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Staff Party Blackpool Sands
From: Jackie on 08-01-2019
I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for making our staff party an enjoyable evening. The food was tasty and presented lovely - - it was the most beautiful presented xmas pudding I have ever seen. We couldn't have asked for a nicer evening to have a few games on the beach.
Thank you Bigbury on Sea
From: Karen & Venus on 08-01-2019
Just wanted to say a big thank you from Venus & myself for her milkshake that she chose at Venus Bigbury on Sea for her birthday. We really enjoyed our visit and the food was delicious as always.
Dog Cafe Blackpool Sands
From: Graham Christine & Jesse on 27-12-2018
Just messaging to say what a brilliant idea the above is (dog café). We enjoyed a great cup of coffee and warm mince pie after walking our Labrador Jesse on the beach recently when we were staying in Dartmouth.
From: Ali and Gez on 17-07-2018
We can't thank Suz and her team enough for turning our dream wedding into reality...and more! So many of our guests said it was the best wedding they had been to - and that was largely down to the unbeatable venue and location, topped off with amazing food and service. The whole day could not have gone more smoothly or better, and that was down to Suz with her chilled but meticulous planning and attention to detail, backed up by a stellar team on the day. Nothing was too much trouble. And a genius, and most commented upon, idea were the sandcastle buckets used as table wine coolers. A lovely, surprise touch that said it all! Couldn't recommend it highly enough...just wish we could do it all again!!!
From: Sarah Pettigrew on 20-09-2017
Dear Suz, thank you all so much for making our evening such a success. You were all brilliant and had done such a lovely job on the tables and making everywhere look so inviting. Everyone has been very complimentary about the venue,
you and your girls, the food etc etc! Your good humour with my wayward nephews & nieces was fab!!
From: Martin on 12-12-2016
A great party once again! All worked well, good food, good service, good music, thank all of your staff, we will be back next year!
From: Nikki Rivers on 18-10-2016
We just wanted to say a massive thank you to you all for Saturday! Everyone was absolutely amazing. People were so friendly and helpful and the food was wonderful. Everyone has been saying how fantastic everything was. We really can't thank you enough.
From: Carole & David Edwards on 14-09-2016
Thank you for making Lisa & Rachel's Wedding Day so special on the 10th September at Blackpool Sands. Amazing food, friendly staff excellent service all with a smile everyone loved the venue. Many thanks to Suz and all the staff you all worked so hard & you even ordered the sunshine a very memorable day
Carole & David Edwards
From: on 16-06-2016
A good news note of sincere appreciation for the wonderful performance of everyone involved in the wedding reception at the marquee on Blackpool Sands on the 11th June! A huge thank you to everyone for making it such a special day, nothing was too much trouble; everyone was on form and the food excellent.
Blackpool Sands is so utterly stunning
From: on 15-02-2016
I had no idea that Blackpool Sands is so utterly stunning; I expected a long beach, and found a glorious cove arcing round the most gorgeous silvery gold sand. I've been lucky enough to have traveled extensively in Europe and The Far East; Blackpool Sands stands among some of the nicest locations I have seen, albeit in a quintessentially English setting. The Venus Café was unexpected too, and we thoroughly enjoyed afternoon tea there. Next time we visit, We're going to have a nice, long, lingering lunch.
From: on 15-12-2015
I just wanted to thank you again! It was all so amazing. It honestly couldn't have been more perfect. Everyone commented on the venue and how friendly the staff were. Thank you so much for all your hard work. Hopefully see you at Christmas!
What a great party!!!
From: on 14-12-2015
What a great party!!! The room looked great, the food was good, excellent service, and a great disco. Please pass our thanks again to your staff. We will be back next year if not before. Kind Regards, the Rotary Club of Dartmouth.
From: on 28-10-2015
We just wanted to thank you for the great job you did in making our party such a success. Everyone who came said how good the food was and how excellent the service was from such a friendly and efficient staff. We thought so too and really enjoyed a very special evening which we will always remember.
A Wonderful Wedding weekend
From: on 25-09-2015
Thank you for such a wonderful evening at The Venus Café last Friday night. The team did a fantastic job & the food was absolutely delicious. It was a spectacular sight coming down the hill in the bus & seeing Blackpool Sands & The Venus Café - we made it just in time before it got dark. The oohs & aahhs from the bus was a delight to hear. All of us had the most memorable evening, couldn't have been a more perfect start to what was a wonderful wedding weekend. Looking forward to a return visit.
From: on 25-09-2015
Thank you so much for enabling such a fantastic party on Saturday evening. Thanks for your help and support during the evening, it's much appreciated. Everyone had a wonderful time. The food was delicious, we've had many comments on great food!
A really BIG thank you
From: on 16-09-2015
A really BIG thank you to all the staff at Venus for all the work that went into the perfect service at our Wedding reception on Friday, last. The food far exceeded our expectations, the kitchen team did a fantastic job. Service was faultless and many of the guests have commented that it was the best reception that they had attended.
Generous Cafe, Superb Location and Food
From: on 07-09-2015
Our table for 4 overlooked the glorious beach on the sunny evening. My teenagers and husband and I were spoilt for choice, and loved and shared our seafood through to steaks. Everything locally sourced and beautifully presented, large portions too. The waitresses were all smiles and so helpful. We had a fabulous evening due to food, location and service. Thanks so much. We will be back!!
From: Michael on 17-02-2015
My wife and I had a wonderful Valentines lunch at Blackpool Sands last Saturday. The service was excellent without being intrusive. The food, particularly the steak was really good. The pricing was really good value. All in all it was a great experience and the weather was also kind. Your Manager was particularly attentive and made us feel very welcome. Also the flexibility on the menu was refreshing as some restaurants continue to be inflexible. We will be back and recommend to our friends.
Wedding Thank You
From: Maria and Paul on 14-08-2014
Just wanted to say a massive, albeit belated, THANK YOU for all your hard work and help on our wedding day, September 2013, at Blackpool Sands.
We had an amazing day with all of our guests saying how they loved the venue with its stunning beach location, public yet private feel and scrummy food. Everything went better than we could have hoped for with friendly and organised staff on the day (helping putting decs up, keeping things clean, moving tables etc and always serving with a smile); a clean and well maintained venue; and a personalised meal and later buffet to our taste and budget which we enjoyed testing on a taster session and which turned out to be super delicious, as said by all our guests, on the big day.
Beni - you were fantastic and a great help right from the start; quick to respond to any questions, clear and knowledgeable with answers and provided helpful suggestions. It was great to meet you and have you around on our big day, always making sure things were going right ... I hope it wasn't too stressful for you! Thank you!
It was a privilege, with the amazing views and cosy and personal feel to the venue, to be one of the first legally married couples on the premises and I hope many more couples get to celebrate their wedding in such an awesome place.
Wedding Thank You
From: on 26-05-2014
We are just back from honeymoon and I wanted to email you to thank you so much for arranging our amazing wedding. We couldn't have done it without all your incredible help, hard work and ideas and skills.
We both had the most fantastic day and night and all of our guests really, really enjoyed themselves and complimented us on what a stunning venue and a wonderful party. They were all also full of praise, as we are, for the absolutely delicious food, huge thanks to the Chef! He did an amazing job. So, also, did all your staff.
We can't thank you enough for making a truly memorable evening. Please pass on our thanks to everyone, there is nothing we would've changed. Even the sun came out! And, you made the flowers look lovely and the tables looked stunning.
We look forward to seeing you again sometime and, once again, huge thanks.
Sandwich Feedback - Message from Michael Smith
From: on 26-05-2014
Many thanks for your email. I am sorry to read that you were not happy with our ham & cheese sandwich at Blackpool Sands.
A number of issues you raise.
Firstly, the bread. The 100% organic wholemeal (made with Shipton Mill English flour - based in Gloucestershire) we use is designed as a sandwich bread and is produced square and so deliberately doesn't have a crust. The bread has absolutely no additives, colourings or preservatives so it is as natural as can be - unlike much of the supermarket bread which is so far away from authentic bread. It is supposed to be a hessian colour - that's what it looks like naturally.
The bread is used for take away sandwiches as well as toast and so has to fit the box we use for take away. We have tried crusty bread in the past and have had complaints from those who find it too hard on the teeth/ mouth. Can't win them all. If in future you would like any of our sandwiches in a crusty baguette please do ask and we would be happy to do this at no extra charge.
We use a Devon sliced ham, organic West Country cheddar and butter. Our sandwiches are served with crisps and a garnish. We have tried to source whole hams locally produced but at the moment no-one has enough pigs to meet our annual demand of some 2 tons. The English pig production is still in the doldrums with many farmers exiting the market as English pig production costs are so much higher than other European countries who don't follow the same standards. We could possibly move to this as the supply improves. If we were to try now you would probably have to pay £10-12 per sandwich. It is incredibly expensive as it is in such short supply.
The price of £7.95 includes 20% vat so our net price is £6.63. When you consider you would pay £3 plus anywhere for a takeaway ham & cheese sandwich (with product of dubious quality and origins) and we offer it in a venue with fantastic views, serve it with Burts and garnish, table service - that isn't a bad deal for organic & local product. Believe me, we aren't cutting any corners at all - far from it.
Regarding cutting bread and ham. We are a pretty busy operation with very little space. We employ over 60 staff. We need to ensure a consistent quality and quantity and above all a safe work environment. Carving to order would not really fit the space or style of operation we are running. I do understand what you are after and we do try to get as close to that as we can within the constraints we have.
I really appreciate your views and for you taking the time to write. Hopefully, you will understand what we do and why. I appreciate you may not agree with it but it has been successful for the last 20 years - we do aim to keep improving and we will do so.
With very best wishes,
Michael C Smith
From: Jacquie on 26-05-2014
Just been down to the beach for a lunchtime snack and was very disappointed in the sandwich. The organic bread was pale, sliced and not at all crusty. For an £8 sandwich it was not good enough. Was the ham sliced too? I really feel that for Venus to keep its reputation as a good value, good food venue the standard should be better. Crispy hand cut bread or baguettes and hand cut local ham. It's not worth cutting corners unless you are going for cheap fast food. Hope you'll take my comments into account.
Lunch at Bigbury - reply from Michael Smith
From: on 23-03-2014
Thank you so much for your email. Delighted to hear you enjoyed your lunch and particularly the Veggie burger. We are pretty proud of it ourselves. We don’t publish recipes as we feel our ‘Venus secrets’ need to remain a little bit mysterious but I can tell you it contains:
Dragon fly natural tofu
Dark soya sauce
And various herbs & spices
With best wishes,
Lunch at Bigbury
From: Alan on 18-03-2014
We had a fabulous lunch today at the Bigbury-on-Sea café; the veggie burger was especially brilliant - is it possible to have the recipe? Is a Venus recipe book a possibility?
Many thanks, Alan
From: Emma on 09-02-2014
Can I buy Venus vouchers to give to my brother and sister-in-law so that they can treat themselves to some scrummy Venus food?
From: on 06-01-2014
Just wanted to say thank you very much for such a lovely evening on New Year's Eve – you and your team worked so very hard and we really appreciated the excellent food, service and atmosphere!
Love the Venus logo
From: Hazel on 27-12-2013
We visited the beach shop at Blackpool Sands on 21st December as we were staying at Stoke Fleming for a family wedding. Liked the shop very much but I absolutely love your Venus logo and thought it would be a good idea if you could maybe sell T'shirts with the logo on it. I would certainly buy one if you did.
Best coffee - reply from Michael Smith
From: on 10-12-2013
Many thanks for the email & for persevering! I have asked our technical team to check out the message board and links to ensure they are working. Perhaps you would like to put something on Trip Advisor?
So glad to hear that we are managing to get close to the Aussie coffee. It has been a bit of a journey but we are getting there.
With best wishes and thank you for taking the time to give us the feedback.
Michael C Smith
Best coffee since I arrived from Australia
From: Lisa on 10-12-2013
Best coffee since I arrived from Australia in April! Smooth & silky and strong - at Dartington today. Not easy to find a way to tell you this as your 'talk to us' link didn't work and can't find a way of posting anything on your FB page which is not good! I seem to visit all the areas you have cafes regularly!
Dogs - reply from Michael Smith
From: on 03-12-2013
In answer to your query about our other cafes.
East Portlemouth and Tolcarne Beach are currently closed for the winter. Bigbury on Sea only has outdoor seating so there's no difference between a dog owner or regular customer. Watergate Bay has no seating at all but dogs are very welcome all year round. At Dartington we have no provision for dogs inside and no ability to erect anything as it is not our property.
Hope this is helpful.
Michael C Smith
Reply to Dogs - from Linda and Stuart
From: on 03-12-2013
Thank you for your swift reply. We last visited the Venus Café just after it opened for the winter season when dogs are allowed on the beach. We shall certainly be visiting again very soon to take advantage of the newly erected marquee.
Are we right in thinking that the Blackpool Venus is the only one of your cafes to be dog friendly or have your others similar provisions?
Linda and Stuart
Dogs - Reply from Michael Smith
From: Michael Smith on 03-12-2013
Dear Linda & Stuart,
Many thanks for your email. We have at some considerable expense erected a marquee which has been on site for 2 weeks on the prom for dog owners to sit in all weathers with their dogs. This will be up for the duration when dogs are permitted on the beach. It was delayed a week due to the storm damage done to trees which then crashed down on the area where the dog tent was going to go.
Unlike many other street locations, we have a particular problem in that dogs on the beach tend to like to go into the water and have fun in the sand which they then proceed to shake off when they come inside. We also have a lot of customers who do not want to have a meal with other people’s dogs present – that’s a fact we can’t alter – whether they are wet and sandy or not. Last year our shop wasn’t open so dogs were allowed there – this year we are open every day.
I am happy that our policy is fair to all and that we have recognised the needs of dog owners amongst all of our important customers.
Wishing you a very happy Xmas.
From: Linda and Stuart on 03-12-2013
Regarding Blackpool Sands – over the last few years during the permitted winter periods when dogs are allowed on the beach, your café has had a covered area/room where dog owners are allowed to take their dogs. On visiting recently there is now no covered area so in all weathers owners and their dogs have to sit outside subject to the elements.
It would be nice if your Company could perhaps review their policy in all their cafes to provide a more considerate approach to dog owners. Many cafes in Kingsbridge and Dartmouth are dog friendly. We appreciate that not everyone is a dog lover but during the colder months surely you could allocate a small specially allocated area for owners with well behaved dogs on leads, in line with what many garden centres and pubs are doing.
Linda and Stuart
Reply to Sam from Michael Smith
From: on 05-09-2013
Many thanks for your messages about your recent visit to Tolcarne. I apologise for the poor experience you had.
I understand that the Caesar dressing date was spotted by yourself and replaced by the Manager before you had eaten any. I am afraid to say it got out of rotation. I can appreciate that being served a dressing showing a past use by date is unlikely to inspire confidence in our operation. I can assure you that the dressing would have been fine as we always put a much shorter date on to help us with our internal rotation - which obviously didn't work this time. The product had a use by of the end of October 2013 and the current stock goes into 2014.
Our bread is made by a Cornish baker to organic standards and made in the classical way. The oldest that bread would have been was 24 hours. Because of the way it is made it does feel drier than supermarket bread but it is not stale. Part of the reason is that there is a lot less fat in the bread so it is drier (like classical French bread). I am sorry you didn't like it - we think it is fantastic and tastes really good and wholesome but it was obviously not to your taste.
I appreciate you have very negative views on our food quality. I would, however, ask that you give us another chance. I would like, therefore, to send you £20 worth of vouchers which you may use at either Tolcarne or Watergate. If you would be kind enough to send us your postal address we will mail that to you in the next few days.
Thank you again for bringing your complaint to our attention.
From: Sam on 05-09-2013
Had my first experience at your Venus cafe in Tolcarne beach, Cornwall. To say I was disappointed is an understatement - 2 sandwiches both with stale bread and a chicken Caesar salad with out of date salad sauce (out of date by 9 days) plus 2 juices- total £17!!!! Never have we paid so much for such terrible food! I look forward to hearing from you regarding my terrible food!!
Reply to Lauren from Michael Smith
From: on 30-08-2013
Many thanks for your message and feedback. I am really sorry you didn't like what we served.
The Greek Salad has been served by us in the same format for 4-5 years and the dressing recipe was formulated by a Michelin star chef. We make all the dressings in one central production kitchen so, in principle, it should all be the same. Our recipe does not include dried oregano as our Environmental Health Officer has told us we cannot use any herb infused dressings/ oils due to the high bacterial count of the majority of herbs and it has no cooking process.
We have all tried the dressing and have to say we are happy that that it has all been made to recipe. We haven't had any other complaints about the dressing over the years but have had praise. I appreciate it isn't to your taste. We will certainly take your comments on board and revisit the recipe this winter before we run the salad again in 2014.
The couscous and tzatziki are also made by us. The couscous includes an organic vegetarian bouillon, white wine vinegar, capsicum pieces and mint. Was yours not like this? The tzatziki is made with organic plain yoghurt, fresh garlic and deseeded cucumber. The tub I tried was wonderfully flavoursome - obviously a batch was made incorrectly and I apologise.
We have had a few problems with the halloumi being ever so crumbly. I can only imagine that some fell off and wasn't noticed. It clearly shouldn't have been served in that way. Again our apologies.
I appreciate that you don't live locally but I would like to send you some vouchers for £20 which you can use whenever you do visit again. If you would be kind enough to provide me with your address we will pop them in the post.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write and tell us of your experience. I really appreciate you taking the time. Your comments have been taken on board. I can assure you that we take our quality very seriously and have taken great pains to ensure that our purchasing is only of top quality ingredients. In the heat of summer mistakes do happen and I am sorry about that. We will continue to strive to be better.
With very best wishes,
Michael C B Smith
Please improve your recipes
From: Lauren on 20-08-2013
We're visiting Devon and have visited a few beaches over the last few days and each one has a Venus cafe on it and no other choice and so I felt the need to message and ask nicely if you could reassess/taste it yourself- your menu.
We ordered the Greek salad and the halloumi kebab today at Blackpool sands - not cheap at £20.95 for lunch and really not nice (wouldn't mind the price if it was) - the Greek salad tasted awful - must have been the oil maybe but it's so easy to make a good Greek salad so how did they get it so wrong? The halloumi kebab was also very poor- hardly any halloumi, tasteless cous cous and tsaziki and the salad covered in this weird brown sauce- maybe balsamic but looked horrible.
Such a shame- i really get what you are trying to do and your local effort is a great idea but as you get bigger please don't let things go like this - get round the places, train your staff well and taste stuff yourself regularly please and maybe this will improve things.
Btw a good Greek salad uses extra Virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic and oregano, salt, pepper! Done! Easy! Good luck, I hope you can improve things for everyone who comes to these wonderful beaches and relies on just your establishments here to fill a hole.
Reply to Mike from Michael Smith
From: on 24-07-2013
Many thanks for your email. I apologise for the delay in replying but thought I had replied - no-one else can find it so I guess I was dreaming – apologies again.
If I may I will address the points you raise.
Firstly – our portion size is 25cl rather than 20cl – so it is close to the 32cl of a bottle. I have seen prices for Luscombe drinks way higher than £2.65 so I feel we are selling at an appropriate price for the cost to us.
Secondly – we have adopted a policy to NOT allow glass to leave our building to protect the beach and beach goers from broken glass and the ensuing pollution that causes. We, therefore, decant all bottled drinks and serve them all in a PLA 100% compostable cup. It is also a condition of our alcohol licence that we do this – although this came some 10 years after our own enforced no glass policy. Luscombe produce the Luscombe lemonade for Venus in Bag in Box which is used for shipping from Luscombe to Venus and saves thousands of bottles going into landfill. Bigbury then decant into a jug (with a 3 day shelf life) which is kept in the fridge and poured from there – it is quite difficult to pour from the bag in box when busy.
The PLA cups we use are actually very expensive and we use these to ensure the pollution on the beach is minimal as they decompose very quickly. So we are not taking a cheap route but an environmental one.
I think personally that it would be very wrong to serve a quality drink like lemonade with ice. This would dilute the product and alter the drink totally. We spend a lot of money on refrigeration to keep the drink cold to ensure that it is served in a quality fashion.
How do you know we haven’t tampered with the drink? How do you know we haven’t done that with anything? We have a reputation for quality and make loads of our own products. It would not ever be in our interests to do so. We have been in business for 18 years and at Bigbury for 12. One of the reasons that you may pay a bit more with us is the fact that we are using top quality Devon products (often organic) which cost substantially more to purchase. In fact, I consider our prices to be very competitive with the high street.
I can understand that on the face of it, it may seem bizarre what we are doing and how we do it. I hope this email has provided you with reasons and assured you that we are providing top quality product with an ethos that has the long term interests of the environment at the forefront of our business.
From: Mike on 24-07-2013
I have been windsurfing/surfing at Bigbury for the last 30 years and since you opened your cafe have regularly warmed up with a coffee and cake. On Saturday, after a long walk I fancied a cold drink, so asked for a Luscombe Lemonade. To my surprise the drink was poured from a cling film covered plastic jug taken from the fridge. No ice and a cheap plastic cup. I said to the server that I expected a bottle and was told you didn't do them. I quote from the Luscombe website "Welcome to Luscombe, where we've been making beautiful drinks since 1975. Based on a farm in deepest Devon, all of our drinks are crafted with exceptional care and integrity. Gabriel David, the head of our family-owned business, sources the ingredients direct from growers he trusts. There are no compromises, only the best goes in the bottle". After all the care taken by the manufacturers I feel that to supply the drink in this way is bizare. Whilst I appreciate you state on your menu it is 20cl how many people actually read this, I was expecting a bottle ie 32cl to quote from Luscombe again "Luscombe have been making organic drinks on Domesday Farm in Devon for 25 years now, and their experience and expertise shows – their drinks are really thirst-quenchingly divine. They make all their drinks in small batches, using the finest raw ingredients which means they may come with a little sediment – a true sign that they haven’t been tampered with!" What guarantee do I have that the lemonade hasn't "been tampered with" and what chance of some sediment from the "finest raw ingredients". Finally to charge £2.65 for 20cl of lemon drink from a plastic, cling film covered jug is I feel a rip off. I appreciate that you have a difficult job fulfilling requirements in all weathers, all year round and I am willing to pay a premium for food and drink from establishments such as yours. But on this occasion I felt I had been taken for a fool. I would appreciate your comments. I have forwarded this feedback to Luscombe for their response.
