Sunday, September 20, 2009

Robin's Donuts: Can I get a little service over here?

Touched by a Robin's employee: apple fritter and cinnamon bun.

Old joke:
Restaurant customer: "Hey, can I get a little service over here?"

Server: "I'm already giving you as little as possible."
The joke could be about Robin's Donuts on Provencher - a place where, from time to time, my Dad and I have met for Sunday morning coffee and donuts - and that has among the most consistently clueless customer service I've ever seen; that is, when a rare customer does dare enter the mostly empty establishment:

Does this look like "Service Veritable" to you?

The reason I use "clueless" instead of "terrible" to describe the service is that the staff is almost charming in its consistent lack of concern for the poor schmo on the other side of the counter; with alarming regularity, the employee's fingers pierce the (stale) donuts before he or she plunks them onto the (clean?) tray, sans tray liner.

The added pleasure of having your server "go to the back to get change" - disappearing for 10 minutes at a time - is the icing on the donut.

On a recent visit, I also noted a higher-than-usual number of unencumbered "sneezing incidents" that made me wonder whether Winnipeg's swine flu outbreak would come to us in the form of a chocolate eclair.

It would almost be funny if it didn't have the feel of watching someone's livelihood go down the toilet in slow motion. To get customers and maintain a business, you have to do certain things: like offer a quality product and treat customers like they matter.

Otherwise, all you've got is grumpy people serving stale food; and where's the competitive advantage in that?


  1. When I worked at Portage & Main I was an occasional customer at the Robin's in the Concourse (under the Fairmont); on more than one occasion, I saw employees snacking on slices of the deli meat they were using to make sandwiches to sell at lunch.

    Needless to say, I limited my purchases to hot coffee -- and at that, only when I was with others who wanted to meet there. Yuck.

  2. One of my fondest memories as a kid was having a donut and a coke with my dad at the Robin's on Osborne, and playing Pac-Man or Tiger-Heli on the sit-down arcade tables... it's sad to see how much the franchise has slid.

    Although Robin's has almost universally inept/uncaring service, unsanitary stores, and some of the worst radio ads I've ever heard (sippity doo da?) - they hold not one, but *two* delicious trump cards: the peanut covered donut, and the toasted coconut donut.

    If Tim's introduced a peanut or coconut crusted donut, it would be the death knell of the once mighty Robin's empire.

  3. Yep. I too remember the glory days of Robin's. They were everywhere and they made decent coffee and donuts. I used to frequent there on a regular basis growing up and when I first started working. Then Tim's started really expanding west and Robin's just couldn't compete.

    It's actually hard to believe there are Robin's out there still. Most of the locations became independently operated under many various banners years ago. It's funny because you didn't even notice for weeks on end, then one day you drove by and realized it wasn't a Robin's anymore. It's really pathetic when you leave and no one notices or cares.

  4. Oh Robins!

    I remember going there when I was a kid, and I would always try to get my mom and dad to buy me the big, expensive donuts with whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry on it...

    Ususally I'd get a couple of Robins eggs...

    I seldom go there now (I'm addicted to Tim Horton's coffee) but every time I do, childhood memories come flooding back to me...

  5. When I was playing junior B hockey for St. Malo, we would depart on all of our bus trips from the Robin's at Lagimodiere and Fermor.

    Believe it or not, the staff at the Robin's there was always FANTASTIC.

    I wish I was having one of their subs with Robin's Sauce right now.I would get one every time and they seemed to just get better.

    But alas, with the turnover of staff at these types of places it's probably more of the same thing over at that end of the city.

  6. I just wanted to let you all know that not every robins is as nasty as you all describe them to be. I work at one and i do agree with alot of what you all have to say..there are alot of things that need to change in order for them to keep going because it dosnt look like theyll be around much longer, but actually there arent alot privately owned ones, and if anyone ever does decide to buy one all it takes is a little hard work and elbow grease to make it work, were slowly making a come back but obviously it takes money to do alot of the stuff you all talk about and we cant get that unless we make money:)

    stop treating us like were no better then tim hortons...there donuts suck and coffee tastes like cream... they have excellent ice caps and good custumer service but so do we! WE WONT GIVE UP!


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