dithered between sitting inside and braving the cold, or outside and confronting the wind and rain. We eventually chose the latter with the reasoning that a) it was warmer outside and b) we might be able to find a seat that was slightly more protected from the elements. Ten minutes later we traipsed back inside with wind-blown afros and plopped down at a table. Turns out that when point b) fails to come to fruition then point a) is virtually inconsequential. In the end we still thoroughly enjoyed our ‘meal’ – anyone who is impermeable to the cheeriness instilled by a decent dose of chocolate should be seriously concerned.
If it seems as though I’ve used this post as an excuse for a small rant against Max Brenner, I apologise. That’s not my intention (by the way, if you’re able to get yourself to one, I highly recommended the tutti-frutti waffles). While we were sitting outside, being battered by the wind it occurred to me that not all food venues appear to seriously value their customers, in that they fail to provide comfortable, welcoming seating areas. It’s incredibly disappointing to feel as though you need to rush through your meal because either the chair is poking into your back/your table is threatening to tip over/you can’t reach the table because the chair is too low or deep/you’re getting rained on or the music is so loud you can’t even hear yourself chew, let alone speak.
I don’t know about you, but we don’t eat out a lot, so when we do we really want to enjoy the experience. A number of establishments have twigged to the fact that if they provide ‘happy, welcoming’ environments for their customers, they are far more likely to buy that second cappuccino or take a muffin home for a snack later on. I hope that all eating venues follow suit, even if it is for the sake of their wallet rather than the customer. At least that way they are no longer providing situations in which the pleasure derived from ones meals is compromised, or ‘wasted’.