From: Michael Smith on 05-07-2013
Thank you for your feedback. It has taken me a little while to reply to you as the tone of your email took my breath away.
Firstly, you claim we charge £1.60 for a bottle of water. That is incorrect. Our take away price is £1.30 and our Café price is £1.40 for a 500ml bottle. Perhaps more pertinent is that we offer free drinking water from the water fountain by the toilets at Blackpool Sands (which is where I assume you visited us). If you are dining with us, we also offer free bottled chilled tap water for those that do not want to pay for spring water. I consider our pricing to be more than reasonable and certainly substantially lower than many cafes I have visited recently where a price of over £2 per small bottle is common.
In terms of what we claim. Our website makes it very clear that our ethical stand is that we take care to maintain the environmental balance on our beaches. Our business practices have been audited and evaluated by The Queen’s Awards Office in 2005 and again in 2010. They found our business practices to be solid and we were awarded the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development in both years. We are the only Café company to have won this national award twice. Less than 20 in the whole country have been awarded each of the years we won. We have also been evaluated by the English Tourist Board and were awarded ‘English Champions’ in sustainability. We have won other sustainability awards both at county and regional level. We were also the Best Small Business in the Federation of Small Businesses for the South of England. I feel, therefore, that our claims are fully justified.
As for your other comments – well I don’t think they can be considered reasonable enough for me to respond. Clearly you don’t like what we do and how we do it. I am sure you know that there are plenty of places to go other than where we are and I do hope you enjoy visiting them with all the lovely sunshine we have had and is forecast for the weeks ahead.
Michael C B Smith
From: on 05-07-2013
call Yourself ethical and sustainable. £1.60 for a small bottle of water is not ethical or sustainable it is daylight robbery. I am incensed that you have the balls to charge this amount for a bottle of water. Your pretentious extortionate cafe is a complete waste of space and makes a visit to a stunning location an utter turn off. I will not frequent your cafe ever again and will tell all my friends that you are crooks. how's that losers. Do you have the faintest idea what ethical and sustainable actually means? I don't think so. I reckon you only pay minimum wage to all your staff and that you also vote conservative. I could easily imagine David cameron slurping an overpriced cup of tea in you establishment. Water is a basic need and you should not be making ridiculous profits and taking advantage of thirsty customers. by the way, you should consider changing your logo its rubbish. Wake up and be the cool company you profess to be. I hope it rains and you go bust this summer.
Wedding at Blackpool Sands
From: on 12-06-2013
Dear all and especially Beni,
I just wanted to let you know how much we had appreciated all the efforts of the staff last Saturday on our behalf at our party. I could not have asked for more and everything was perfect. We had a really lovely time as did all our guests. I just hope you weren't too tired out afterwards!
Birthday Party at Blackpool Sands
From: on 12-06-2013
I just wanted to let you know how pleased we were with our evening on the 17th May.
You did an absolutely fabulous job! The place looked wonderful, the food was great and you and your staff were brilliant. Please pass on our thanks to one and all. We and all the guests had such a great time.
Thanks again to you for your hard work.
Wedding - Blackpool Sands - March 2013
From: Michael Smith on 05-03-2013
Dear Polly & Jake,
Thank you very much for the lovely email to Beni. We are delighted that we were able to make your special day so memorable. We wish you both a fantastic life together and look forward to seeing you back again on holiday in the not too distant future.
With very best wishes,
Wedding - Blackpool Sands - March 2013
From: Polly and Jake on 05-03-2013
I just wanted to take the time to thank you for the wonderful wedding reception you held for us at the Venus Cafe at Blackpool Sands.
From our first meeting, you have been so professional and at every stage you made me feel that you were in complete control of the event.
About the evening - everyone commented about the beautiful venue and how fantastic the Cafe looked in the evening. With the sun setting on the beach for our arrival and the lighthouse welcoming us into the night, it really was perfect and made for a romantic setting. The tables looked beautiful too, exactly how I pictured it in my head.
The food - Wow, it was amazing. Everyone commented about the prawns and steak and how good everything tasted, many thanks to the chef on the evening! You served the food just how I would of wanted and your timings worked perfectly!
The staff - Outstanding, couldn’t have been more professional, friendly and service on the evening was great. We did have a few young children at the party, your staff were so friendly to the little ones, nothing seemed too much bother. Once again everyone commented about the staff being so professional and friendly!!
Thank you for also suggesting Scott for the evening, we all really enjoyed the disco. My one comment here would be, that maybe for any future weddings, you may want to suggest they put down a wooden dance floor, as I did have concerns that if anyone fell over, they would fall onto an unforgiving surface.
Perfect, perfect, perfect! The beach means so much to us as a family and now we will always have the memories of a fantastic night. We can’t wait to come back over the summer!
Once again I really can’t thank you and your staff enough for the hard work.
Polly and Jake.
Coffee at Blackpool Sands - reply from Michael Smith
From: on 01-02-2013
Many thanks for the email regarding the coffee. I have now had a chance to make a full investigation of the problem.
Firstly, I am very sorry that you received inferior quality coffee. The bean machines we use are ‘proper’ coffee machines and cost twice as much as the manual machines. The machines grind as every other machine, the grind and rest times are preset – the only difference is that the milk is steamed automatically so the standard of the coffee is consistent. All coffee machines are temperamental and whether manual or automatic they often have problems. We have every machine checked every 3 months at huge cost but parts give up when they decide to not when we want them to. No amount of barista training can make you a coffee machine repair engineer. The ones we use are top of the range and breakdown very little given the volume we serve (although when they do getting a spare part can take time) but parts wear and do suffer from the amount of use they experience.
We also use a very high quality (and expensive) organic and fair trade bean coffee as well as organic local milk. Coffee is a very personal product and we sell what we as a team are happy with – 100% arabica smooth flavourful coffee to be drunk any time of day. We have different styles of coffee eg a flat white designed as an early morning pick you up which is stronger. Coffee is also very affected by water and Blackpool Sands is on a spring so the water is softer and purer than any local mains water. It could be that you just don’t like the style of bean we have chosen. There are thousands of types of beans, loads of different roasts and blends. We don’t use the cheaper robusta in our bean coffee which gives a kick and slight bitterness – many others do – it’s what one likes and I am afraid no matter what coffee we chose we wouldn’t please everyone. We believe it is a fantastic coffee and fit for purpose.
I went down and tried the coffee the day after I received your email. The coffee I tried was exactly as it should have been so I was perplexed. I have tried it regularly since as have the team. All was well until Saturday when the machine again did what you described. The coffee was watery. The engineer came in on Sunday and found that one of the tubes had a tiny hole which affected the product. It has now been replaced and all is back to normal.
I will of course send you a voucher in the next couple of days for some free product. Hopefully, you will find the product back to normal.
Thank you again for taking the time to write and let us know of the problem.
Coffee at Blackpool Sands
From: Sue on 01-02-2013
I am a regular visitor to the Blackpool Sands cafe. This afternoon my partner and I were most disappointed with the coffee - latte. It was very dark, strong, watery. The member of staff serving made another cup when I complained about it to her, but it was the same. Unfortunately there was nothing more she could do as it was down to the machine making it! I suspect the machine may not have been working properly, especially when she said earlier that day someone else had said the coffee was too weak. On occasions we have turned up and the machine has not been working at the takeaway, or is being serviced. Can you please offer us a voucher for 2 free lattes in compensation for the poor coffee? Also, I suggest you consider installing a 'proper' coffee machine as I think the quality of the offering from your machines is inferior to the high standard many cafes offer these days, e.g. Boat House at Torcross and the cafe at Beachsands produces better coffer than Venus. It would mean training your staff to be baristas, but I think, would be a great improvement to the cafe service you offer.
New Year's Eve Party
From: Peter on 23-01-2013
Just wanted to say that my wife and I really enjoyed the evening. The meal was superb and the disco gent really got the party going with songs and music from 'our era'.
Please give our thanks to all involved who went out of their way to make the evening a success.
New Year's Eve Party
From: Carol & Mark on 23-01-2013
A big thank you to all involved on New Year's Eve.
The service, menu and entertainment was excellent.
An experience we hope to repeat this year.
Carol & Mark
From: Gillian on 03-09-2012
Love your cafes, the ones we use the most are Bigbury and Blackpool Sands. We had a lovely meal at Blackpool Sands on our recent holiday - the restaurant manager was very helpful. One suggestion: have you thought about using Teapigs for your mint tea? The one I had was Twinnings which is ok but the tea from Teapigs is so much better.
Reply to George
From: Nick Porter on 28-08-2012
I am not quite sure as to why you are finding it difficult to access our webcam at Blackpool Sands. If you mean that we require you to register as a user and/or a friend of Venus before you can use it, please remember that this is a one-off procedure that allows you access to a completely free service. Registration helps us by letting us know where our users come from and therefore how we can best tailor the service we provide. It also prevents “bots” stealing the bandwidth from our broadband (quite an important issue when you are as remotely situated as some of our beaches can be!) I hope this answers your question, but if not, please contact me.
From: George on 27-08-2012
Why is it so difficult to access your Blackpool Sands webcam?
From: Joan on 31-07-2012
We absolutely adore your carrot cake which we've had at East Portlemouth several times. Is there any chance you could send me the recipe - would love to try to replicate it when we get home?
Many thanks for great cafés!
Party at Blackpool Sands
From: Philippa on 12-07-2012
Just wanted to say a huge thank you to you and your team at Blackpool for Saturday.
We loved it. Amazing food. Amazing setting (it never changes :-D) and will definitely be back.
Lemonade - Reply to Annie (Sent 11th July)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
Just thought you might like to know that we have just sourced a 25cl PLA fully compostable cold drinks cup & lid which we will now be using for all our soft drinks and juices. This will increase the portion we serve by 25% while still looking after the environment.
Lemonade - Reply to Annie (Sent 26th June)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
I am of course interested to hear your views. The local market is very important to us and it is for that reason that we open every day of the year except Christmas day as we know that many locals only want to visit the beaches when they aren't too busy. If we were a profit driven business we wouldn't open at all in the winter as it is a great way to empty a bank account.
This winter was an exception in terms of the drinks we offered. This was the first year that we actually even stocked Luscombe's drinks in bottles at all. In the past, our large bag stock has normally run out (as it did last summer) and it has quite a short shelf life so we cannot carry stocks like this in quiet periods. As an experiment, we decided to see if we could sell summer drinks in the winter and bought in some bottles to see what would happen. It was also priced very competitively and below the summer price.
I sincerely regret that you feel we are now too expensive for you to afford and we are now priced like other cafes and restaurants. I am not sure quite what that means as you price your media services to be competitive with other media services - we do the same thing. While we monitor our pricing to ensure we remain competitive, there are few other offers available to customers which match the quality of ingredient that we provide and certainly not for the same price. Our burgers, for example, cost us 3 times more than the standard burger we could purchase from local wholesalers for imported beef. Ours are made from Devon organic beef.
I am sure that it won't have escaped your notice that food prices (and many other costs such a diesel, electric) have increased quite substantially over the last few years and this is very evident in all of our grocery shopping. Venus is no exception and, unlike supermarkets who pressurise their suppliers to eat the cost increases, we treat our suppliers fairly and have open discussions with them about costs and profitability. After all we do care whether our local businesses are still around in several years. I would hope that our customers think the same way. We have tried to hold our prices for as long as we could but change had to come and we have to pass on the cost increases we are now suffering. I believe that our pricing still represents value for money and is not expensive when comparing with the high street or chain businesses which have much busier sites all year round and fantastic economies of scale.
Our pricing model does allow you to enjoy all the great local and organic products produced in Devon at a discount in 2 ways. Firstly, you can purchase one of our meals where the protein, starch and drink are bundled together to create a decent saving over the individual menu list price. The second way is to sign up for our loyalty card on our website (the loyalty programme is designed specifically for locals who visit regularly) where you can generate savings of 10% off all purchases by accumulating points which are redeemed against purchase. These 2 savings together are quite significant.
So I think we are listening. But we do have to make sufficient margin to pay the bills. I can assure you we don't luxuriate in overseas holidays or expensive cars. We survive just and battle against our recent dreadful UK summers which have meant that the last 5 years have been a monumental challenge.
I am truly sorry that you feel you can no longer support us - we have tried very hard to support you, the local economy and the county of Devon. Perhaps you will understand why we do what we do even if you don't like it.
Very best wishes,
Michael C Smith
Lemonade - Reply to Michael (Sent 21st June)
From: Annie on 11-07-2012
Thank you so much for getting back to me. As you have pointed out I do not come from a retail background. I come from a media background, where I have been fortunate to have had dealings with some fabulous restaurants, bars and cafes both nationally and regionally.
It was your staff who pointed out to me that is only during the summer the months that they use glass. During inclement days, I think you will find it is mainly people like myself and my family, rather than tourists who support your business. Taking advantange of brisk conditions and quieter beaches. I completely understand you needing to make a profit, keep people employed and being extremely proud of your awards. It is a shame that Venus Cafes are now locally considered to be too expensive with prices comparable to restaurants in the area. But not coming from a retail background I probably don't understand the Venus business module. I am just forming an opinion shared by friends and colleagues which you may or may not be interested in listening to.
Lemonade - Reply to Annie (Sent 20th June)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
Many thanks for your email. I am sorry that you seem to think that we are over charging or ripping you off. We have held our prices on many products for 2 years but cannot afford any longer to absorb price increases (& vat also). After all we spend over ½ million pounds in the local economy on quality (& often organic) product and employ 30 full-time and a further 45 part-time workers – they also want to keep their income and jobs. Not all our prices have increased and a few have gone down.
Our prices for Luscombe Lemonade are typical, or lower than, any pub, cafe or restaurant which I have checked. The prices you are quoting are I think retail shop prices who have a very different business model from a cafe food service operation. I am not sure how your 100% mark up is calculated as I am not sure that you have figured in the 20% vat which we have to charge which accounts for 42 pence. I also don’t know what business you operate or work in yourself, but no cafe or restaurant could operate and survive on anything less than a 33% cost of goods. Labour and all other overheads are vastly different from a retail shop.
The reason we put the lemonade in cups is because we do all we can to avoid the use of glass and to avoid glass ending up on the beach. We would make much more money not decanting the product into our cups and putting lids on them as the cup and PLA lid are both 100% compostable and very, very expensive. The decanting we do is not from 32 cl bottles but from larger vessels which Luscombe produce just for Venus to address the glass wastage issue. This practice ensures any litter not disposed of correctly doesn’t cause long-term environmental damage. We do this to minimise the harmful effects our business has on the environment. That in the long run will be good for visitors and business and locals.
I am satisfied that the prices we are charging are not only competitive with our market but also the minimum which we can ensure the long-term viability of our business. I am also comfortable with the positive impact we have in terms of providing many locals with jobs and year round income both directly and indirectly through the purchasing policies our company follows. Above all, I am delighted that our business has green sustainable operational practices which has earned us many awards, including the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. We are not a short-term highly profit oriented business – but we do need to survive and cover our costs. There are many, many days at Bigbury on Sea in the year when the weather is inclement and the numbers of potential customers are insignificant.
From: Annie on 11-07-2012
I am writing to let you know my disappointment at the price increases you have for this summer season. On buying Luscombe Sicilian Lemonade being charged £2.50 for 20cl, which is served in one of your cups rather than in its normal packaging..leading me to think it is being decanted from its normal packaging, (the smallest, I believe is 32cl) to increase the profit margins. A 32cl of Luscombe Sicilian Lemonade can be purchased at other outlets of between £1.54 to £1.62. Your charges are in excess of 100% mark up for 20cl. I appreciate you need to make a profit and cover other costs in running the business. As a local I find it very sad that a business like yours who prides themselves on being local and doing their bit for the environment take such an aggressive retail attitude to profit...when we lose more tourists through local businesses over charging will you be the first to complain and when your local, regular trade falls off what then?
Annie (Sent 20th June)
Dartington Birthday Party - reply to Joanne (sent 11th July)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
Many thanks for your email to Nick Porter regarding the new menu at Dartington. I am sorry that you feel that the new offer is unacceptably expensive.
If I may say, I don’t believe you are comparing apples with apples. The new menu has a very different product and is more inclusive. We have replaced the ham bap with free range chicken, the scampi with locally landed Pollock and the sausage with an organic burger. While the top-line price has increased the actual meal offer is a better value than the previous offer as it includes a drink (including fruit juices which sell at £2.50) and cucumber slices. The new kids meal also includes an activity book. The actual price you are paying, therefore, once you include the drink, is about the same and the activity book is an extra. At most it’s a 10% increase, at least it’s 8% cheaper. The hotel prices you are quoting do not include drinks and I have to say, in my experience, you wouldn’t get a decent locally produced free range or organic meal for £6.95 for a child in a hotel.
I hope that you will reconsider your decision not to visit again and to recommend other people not to visit either. We offer top quality nutritious Devon produced food for children at reasonable prices for the inclusive package they receive. I would like to send you a voucher for your children to eat free off the kids menu for one visit for you to determine this for yourself. If you would provide me with your postal address and the number of children in your family I will arrange to send it to you by the end of the week.
Thank you for taking the time to write. I do appreciate you doing so. I would welcome your views on what I have said.
With best wishes,
Dartington Birthday Party
From: Joanne on 11-07-2012
Dear Mr Porter,
Thank you for your email.
I had booked Venus Cafe to coincide with my daughter's party yesterday 8th July. There would have been 10 of us including the children and I had arranged with the Manager there to confrm numbers in the morning.
Although I had received your new menu it was not until I was ascertaining what everyone wanted that I realised that the children's meals had gone up by around £2.45 each. We found this increase far too extreme and unmanageable and therefore had to cancel the booking. With the greatest respect and understanding of your quality ingredients this is something I have paid for a child in a quality hotel rather than a cafe with no sea view.
I certainly will not be visting again and would not recommend anyone else with children to do so. Perhaps you would re-consider the dramatic increases in your menu.
Joanne (sent 9th July)
Party at Blackpool Sands
From: Dee (by letter) on 11-07-2012
Dear Lee and Chris,
Many thanks to you and all the staff for a super evening on Thursday. The venue as usual was superb and the menu brilliant. I do appreciate all the support that you and your staff give the charity.
Many, many thanks.
With best wishes,
Dee (Sent 25th June)
Party at Blackpool Sands
From: Alison (by letter) on 11-07-2012
Dear Lee, Michael and Chris,
Many thanks for a superb evening last night. As always it was an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. Your team worked exceptionally hard under the guidance of Beni and did a fantastic job.
The food was exceptional and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the evening. It was a wonderful evening in such a beautiful setting.
Once again, many thanks from us all.
Alison (Letter sent 22nd June)
From: Rachel on 11-07-2012
Just wanted to let you know our appreciation.... 2 weeks ago we were on holiday in Dartmouth and visited Blackpool Sands beach where my 7yr old boy bought a necklace from your shop.
On our long drive home (up north) we stopped off and he subsequently lost the necklace! He was devastated and wanted one exactly the same, so I rang the Venus shop this Monday to ask if I could order one online/buy one elsewhere. I spoke to Matt and Ben Pook and I don't think I could have spoken to anyone more kind and helpful! They said instead they could send us the necklace if I could describe it. This ended up being quite longwinded as I couldn't remember the exact details but Ben was very patient and helpful and offered to send 2 for the cost of one so we had more chance of getting the one we wanted!
I also had to call back the next day and spoke to Kate? (Sorry not sure of her name), who I also found extremely helpful and patient. The 2 necklaces arrived today and we definitely have the right one!!!! (plus a spare!)
In this day and age, it's a shame but I think that in a time when jobs are so precious, so many people don't care or put enough effort into their jobs, but here as it should be - are 3 people who should be promoted/given a pay rise/bonuses!!! Any kind of reward for doing a fantastic job! It was only for a little boy and for such a small amount of money, but this has made him sooo happy, so thank you, thank you, thank you!
Hope we can visit you again one day soon!!!
Dartington - Reply to Stuart (sent 27th June)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
Thank you very much for your email describing the horror show you were subjected to last week at Dartington. I apologise for the delay in responding. I have been making enquiries about why your lunch was so badly handled/ cooked. There is no excuse for this experience.
First of all let me apologise for the very poor meal and service you received. It is certainly not our normal standard and is unacceptable. According to Tammy (whom you praise), the whole debacle revolved around her mistakes. She keyed in the wrong meals which the kitchen then cooked and you sent back. She then rekeyed the order but didn’t send the order to the kitchen. She then took some of the wrong meals again which is why some of the dishes were cold as they had sat there a long time from the previous order. In between all of this she burst out crying and had to sit outside for a few minutes. I gather you also changed your minds about what you wanted. Unfortunately none of this was conveyed to the other staff.
None of the above is remotely acceptable. I profusely apologise. I would like to offer you a free meal for 4 (as I gather you were with another couple) – for you to have whatever you like (up to a value of £60 in total) to ask you to give us another chance to demonstrate that we do know what we are doing and have good quality food. If you would be kind enough to send me your full postal address we will send this to you promptly.
All staff have also been reminded of the food handling rules and particularly nose, mouth and hand washing. Our kitchens are clean and our practices very good. I would be more than happy for you to have a look behind the scenes so that you can see this for yourself.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
From: Stuart on 11-07-2012
Being regular visitors to Dartington we were extremely disappointed by the standards of presentation and customer service at your restaurant today.
Our food order was initially taken incorrectly when, after a long wait, two of the meals had to be returned - one was scallops which were served cold and the other ham, eggs and chips had the eggs served cold.
The standard of hygiene was very poor. I observed at one point a young man wiping his nose on his uniform polo shirt sleeve while walking through the dining area. What I could see of the kitchen area did not lead me to believe that standards there were any better.
As a basic food hygiene tutor I feel that the staff are in need of a great deal of remedial training to bring them to even a moderate standard. The only saving grace was the attentions of our waitress (Tammy) who tried very hard to improve the standard of our visit.
Stuart (Sent 19th June)
Wedding at Blackpool Sands
From: Chloe and Nick on 11-07-2012
.... All the feedback we have had from everyone has been amazing. The atmosphere was just what we wanted, the food was excellent and everyone has said that they had a really wonderful time. Everyone mingled and danced and the overall feeling was really welcoming and celebratory.
We also really appreciate the effort you put into making the Village Hall so beach-like. To do what you did in the time given was fantastic and we were so pleased with the overall feel and look of it!
All the best,
Chloe and Nick (Sent 23rd June)
Webcam and weather station - reply to Louise (sent 25th June)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
Thanks for the email. Which site are you referring to & we will check it out? We do sometimes have software problems particularly affecting wind speed at Blackpool Sands despite having spent over £2,000 replacing all the equipment.
I appreciate your feedback and ask that you understand this is a free service we are offering as a help to those using the beaches. It won't therefore always be top of mind to us to check all is well every day across 4 sites.
Webcam and Weather Station
From: Louise on 11-07-2012
I did enjoy the weather extremes today - 103 mph..?!! Are you having problems with your anenometer?! I managed despite the wind to stay upright and carry on as normal.. Seriously - if you are trying to publish weather it may be an idea to get it approx right!
Louise (Sent 25th June)
Reply to Hilary (Sent 24th June)
From: Michael Smith on 11-07-2012
Thank you very much for your feedback. We are delighted you enjoyed your meal. Thank you very much for taking the time to write & let us know.
Hope to see you again soon.
Michael C Smith
The Venus Company
From: Hilary on 11-07-2012
We have just had a really excellent birthday meal for my sister at Blackpool Sands Venus Cafe. Thanks to all of the staff there for a lovely meal, excellent service and for making us all feel so welcome.
Hilary (Sent 23rd June)
Reply to Tim
From: Michael Smith on 18-06-2012
Many thanks for the feedback.
Webcams are pretty temperamental and we strive to get them back up as soon as we can. Hopefully, Bigbury is back operational by the time you read this.
Burgers - we have a variety of burgers for sale - one of them is a 1/4 lb plain - one has organic cheese and tomato; one has back bacon and BBQ sauce; one has goat's cheese and onion. Sounds like we are not asking the right question and you are receiving a plain burger (which a lot of children want) when that isn't what you want.
I am sorry you think our burger bap is so cheap. It is actually made with organic flour by an artisan traditional baker who would be horrified to hear that you think they are like happy shopper rolls. I would be interested to know why you wrote what you did?
From: Tim on 18-06-2012
Just wondered if you might be able to get the weather sensor at Bigbury back online and working? Love the camera and the weather/wind gauge is really useful. Only other point would be it's disappointing not to see a wee bit of greenery in your burgers. I dont mind paying for good quality meat but I don't think it's too much to ask for a bit of said to accompany the meat - a simple burger and bun certainly disappoints - especially when the bun is of the happy shopper variety! Otherwise all good.
Reply from Dee
From: on 10-06-2012
Not a problem, like I say the observations were worth passing on - I work in the service industry and know how important it is to return feedback.
Hubbie had crab in the end .... am sure he enjoyed that just as much! It was myself and our son who had the fish pie, still yummy! The food, the presentation, the service - as far as we were concerned - was all brilliant!
We had a super time and I know we would definitely return should we be back in the area!
We loved the relaxed family atmosphere and wonderful service we received. I would certainly recommend visiting Venus Blackpool Sands.
Reply to Dee
From: Michael Smith on 10-06-2012
Thank you very much for the feedback. It was very good of you to take the time to let us know. I am very glad you enjoyed the meal despite the obstacles we put in your way.
The lobster availability is difficult (as I mentioned to you in an earlier email) as we only buy from one fisherman based in Dartmouth and he can’t fish when the weather is inclement – so lobster and crab are a bit of a pot luck regarding availability (today for example we have none as the weather is too rough for him to fish). If you do come again it would be great if you pre-booked crab & lobster to ensure we keep some back for you.
Fish pie is a bit of a mystery as the pie is made with the potato on top all the time so this needs some examination.
Thanks for the feedback on the waitress – she is new to the business and you have clearly identified some product knowledge issues which we need to address. There is nothing more annoying than a waitress saying she doesn’t know – but it is our fault for not training her properly not hers for not knowing.
Wrong bottle of wine bill – again this is a training issue. Hopefully you received the right wine at the table?
Thank you again for the feedback – much appreciated. Next time (I hope there is one) we will be better I promise.
Very best wishes,
Special Occasion at Blackpool Sands
From: Dee on 10-06-2012
We have returned from our trip to Dartmouth and wanted to give feed back regarding the restaurant.
We all had a fabulous time, had the weather been kinder it would have been perfect!
The meal itself was lovely, enjoyed by all, but there were a few issues ......
1/ Could not have surf and turf - was not available
2/ Fish pie (2 opted for this) had to be without mash - no potatoes!
3/ Waitress was not very knowledgeable, had to keep going and checking before being able to answer our questions - was the cider cloudy? what was soup of the day ? - she was a very good waitress though
4/ We were charged for a more expensive bottle of wine, than what was chosen - which was corrected at time of paying
Overall, we had a fabulous time and the above issues did not ruin our evening out in any way.
Reply to Sue
From: Michael Smith on 08-06-2012
Thank you very much for taking the time to write and let us know of the poor quality food you received on Bank Holiday Monday. I am so sorry that the meal was nowhere near our usual standards.
The reason was, as you identified, we were very short staffed – this half term week is always our most difficult week of the year as we can experience summer volumes with only our full-time staff available. All our seasonal staff don’t want to work as they have exams coming up. For the volume we experienced that day we should have had at least 2 extra staff and had we had them they would definitely have been working. I appreciate that this doesn’t excuse the poor quality for which I apologise.
We have recently changed our Bigbury on Sea menu & introduced a 1/4lb plain (which was asked for frequently in the past) on the menu along with our classic organic cheeseburger and the sizzler and Capri – which you had. I don’t know where the error happened but obviously you were given a 1/4lb plain when you ordered something different. My guess is that the wrong one was picked out of the holding bin. We do cook & hold when we are busy to ensure we deliver the food quickly & efficiently. To be honest the burger does benefit from a short period of resting after it is cooked – as does any quality meat. French fries do not hold well but they are constantly being cooked when busy so don’t sit there very long normally. I can only apologise again for that.
You asked about fish alternatives. We do have scampi on the menu and fish and chips will make a comeback at Bigbury on Sea shortly. We dropped whitebait this year as the Marine Conservation Society has put them on the endangered ‘do not eat’ list. We certainly want to ensure we are supporting sustainable fisheries in our purchasing practices. We have recently launched a new Cafe sit down menu during the day at Blackpool Sands (as opposed to the Take Away menu which we also have – the same as at Bigbury). The new cafe menu offers an array of fish dishes including seafood pancake, breaded lemon sole fillets, fresh whole crab & lobster, scallops and mussels. This is a very different experience from our normal take away offering. Further details can be found on our website www.lovingthebeach.co.uk. You may like to sign up for a Venus loyalty card when you visit the site – this card is used for any purchase and you collect points which are redeemable when you purchase again at any site.
I do want you to come back and experience the real Venus offer. You do know we normally do a good job. If you would be kind enough to supply your postal address I would like to send you a £25 voucher which you will be able to use at any of the cafes.
I thank you again for taking the time to write and let us know of the poor experience. I do hope I will hear from you again with a happier story.
With very best wishes.
From: Sue on 08-06-2012
We were at Bigbury yesterday, Monday 4th June. It was busy, a bank holiday and half term week and we weren't surprised to see a queue for food. We were very disappointed at the quality of what we were served though. We have eaten at the Bigbury Venus cafe at least half a dozen times over recent years. We have also eaten at the Blackpool Sands cafe and enjoyed what we had there too. We have both often had the burger or sometimes the fish option when there was something other than scampi on offer. Yesterday the burgers had been prepared in advance and kept warm which we can understand but they were pretty tasteless and appeared smaller than usual and in a plain bap with no garnish. I had the version with goat's cheese and onion relish, which was at least quite tasty (although the onion relish was hard to find!) but the burger meat itself was definitely not what we remembered. The chips were seriously soggy and limp as though they had steamed themselves while being kept warm (which they only just were) and we wouldnt have eaten these at all if we hadn't been so hungry! We have recommended the Venus cafe to people in the past but unfortunately we don't feel we will be able to again. This was really below your normal standards and well below what we would expect for the money. We hope that this was just a blip because it was so busy but will be reluctant to try it again. We didn't complain to your staff yesterday as they were obviously really busy but felt that as previously loyal customers now left disappointed you should know about our experience. Sue
P.S. Why is whitebait or an alternative fish option no longer available?!
From: margaret on 07-06-2012
May I congratulate you on a lovely meal last week but as there were 7 of us we felt the 10 percent extra was a bit much but of course we saw it on the menu before we had our meal. Next time we will book as 2 parties!!!!!
We intend to reccomend the cafe as we are local and it was excellent.
Wedding Breakfast at Blackpool Sands
From: Sophie and Norman on 31-05-2012
Dear Chris et al,
Thank you all so very much for pulling out all the stops for us on Saturday and making our day really special. The food was much commented on by many and really delicious and the tables looked beautiful. Beni and her team did a wonderful job and couldn't have been more helpful and charming. Thanks to you and your team for a lovely evening.
Yours, Sophie and Norman
Blackpool Sands Cream Tea
From: David on 31-05-2012
Dear Mike et al,
Thank you so much for making us feel so welcome on Saturday, and for very generously sponsoring the delicious cream tea.
Our guests were so reluctant to move on from Venus that we arrived at our destination two hours late, which I think says it all - you couldn't have given them a better experience. Thanks too for the weather!
I've attached a photo of the guests whose smiles and contented tummies are down to you and the team at Venus - many thanks.
All the best,
From: Jill on 24-05-2012
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for a wonderful night on Sunday. Thanks for all the hard work in preparation, the thoughtful touches,FABULOUS food, IMPECCABLE service, lovely warm and smiling faces throughout it all, gorgeous decorations etc. etc.
All my guests had a great time and I had the best birthday party ever, which I will never forget.
You made my guests so haappy and generous that we raised £350 for SHELTERBOX on that night so now even more people can benefit!
LOVING VENUS - LOVING THE BEACH!!
From: Tony on 30-04-2012
As a frequent visitor and accessor of your Blackpool Sands webcam, you can understand how surprised and delighted I was when I viewed the cam recently to discover the new, clear image and different perspective. It shows off the beach and surrounding backdrop so well and with the improvement in image quality and colour, you have obviously invested in some excellent new kit. Sadly, there is only one disadvantage from my point of view - as I sit here in my Milton Keynes office, it only increases the desire to be there and enjoy the scene and your excellent fayre for real!!
Reply to Elinor
From: Michael Smith on 30-04-2012
Many thanks for your email. I am very sorry that we failed to provide you with something tempting. The cheese & tomato Panini will make a come back in the next couple of months. The sales of this product have dropped off recently and the brie & cranberry selling much better. I think the colder weather has something to do with that.
I am not sure which cafes you visited on this trip. Our current menu does vary a little bit from site to site, but most of them have a homemade falafel Panini (which I think is fabulous) and also a homemade tofu burger which has a strong following and I believe to be exceptional – but of course I am biased. We make these products ourselves and the ingredients are excellent.
We do make every effort to provide a range and good quality for our vegetarian customers. I am so sorry that we didn’t meet your expectations on the last visit. When you next plan to come to Devon please let me know in advance & I will ensure the cheese & tomato paninis are available for you – even if not on the menu.
Replied 13 April
From: Elinor on 13-04-2012
We have always looked forward to our holidays in South Devon, and a week's holiday would normally involve a trip to each of your 3 beach cafes on our days out. However, we were really disappointed this Easter to find that your menu had changed. In particular, the whole family missed the cheddar cheese and tomato panini. As a vegetarian, I couldn't find anything else that could replace it (I am not keen on brie and fruit together, or the ultra-healthy vegetable mixes). Please bring back the cheddar cheese and tomato panini!
Launch of Green Cottages Scheme
From: Julian & Caya on 21-03-2012
I would like to thank you again for a very enjoyable lunch yesterday. As a vegetarian I am used to being disappointed when eating out, yesterday was a very pleasant exception.
When we arrived and were offered canapés I selected only the vegetarian offering and one of your staff picked up on this and suggested a suitable vegetarian main course without me having to even ask. This was very much appreciated, please thank her again from me.
The food both vegetarian and non was first class, the service was excellent and the setting lovely.
Julian & Caya
p.s My last and only previous visit to Blackpool Sands was as a child in, I think, 1964.
Reply to Pollie from Michael Smith
From: on 18-03-2012
Many thanks for the email describing the very poor and unacceptable service you received from our staff at Bigbury on Sea today. There is no excuse for it at all and whoever it was who served you did not follow the correct procedures and certainly the man (was he young or older?) was totally out of order.
I am making some internal enquiries to determine why this went so wrong and will get back to you with an answer. In the meantime, I will send you 2 vouchers both for free lunch for 4 which will be redeemable at any of our cafes. This, I hope, will make up a little for the very poor service and cold food you received. I appreciate that your day was spoilt by our staff’s poor behaviour but I hope you and the family will enjoy a couple of lunches on us in the future.
I will come back to you shortly and my sincere apologies again. Many thanks for taking the time to write to us. It is much appreciated.
Happy Mother’s Day – I hope the rest of the day was as lovely as it should have been and best wishes.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
From: Pollie on 18-03-2012
It's Mothers day so my husband said we could have lunch at the cafe rather than sandwiches. Kids were delighted and we went to Bigbury. I have not eaten at Bigbury before and ordered our food at the window. Our friend ordered his after me and was handed his order from the window. I was at no time told this was not where my number would be called. My kids waited very patiently and after 25 mins I enquired politely if our order had been forgotten. The woman at the window went to see and came back and said our order had been called and that we had not claimed it. I asked how this could be as we were less than 2 ft away from the window and the man at the other till said orders were called round the other side. I was a little upset and explained that no one had told me that I needed to go around the side of the building. I said that I am not stupid but that maybe it would have been a good idea to either tell me or at least have a sign up stating the fact. The man was quite rude and told me he was not stupid either - I had not said he was! At no time was there even a hint of an apology for the misunderstanding their poor communication had led to. I spent £17.06 on a nasty, cold, congealed lunch and felt so upset by my treatment my children thought I was about to cry. I frequently buy hot drinks and ice creams from your chain but feel very let down by the poor customer service and quite frankly outright rudeness of your staff on this occasion. I hope I will never be treated to such a poor quality of service again.
Reply to Robert from Michael Smith
From: on 18-03-2012
Many thanks for the email. I am so sorry that you were let down on Tuesday. This was the only day of the year (other than Xmas day) when we have been closed. We had our annual management meeting when we assemble all our managers to discuss the upcoming year.
I confess we hadn't thought to put this information on the website and should have done so. There was supposed to have been a sign on the building so it either was forgotten by us or taken down by others or blown away.
If you would provide me with your address I would like to send you a meal voucher by way of compensation for our failings.
My apologies again.
Michael C Smith
The Venus Company
From: Robert on 18-03-2012
We went over to Bigbury on Tuesday this week 13th. The website indicates that the cafe would be open 10 to 5pm. We planned to have lunch prior to giving the dogs a run. It was NOT open, nor was there a notice to say it was closed. Not good.
One of the best lunches in a great location in a long time
From: Reply to Kate from Michael Smith on 21-02-2012
A very belated thank you for your message. Glad you enjoyed the experience at Bigbury on Sea. I am sorry about East Portlemouth not being open – the planners insist we remain shut from 1st November until Easter every year.
Hope to see you soon.
From: Richard on 16-02-2012
I ate at your restaurant at Blackpool Sands last night for Valentine's night and just wanted to say thank you very much. The food was amazing, the location superb, and the service exemplary. My only criticism was that my glass of red wine with my steak came out of the fridge so was stone cold but the girls were so busy I didn't bother letting them know. But if that's all that went wrong then I consider it a good night. Once again, thank you so much. I shall recommend you to everyone and be coming back soon.
From: Lisa and Dave on 15-02-2012
I just wanted to say how much we had enjoyed our Valentine's Dinner at Blackpool Sands last night. It was really enjoyable, the room looked lovely, the food was excellent and the service by staff was very attentive. Thank you ever so much for a lovely evening and we will definitely be back for dinner in the near future.
Lisa and Dave
One of the best lunches in a great location for a long time
From: Kate on 14-02-2012
On a cold February lunch time, having walked the dogs and children across the beautiful Bigbury sands, what better way to refuel than sitting overlooking the beach with the sound of waves breaking, munching on our delicious food at Venus Cafe. Very few places could satisfy our dietary needs quite so well: fussy kids and a carb/ gluten free diet, and with such wholesome yummy food. Love your philosophy, love the food, love the prices, the location...oh, and very friendly, funny, jolly staff.
We tried to then go across for afternoon tea on the ferry to East Portlemouth, to be disappointed to find it shut!
Blackpool Sands a huge disappointment
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 01-01-2012
Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate the feedback. I hope you have a lovely happy Christmas & we hope to see you again soon.
Very best wishes
Blackpool Sands a huge disappointment...
From: Reply from Jacqui on 01-01-2012
Thanks for your prompt and detailed reply. I decided to go there last Sunday and the staff were most obliging and we enjoyed the breakfast/ambiance. Can now see things much more from your perspective.
Blackpool Sands a huge disappointment....
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 01-01-2012
Many thanks for taking the time to write and let us know of your disappointment at the changes we have made in the last 3 months at Blackpool Sands. I sincerely appreciate the feedback and am sorry that you find them so alienating. I would like to let you know the rationale behind the changes – which may then put everything into somewhat of a different perspective for you.
Tables: the tables we have there now have been a great success and have been there since early October. These have replaced the heavy benches (which are now outside) as we were having quite a lot of negative feedback from old and young alike about the benches – that they were uncomfortable, no good for the young or elderly with no back support. On top of that our staff were really struggling moving them around for functions and parties as they weigh over ¼ ton each. We don’t actually have any more seats in there than before (actually we have 10 less) but the new tables and chairs are larger. The sofas haven’t been in the dining area for nearly 9 months. I decided not to put these back in for the winter as we have quite a number of Christmas parties booked so we would have to keep moving them in and out – and we have nowhere to store them. We were also finding that one family of 4 would sit on all 3 sofas and make it inaccessible for anyone else.
The ambiance – we still have a log fire and newspapers. You are the first person to tell me that you don’t like the ambiance – all other feedback is that it is cosier and warmer and more comfortable. Before we had loads of people saying it was too clinical and uninviting. You are still very welcome to come in with muddy boots and sandy feet – that hasn’t changed at all.
Dogs unwelcome – last winter we had loads of complaints from non dog owners who really didn’t like the fact that dogs were in the same area as those eating their breakfast, lunch or dinner. We decided to find a compromise this year and so spent the money erecting the deck cover so that those with well behaved dogs could still sit under shelter with heaters. I understand that Charles informed you that this was available. I was down at Blackpool Sands this week and spoke to a couple of dog owners. They were more than happy with this facility. I regret that you aren’t, but hopefully you can see that we need to look after everyone and there has to be some space where dogs aren’t allowed otherwise those who don’t want dogs around will never come to us at all. I think we are pretty unusual allowing dogs in any part of the covered dining area.
Price – the Venus special has actually moved to £8.50 not the £8.99 you mention. Last winter and throughout last season the price was £7.99. We didn’t make any price change when the VAT went up in January last year so we have actually been working on a much reduced margin for most of the year. The increase in VAT accounts for 38 pence of the price rise. We have moved our price up by 13 pence and I can assure you that this doesn’t cover the price increases we have seen in the last 12 months on nearly all our foodstuffs but particularly coffee, milk, orange juice and eggs. I believe that the special remains excellent value, offering a full breakfast of Westcountry product with dry cure bacon, organic eggs, vine tomato, sausages & toast, organic orange juice, marmalade, coffee & milk and beats any price locally for the same items and quality.
I regret that we did not send out an email to warn you of these changes. We did put some posters up before the change at the beach and these of course weren’t seen by you. I am sorry. There will be ongoing changes regularly at Venus as we need to keep evolving as we have done over the last 16 years. If we had stayed the same then we would probably not exist. I would like to think that everyone would approve of everything we did but that’s fantasy land I know. We have made a further change since you last visited and changed the takeaway menu. The full plated breakfast will now only be available from the cafe area – and you can choose whether or not you sit inside or outside depending on the weather.
I would like to think that the quality of our food, the £200,000 investment in the covered area, the log fire, the friendliness of our staff and the stunning views still make it a very special place that visitors and locals alike will love. Personally I don’t think our USP has been lost but rather enhanced. If I may be so bold to suggest that if you revisit us again – armed with the information above – you might see that it isn’t as you suggest – and I accept that I may be wrong. I regret that the changes are not to your liking and am sorry that this is the case. For us, it is the right way to go and has widened our appeal to more locals and visitors alike.
I really don’t want to lose you as a regular customer. I value your business and loyalty. I have added 100 points to your loyalty card (worth £10) in the hope that I can entice you back for a free Venus special to have another look.
With very best wishes
The Venus Company
Blackpool Sands a huge disappointment........... Loving the Beach? Not so much anymore
From: on 01-01-2012
As you may remember I bought 30 friends of mine from all over the country to Blackpool Sands to have breakfast after my 60th birthday in January. They all loved the place with its unpretentious and friendly ambiance. A roaring fire, newspapers, excellent value and a place where it did not matter if you came in with walking boots, wellies or shingle from the beach. Dogs that were under control were welcome. I have now made it a regular meeting place on a Sunday morning with various friends throughout the year and since half term have been joined by those who can now bring their dogs back again, for a Venus Special breakfast. I have got a loyalty card so you have my e-mail address.
I had not been for several weeks, but arrived at 9.30 to discover that it was all change. At first I thought it must have been because there had been a party there the night before...
- The Venus Special had gone up to a staggering 8.99
- The sofas had gone
- There were more tables
- Dogs were unwelcome
It was starting to look like everywhere else and not a cafe on a beach so we went to the shop and ordered breakfast from there also on china plates and ate it outside. Thank goodness it was warmish. What if it rains? Where do you go to sit and eat if you have walked there with dogs and want breakfast? The shop will not want us either, to sit down, with muddy boots in the rain.............
I was wondering why we had not been notified of the changes? I could not see anything mentioned on the web site. Everyone that we talked to that day was bitterly disappointed.
Yours very 'disappointedly'
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 31-12-2011
Thank you so much for taking the time to write and tell us your impressions of your experience with Venus. My sincere apologies for the long delay in responding.
I am pleased you found our ingredient information helpful – there is also a binder at each cafe with this information in.
Regarding the breakfast pricing. The reason you found different pricing between the website and the reality at Blackpool Sands is because they are actually different menus. The one on the website applies to a couple of our cafes but not at Blackpool Sands as you found out. I apologise for the confusion. We are working on changing the website to make it clearer which menu applies where – but this needs a web re-design which isn’t able to happen overnight. The reason for the difference in pricing is that everything is served in china and with heated indoor seating at Blackpool Sands.
Flies – every Autumn we have swarms of flies which invade both the dining area and the caravan (which closes at the end of August). I have no idea why they appear as they do but as it happens every year at the same time it’s obviously a natural occurrence. We do treat the spaces they invade which is why there were so many dead ones in the caravan. They have now been cleared up and we check it every little while. I agree it looks pretty awful and we certainly should have cleaned them out more speedily. The dead flies inside the dining room are cleaned up daily – often multiple times a day – I am pretty sure they have now all disappeared. I really should find out why they invade us as they do – I suspect it’s something to do with the warmth of the sun coming through the windows.
I do hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and that you have a very happy 2012. Thank you once again for taking the time to write to me – I really do appreciate it.
With very best wishes
The Venus Company
From: Julie on 31-12-2011
First of all I would like to say how wonderful to find an establishment that serves not only local food but much of it organic. I was also impressed that you have the ingredients on your website. I don't eat dairy or any soya products so found it very useful to check the ingredients before we arrived. It can be very awkward sometimes when trying to find out information. Thank you.
However, 2 things - on your website the price of breakfast special is £7.99 but when we arrived last Sunday the price we were charged was £8.50. The other concern was the dead fly - there were a number on the window sill on the far window from the door and they looked like they had been there for a while. I know it is the middle of winter and the ice-cream kiosk isn't open but if you look in the window there must have been nearly a thousand dead flies.
Staff Christmas Party - Testimonial
From: Angie on 23-12-2011
A big thank you for making our staff Christmas Party a big success. Everyone agreed that the setting couldn’t be bettered, the atmosphere was just right and the food delicious, especially the canapés! The staff looked after us very well and am pleased to say that a good time was had by all. Thank You.
Thank you for a lovely evening
From: Jean on 12-12-2011
We held our Christmas party at the Venue on Blackpool Sands last Friday - it was a great night out - the food was exceptional and the staff very attentive and polite. The music was brilliant - we all thought it was the best Christmas party we have had. Thank you so much for a lovely evening.
Baby Changing Facilities
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 25-11-2011
Thank you very much for taking the time to write and let us know about your visit to Blackpool Sands on 16th November. I was pleased to hear of the positive and very sorry to learn of the difficulties you had on baby change. These difficulties should not have been encountered – I am afraid our staff were not aware that they should have let you use the main toilets which do of course have baby changing facilities. We are now in winter mode and these main toilets are closed as we use our much smaller facilities in our building.
I am so sorry this occurred. I can assure you all staff have now been briefed to allow parents to use the proper changing facilities in the main toilet block as needed.
I am sending you a free lunch for 2 to your address in the hope that you will use this on your next visit down to Devon as some recompense for the problems you encountered.
Michael C B Smith
Baby Changing at Blackpool Sands
From: Kaldeep on 25-11-2011
I am writing to you about the Cafe on Blackpool Sands. We visited the cafe on Wednesday 16th Novemeber. The food was great and we really enjoyed it. However we were extremely dissapointed by the baby changing facilities - there were NONE. Upon asking staff where we could change our little 1 1/2 year old, the staff informed that there was no where and due to hygene reasons we could not change the baby inside - which I understand.
Your websites state "You love children" but the facilities for a modern looking cafe for toddlers was quite poor. We had to change our little one in our car - he is too tall to lie flat as the car seats take up huge amounts of space. So we had to change him with my wife standing outside and the door open. It was raining quite badly and very windy. My son actually came down with a cold the next day.
I am hoping that throughout your facilities this email will encourage you to put baby/toddler changing facilities as primarily your greatest consumer base are families.
Reply to Bobbie-Lynn
From: Michael Smith on 18-11-2011
Many thanks for taking the time to write to express your disappointment when you visited Venus at Dartington on November 16th. I am truly sorry to hear of the list of poor standards you experienced. As you are aware, this is not the standard we are striving for and achieving the majority of the time – as you have experienced at Blackpool Sands. I can but apologise – it should not have happened and we will go back through the training of the staff to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
I would appreciate you sending me your mailing address so we can send you a voucher for a free meal for the future as well as a cheque to reimburse you for the poor experience.
I do hope to hear back from you soon. Once again my apologies.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
From: Bobbie-Lynn on 18-11-2011
My 3 year old daughter and I had lunch at your restaurant at Dartington today and I am sorry to say that we were extremely disappointed. We arrived in your restaurant around 12 noon and it certainly didn't appear anywhere as neat, tidy or sharp looking as I expected.
We ordered our lunch, children's pasta for my daughter and a classic burger for me. The staff were fine but certainly not welcoming or warm. The seating area that we were in was at the back of the restaurant and the cushions on the bench looked tired, the box of toys looked grungy and tha table was not clean. My daughter was given a book to colour and coloured pencils - a nice gesture but one that proved empty as all but 2 or 3 of the pencils were broken and they barely marked on the book - even when I used them. The condiment and cutlery area looked like it was thrown together and not at all of the standard that I would have expected from an award-winning company.
I have eaten several times at your Blackpool restaurant and always enjoyed the food. Today, I was let down. My daughter's pasta looked like it had been thrown in the microwave, some of it was warm, some of it was cold and some of it looked like it had been over cooked in a microwave. My meat in my burger was lovely as was the roll. But the meat was not warm and neither were the french fries.
Overall, I was greatly unimpressed. So much so that I wished the old restaurant was still there as not once had I been let down when we ate there.
Yours with disappointment, Bobbie-Lynn
Party on 10th September
From: Mark on 31-10-2011
The team at Blackpool Sands did a fantastic job for us on the 10th September, thanks to all.
From: Richard on 30-09-2011
Lee, Chris, Michael,
I am sorry I have not contacted you sooner, but I would like to say a huge thank you for how you organised the reception party for Jan and Laura on September 3rd.
The organisation was perfect, the food was excellent and your staff were superb.
Everything went very smoothly and frankly, we could not have wished for a better day. Please pass on my thanks to all who were involved.
We are very grateful for the time and effort you put in to make sure that Laura and Jan's day was so special.
We are still sorting out the photographs and we will make sure you get to see them soon.
Thank you and best wishes,
From: Rosemary on 29-09-2011
Dear Michael and Louisa,
Just a note to thank you and all the staff at Venus for the very successful event on Saturday night. You would be surprised how much our friends noticed and appreciated, so many compliments to all of you. All the food was praised, most especially the jerk prawns; I was congratulated on the flowers and had to admit that they had been provided by the cafe especially to complement the evening (which also impressed everyone immensely); there were compliments on the venue, the helpfulness and efficiency of the staff, and even on the quality of the loos!
Please will you thank all the staff who contributed to making the evening such a success, the news of which I hope will have reached you.
Thanks for organising our party
From: Bob & Lorna on 29-09-2011
Many thanks for all the time and help you gave us when organising our party. It was a great success, better than we had hoped for, and we are very grateful to you for that. We were very impressed by the amount of management time we received from you and Michael.
Everyone who attended has praised the quality of the food and the venue and have complimented the super staff who looked after us so well. The most frequent words used have been ‘perfect’ and ‘fabulous’.
It was a fantastic evening and one we will remember, even the moon did its thing. (But no dolphin - I was looking forward to seeing you in a wet suit with a fin on your back!)
Please give our sincere thanks to the chef, Ian, for all his hard work. He made sure the evening went smoothly and looked after everyone’s needs. I don’t know how the other staff managed to be so pleasant, attentive and unobtrusive all at the same time, but they did. Please pass on our thanks to them too.
Once again, many thanks for all your help and input,
Bob & Lorna
Feedback - Blackpool Sands
From: Vicky on 29-09-2011
Many thanks for your email about your recent visit to Blackpool Sands. I am sorry that you didn’t enjoy the experience.
My understanding of the issues you had were related to price, the clotted cream and our shortbread & brownie. I make no apology on our prices. We compare very favourably with everyone else doing similar things and have the added bonus of being located on one of the most beautiful locations in Britain. I know that many high street cafes and pubs charge significantly more than we do. I also know that the quality and size of our portions also make us great value.
Regarding the cakes. It sounds like the brownie you had was one of our pieces bags – which is a larger portion but cut into smaller bite size pieces. We also sell squares unbroken. We have had excellent feedback on this product before and, like all our cakes, is made with the very finest local & organic ingredients. The shortbread is designed to be as it is – a shortbread biscuit – 2 biscuits per serving. It is not meant to be a shortbread finger like the Scottish make.
The clotted cream comes from Riverford Organic Farm and has won many top awards for the quality. I personally think it's lovely but appreciate it may not be what you are used to.
I am sorry that the staff member serving you was not up to scratch – we have had a word with him and I can but apologise. We do pride ourselves on being friendly and am sorry that it didn’t happen on this occasion.
I do sincerely thank you for taking the time to write & provide us with your feedback. It is appreciated.
Michael C B Smith
Reply: nut allergies - East Portlemouth venue
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 15-09-2011
Many thanks for your email. I am truly sorry that you had a bad experience with the organic cola. Thank goodness you were well prepared.
I am making detailed investigations on the contents of the cola can. The ingredients do not list nuts (it says cola flavouring) nor does it contain any nut allergy warning. I was of the opinion that there was not nut in the drink but have made enquiries of the producer to determine exactly what allergy alerts relate to the can. I appreciate that the description implies nuts. I will get back to you once I have the exact answer.
I am also sorry that you were not offered an alternative at the time and you certainly should have been. We do stock ordinary coke so we should have replaced the organic cola with a regular one. While I understand your ire at the experience I am not sure I understand your comments about us not following our principles. Perhaps you could expand on that for me.
So, this email is to let you know that your email is being actioned and I will come back to you shortly. Once again my sincere apologies for the experience you had.
Very best wishes,
Michael C B Smith
Email sent to Jane on 16 September by Michael Smith:
I have now heard back from the company responsible for the manufacture of the whole earth organic range of drinks. I attach a copy of their email. As you will read they claim there is no nut allergy issue with their drink. Clearly for your son there was so if you wish me to pursue this further I will certainly have a go.
I understand from the manager at east Portlemouth that you did receive a refund. He wasn’t able to offer a coke substitute as he didn’t have any.
My apologies again. Do let me know if this reply from the company satisfies your complaint.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
Nut allergies - East Portlemouth venue
From: Jane on 15-09-2011
I recently visited the above outlet with my son who has several allergies one of which is a nut allergy requiring us to have an epipen.
Along with our lunch we purchased a can of coke.
I did read on your menu that it was organic, but those were the only details available - so I presumed it would be fine as all other coke/cola has been.
My 10 year old son started drinking it and immediately started having itchy lips and throat.
He then read the can which said it contained nut extracts!!!
Luckily we did have medicine etc. with us.
I did relay my concerns to the staff, but they were totally uninterested and did not even want to offer us an alternative.
Please note that you really need to clearly advertise the fact that this cola contains nut extracts and your staff made aware that this could be life threatening especially in remote locations.
I appreciate that you like to sell organic products, but I think this is totally unsuitable at a beach venue where children are likely to purchase it.
I was very disappointed at this experience after reading your advertising and the principles you state you follow.
I look forward to some feedback.
Chestnut Appeal - Burgh Island Swim
From: David - Chestnut Appeal on 15-09-2011
Many, many thanks for your team's help at the weekend ... everything went remarkably smoothly and we had real luck with the weather.
The atmosphere amongst the swimmers was great - a mix of excitement and fear I think - and everyone enjoyed their soup.
So thank you to all - especially Dave at Bigbury - and see you next year
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 15-09-2011
Many thanks for the email – I am pleased to hear that you like the cafe if not the coffee. Our coffee is (in my opinion) an excellent organic 100% Arabica bean from Papua New Guinea which is soft but aromatic. It sounds like the problem is the settings on the machines – either the grinder needs adjustment or the relax time. I have asked the machine supplier to come down asap to recalibrate them. These machines do make great coffee (set correctly) and cost £10,000 each so it is not a cheap option - these are approx twice the price of a traditional hand machine – which also require ongoing maintenance. The reason we use them is that they provide a consistent cup from fresh beans (albeit weak at the moment) and they can provide a great cup of coffee in 45 seconds rather than 2 minutes plus with a traditional espresso machine. The machines do exactly the same thing, they grind the bean, press and hold the coffee – but do it automatically rather than relying on an operator.
I will let you know when the machines have been re-calibrated and then provide you with some free coffee to give me feedback. I really appreciate you taking the trouble to write & let me know - feedback is always welcome and valuable. May I have your postcode & we will then send you a voucher in the post.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
From: Steve, Dartington on 15-09-2011
I like the cafe and so does my family and for some years now, great to see one in Dartington Cider Press Centre too, just down the road. Only problem is I will still have to go into town(Totnes) for my coffee. The Venus coffee is so weak you can hardly taste the coffee and for the price that is charged I would have thought you'd get a fresh coffee from a decent sized machine rather than the little tiny one in the cafes, you cannot make good coffee from those machines I'm afraid.
I thought I'd try the Blackpool cafe this weekend and the coffee is just the same at that cafe too so it must be across the board that Venus coffee isn't shaping up. Some friends visited the Blackpool cafe on Monday and i asked them about the coffee, they too were not impressed. In Totnes we're used to good food and drink, I'd expect Venus cafes to stay or try to match competitors.
Hope to hear back from you very soon
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 07-09-2011
Many thanks for the feedback. Appreciate you taking the time to let us know & delighted you had a great time.
Look forward to seeing you again one day.
The Venus Company
From: Peter on 07-09-2011
We called in at Blackpool Sands during a recent stay in Dartmouth having visited there years ago when my kids were small. Weather was overcast but the parking was free as advertised 'Due to poor weather parking is free today' - an unusually enlightened approach. Great beach cafe in all senses: good, simple range of food, great tea, really cosy interior with an indoor, open-range barbeque to take the chill off and perhaps the best selection of background music tracks I've heard in ages plus a fantastic view of families playing on the beach. Turned out to be one of those unexpected, special moments we still talk about. Please pass onto whoever runs the place that we think they're doing a difficult job in an individual but very professional way - Loved it!
From: Lise on 07-09-2011
To the chef who cooked on Thursday 18th August at Blackpool Sands.
Dear God, as you are one - have just about come down from my lobster hit - straight up, split, cold on the plate with some organic bread and a smile - and am now in fear of running out of the marmalade too - slight panic setting in - but to top that all off you very kindly let me purchase a lobster for my mum to take home. Thank you so much for a fabulous eating experience and your kindness - unattractive though it sounds, she was sucking the shell before i even got the kettle on! Nice... Anyway, thanks muchly and need to return soon 8)
Tolcarne Beach - No recyling bins
From: Reply from Michael Smith on 15-08-2011
Many thanks for the email. The recycling bins at Tolcarne have been removed as you say. The reason is that our landlord has refused to allow us to use the rubbish bins at the top of the slope so we have had to make other arrangements for our rubbish. The recycling bins of ours were used by the whole beach and also had to be sorted as quite a few people mixed everything up contaminating the bin. So previously we were sorting out the rubbish from the recyclable material and the rubbish was going into the bins at the top. We now can’t do that and so have had to make other arrangements for waste disposal. These alternate arrangements mean we can’t accept any material which doesn’t emanate from ourselves.
I can assure you that we continue to recycle all our cardboard, glass and cans (which are returned to us) and backhaul these back to our central facility where they are moved on to a recycling centre. We have also recently introduced a fully compostable hot drink and hot drink lid. We are in the process of discussions with a site where these cups & lids can be placed in a bio digester which heats water.
Many thanks again for the email.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
Tolcarne Beach - No recycling bins
From: Greg on 15-08-2011
Tolcarne Beach - no recycling bins, there used to be some.
English IRB Championships at Bigbury on Sea
From: Esther on 15-08-2011
Dear Michael and Lee,
I would like to personally thank you for all your help in hosting the English IRB Championships on the 23rd of July 2011. It proved to be a great day for racing in some fine weather.
We were extremely pleased with the overall running of the day and have already received positive feedback from many who attended. People were very impressed with the venue with one member expressly saying, "We'll have to come here again!"
Thank you once more for all your help with making the event a success. My very best wishes, I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Loyalty Card - reply from Hugh sent 10.08.2011
From: Hugh on 12-08-2011
First, thanks for the speedy and honest answer - now that does confirm your stated brand values! ....thank you for the points - unexpected but definitely a plus-one, as we used to call it, in the customer experience....
Loyalty Card - reply from Nick sent 10.08.2011
From: Nick on 12-08-2011
An excellent point. What can I say. We spent months (going into years) redesigning our website. It has been live for 12 months. You are the first person to tell us what we should have noticed at the beginning. We are now going to make a change in the sign up process. We are also manually adding you to our Loyalty card list. I will add 50 points as a thank you for pointing out what should have been the obvious. Which cafe would you like to collect your card from?
Reply - Loyalty Card
From: Michael Smith on 10-08-2011
A very good point – we’ll look into it. Nick will get back to you.
From: Hugh on 10-08-2011
Loyalty card - good idea and I want one! But as an existing "member" of the Venus community, ie I have a log-in already and get your emails, there seems to be no way to request the card without re-registering with a new set of details. (Have I missed something?)
Now I know this would have been quicker than writing this comment, but surely your existing loyal members are the very people you want signing up for the new card? Once we are logged in, a loyalty card link would do it.....
From: Dartmouth Caring on 03-07-2011
We would like to thank you and your team for all your hard work last Thursday evening. It was a great evening which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. We have had many positive comments about both the food and the service. As always your team at Venus worked extremely hard and displayed such professionalism.
once again, many many thanks.
From: Anna on 24-06-2011
Please thank Michael and say what a wonderful time everyone had at Venus, how well the staff looked after us and how nice the food, flowers, fire and ambience all were.
Non-dairy soya ice cream - reply sent 16.06.2011
From: Michael Smith on 16-06-2011
Thanks – will ask the question of our wholesaler.
Non-dairy soya ice cream - reply sent 15.06.2011
From: Cheryl on 16-06-2011
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.
Yes a lolly would certainly hit the spot! Thanks.
I didn’t notice it listed yesterday but it was only whilst sitting at the table looking across at the ice cream display board that I had the thought about soya ice cream – so I didn’t really scrutinise the lolly board properly.
I do see what you mean about cross contamination with a scoop product.
Maybe Swedish Glace do similar to the small Langage Farm pots. Thanks for investigating.
Non-dairy soya ice cream - reply sent 15.06.2011
From: Michael Smith on 16-06-2011
Many thanks for the email. Delighted by the feedback thank you.
We do stock a soya vegan ice lolly by Swedish Glace. Did you know? Does this do the job? Our wholesaler only stock this line & I can have a hunt around for the other product. I would not want to do a scoop product as the chance of cross contamination with non vegan product (and gluten) would be very high given the way scoop works. Hope that makes sense.
Please let me know.
Non-dairy soya ice cream - sent 15.06.2011
From: Cheryl on 16-06-2011
I love your cafes and visited Bigbury yesterday. As a vegan it is brilliant to see that you provide soya milk and clearly listed vegan options - so thank you!
Just a suggestion but one thing I would love to be able to purchase especially now the weather is hotting up would be a non-dairy soya ice cream. I buy Swedish Glace vanilla soya ice cream from Tesco in Lee Mill and it is really delicious. It comes in a tub and I expect you could get quite a few scoops out of one tub. Enough to make a profit if you were to sell them anyway. Would you consider this as something you might be able to stock?
Thank you and best wishes,
Reply to Lisa - sent 7 June 2011
From: Michael Smith on 11-06-2011
First of all – we will send the voucher off tomorrow in the post. How old are your children and what Watersports would they like? Options depend on age but range from kayaks, water roller ball, surfing, stand up paddle boarding. Let us know – or if too young (under 8) then we could substitute some beach goods for them to play with on the beach.
So – your visit. We are pretty sure you came on the Thursday rather than the Wednesday because that’s definitely the day we went totally awry. In fact, the manager came back that evening and said what an awful day it had been. Wednesday ran very smoothly – as did the other days last week. The reason for the delays in getting out the food were two fold. Firstly, one of the staff scheduled to cook that day had a car crash and didn’t come into work. None of the others were experienced enough to cook as a replacement so the manager was trying to do it all by himself (which didn’t work but he did the best he could!). While we could have done with another 2 staff on top to give truly great service, we would have coped if he hadn’t had the crash. Secondly, we were caught out by the extent of the volume and hadn’t prepared enough food so the manager was fighting a losing battle having miscalculated – and all the other cafes did the same (that day was the busiest of the week and wasn’t better particularly weather wise than the day before – but we were 50% busier).
You mentioned two other key points:
1. The order in which food came out. It is not uncommon for the food to be delivered non-consecutively as some items take longer to prepare/ cook than others.
2. The person you thought was a staff member was in fact a coffee technician who had come to repair the cappuccino machine – which also decided to break down that day adding to the general chaos which reigned. This would not have helped the staff as this would have added to their level of discomfort with the customer.
I hope I have managed to explain why you had such a terrible experience. No consolation, I know, but so did the cafe that day. It was definitely a bad hair day when all went wrong. I appreciate that it wasn’t good enough but there’s very little the manager could have done to improve from what was a sorry situation once he got into trouble.
I look forward to hearing back from you regarding the Watersports or beach goods. I very much hope I have provided you with some reasons for your very miserable experience and that your next visit to us will be memorable and will restore your faith in our ability to provide you with everything you need for a great day on the beach.
From: Wendy on 10-06-2011
Many thanks Chris, to you and all your staff at the Blackpool Sands cafe for making my birthday party such a special occasion - my friends & family were totally enchanted by it.
Bigbury on Sea - reply from Michael Smith
From: Michael Smith on 05-06-2011
Thank you very much for taking the time to write and let us know of your very poor and upsetting experience at Bigbury on Sea last Wednesday. Clearly the experience was not up to our normal standard as you know from your experiences at Blackpool Sands. We operate the same systems and procedures at both cafes. I will make a full investigation and come back to you in a day or two.
Two responses immediately. Firstly, we would like to make amends to your family and send you a voucher for a day on the beach (to include some Watersports) which would include breakfast and lunch. If you could provide us with your address we will send that out next week to you. I do know we were understaffed for this sort of weather and it is a real stretch during this ½ term when the heatwave hits. Our full complement of staff don’t start until mid to end of June (due to exams). As you can imagine, our business is hugely weather dependent and there is a limit to how many full time staff the business can afford. There are probably 250 days of the year when we don’t even take 10% of what we take in the holiday periods with nice weather and to survive as a business we have to manage our overheads. I would love to find the staff who are happy to work in school holidays all year round when the sun is shining- we have searched for 16 years with little success.
I will come back to you in the next couple of days with further answers. In the meantime, I hope to receive your mailing address so we can pop a voucher in the mail to you.
With best wishes
The Venus Company
Bigbury on Sea
From: Lisa on 05-06-2011
I am writing to let you know that I think you need to seriously overhaul and review the operations at your Bigbury on Sea Cafe. I was at the beach on Wednesday 2 June and at around 1.30pm went up to the Venus Cafe to order some lunch for myself and my family. The queue was about 10 people long when I joined but that is to be expected on a busy half term holiday. I waited in the queue for about 15 minutes and was served courteously, but it was obvious the staff were feeling the pressure and looked slightly harrassed. I placed my order and paid - nothing complicated - 2 cheese and tomato paninis and a chicken caesar salad and was told there was a 10 minute wait for food, which under the busy circumstances I accepted as reasonable and went to wait at the side door of the cafe as directed.
Half an hour later the food had still not arrived and many many people were waiting and becoming more and more disgruntled. When food orders did come out the ticket numbers did not follow any consecutive order which would seem normal and it was difficult for people to know when their food was likely to appear. Several people waiting said they had waited over an hour which is totally unacceptable. There were obviously young parents with young children who were waiting ages for food with their young children becoming increasingly fractous as well as one young pregnant mother who was feeling dizzy and light-headed through lack of food and when she asked the staff if they could hurry up with her food, 20 minutes later she was still waiting. When my wait time got to the 45 minute mark I had had enough and asked for a refund and cancelled my order - we were only on the beach for half the day and the huge wait at the cafe meant our family day at the beach was rather ruined as we only had about an hour on the beach as more than an hour and a half was wasted in the queue and then waiting for food that just took too long to arrive.
The staff were working hard, but there seemed to be no order to the process of making food and training seemed to be lacking because things like not bringing forks with food orders that did come out, meant that the staff had to make a second trip back inside to get the cutlery which doubled their journeys to and fro. After I demanded a refund several other people followed suit and it is a pity for your business because many many people now have an extremely poor view of your outfit and I certainly would never risk not bringing my own food in the future, because I definitely would not want another precious family day ruined.
Another aspect which I found bizarre which I observed while waiting all that time, is that in the midst of all the chaos, at about 2pm another staff member arrived and went in the kitchen but seemed to do very little except stand around drinking coffee, doing nothing to aid his colleagues who were obviously so understaffed and stressed. Whoever organises the staff rotas really needs to take into account that school holidays coupled with good weather will be exceptionally busy and surely it would be wise to put on more staff - you could have done with at least 5/6 more!! Really the service was appalling and really spoilt our day. I and my children where exceedingly disappointed and we all went without lunch on that day. I was especially disappointed as when I have often visited your Blackpool Sands Cafe, service has been excellent and the comparison was unbelievable.
For the sake of your business, I would suggest you radically review your operations at Bigbury.
One of many very disappointed customers,
Dartington Cafe - reply by Michael Smith
From: on 02-06-2011
Dear Mr and Mrs C,
Thank you very much for taking the time to write and let us know of your experience at Venus at Dartington last Sunday. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to write and let us know of your experience. I am, of course disappointed to read that you were unimpressed.
I quite understand that, having expected the More Cafe and their menu that you would have found our more extensive, local and organic menu a bit of a shock. Jacket potato is as you say a gluten free product. We offer a range of gluten free dishes including an organic gluten free pie and could certainly offer your wife one of our organic burgers or the whiting fillet (without a floured bap) along with gluten free fries (cooked in a separate fryer to ensure no cross contamination). In addition, we also offer the following gluten free products: mushrooms Neptune, chocolate brownie, strawberry cornetto style lolly and gluten free cones for scoop ice cream. Other products which would also be suitable would be bacon, egg and all of our salads (Greek, radical, chicken Caesar without the croutons). I apologise for the fact that the website wasn’t updated to reflect our new menu – this has now been done and thank you for pointing this out.
Your comments about the products you did eat are noted. I would say that we are obliged to keep sandwiches within the prescribed temperature guidelines and so the sandwich will be cool – it shouldn’t have been ice cold as you say. The mushroom soup I tried myself. This was a perfectly made mushroom soup with loads of local mushrooms. The soup to my mind looked as a mushroom soup should and I would be eager to learn from you how you felt a soup of this type should be. I don’t think I have ever had a mushroom soup with large pieces of mushroom in it – the flavour is extracted when the mushrooms are broken up. It is, of course, very different to a Heinz cream of mushroom soup – but hopefully you would expect that. The bread – you should have received some organic crusty bread and I apologise that you didn’t – we ran out that day and the staff substituted the sliced bread. They certainly should have informed you and checked that that was acceptable. We have changed our policy on providing butter with the bread & soup – it was on request and now will be standard to be served.
Our menu states the size of our cold drinks and our price is similar to other establishments for organic fruit juices. Apple juice is not on our menu this year as there is a significant shortage of Devon apples so very little was made. The majority of the apple juice being served is Polish – not something which would fit our purchasing philosophy.
I appreciate that you feel that the experience wasn’t good. I would like to tempt you back to give us another try. If you would be kind enough to provide me a mailing address I will send you a voucher for a free lunch up to the value of £20 for you & your wife to experience what I believe is very good quality, local food.
Thank you again for taking the time to write and let us know of your visit. I hope you will consider giving us one more try.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
From: Mr and Mrs C on 02-06-2011
Sirs or Madam,
It is with regret that I am contacting you as we have spent many hours at Dartington over the years but that has changed after our visit last week.
Venus Cafe was quite detrimental to the previous set up. First of all my wife is not supposed to eat wheat products so the jacket potato is the ideal midday snack. 'No we do not do jacket potatoes'! (since getting back home and seeing your website I see the Takeaway does do them, no mention from the staff that this was the case). Can one buy from the Takeaway and eat in the restaurant especially if weather is wet?
Now for further problems. My wife had to have a sandwich which had ice cold tomato and cheese, the drinks were limited in travel containers that one was unable to assess. How much was actually in the cup? No apple juice. For 2 Pounds each very expensive.
Now for my experience. Board advertised 'Soup with Crusty bread'. The soup of the day was Mushroom, and when served looked like something the cat or dog had brought up, it was purree not soup! and the bread was two pieces of sliced bread that literally had to be CHEWED. No butter arrived with the soup and had to be requested. For 5 pounds this was not up to Dartington standards.
I trust you will consider to look into the situation as I am sure you would not want to drop your standards.
As I said in the begining we have visited Dartington two or three times a year for 20+ years usually to include our midday snack but alas not now! Usually the restaurant was a hub of activity, not last week.
Mr C and family/friends
Blackpool Sands Webcam
From: Michael Smith on 12-05-2011
With regards to the webcam:
Lightening blew out the camera and computer. We have replaced all the hardware now just need to get our ‘expert’ to re-install all the software. We are hoping he will be available for that next week.
Blackpool Sands Webcam - Michael's Reply
From: Michael Smith on 12-05-2011
Thank you for the email. The webcam is powered by a computer with the relevant software. The computer crashed and is being repaired. We are hopeful it will be back up and running by the end of this week.
Blackpool Sands Web Cam
From: Debra on 09-05-2011
Blackpool Sands webcam is stuck on 20th April. It's driving me crazzzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyy not being able to see the best of the west!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please have a look at it and switch it back on. :O(
From: Amy on 06-05-2011
Just would like to say to the Venus Company, well done, your radical salad is exactly that, radical, so tasty and delicious and unlike normal 'salad' very filling...
I loved it!
Venus at Dartington
From: Lorraine on 25-04-2011
I visited the shops at Dartington today and was thrilled to see a Venus cafe having long been a fan of those at Tolcarne and Blackpool Sands when we holiday in the South West. Had simply the best 'adult sausage roll' from the takeaway and the kids enjoyed the delicious fries from the main cafe. Only menu item I would change is the scones with the cream tea which were a bit on the heavy side. But otherwise 9/10 and thank you Venus for making my day!
Tofu Burgers Nick's response
From: Nick Porter on 14-03-2011
Thank you very much for your feedback. We are very pleased that you enjoy our tofu burgers. I am afraid that we have no plans at present to sell them outside our cafes. BUT …… you never know!
Thank you for the idea though.
From: Chris on 14-03-2011
Both myself and my fiance love your tofu burgers. We are not normally fans of tofu, but your tofu burgers are something special. Have you any plans to sell them outside your shops please.
From: Jill on 27-02-2011
To Zuzana and team,
Thank you so much for helping to make Giles' 90th birthday a very special day. He had a great time and we all enjoyed the meal and atmosphere. Well done.
Blackpool Sands - Michael's response
From: Michael Smith on 11-10-2010
Many thanks for your email about Blackpool Sands. I appreciate your feedback.
To answer your questions:
1. Music in the shop – it should be Hawaiian music – just to be a bit different. I think music is very difficult to get right for the very wide audience we have at the beach. It probably is time we reviewed it though.
2. Tasteless salads. We have tried hard to improve these over the years with the introduction of organic leaves, radical salads etc. Some more specific feedback would be appreciated here.
3. Toilets – these are owned and managed by the owners of the beach – I will send your email on to them. While we are not responsible for them, I certainly agree that it will reflect badly on us. Perhaps your email will prompt some maintenance action.
4. Glad you like what we have done in the dining area.
Many thanks for the feedback – please do feel free to let me know of anything else you like or dislike – I am very conscious of the fact we have loads more we can do.
With best wishes
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
When are you open -loved food at Bigbury
From: Emma on 11-10-2010
I had lunch at your cafe in Bigbury on Sea today and I thought the food was excellent - so many places near a beach [or anywhere for that matter] just don't bother to dish up decent food; the greek salad in particular was gorgeous!
As I am fairly local I just wanted to know is the cafe open all year round or do you shut at some point for the winter?
Michael responded - including this:
Bigbury on Sea is open every day (except Xmas day) always between 10am and 4pm. Menu changes with the seasons. Hours are much longer in the summer.
LOVE THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF BLACKPOOL SANDS EXCEPT....
From: Tina on 30-09-2010
The toilets!! Regular user of cafe and loos! (ladies) Love what you've done to the cafe area - fantastic decking with glass protecting you from the wind. Food always good, apart from the tasteless salads. Shop OK enough - odd music - don't think it's been updated for the past 8 years.
However...... the loos are often in a dreadful state! Half the locks don't work properly. I have interupted many women sitting on the loo - apologies! the hairdryer has had a "not working" sign on it for literally years. Soap runs out, taps often stop working - whole area needs cleaning more frequently - smelly, dirty.
The loo won an award a few years ago- certainly wouldn't now.
I read your reply to a message that Venus didn't own the loos - well who does? Their state reflects badly on Venus.
I spend hours at Blackpool Sands, so I really am very pro the whole concept, but PLEASE sort out the loos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
From: Shaun on 17-09-2010
Thank you and your staff for a great night last Saturday evening at Blackpool Sands, everyone was blown away by the location and the terrific food and 'Jolly Juice'.
I will look forward to perhaps meeting you one day and I'll keep visiting.
Thankyou - superb food
From: Yvonne on 10-09-2010
Thank you very much Venus Cafe, you kindly donated a prize to the Aune Conservation Association annual pig roast raffle, the prize was dinner for 2 at Blackpool Sands, which I was lucky enough to win!
My husband and I and two friends had a wonderful evening with superb food, Much appreciated by all of us, lovely staff who looked after us very well, Thank you once again for you generosity,
Allergy query - nicest beach cafes in UK
From: Louise on 08-09-2010
Thanks very much for that. I will keep it on file and attempt to go to beaches with your cafes on as yours are by far the nicest beach cafes we've come across in the UK!
Please find attached our ingredients folder. We do have a dairy free spread which is used in our vegetarian sandwiches but could be used on any – if you ask we will make them for you – better still call ahead and have them made up ready to go. Their telno is 01548 810141
Hi, I have two children who are allergic to dairy, egg, shellfish and nuts. We were at your lovely Blackpool Sands cafe today and they had your mango sorbet which they loved! We are planning on going to your cafe at Bigbury-on-Sea tomorrow. Is there anything else that they can eat? They are anaphylactically allergic to the above. I saw chicken drumsticks on your menu and noticed that you sometime use dairy free spread.
Thanks very much,
Best surf & turf
From: Elisabeth on 17-08-2010
We had a wonderful meal with you on Saturday evening and it was the best surf and turf I have had including spending many holidays in Maine and Seattle where the fish is great. Many thanks.
East Portlemouth - superb
From: Peter on 09-08-2010
I do hope that all is going well with you and the Venus Company.
I was in Salcombe for a few days last week – my first visit for quite a while. On one of the days I went over to East Portlemouth where of course I went to the Venus Café along with various family members – for ice creams and tea.
The service from Matt and his colleague was superb – friendly, cheerful and efficient –. It was a pleasure to be there. When I introduced myself Matt was kind enough to say that the Company is still following the visual merchandising principles we discussed in Dartmouth some 4 years ago – great stuff! I just thought you’d like to have the feedback.
All good wishes
Feedback - Michael's response
From: Michael on 06-08-2010
Thank you very much for your email of 21 July regarding your visit to Blackpool Sands on 29 June. I am glad to hear that the food and service met your expectations.
Your observations over the 'state' of the building are absolutely correct but I assure you this does not reflect a lack of concern on our part. The lack of TLC, in fact, reflects the fact that this June we were 40% busier than any other June we have ever had and, I am afraid to say, that this meant we did not have the staff available to do the regular building maintenance that we would normally do. Table cleaning is a current hot discussion point - in the past all our customers cleared the tables themselves but this has changed since we put in the covered area and it is something we are addressing. Our extra business obviously put pressure in this area as well.
Nearly all of what you have commented on has been cleaned, power-washed etc. since your last visit and is done quite regularly. Somewhat in our defense, it often only takes 2 days for the cobwebs to reappear and, with the deciduous trees above (which drop leaves in the summer) our building, gutters etc. can fill up within a week or less at this time of year.
Finally, the public toilets. These are not operated by us so I am not in a position to comment on their lack of availability. What I can say is that, should you decide to visit us again, we would be more than happy for any elderly person to be given the use of our staff toilet facilities in our Cafe building for as long as we are actually in the building ourselves.
Thank you very much for taking the time to write and let us know of your concerns and observations. I hope I have re-assured you that we are striving to maintain and improve our standards (I accept that these slipped over June) and certainly not sitting back uncaring - very much the opposite - our appetite to please and delight has not diminished.
With very best wishes
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company.
Couldn't have wished for a better location for our party
From: Julie & Neil on 06-08-2010
Just to say Thank You for a wonderful evening on Saturday. Everything was perfect and we couldn't have wished for a better location for our party. The food seemed to go down very well and we certainly enjoyed what we ate.
Julie and Neil
From: Paul on 21-07-2010
Mislaid your feedback card therefore following for your info;
Visited Blackpool Sands for the 14th year however although the food,drinks,menu and service were exceptional as always we were surprised on June 29th as to the following;
Dirt & food waste in between floor boarding in cafe area.
4 tables featured customers remains for over 45mins.
We had to clean our own table.
Whilst we sat for our meal our party highlighted the need for a good clean of the property facia, roof and paved areas with a 'power wash' Cobwebs, dirt and leaves were obvious around roof edges and facia panels. The paving was stained from foodstuffs..all of which when one is sitting with table waste gave the impression of a lack of concern.
This impression plus at 5.40pm as we left the beach the toilets were locked and we were informed that there was no alternative or offer to allow a elderly lady permission to use the locked facility ....well maybe the good days have passed!
Outstanding wedding reception
From: Roger on 01-07-2010
A very sincere thanks to you , Lee and all your staff at Blackpool Sands for providing an outstanding wedding reception. Both Laraine and I found that working with you both before the day was a pleasure and that on the day everything that might have gone wrong did not go wrong. In fact it was perfect. With a wedding you only get one chance and I know that Simon and Sarah have had the best possible start to married life. We have had loads of compliments from our guests .We wish Venus continuing success and a very prosperous summer.
From: Emma on 20-06-2010
I visited Blackpool sands 17/06/2010. I hired a Kayak from the water sports area and very much enjoyed my solo experience until I capsized!
I would love to thank the chappy who saved me and very much appreciated his efforts.
I would just like to add that I was in the water for 10-15 minutes and it took my mother to alert the fact that I was experiencing difficulties. The chap who's name I do not know acted very swiftly and brought me to safety, I cannot thank him enough for that.
I know it is out of season and no life guards are available, but please, if you offer water sports to the public please please please keep an eye on them and don't sit in the shop on your laptop.
It may not be your responsibility as you only hire out your kayak's, I just don't want to hear any horror stories from Blackpool sands and feel I never said anything.
Many Thanks to all of you.
Emma. x x
Great coffee at Tolcarne
From: Kieron on 02-06-2010
Just wanted to say that I have been coming to Tolcarne over the last year with my boy and his mates skim boarding over the last year and what a great beach Tolcarne is. We drive over from Torquay 2 or 3 times a month right through the winter and always as we pull up, you should see the look on the boys faces as we peer over the railings to see the surf. For me I still enjoy the water but now take lots of photographs for our web site, especially of the boys. I always get a warm smile and greeting from John behind the counter at Venus who works very hard to promote and provide the excellent service, food and drinks. I especially enjoy that large cup of coffe often when he has just opened. Venus is one of the reasons we come to Tolcarne. Keep up the good work! By the way, great web site. Kieron
From: Sara on 31-05-2010
My lovely boyfriend Mark brought me to introduce me to amazing people and amazing food all the way from Canada.
The quality of the food is fantastic. The location is relaxing. The service is marvelous and the staff are very caring and professional.
I loved everything about Blackpool Sands.
Tolcarne's cold drinks
From: Michael Smith on 30-05-2010
Sorry I omitted to answer your other point about our choice of cold drinks.
You stated we only serve diet coke and a 'cheap cola'. The fact is that we serve 9 cold non alcoholic drinks including: coke, diet coke, Cornish spring water, organic milk, organic orange and apple juices, organic squash and organic Sicilian lemonade. These are clearly shown on our menu at Tolcarne and also on our website.
The cheap cola you describe is in fact an organic Cola. A can costs us twice as much as the branded coke & diet coke. The reality is that the only cheap drink we serve is Coke & Diet Coke and we only sell that at Tolcarne (not our other beach sites) because of demand for the brand and, in particular, a 'diet' drink. As a company we would prefer not to be involved with Coca Cola the Company at all as we do not agree with their business ethics around the world nor some of the ingredients which they use.
We also sell cold beers and wines for those wishing an alcoholic drink sitting on our stunning deck area.
Newquay complaint - Michael's response
From: Michael Smith on 30-05-2010
Thank you very much for taking the time to let me know about your very poor coffee experience at Tolcarne last week. I very much appreciate you doing so as you have brought our attention to a small batch of coffee which is astringent. This is appearing in some but not all bags of a certain batch of our Venus filter coffee.
I can assure you that the bad taste was not caused by the filter coffee machines we use. They are by far the best way to make and hold filter coffee. Unlike other filter machines which are exposed to the air all the time, the vacuum flask principle ensures the coffee does not create bitter evaporated coffee and means coffee can be held without effecting the quality of the coffee. Other pour and hold equipment leaves the coffee open to the elements and the coffee starts to evaporate immediately. We have fresh bean machines also for those who woulld like a freshly ground coffee.
I have asked non Venus people at Tolcarne and in and around Newquay of their view of Venus and our food and staff. None I spoke to share your opinion about our food or our service - in fact quite the opposite. I am very proud of the Venus cafes and of all our staff and do not believe that we are in any way misleading the public about what we do and who we are. That doesn't mean to say that we get it right every time as we are certainly fallible - as with any business or cafe.
I will not, therefore, be following through with any of your suggestions about changing our website or closing our cafe. I am sorry you view us in such a negative light. I would love to send you a voucher for a complimentary lunch for 2 to see if you would give us another go. If you would like to take me up on this offer then please let me know by providing me with your or a mailing address where we can send the voucher.
As with all feedback, I am posting your email and my response on our message board. I believe in being totally open and honest. I regret that you wish to do our reputation harm in Newquay and hope that this response might go some way to convince you that our hearts are in the right place even if you detest what we do.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
Complaint Tolcarne Cafe
From: Alan on 30-05-2010
On Saturday we ordered 2 coffees from your Tolcarne Newquay beach cafe.
We experienced the worst tasting coffee we have ever been served.
We discovered the coffee was made hours earlier and stored in flasks - no wonder it was disgusting.
There was a very poor choice of cold drinks, Diet Coke, or cheap canned Cola.
Having read your website I conclude our experience is totally the opposite to the Venus experience you believe your customers enjoy.
This cafe certainly does not meet the published standards and I suggest a radical change to management, staff and appearance.
I suggest you remove the "about us" page from your website with immediate effect, or I will make a formal complaint to trading standards, as you can not be allowed to advertise in this way, when the truth is the cafe is very poor and does not meet the values and standards you mislead the public to believe.
We are not the only locals who have had a very poor Venus experience in Newquay and we are telling as many people as possible to avoid this awful experience by email and word of mouth. we are considering a facebook group to warn all visitors to avoid the cafe.
Please sort it out or close it down, residents and holiday makers deserve better. This is the worst beach cafe in Cornwall.
From: Steve & Lucy on 26-04-2010
We all had a cracking night - so very many thanks to you, Michael and all the staff.
The food was excellent, the set up and table layout perfect and the staff were very efficient and very friendly.
It was a fantastic evening and without exception our guests were extremely impressed.
Thanks once again
Steve and Lucy
From: debra on 18-03-2010
Blackpool sands webcam seems to be stuck on the same picture for days now. I love to look at it cos it keeps me sane untill my next visit plleeeeeeeeezzzzzz sort it out, from your no 1 fan!! best beach ever!!!! and the food is excellent!!
Love Venus Cafe
From: Kirsty on 20-02-2010
I live in South Devon and applaud Venus Cafes - everyone in my family loves the food, drinks, ethos and service - from 90 year old grandma to 3 year old niece.
I wish more food companies had the same awareness and positive approach you model.
Was just browsing this message board as thinking of booking a family function at the Blackpool Sands cafe.
Well done Venus Cafes for being so great and such an asset to the community here. We appreciate you very much!
bacon & egg bap - Michael's response
From: Michael on 28-12-2009
Thank you for your email. I am very sorry to hear of your very poor bacon & egg baps received yesterday. I can assure you that we do not cook, freeze and reheat bacon. It is all cooked fresh. On busy days we do pre-cook and hold some breakfast products for a short period of time.
For bacon to taste as you describe it was either not cured properly and dramatically overcooked. As we haven't had any other feedback from staff or customers about the bacon, I have to assume that it was overcooked. I have asked the team at Bigbury - they have told me that there was one order for 2 bacon & egg baps that had to sit for 10-15 minutes as the customers couldn't be found - maybe they were yours?
Either way, I am very very sorry that you received such sub-standard product. As you say, we are proud and well known for the quality of our food. We do make mistakes, but I assure you of our commitment to quality is second to none. I would, however, like to ask you a favour. I would appreciate it if you would consider bringing any problem product back at the time (any food establishment hopefully would like to know immediately) as this really helps to identify where a break down in procedures or problem products are occurring. It is very difficult to correctly identify the cause of the problem without seeing the product itself. I really do appreciate you taking the time to let us know at all as we can redouble our efforts to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
I would like to thank you again and to offer you a full refund. I should be grateful if you would provide me with your mailing address so I may send it to you.
May I take this opportunity to wish you a very happy 2010: I sincerely hope that you will make the effort to try us again as I know our quality is normally very good.
Michael C B Smith
worst bacon & egg bap ever
From: anonymous on 28-12-2009
thought we would pop to bigbury today(sun 27) got a coffee and 2 bacon and egg baps,as a company which prides itself on quality of food they were the worst we have ever had tasted and looked as if the had been cooked,frozen and then reheated absoloutly tasteless and like lumps of rubber!!your comments would be appreciated.
The demise of paper straws
From: Michael on 23-12-2009
Many thanks for your email - I am glad to hear that you appreciate what we are about.
The straw problem is two fold - firstly obtaining paper straws is eternally difficult. There's now only one supplier in the world which I am aware of and they are based in the USA; secondly the cost of these is now prohibitive approx 4 pence each Vv approx. 0.1 pence for a plastic one. I am afraid this is too much now.
We have stopped doing straws altogether - and do end up with a lot of grief from customers - but after all why do we actually need a straw??
Hope you have a great Xmas.
All the best
Superb example - paper straws
From: Joshua on 23-12-2009
Dear Venus Cafe,
having found out about your environmental work I think it is superb, and you are setting a superb example for food retailers across the country. The idea of paper straws, which obviously biodegrade in a few weeks rather than the hundreds of years for a plastic straw, is a really good idea. Would it be possible for you to approach other cafes and food retailers, suggesting they follow your lead and adopt paper straws?
From: Martin R on 12-11-2009
I visited it again on a Sunday in October with sixteen motorcyclists who promote advanced motorcycling, we were all served excellent breakfast and very quickly too. The food again was fantastic!
you must be a saint
From: michele on 12-10-2009
I am so impressed at how you handle your comments page and I was shocked to see some of the petty complaints and sheer arrogance of some of your customers in telling you how to run your business. I think you do an amazing job and how you have the time and hold your patience in replying to some of these comments is remarkable. Well done
From: Carole on 05-10-2009
We came to the Venus Cafe last September 11th for the evening. We had an excellent time - the food was delicious and we were looked after very well.
This is to thank you all - Teo, the chef and all the staff and to say what a lovely time we had and thank you.
From: Debbie on 05-10-2009
I have some great friends who live in Dartmouth and who always come to Blackpool Sands on a regular basis.
You have this fantastic concept with regard to recycling and I was wondering if you could help me enormously by letting me have the supplier you use for your takeaway cups with lids - that would be fantastic !
Thank you very much - and well done for a fantastic product !
Signage for beach wheel chairs at Bigbury
From: Linda on 21-09-2009
Many thanks for your email. Your suggestion is a very good one. The wheelchairs we have at Bigbury have only very recently been available and have come about through some strenuous efforts of one individual who raised the funds by herself with some donations from other locals. Signage will be addressed - from our part it is also a question of finding the funds to pay for the signage - but we are working on it.
With best wishes
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
I visited bigbury this week with my paralysed brother obviously whhelchair bound.He said he would love to go out to the island.I told him it was impossible as I could not push his chair on the sand. later in thr week we were at East Portlemouth and the manager there was kind enough to tell me about the wheelchairs with the big wheels.
How can anyone know hey are available if they are not advertised.I realise that there may be some problem as maybe the car park is council owned but this is ridiculous if thats the only reason stopping a sin being errected.The ideal place of course would be in the disabled parking area adjaecent to the blue disabbled parking signs.
I shall of course be taking his up with the council but if you can think of any way of more appropriately advertising this service I would be delighted to hear from you.
New panini recipe - don't like it & Michael's response
From: Debra on 17-09-2009
Hi and thank you so much for your reply. I appreciate that things have to change for economies of scale and speed etc and the cheese and tomato panning will not stop us from visiting Venus! We do wish that there was something similar up here on the east coast. If ever you think of expanding I am sure that there would be a market, we also have some great local producers!
How kind offering to make panini's in the old way, but I would not put your hard working staff to that trouble and am not sure that my sons would forgive me!
Thanks once again for responding and we look forward to being down in Devon very soon.
Thank you for your email - and I am really sorry to hear about your poor panini experience. The current recipe for the cheese and tomato panini hasn't changed for at least 2 -and maybe 3 - years. It's the same organic cheddar cheese, Venus olive oil & basil and semi dried tomatoes with garlic.
We did use vine tomatoes for many years as you say. The change to sunkiss - which we blend with garlic - was to provide a common tomato profile which would work across the range of the paninis. I have to say we all preferred this approach to the raw tomato - it also made cooking the panini faster. I am sorry you don't like the change. You are the first customers to have told us you don't like it.
I am worried, however, that if you had them last year and thought they were fine then maybe the ones you had this year weren't made to standard. If you could provide me any more detail it would help.
If you let us know prior to your next visit that you are coming - date and location - we would be more than happy to make some cheese and tomato paninis in the old old way should you wish.
Hi there, having just come back from our annual holiday in Devon (Bigbury and East Portlemouth our regular Venus Cafes) I was disappointed to find that you have changed your panini recipe! It used to be real cheese and real sliced tomatoes. Now it is an unidentifiable sludge! We look forward, my husband and three children, to our trips to Venus, but we now wonder if things in the panini department are going horribly wrong!
Yours, very disappointed,
what a superb find your cafes are
From: Louise on 17-09-2009
We have just returned from a week's holiday in S Devon and must tell you what a superb find your cafes are! My 9 year old son is on a strict gluten and lactose free diet due to his medical condition and it was amazing to be able to buy him 'ice creams' (and chips!). We visited all 3 of your sites and would like to thank you very much for offering such a wonderful selection of food and snacks. It certainly made our holiday one to remember as we have NEVER eaten out since he went on the diet.
It's just a shame you are so far away from us as we live in the Midlands.
Thank you once again for having such forward thinking and inclusive food offerings... plus staff that were also wonderful and well informed about
Linda's comments & Michael's response about Venus sausage roll and ice cream
From: Linda on 17-09-2009
My family and I had a lovely afternoon at Bigbury yesterday and had lunch at your cafe.
The children had the sausage roll meal and I must say the sausage rolls were disgusting! They seemed to have been kept hot for hours and were hard and tasteless - needless to say the dog enjoyed them. The other disappointment was the ice cream. The coffe had no flavour nor the honeycomb, I think the chocolate the children had must have been okay.
I am not the sort of person to complain as a rule, and certainly not direct to the staff, coward that I am, but as the ethos is so excellent, it seems a shame not to mention something that I think could be addressed.
Have you considered Salcombe Ice Cream? It is expensive, but I think it is one of the best on the market, or the Kelly brand of Cornish flavours is excellent. Regarding the sausage roll issue, maybe a sausage in a small bap would be more suitable.
I would look forward to your comments.
P.S.The rest of our lunch food was very good,especially the fries!
Many thanks for the email and for your feedback. I was sorry to hear of your disappointing sausage rolls and ice cream at Bigbury on Sea. Glad though that you had a great day despite this.
1. sausage rolls - certainly does sound like they were in the warmer too long. This shouldn't happen but clearly we got the rotation wrong and left these in for more than the prescribed 2 hours. The junior sausage roll is also a product we have made for us with proper sausage meat and a shortcrust pastry - i.e. less fat in both the meat and the pastry than the cheaper standard rusk filled flaky pastry product. The downside of that is that they do dry out more quickly with less fat in the meat and the pastry - so perhaps we need to admit defeat and go back to the fattier version. I would welcome your thoughts on that? We have also cut the salt levels back which would also effect the taste compared to a mass produced product.
We do sausage in a bap for breakfast. With a proper sausage (which we do) and a good quality bap this would prove too expensive for us to be able to provide the £3.99 price point for the children's meal deals. I think also it would prove to be far too much to eat for young children. I think we need to get the sausage roll right as it is by far one of the most popular children's meals.
2. Ice cream - this is made for us by Langage Farm who do produce an excellent product. I am aware of Salcombe Dairy product (which I agree is very good) and they have always been included in the ice cream blind sampling we conduct before awarding our contracts. In these tests, Langage product has always come out on top over the range of flavours. Salcombe also would have some difficulty in meeting our volume requirements as they are quite a small operation.
I am also aware of Kelly's ice creams - their product was found sorely wanting in all the taste tests we conducted and the ingredients also fall short of the quality we like to use.
I have brought your comments to Langage's attention and asked for a report from them. It is possible that a small batch of product came through the system with less flavour than our specification calls for. The quality specification we ask for does, I assure you, ensure flavour throughout the ice cream - but - mistakes do happen.
I hope I have answered your points. Again I do appreciate your feedback.
I am so sorry that your meal was so poor and not up to our normal high standards. I would like to send you a meal voucher for your family which you can use to have a free lunch on us on your next visit to the beach. I would appreciate you letting me know your address and the number of children
in your family.
Many thanks again.
Michael C B Smith
Thank you very much for your very kind email and points regarding your products.
I would like to say how sorry I was to hear of your recent bereavement.
Regarding the sausage rolls, I take your point about getting the balance right of fat etc. but perhaps the warming method could be addressed.
The Kelly's ice cream I referred to is a new product they are selling through the supermarkets which is Kelly's Cornish Cream Ice Cream, and the flavours are excellent. I know in the past I bought their ice cream and it was sadly lacking. It's strange, but I don't seem to find the Langage very nice - I didn't realise yours was Langage.
Thank you for offering a voucher, that would be good, we have three grandchildren who were with us on the day in question and had the children's sausage roll meal.
I would like to say thank you for your very open way in dealing with my complaint and I am sure that is the secret of your success.
From: James on 09-09-2009
I would like to thank you for organising a fantastic evening last night. The food was spot on and your staff are just excellent.
Please pass on our sincere thanks. I dont know where you get them but you do definately know how to pick the good ones! We also did our very best to reduce your excessive stock levels of Rose and much appreciate the pricing that you gave us.
I must say I have enjoyed the two or three times I have eaten with you this summer despite, I think, raining on each occassion!. I think the tables look fab.
Michael's answers to Tracey's questions
From: Michael Smith on 31-08-2009
Thank you for taking the time to write to ask some questions about Venus and how we operate. I will address your questions in turn:
1. We have used the old recycled whisky barrels now for 12 years. I like using them because - it uses a product which otherwise has no use (except in gardens); it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye; it looks compatible with our image and that of the beach; they hold twice the amount of rubbish than plastic bins available otherwise and it involves no production of plastic.
2. Re-cycling. Our beaches have NO operator who is willing to come to recycle any product except our waste oil. Councils are NOT involved at all in recycling business waste and have no facilities in the S Hams for doing so (they are trialling glass trade waste which we are involved in). We want to do as much as we can in recycling and have upped what we do significantly in the last 2 years. We backhaul all glass, plastic water bottles, cans and cardboard to our central warehouse at Halwell where it is re-cycled properly using our own vehicles to take to an official trade waste recycling facility. We have the necessary approvals from the Environment Agency to do this.
It is our intention to install our own composting facility in the future which would mean we could then also backhaul all our paper packaging and food waste as well - we need to invest some £70,000 to make this happen. So what we are doing now is encouraging our customers to separate everything (and this is not a simple task) so that our task of sorting is much easier when we do manage to implement our long term plan . We are already dealing with the glass, cans, cardboard and waste oil.
3. Emptying the bins: yes this is a problem - and one we have yet to address. The capacity of the bins is much larger than any other bin (which are plastic anyway). Our guys need to remember to empty them more often. Your email has prompted us to look again at the paper bins - we may well try making our own square barrel for the paper ones which would then sort the problem - probably. Clearly, the struggle with the barrel is related to how busy we are - most of the year it isn't a problem. This is a management issue which needs addressing as well as us designing a new bin for the paper/ packaging.
4. Hours of work. All our seasonal staff at Bigbury on Sea are over 18 and 95% are under 21. We pay them very well at £6.25 per hour (£5.75 + 50 pence bonus if they meet certain availability criteria) - much higher than the minimum wage for 18-21 year olds of £4.77 (over 30% higher!). All our seasonal staff are studying at university and want to earn enough money to help them through the next year. While we do sometimes have long days when the weather is sunny, the average week is moderate and over the 9 weeks they work with us they are guaranteed a £2,000 minimum gross earnings. In return, we need flexibility to be able to respond on the busy days and on the much less busy cooler and wet days. This is clearly laid out both in our contracts and when we employ people. To be honest, any other way of working would pretty much guarantee our demise.
On average, our staff do not normally exceed a 40 hour week over the summer holidays. At Bigbury on Sea this year is has averaged a 35.5 hour working week with the highest being 39 hour average and the lowest 32 hours. Some staff want to work more than others.
Regarding the law: it is quite clear. You are entitled to a 20 minute break if you work 6 hours or more in a shift. We comply fully with this requirement and do, when we can, give them extra small breaks as and when business permits. I have to be honest though - often they don't want more unpaid time and want to work while they are at work.
5. Health & safety: we have fully documented HACCP and operational procedures for dealing with knives and fryer filtration. Our staff are fully trained on all dangers in the kitchen and each one is personally seen by me - and part of that induction includes a discussion on knives, fryers and trips and falls. We have invested over £20,000 in additional automatic filtration equipment to ensure this particularly hazardous procedure is kept as safe as possible.
I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction.
With best wishes
Michael C B Smith
Huge fan of Blackpool Sands
From: Mark on 31-08-2009
Firstly, I should like to say what a huge fan I am of Blackpool Sands; I am lucky enough to visit several times a year and always make an effort to have breakfast on the beach every time we're there, thank you for making it such a great place to be!
Secondly, I have a slightly obscure request: the sandwiches at Blackpool Sands are served in a lovely cardboard boxes which open by pivot and have a window.. Well, I am currently looking for a cool solution to a packaging issue I am facing with my sock company, and I am wondering whether the sandwich boxes might be the solution I'm looking for! Might you be able to pass me the contact details of your supplier?
From: Tracey on 25-08-2009
I have visited several of your cafes over the years, and have always been very impressed with your food, ethics and employees. More recently, I have visited your Bigbury Cafe and have decided there are some issues that I would like to raise. More than 3 times now, I have seen your junior staff really struggling to empty the 'recycling bins', it is a barrel in shape, and I thought it would be obvious that this would not work, as the middle is greater in circumference than the top. It has taken them on occasions up to 10 minutes and 2 staff to empty one bin! A relative of mine works in waste disposal, and I know that the waste in the bins is not seperated in a way in which the council will accept it for recycling. So why are there recycling signs on the bins?
Another point I would like to raise, is the hours that your junior staff seem to be working. I purchased breakfast at the Bigbury cafe only the other day, walked past several times throughout the day, and also went again later to buy ice-creams for my children. I noticed that the same staff seem to be working extremely long hours! I asked one of the Junior staff working on the till what their working hours were. I then found out that they often work 10 - 11 hours a day, with a single 20 minute break!! I find this quite astonishing!! I am not sure that it is safe, or in fact legal. They are no doubt working with hazardous objects like friers and knives. Please could you enlighten me on these topics?
Just love you!!! E. Portlemouth & Bigbury on Sea
From: Kerry on 13-08-2009
Recently returned from a holiday in Salcombe and really enjoyed spending time at Venus there and at Bigbury. Staff are lovely and my daughter loved the gluten-free pies - we've never been able to get them anywhere else. Love the approach to environmental issues. Thank you.
From: Marks Family on 06-08-2009
Wonderful Day at Blackpool Sands. We met up with our friends, bought some wetsuits and had lunch. The Venus Cafe was so quick and nice. It was as fast as Macdonald's but a thousand times nicer. Thank You Venus Cafe.
P.s you should perhaps think about expanding down to the south east of england on a beach because a lot of people would go to the Venus Cafe.
Our cider supplier
From: Nick on 04-08-2009
The cider we sell at the Devon Venus cafes is made in Devon by RealDrink - www.realdrink.org
Wonderful day at Blackpool Sands & Organic Cider
From: Jenny on 03-08-2009
I just wanted to say that me and my fiance had a wonderful day at Blackpool Sands. My fiance was particularly impressed with the organic restaurant but more importantly the organic cider that was stocked there! What was the cider called, thats all he keeps asking and i can't remember....does anyone know?
Most wonderful evening of my life - sublime food
From: Anne-Marie on 20-07-2009
Dear Lee and the team
I wanted to thank you all properly for the most wonderful evening of my life. I had no idea that Andrew could plan such an amazing party in such an imaginative place, or that reaching 60 could be such fun.
We invited only family and old friends, many of whom we met when we lived abroad, and they were all delighted to be able to see a bit of beautiful south Devon. One couple who spend a lot of the year in Cannes said that Blackpool Sands beats the French Riviera hands down! It was all wonderfully well organised and the coach was an inspiration, as everyone saw the beautiful view and nobody had to drive home afterwards (thereby increasing the alcohol consumption by about 50%!).
Of course we were incredibly lucky that the weather was so perfect, but even if it had rained, Venus Cafe was really cosy and you had done it up beautifully for the dinner. Have you thought of opening in the evenings on a regular basis? It is such a magical venue that it seems a shame not to make more use of it.
Charlie's music was absolutely perfect - everyone loved it and he would have been so gratified if he had heard the praise that was being heaped on him the following day! I love his songs and I'm sure he will go far (but not too far from Devon I hope).
In praise of the sublime food, I thought I would send you some extracts from the many letters we have received:
"We are still thinking of your birthday dinner and the delicious crab and lobster - it was so fresh that it must have been dragged up to the Venus Cafe just before we arrived. The position of the cafe and the ambience made it such a special place and the atmosphere was magical."
"Every moment was memorable .... the best dinner ever. I have never eaten such delicious lobster, with our other favourite crab, all accompanied by really excellent wines. I am quite overcome!"
"The lobster was quite superb and perfectly cooked. The best I have ever tasted".
"It was such a happy occasion and so much fun - superlatives don't really do it justice, but fabulous food, wine, old friends, lots of laughter, sea breezes in a beautiful setting - an evening never to be forgotten."
"The evening at Blackpool Sands was quite fabulous with the music, speeches and lobster .... all arranged so perfectly and seemingly effortlessly. We were all spoiled to bits. Such happy memories!"
As you can see from these few quotes (every single letter praised the mouth-watering lobster), all our friends enjoyed themselves enormously and most of the success of the evening is down to the charming Venus team. I know that behind the scenes everyone must have have worked incredibly hard to make the party run so smoothly, and Andrew and I really are so grateful to you. Thank you all very much indeed for your efforts and I can't wait for the next celebration at the Venus Cafe.
With love and thanks
Fairtrade the answer
From: Michael on 28-05-2009
Many thanks for your feedback about Venus and our coffee. I am glad to hear you enjoy our cafe at Blackpool Sands.
We use 2 types of coffee: filter ground coffee from the mountains of Aceh, Sumatra and bean coffee from Papua New Guinea - both are single estate and organic. This means we know exactly where it comes from and who the farmer/ estate is. Our coffee roaster actually visits these estates and during that visit acquaints himself with the conditions on the estate itself. Our roaster pays a good price to the estate for the product and doesn't deal with the middle men. When we buy from someone we make sure we ask the right questions about conditions etc. So we are pretty comfortable with these checks that the 2 plantations we use are running the business in an appropriate fashion.
The Fair Trade mark is, as you probably know, a mark which involves the producer in some cost as well as providing benefit. Not all farmers actually want to go through this process but it doesn't mean they aren't treating their workers and land in a humane and proper way. Our filter coffee is in fact a Fair Trade product anyway but our beans are not.
You may also like to know that 5p of each cup of filter coffee (our fair trade one) goes into an Aceh (Sumatra) fund and raises enough money every year to pay for 5 or 6 cleft pallet operations in the Aceh region. This has been in operation since the Tsunami devastated the Aceh area.
I hope the above has quieted your fears about the coffee we sell and the ethics behind it's souring.
With very best wishes
Michael C B Smith
From: Jeremy on 27-05-2009
We really like the cafe at Blackpool Sands but were disappointed that the coffee was not fairtrade. We wonder why?
Perfect wedding Reception
From: Matthew on 21-05-2009
Gwen and I would like to express our gratitude to you and your staff for the perfect wedding reception for Jeanie and Adam.
Your company has been a pleasure to deal with from beginning to end. We felt confident from the start that you would do a thoroughly professional job and we were not disappointed. Please convey our thanks to all involved.
With Kind Regards
From: Alan on 20-02-2009
Just wanted to say ` Thanks for your great webcams `. Always of huge benefit to see what the weather is like around our lovely area.
Looking forward to seeing Salcombe back on.
Dairy free - well done
From: Ian, Clare & Kate on 20-02-2009
I have been meaning to write to you for some time and our visit to Bigbury last weekend has reminded me to do so.
We are lucky to live and work in the South West and are frequent visitors to Salcombe during the summer months and spend most of our time there on East Portlemouth beach. We were delighted to find out some 18 months ago that you were planning to stock dairy free ice cream, as our (now 6 year old) daughter requires a dairy free diet. Last summer she greatly enjoyed the Swedish Glace products that you stock and it meant that we were able to enjoy family ice cream moments!
During the winter months we enjoy visiting various beaches around the South West and were particular pleased a few weeks ago when we visited Watergate Bay and found a Venus Cafe there. Although my wife and I had coffee (it was a freezing day), our daughter was able to enjoy an ice cream.
We have now visited all of your cafes and, due to the products that you sell, we probably decide where to go based on the location of Venus Cafes as you enable us to dine as a family.
Many thanks and keep up the good work.
Ian, Clare & Kate(6)
Lunch at East Portlemouth, 29th October
From: Ashton Family on 02-11-2008
Our family enjoyed a great day on the beach at East Potlemouth. Clean & good parking. On the cold day, hot lunch & the childrens menu at Venus was devoured quickly with enthusiasm. Really pleased to see the children's lunch box contained a YEO VALLEY Organic Yoghurt & drinks of squash were the fresh tasting ROCKS Organic Orange Squash...no additivers or nasties. Well done VENUS!
Thankyou - party a great success
From: Paul on 18-10-2008
Further to my telephone call, I would like to thank you, Lee and the team for helping to make my 60th birthday party at Blackpool Sands such a success.
The venue which is in such a lovely location, was transformed for the evening party with the awning, table cloths, candles and fire making it really atmospheric.
I think without exception everyone commented on the excellent quality of the food and the sticky toffee pudding and clotted cream was a real wow. We were certainly favoured by the weather after the recent experiences and the moon over the sea later just sealed the evening.
I appreciated the very straightforward manner of our conversations whilst organising the party and would not hesitate to recommend the location to others.
Thanks again and kind regards
Paul (the elder !)
Apples - Michael's answer
From: Michael on 04-10-2008
Thanks for the feedback.
Understand re: apples - these were the only ones available to us at that time - we have been buying French - Devon apples only now coming on stream. There is a tremendous shortage of apples at the moment and as far as I know none are available in the summer - most are used up in the Autumn in cider and apple juice making. Your point is valid, however, but there's very little English fruit, let alone Devon fruit available. I will ensure we do something about it for next summer menu.
Cups - yes we have finally made progress here. Our new large cup is now made in Wales and when our existing stock of the regular cup runs through this will also be made in Wales. The historic issue was the cup we use is a triple layer cup which keep the heat in and away from people's hands. Until recently this wasnt available in the UK and so a UK cup needed an insulating sleeve which ended up using more paper and transport etc etc.
Thanks for providing us with feedback. Very aware that inconsistencies can arise in what is a very complicated web/ chain of issues. I'm pleased you have taken the time to share your observations. Please do not hesitate to do so again.
With very best wishes
Great pasties - apples?
From: Iain on 04-10-2008
I was amazed to find you selling Breburn applies shipped in from New Zealand at Bigbury. I asked the guy serving who said you cant buy apples locally - I am very surprised by this. I thought UK, if not Devon would give you many options for sourcing apples.
The other thing which I find odd, although it may have changed, is that your 100% recycles cups are made in the USA - or at least they used to say so on the bottom. I didnt see such Country of Origin statement on my coffee this weekend. I hope you have found a UK source. Theres no point in using recycled ones and then buring gas to get them to bigbury from the usa.
The trouble these days is that companies are facing competing objectives ( although some manage to con their way through): low miles, locally produced, sustainable, organic, fair trade, low fat, probiotic. It must be a challange to select the right ones for your business! I saw in morrisons chickens which had been stimulated by music and toys! dont go that far, its madness.
Thanks for giving us consistently good food in glorious places. But watch out for inconsistencies.
Gluten free food - excellent at Blackpool Sands
From: Mrs B on 04-10-2008
My family and I visited one of your cafes in Blackpool Sands, Devon this summer and the food was excellent. I was wondering if you could give me any information on your gluten free products that you sold there. Can I order any of them direct from yourselves? or do you have any shops near to where I live which is Cardiff, South Wales.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Bigbury on Sea, the UK best kept secret
From: Mike & Diane on 02-10-2008
We both visited Bigbury on Sea on the Saturday 28th Sept. Apart from the great beach, the views across to the island we found what must be one of the best seafront cafes. The Venus Cafe at Bigbury is absolutely brilliant!. Great service, very clean and great food and drinks. I had a crab soup which was fantastic and Diane a coffee. You also get real cutlery, no plastics to recycle.
We later had a lunch of Venus sarnies which were also great, wrapped in "eco" packaging and after clearly marked out large wheelie bins to recycle. One good thing no plastic straws, which on lots of beachs do get onto. These then get onto the sand and then the sea and birdlife suffer. Great Idea.
Only gripe, where the recycling bins are, you could do with making it a bit more obvious for customers to use these bins and please put out a box for used spoons and stuff.
Excellent guest comments
From: Bob on 04-09-2008
I am pleased to report to you that we are constantly receiving excellent comments from our Guests at Hillfields Cottages & Country House about not only Blackpool Sands, but Bigbury and East Portlemouth as well. The food option at Blackpool Sands is getting rave reviews.
Earlier this year we added a Visitors Book section to our web site and you can see these comments at http://www.hillfieldcottages.com/visitorsbook.asp you can link to the local business's shown in bold just by clicking on them. Keep up the good work, it makes our job a lot easier having such excellent venues for our Guest's to visit.
Nicest cafe ever visited
From: Mel on 04-09-2008
I visited Blackpool Sands beach in Devon last week with my family as we were on holiday there & the Venus Cafe is the nicest beach cafe I have ever visited on all my travels here & abroad. The menue catered for my vegetarian daughter & myself as a vegan which is a first. The menue was interesting & the food very good quality. We all really loved it & will certainly be raving about it too friends as well as other veggies/vegans. I hope your business does really well as you deserve it, thank you regards, Mel
Your visit to Bigbury on Sea - a difference of opinion
From: Melanie & Michael's correspondence on 05-08-2008
Good Evening Michael
Many thanks for your response and think that we will have to agree to differ on some points. As you say, each has their own expectations and opinions which is of course what makes the world go around
I wish you every success
From: Michael Smith - Venus
Sent: Sun 29/06/2008 13:40
Subject: Re: Your vist to Venus Cafe at Bigbury on Sea
Many thanks for your 2 emails. My profuse apologies for the delay in responding.
I will certainly entertain the mystery shopper proposal. While we, like any business, have our off days - and you certainly experienced one the day you visited - I am confident that our standards of food quality, service and cleanliness are very high. I am also confident in my management at Bigbury on Sea telling me the truth as they see it. As I said in my previous reply - the standard of dress and the poor language you experienced should not have happened and is not acceptable. This has been reinforced at Bigbury on Sea.
Waxy cup - I meant no offence when I asked the question about drinking from a cup. It just never occurred to me that not providing a straw would cause people a problem - you are not the only one who has asked the question. The vast majoirty of our customers understand our policy of not providing them for the environmental reasons I outlined to you in my earlier email. I guess it shows how conditioned we have all become by the McDonalds approach to fast food. I have very recently spent a day with one of the UK biggest packaging manufacturers and also spoken to my wholesalers who source from all over the world. I am assured no lid exists without the straw hole - so we will continue with our experiment and offer lids only if needed. Obviously this also has a huge benefit of reducing the amount of plastic which could/ would end up in the sea or in landfill.
Glass - with due respect, you are missing the point here. We do NOT want to serve single serve plastic glasses which could end up in the sea, landfill or the beach. It is also a condition of our licence that we use re-usable plastic glasses. We received our alcohol licence 12 months ago. I am sure the Pilchard Inn received theirs a hundred or so years ago at a time when these things weren't issues or even available. As I said, we HAVE to use the glasses we do - and we want to use the glasses we do. If that is offputting to potential customers then so be it. The most important thing to us is that we protect the environment in which we operate and often this means doing things which cost us, and sometimes the customers, money and are often more difficult to do.
Food - as I said before I am more than happy to refund in full your meal. To do so I do need your address.
I am sorry that the Marine Cafe had decided not to open during your stay. We open 364 days of the year as a committment to building the business and providing locals with a quality (in our opinion) venue at quieter times of the year. I think that should count in our favour and is certainly part of our commitment to operate in a sustainable fashion.
I really do appreciate the time you have taken to provide us with feedback. It seems that we are not going to see eye to eye on every point you raised and I think that's OK. We can't be all things to all people and our mission and values cannot possibly be shared by everyone we serve and may well put off others. As a business that's a conscious decision we have taken to stay true to what we believe in while retaining flexibility to modify our approach as we learn more about what's available and how things can be done differently. The majority of your points are spot on and you identified weaknesses in our implementation which I am sure the Bigbury on Sea team have taken on board.
With very best wishes
Sun 08/06/2008 16:34
To: Michael Smith - Venus
Subject: RE: Your vist to Venus Cafe at Bigbury on Sea
Firstly I must say many thanks for your detailed response and my delay in replying, back into work mode leaves little time for catching up with personal mail.
I still have to say that judging by other comments posted, there potentially appears to be a problem with staff and service in Bigbury and perhaps may I suggest that you employ a "mystery shopper" to visit and check out the points I have raised together with the other peoples comments. Obviously you are proud of the organic nature of the uniforms provided to your staff but there certainly was no pride from their part in wearing them or indeed the presentation of them. The attitude and lack of english again is something that I feel you cannot just take the duty managers word for, whilst I appreciate that you employ foreign students and their conversational english may be very good the vocabulary required in the service industry may not have been covered in their educational programme.
The waxy cup issue- I have no problems drinking from a cup and take offence that you feel I may have any special needs. The reason I asked for straws is because you are providing a recepticle with a lid that has an opening for a straw. One would therefore assume that one would get a straw. However, I totally understand your views on saving the marine life and therefore perhaps you should consider a different style of container totally, because full of liquid this style of cup is not particuarly solid and the lid adds to the rigidity, if one has to remove the lid to drink once again the cup becomes too unstable to be safe.
Glass-Whist it may be a condition of your alcohol license that you have to serve plastic glasses, I have atached a link www.partyplastics.co.uk/shop where yu can buy glasses for as little as 3p and whilst they are disposable think of the energy and man hours saved by not having to collect and wash your reusable plasticstogether with the £1.97 saving on your current suppliers cost.I note that the Pilchard Inn is not required to abide by this and do use real glass.
And finally the food aspect, our party was made of 6 adults and we placed 3 seperate orders as follows:
2 Crab Salads, Portion of Cheesy Chips plus 2 beers
1 Crab Salad, Blue Cheeseburger, Chips and 2 beers
2 Bacon cheese & tomato paninis, chips plus 2 diet cokes
We refuse to pay the charge for salt and so we have no bill for this.
This probably amounts to approx £50 as per my original estimate but none of the party have any receipts to confirm this but I am sure you till receipts will tally with this.
Having eaten at the Pilchard Inn the day previously Venus Cafe was our convenient choice for that day. May I point out that the Marine Cafe had not yet opened for the season and did not in fact open at all during our stay.Challaborough is the next resort along the coast and therefore one would not be spending the day in Bigbury and go to Challaborough for food outlets.
I wish you success in the future
Many thanks for taking the time to write to describe your dissappointing experience at our Bigbury on Sea cafe on 18th May. I am sorry to hear that your experience was poor. I also regret that we weren't able to discuss this with you face to face during your visit. I am pleased to hear that overall you enjoyed your holiday.
The Venus mission is to be the greenest beach cafe and shop operator and so our packaging and modus operandi is very much geared towards meeting this mission. Venus has always been a take away operation - except for our evening dining at Blackpool Sands when we convert into a restaurant. The beaches are extremely busy in the holidays and at weekends and we can serve 2-3,000 people a day at Bigbury on Sea alone so table service & plated food is just not an option. Also our rents and overheads are, as I am sure you appreciate being in the property business, at market value - ie very high - so we would not be able to stay in business if we limited ourselves to a table service business serving 200 or so covers a day. It sounds like we need to make this clearer on our website that our daytime business is indeed a take away with an outside eating area. We will do so in the next few days.
There is no excuse for staff in dirty uniform. I can assure you they certainly start off the day in clean uniform every day and they should change the aprons when they become dirty - we are reinforcing this policy just to make sure it is happening every day. A lot of investment has gone into providing our staff with organic branded uniform so I can assure you we understand that how they are worn is critical to our overall offer.
Staffing - like all hospitality businesses we do employ some non UK staff - as I am sure you know we do not, and would not wish to, discriminate in recruitment against race, age, gender or religion. We do our best to recruit any local people who want summer jobs and have been proactive with our non UK citizens and signed a scholarship programme with the Sustainable Tourism Department of a Slovakian University where we recruit our non local staff for the summer. We provide a number of scholarships for post graduate students and we visit Kosice to recruit the best the university can offer. Some of the foreigners do serve on the tills and we are in training mode at the moment. Our policy is always to have an English person with them to ensure language is not a problem. The managers at Bigbury on Sea assure me that they are doing this so I am unclear why you should have experienced what you did - it shouldn't have happened.
Glass - we do not serve any glass at all - during the day - as there is an overriding concern over broken glass ending up on the beach. Our alcohol licence at Bigbury on Sea imposes a condition which stipulates that we serve all alcohol in re-usable plastic glasses. They cost slightly over £2 each and so we charge a deposit for them otherwise we would lose money on every alcoholic drink we serve. We use the same re-usable glasses in our evening operation & have had no problems from customers who are eating a S Hams sirloin steak or lobster drinking from these glasses.
We serve all our day time non alcoholic drinks in disposable paper/board cups and the only ones you can purchase are like those you expressed dislike for. We are actually in the process of dropping Coca cola as a brand from our range for ethical reasons and moving over to an organic cola in a can - and we still need to use a cup if a customer wants to use one. It is not possible to put a cold or hot drink in a board cup which isn't lined with a waxy lining - it's this lining which keeps the cup from collapsing. We have always put a lid on a cup to stop the drink from spilling when customers carry their product away. We are reviewing this and will test customer reaction to providing a cold drink without a lid to see what happens. We stopped using plastic straws some 10 years ago as the vast majority end up on the beach or in the sea. An enormous amount of wildlife ends up digesting these straws (and loads of other plastic) and so die. We found a source of paper straws from Australia which we imported (altho' concerned about miles but it did come by sea) until the company making them went bankrupt as they were 5 times more expensive than plastic. We have since found another (US) company who make a very expensive straw - about 15 pence each - but decided that was unaffordable. We use a lid with a hole for a straw because that's all that's made. To have our own made would require us to order about ten years supply at once - unaffordable from a cash flow perspective even if we had the space to put them. As I said we will try not using a lid and then everyone can drink from the cup - and we will also use up the lids we have left over. I have to be honest why do you need a straw to drink from a cup - what's wrong with drinking from the cup?
Salt - we have never ever charged for salt. This statement has us all confused. Salt and ketchup sits outside the cafe on the condiment stand with the organic sugar, napkins and stirrers for people to help themselves. I would appreciate you providing me more detail on how you were charged for salt - if you would be so kind.
Food - paninis - I agree they should not have been so squashed and we will retrain our staff to ensure this doesn't happen. Salads are made fresh every day and held in the fridge. There is very little in the way of salad items that are grown locally and we do purchase what is available during the summer. We do use 56 producers based in Devon & Cornwall and spend over £360,000 with them annually. We also use over 30 organic products - almost unheard of in an operation of our style - so I am sorry to read that you think we do such a poor job. We are actually proud of what we do and the way we do it. I regret we failed to live up to your expectations.
We have looked back through our transaction records for that day but can find no transaction for approx. £50. The closest we can find is an order for £27.15 but that contains no alcohol and appears to be an order for a group of 4. It would be helpful if you could identify what you purchased so we can find the exact amount you spent -- as I would like to refund you the full amount of your meal.
For your information, the Bigbury on Sea cafe does have direct competition. There's the Pilchard Inn 200 metres away on the causeway; the Bigbury cafe overlooking the main car park and 3 food outlets at Challaborough some 400 metres away.
Thank you again for taking the time to provide us with feedback. I appreciate it and am sorry we did not meet your expectations. I hope I have gone some way to explaining why we do what we do. I look forward to hearing back from you with details on the salt and your bill. Many thanks.
With best wishes
Michael C B Smith
We have just returned from a great week away in Bigbury on Sea, and having read your professional website before our trip I was looking forward to the dining experience at the Venus Cafe.
How dissappointed I was, It is not a cafe, just a mere overpriced fast food outlet.
On our visit on sunday 18th, the staff serving at the kiosk were struggling to speak english and understand what people were ordering, their uniforms looked extremly dirty and uncared for and first impressions were very poor.
If you order a drink that comes in a glass (i.e a beer, or a wine) you have to pay a £2 deposit on each glass even though its plastic!! And if you order a cold drink like diet coke it comes in the traditional waxy plastic container similiar to all fast food outlets with the same plastic lid that has a hole for a straw, however when you ask for a straw you get your head bitten off and told they dont do straws and those are old lids!And if you ask for salt on your chips it costs an extra 10p!
We ordered food and drink for 6 people we spent almost £50 and it totally was not worth it.
The panini's that 2 of us ordered were so flat they could have been mistaken for a single slice of bread, the salads are all pre packaged and do not appear to be freshley made. Given the great lengths that your advertising goes to to promote local produce its such a shame that it is not presented in a better way with a better level of service.
The venus beach cafe clearly has a captive audience at Bigbury on Sea as there are not any other outlets to purchase food from during the time of our stay but after our first experience we didnt go back.
Venus Cafe has a lot of work to do to provide food and service to reach the standard they advertise on their website.
Supper at Bigbury - response
From: Michael Smith on 05-08-2008
Many thanks for your email. There are no conditions which restrict us in terms of planning or licensing - it's just lack of people who want our day time offer in the evening.
Opening hours are left fairly fluid in the Summer. We guarantee to be open at 9am and close at 6pm almost whatever the weather. If it is busy enough then we will stay open later and have done so when there are enough people about - and always continue serving while we are on the premises - it take approx. 1 hour to close everything down.
We have trialled staying open later (a few years ago) and couldn't even cover our labour costs let alone anything else. To stay open into the evening would require a whole additional shift and resulting overheads. It is in our future plans to do table service evening dining in July & August at Bigbury on Sea and to do so we will need to make some structural changes (which would require planning) and capital. This may take a couple more years before we are in a position to do so.
Many thanks for your interest.
Supper at Bigbury
From: Swimmer on 02-08-2008
I like your cafe at Bigbury and, like a previous correspondent, am glad of the gluten-free options. But I wonder why you close when you do? it would be so nice to have a swim after work and then something to eat in the cafe - but by then it is always closed.
Is this something you choose to do, or is this a condition of your planning consent? And if the latter, would it make it any easier not to be licensed in the evening? I'm sure there's a lot of trade out there.....
From: Anthony on 20-07-2008
We visited Blackpool Sands at the end of June and have to say how brilliant everyone at the restaurant was. My daughter needs to be gluten-free and the fact that this was mentioned on the menu was great for us as parents! There's usually not much to offer her when we eat out. She loved the gluten-free ice cream cones and particularly loved the chips!! So, just want to say 'thanks!' to all involved and wished that there were more restaurants like yourselves clearly serving gluten free food! We'll be back!
Anthony, Wareham in Dorset
From: John on 15-06-2008
Just a quick message to say thanks for a great evening at Blackpool Sands on Friday. It was the last night of a holiday in Devon, and it was a brilliant meal. We had an 11 month old and 3 year old with us and both were made to feel very welcome - at too many places you're made to feel unwelcome if you turn up with kids in tow. The food was great, and the location is fantastic. Thanks again to all the staff who were fantastic - we'll definitely be back next year!!
From: Suzanne on 08-05-2008
Many thanks for your response. I commend you on both your honesty and customer service. My respect for Venus cafe has been restored. I understand your comments regarding packaging - I guess when you buy into an organic meal you expect less packaging - not more. It seems health and safety executives, while there for our own good, are providing us with a more clinical world where, organic or not, non of us have a hope of being truly environmental. Where presentation is key I think the compostable box is better and surely preferable than unwrapping numerous layers of plastic to get to your lunch.
Thank you for your offer of a refund. We will return to the cafe at Bigbury in the future and I will happily use my refund to pay for another meal. I look forward to writing a glowing review.
Poor experience - Michael's response
From: Michael Smith on 23-04-2008
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to recount your 'dreadful' experience at Bigbury on Sea last week 16th April. I sincerely appreciate the trouble you have taken to let us know of your experience. I sincerely apologise for the poor meal you received and would be more than happy to refund you your lunch in full.
We have thoroughly looked into your complaint and can now provide the following comments and planned actions:
1. Sullen service - I can only apologise for this - the 3 managers on duty that day are all usually very polite and efficient. I can only surmise that one of them either had an off day or was so focussed that the 'service' element and doing it quickly that the friendliness was lost. That is not our normal standard.
a. burger baps - these are the same organic baps we have been using for over 12 months and the managers assure me they were toasted to order. I have tried a couple from the same batch and confess I can't find anything wrong with them.
b. organic chicken drumsticks - this is a new product for us as we have finally managed to extract ourselves totally from factory produced imported chicken (which needs deep frying) of dubious sources. I can assure you that all our chicken (free range and organic) comes from the Creedy Carver chicken farm in Devon and is delivered in to us on a weekly basis. All product is cooked off at our central kitchen at Halwell for food safety and hygiene reasons, then vacuum packed and shipped to each cafe daily. This is not only hygiene safe but also saving over 750 transport miles per week over the 40 odd local suppliers who now deliver into us centrally. We have all tried the drumsticks from the same batch you had and can find nothing wrong with them - we have tried 15 in all and each was perfectly fine, moist, tender and tasty as one would expect of an organic chicken product. I accept that wrapped as we were doing makes the appearance imperfect nor particularly appetising. Of course, there may well have been some poor product in the batch we received - there is no way we can test each one.
The presentation of the product is my fault - I assumed that everyone would think that a cooked drumstick would be cold and so didn't think about putting 'cold' on the menu. The whole idea was to present a simple unflavoured, unbreaded easy to eat meal appropriate for the beach - cold drumsticks to me seemed perfect and reminiscent of the beach picnic. It has caused problems at the other cafes too so we are now going to ask whether or not you would like it hot or cold when you order it. The wrapping of the product is also done at my direction. ALL our products are prepared/ wrapped on the premises daily. We are not allowed to keep different products unwrapped in the same fridge to ensure there is no danger of cross contamination. The wrap you experienced I thought was the best option as it uses significantly less packaging than alternatives. We have tried biodegradable wrap but the sealing of the material makes it almost impossible to then open the packaging - but technical progress is being made in this area by manufacturers and so this may prove more friendly in the future. Having listened to your feedback however, we have decided to make a packaging change and will now put them into a compostable unbleached box which we use for our salads. This will add unfortunately to the total waste stream by some 500% but I guess that's unavoidable.
We have tried alternatives for the organic cucumber slices - again we can't leave it unwrapped due to hygiene regulations. Unfortunately, any paper based products we have tried aren't capable of keeping a 'wet' product in good condition without the fridge drying it out too much or the packaging becoming very soggy within a few minutes. Making the switch on the drumsticks will enable us to put the cucumber for the childrens drum meal in the same box as the drumstick if cold. The balance of the meals will have to continue with the wrapped cucumber as is. The wrapped product does also mean children don't have to eat all the meal there and then but parts can be taken on to the beach hygienically.
c. organic juices: these were poured out that day - they come from Luscombe's and Rock's. The samples I have tried taste fine. I assume you mean the orange squash which came with the children's meal? If so, then it is possible a mistake was made in the strength of the product and it was over diluted. We will be reinforcing the ratio of concentrate to water and ensuring each batch is tasted when made.
I hope I have addressed your concerns and that you will feel we have taken some remedial steps to address some of the issues you raise. If you would like to send me your address I will send you a refund cheque for £27 immediately. It is also my hope that you will visit us again and would like to think you would be equally generous in letting us know if we have improved and got it right again.
With best wishes
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company
Bigbury on Sea - poor experience
From: Suzanne on 23-04-2008
Contrary to the many positive comments on your website I have to write to express how disappointed I was with the Venus Cafe 'Mediterranean Dining Experience' today (Weds 16th April 2008). At the very best - it was dreadful.
Firstly the service was at best sullen. We ordered a childs lunch box (with chicken drumstick), two Venus burgers and two chicken drumstick meals- which with drinks came to approx £27. Fine for a good lunch however we received two potentially good burgers in very average buns; cold, tough chicken drumsticks double wrapped in cellophane and below average juices. On the plus side the chips were good and hot. Needless to say none of our children ate the chicken drumsticks.
For a cafe that professes to be organic I find it incredible that you can serve anything wrapped in cellophane - so obviously bought in in bulk. When ordering a chicken meal with chips at the very least I expect the chicken to be hot - not straight from a box in the fridge. Even the three pieces of cucumber were wrapped in cellophane.
One of the main reasons for visiting Bigbury on Sea was the promised lunch and we all left feeling very let down by the experience. We have visited regularly on our holidays but on the back of todays experience we would not put ourselves out again.
I would very much appreciate your comments.
From: James on 18-01-2008
I just like to say that after visiting the Venus Café at Bigbury on Sea on 23rd December, I was most impressed with both the quality of the service and food which I received. I will definitely be visiting the café again in September when I am on holiday.
From: Kath on 23-11-2007
Just a short email to give you some positive feedback!
I have lived and grown up in Stoke Fleming and have always visited B.Sands. On last week's visit I was impressed to see a young man that works in the shop scrubbing the floor tiles, keeping the shop very clean and he was very polite when he served us as well.
So well done!
Venus Cafe at Blackpool Sands
From: James on 16-10-2007
Just a quick note to say how wonderful I thought the whole beach, Cafe, Shop, Toilets, etc are at Blackpool Sands near Dartmouth.
I visited last week for the first time and must say I am VERY impressed with not only the facilities on offer such as the sparklingly clean toilets, to the great local food and variety in the cafe, the interesting and unusual items in the shop and the great seating area for all weathers!
A great experience!
The Staff were friendly and efficient, what more could one ask.
I wish all UK beaches were as good, a shining example to what can be achieved with a little dedication!
Gluten free menu
From: Amanda & Emma on 02-09-2007
Thank you so much for providing a gluten free menu at Blackpool sands. My 11 yr old daughter and I both have to eat gluten free food and we were so excited to see a menu with items listed that were gluten free and to have a choice, you made our day! Where do you get your ice cream cones from my daughter said they were delicious ?
Amanda and Emma, Poole
Congratulations on a great service
From: Jon, Joan and Adam on 28-08-2007
We've just got back from a holiday in South Devon which included 2 visits to Venus Company cafes (coffee at East Portlemouth and a full meal taken down to the beach at Bigbury) and we just wanted to email to say a huge "well done" for your overall approach and quality.
So often we've said to ourselves "surely it can't be impossible to offer quality food with an interesting choice, at sensible prices, that'll work both for adults and children" but sadly it seems all too rare - especially in holiday locations. Our lunch at Bigbury proves that it is possible - you're achieving it! Great menu, with a good balance of favourites and slightly different options, healthy ingredients, extremely good prices, friendly and helpful staff, quick service... Plus your clear commitment to local suppliers is particularly important.
So thanks and well done!
Three Cheers for Bigbury on sea!
From: Fiona on 18-08-2007
My family visited Bigbury on sea for the day as part of our week long holiday to South Devon. Having never been there before we will most certainly be coming back. We had a wonderful day on the beach, what a beautiful place. We visited your cafe twice throughout the day, once for lunch and then again for ice creams. Delicious. I was so pleased to hear that all the food was locally produced, you really can taste the difference. Even though the lines were long the staff were clearly working their hardest to get everyone served as quick as possible and it looked like they were having a good time which is always nice to see. I will definatly be recommending both beach and cafe to my friends. Thankyou.
Fantastic concept - local sardines and Dartmouth crab
From: Tom on 27-07-2007
Thank you so much for last night, we all very much enjoyed it and it was a pleasure to meet all your family. And what a fantastic concept you have developed. I eat out in London very often and I would swop them any day for eating local sardines and Dartmouth Crab with that fantastic view.
I think you have unique offer that will spread along the British coastline, I wish you every success and do let me know if we can help.
From: Steve - Source 2 sea on 22-07-2007
Just a short note to thank you and your staff for providing such an excellent buffet at the end of our Source 2 Sea event. The quality of food and presentation was outstanding and a credit to you all.
We look forward to working with you again in the future and we have already started planning next years event which will end on Saturday July.19th.
Great evening - food was superb - staff very charming
From: Archie on 17-07-2007
Hope you are well I just want to thank you for a great evening,the food was superb and your staff very charming.
Everyone, especially Beverley, enjoyed themselves.
See you soon and thanks again
Venus evening Blackpool Sands
From: Nick on 30-06-2007
Ate in the evening bistro at Blackpool Sands with my wife and 2 kids. Fantastic food in great location, "family-friendly" i.e. no bad looks at boisterous toddlers. Cant wait to come back. Am still debating with 3 year old the pros and cons of sandy vs stony beaches !!
From: Claire on 23-06-2007
We have just returned from holiday in the South Hams where we used your café at Blackpool Sands and at East Portlemouth and wanted to congratulate you on your company’s wonderful food and environmental policy.
Claire and family
Just wanted to say
From: Charlotte on 23-06-2007
Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed a visit to your café during May half term; we had been to the old café whilst on holiday before and liked it, but then found your café to be a big improvement. We loved the fact most of the produce you use is organic and local, the menu offered a great choice and the food tasted really good. We will definitely come again on our next trip – thank you.
PS Any plans to expand to other areas?
From: j monteiro on 08-05-2007
my daughter and i visited blackpool sands yeasterday and the gentleman in the shop could not have been more helpfull, makes such a change in this day and age..........unfortunately, thankyou for your time and trouble.
Impressed by Tolcarne
From: John on 01-05-2007
Just to say that I popped into the Cafe at Tolcarne, Newquay, on the off chance this morning. I was impressed with the lone guy in charge there at 11.30. Apart from the good coffee and flapjack, he was very helpful to a teacher with a class of well behaved children who turned up for somewhere to park themselves. When it started to rain, he suggested that they might like to continue their project on the seating inside.
He seemed to be very industrious,.. cleaning and brushing everywhere. Anyway, well done. It's a pity that you don't open up in St Ives where I live. Good to hear about your firm on the Food Programme on Radio 4 recently.
Yummy vegan food
From: Bryce on 23-12-2006
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you at Venus.
Just a quick note to say many thanx for increasing the range of yummy vegan food you have on offer - it's always great to go to the cafe at Bigbury.
We will be visiting on Boxing day for a walk and a cuppa and probably some food too - about 15 of us - all vegan, so well done and keep the supplies in, we're a comin'.
Best wishes always
From: Jill on 02-11-2006
I love looking at the Webcam to see what I'm missing, but since the clocks went back it's pitch dark early on, and then the picture seems to stop at about 3pm. Any chance of adjusting the timing?
Heaters are sustainable
From: Michael's reply on 28-10-2006
Dear Cathy & Malcolm
Thank you for your note regarding your visit to Blackpool Sands. I am glad you enjoyed everything about your visit except the heaters.
I can quite understand your concern. We are committed to following a sustainability agenda and to following the policies laid out in our publications. Our ability to do this and to trade year round (which enables us to provide year round employment to 15 people and for year round business to 30 local suppliers) relies on us being able to attract people to the beach all through the year. Having heaters (as we don't have any indoor space yet) provides us with this ability. Blackpool Sands is open 364 days of the year. The heaters we use are in fact very low energy users (about 15 pence per hour per pole) as they operate under a radiant heat principle and so don't wastefully heat the air. Other electric and gas heaters consume significantly more resources per hour than this.
Having said all of that - heaters should not be operating all the time - and they don't. However, each bulb costs us nearly £35 and so we tend to keep them on if we have a steady trickle of customers rather than turning them on and off. I can assure you there are many days throughout the year when they never get turned on at all. It is possible, of course, that the day you visited we were not being as vigilent as we should have been.
We are an energy conscious company and measure our CO2 emissions regularly including taking daily electric readings and monthly water readings. We have a number of energy saving devices fitted to our kitchen equipment and are working on introducing further energy saving next year. Our CO2 emissions are substantially lower than typical cafes & take aways. I am confident that our energy use is not excessive and is productive. We also purchase all our electricity from alternative energy sources.
I'm afraid that the reality of this world means we need to operate profitably throughout the year to be able to make a significant impact. If we don't operate a successful commercial business then we wouldn't be there, the beach wouldn't be as well looked after and what would replace us would almost inevitably not conduct themselves in the same way - and the damage could be severe.
I hope this provides you with an understanding of why we do have heaters - even if you don't like them.
Michael C B Smith
Great beach - heaters?
From: Cathy & Malcolm on 28-10-2006
Yesterday my husband and I ended a very lovely week-end spent at Dartmouth, on the beach at Blackpool Sands. The sun was not shining and the sea was wonderfully rough and tide was high. We were very impressed from the moment we parked the car.We cliff and beach walk a lot so it’s great to find safe parking, clean loos ( with classical music playing!! ) and a good café serving an excellent choice of food by cheerful friendly staff.
Whilst drinking my coffee I took the time to read your policy especially towards the environment and was therefore quite surprised to see the electric heaters outside burning brightly even when no one was sitting at the outside tables.Do they need to be there at all? Doesn’t this fly in the face of your policy? Everything else you state was there and the achievement is wonderful, in all the years, from our own childhoods, now enjoying beaches with our grandchildren, we haven’t found an English beach that has so much.
We would be grateful if you could explain the reasoning behind the heaters, apart from the obvious one that it lengthens the season for you, as we are being constantly told how much excessive use of our energy sources is so damaging to the environment.From a visual point, looking back from the sea, the view seemed quite bizarre, the lamps did nothing to enhance the splendour of the setting this beach has, set among the pine trees.
Are these the new beacons around our coast? I do hope not.
Cathy and Malcolm
Bigbury on sea
From: laura on 27-10-2006
was great to find venus,at Bigbury.
As a vegan,its not always easy to eat decent food out
so many thanks and keep up all the great enviromental work too!
Cafes away from the coast?
From: Sherian on 19-10-2006
I had the pleasure of visiting two of your Venus cafes during the course of the summer and my family and I were particularly impressed with the organic, locally produced food on offer.
Have you thought of branching out to selected cities away from the coast? - I am quite sure that Cheltenham, only 14 miles from us, would welcome a Venus cafe. I suspect most of the workers in Cheltenham would have visited on of your cafes during a holiday/ weekend away, and would be well aware of the quality food available for lunch times.
What do you think?
Appreciate the efforts you are making
From: Lisa & Glyn on 18-10-2006
We visited Bigbury on Sea last week and had lunch in your cafe. Just wanted to let you know that we really appreciate the environmental efforts you're making and both the food and drinks were by far the tastiest and wholesome we've ever had from a beach cafe. It's nice to find healthy options at the seaside.!!
Lisa & Glyn
October 17th 2006
Great ice cream
From: Jim on 29-08-2006
Just returned from camping in South Devon in the rain !. One highlight was (as usual) BIGBURY - even the sun came out whilst we were there. Before we left we had our cusomary ice cream from the Venus cafe (scoops not mass produced packaged rubbish) the whole family love your ice creams - one day i must try some of the great food i see other people enjoying.
I also love to see the image from the web cam - could the management consider putting in a camera that is controlled by the viewer or update the view more frequently ?.
Thank you" - East Portlemouth
From: Sue on 23-08-2006
The family would like to say a big "Thank You" for such a great cafe at East Portlemouth. The staff are extremely helpful and the big guy is just wonderful. Great days were had this summer on a very clean beach.
Thought we would tell you how good it is as all too often in today's world standards slip and praise is not always given when it should be. Keep up the good work! See you next year.
Birthday at Blackpool Sands
From: Stuart on 14-08-2006
Michael, thank you for the superb birthday celebration you helped to lay on for my Wife. As you know she particularly wanted to hold her party there because we love it so much. From my first enquiry to the evening itself all the arrangements were handled with professional ease. We all had a great evening and the food was wonderful. I know that everyone enjoyed it because they have told me so. Please pass on my appreciation and thanks to all concerned. We look forward to coming along again soon. Best wishes, Stuart
great cafe - East Portlemouth
From: joanna on 14-08-2006
We came to Mill Bay(East Portlemouth) last week and I visited your cafe having read all about them prior to our holiday. It was slighty further from the beach than I expected, but well worth it. I waded round in the sea from the beach to reach you! The choice was vast and my children loved their picnic boxes (sausage roll/ham sandwich). I was surprised to see crisps included until I saw they were salt free, how great I'll have to search for them back home. The other great surprise was the toy; they are so big and lovely. I chose a crab and a lobster and the children didn't believe me at first when I said they came with their picnic box. We will definatly come again.
I noticed a comment about parking costs at Blackpool Sands. £6 is not that high when most town centres charge £1.20 per hour. Most people are staying all day and it is such a beautiful place and I expect the money is used to help maintain the area.
Morning at Blackpool
From: Kevin on 12-08-2006
Morning at Blackpool
When Venus and Mars
Align across a warm lunar sky
I’ll see you down on the beech
Where it is the sea roars pulls back and hisses
Under the last star of a once starlit sky
And we’ll walk
And we we’ll talk
As only friends can do
From the early hours that day
Until we see the beam
Of the light at Start
Fades like a tired watchman
And gives a weary last flash
Then goes upon its way
And as the reaching spume
Turns the new morning pebbles into
Wetted golden jewels
Under the sun as it lifts
Then spreads in a marmalade coloured hue
We can sit in the new day’s warmth
Breakfast and drink good strong coffee
At the new days coming, just us two!
Early on a June morning at the Venus café Black pool South Devon
From: Neil on 03-08-2006
I am sorry to learn of your experience. We have taken great pains to ensure we provide for vegans. Clearly the staff member who served you didn't know the difference between vegetarian and vegan product. The egg is certainly a shocking example of the lack of knowledge demonstrated. I sincerely apologise. We will take immediate steps to ensure all our staff :
a. know the difference &
b. know what is available that is vegan.
We do have vegan products available at Tolcarne. I can, therefore, guarantee that you can have a vegan meal with us. We do have available at the counter an ingredients file which you are welcome to peruse should you wish.
If you would like to print off this email & take it to our cafe we would be pleased to provide you with a vegan Clive's pie (mushroom pasty, goulash pie) & a garden salad with our compliments.
Thank you for taking the time to provide us with the feedback.
Michael C B Smith
I recently contacted you regarding vegan food at your cafe on Tolcarne beach, Newquay.
Upon visiting the cafe the board was a bit vague on the content of some of your products, so I decided the best thing would be to ask an assistant.
The assistant seemed baffled and unresponsive to my request and just pointed towards the board telling me everything marked with a 'v' would be vegan, I'm no expert, but free range or not, the chickens that lay the eggs for the veggie breakfast would have to be damn clever to produce vegan eggs!
I must say being vegan is hard enough when in a town you don't know, so I was delighted to learn of your cafe, but felt disapointed with the level of helpfulness, lack of product awareness and nonchalant attitude offered by your worker.
From: Jenny on 03-08-2006
The evening BBQ's are fantastic, great location, great local food and wonderful atmosphere, to encourage more people to enjoy it perhaps you could put a sample menu on the website, we are local so lucky enough to be able to go often.
Love Blackpool Sands but....
From: sally on 24-07-2006
We live in Devon and love coming to Blackpool Sands. The facilities are clean and fresh and a great cafe too. But the car park charges have gone up to £6.00. While we were queing to get in, some cars were reversing back out again not willing to pay. I too resent paying for this especially as we are a local family. So I guess we wont be coming that often this year.
Fantastic & recycling?
From: Neil on 20-07-2006
I recently spent a day at Blackpool Sands in south Devon. I found the
beach to be fantastic and really enjoyed my day.
I aslo thought that the cafe and ameaneties provided my yourselfs to
be top class and you should be proud of your achievements.
My only concern was that when i went to throw away my rubbish i asked
if there was a recycling bin for the plastic water bottles. The staff
looked a me as if i was from another planet. I am very keen to
recycle as much stuff as we can in this day and age and i thought
that was the only thing that let the Venus Company down for me.
Apart from that i congratulate you on a great service.
thanks for listening.
From: Boz on 03-07-2006
This is an excellent beach. The cafe is very good. It is good to be able to buy organic fast food. This is a vast improvement to usual seaside cafes, but it would be good to see even more organic and fairtrade on the menu.
From: Tina on 19-06-2006
We live in Somerset so Devon is very close. We stay in devon almost every month and stay at the grandparents house, mainly when they are away. We visited Blackpool Sands a few times last week and we all love the place. The children both under five love the clean beach and especiaaly the food box and sea creature toys, we left with four last week. The orange squash is lovely!
We love the good food and coffee, nice to see organic food on the menu. The coffee is great. The shops you have at Blackpool sands are brill. And the organic milk you sell is great and handy to get on the way home. The staff are nice and helpfull. Thanks and keep going. Thanks for a great few days at the beach. We will be back very soon. This weekend infact. Great webcams Bigbury is all so brill, we visit there alot and the cafe, winter and summer.
From: Jeanette on 18-06-2006
What a fantastic website, so easy to use and unbeleivably informative. I have reccommended it to lots of friends as one of the best
From: paul on 18-06-2006
I think the venus concept is just perfect for the south hams and cornwall, webcams fantastic allthough Blackpool Sands is a bit blurred. keep up the good work lots of plugs on Southhams Radio. Good food -great places, long live VENUS.
From: Amanda on 22-05-2006
I'm checking out the weather at Blackpool Sands to decide whether to visit in the half term....During Easter I had to leave my eldest with her grandparents for study leave but her brothers and sister and I waved at her every morning when we got onto the beach. It was great, a really fun way of her joining in our holiday!!
From: Tina on 13-05-2006
As I sit at my desk I sneak a look at the lovely beaches, think of breakfasts at Bigbury and dream of summer, then back to work refreshed.Excellent idea.
Fabulous beaches - gluten free food
From: Julia on 09-05-2006
Dear Crossed Grain
I just wanted to let you know about a couple of fabulous beaches in devon (and cornwall). We went to bigbury-on-sea and blackpool sands beaches near Plymouth last year and 5 year old Lydia was so thrilled to be able to have not only a pasty (ok a gluten free vegetable goulash pie - delicious ) like everbody else, but also a gluten free brownie for pudding. It's so unique to be able to buy fast food that is healthly - vegetarian and organic as well as gluten-free on a beach that they really must be congratulated. Venus are the caterers and they run a few cafes in Devon and Cornwall - more info at www.venuscompany.co.uk . The beaches are glorious as well!
Also thanks to BA for a long haul flight to Mexico City (and back) - Lydia's gluten free food was superb - fresh gf rolls and pastries as well as good gf main courses - other passengers were asking what it was so they could pre-order it next time! Coeliac statistic could rise dramaticallyon BA flights next year!
thanks for your mag - great recipes and guidance
From: Chris on 09-05-2006
I’m working offshore in the Brazilian oilfields, on watch from 04:00 to 16:00 BST. It’s great to see the beaches at home and the goings on in the estuary. A pity that the pictures don’t update automatically and that I can’t see the dawn breaking. But a great site, done well.
Oh, and there’s a spider living in a web camera in East Portlemouth………..
From: Pat on 08-05-2006
Thank you the staff at Blackpool sands, we had a great walk and then a very welcombe cup of drinking chocolate, great time had by all!. although you web cam picture is not in focus!!.
The food was great
From: Noel on 02-05-2006
I was on holiday in South Devon at the weekend, tried some of your food. I think the whole concept of what you are doing using local / organic / British produce is fantastic….the food was great.
Finally, British food at beach resorts is no longer an embarrassment.
Keep up the excellent work
How about a site at Thurlestone…it needs it !
webcams are great
From: Charlie on 16-04-2006
Just a word to say the web cams are great...
Thank you for the webcams
From: Jayne on 16-04-2006
Hello The Venus Company Staff
I have just logged on to the Bigbury-on-Sea surf cam for my Bigury Fix ( I live in Derbyshire) and what a great surprise to see the other 3 beaches up and running.
Thank you for the opportunity to see what the weather and temperature is doing down South.
Excellent Customer Service
From: Karen on 07-04-2006
We visited Backpool Sands and spent a lovely day on the beach. I tried on clothes in the shop and somehow my ear-ring must have fallen out. I didn't realise that I lost it until the next day - by this time we were back home in Henley-on-Thames - 4 hours away. I rang and spoke to Matt who was very helpful - took my details and promised to post the earring on - he wouldn't take any money for the postage and was generally very helpful. The earing arrived the very next day by recorded delivery - I was so impressed. 10 out of 10 for customer service - I would definately reccommend this beach for their helpful honest staff. Well done Blackpool Sands
roll on the summer!
From: Stef on 03-04-2006
i cant wait to visit in the summer i check the webcam every week just so i can look at the place i long to be at when i am on the computer looking out at the rain!! it will be my 12th year coming down to sunny devon this year cant wait!!! :)
Regular stopping point
From: Tim on 29-11-2005
We have recently bought a cottage in East prawle, but have lots of work to do on it. This means that we will not be able to live there for some time. We therefore travel from Northampton on a regular basis and make a point of stopping off at Bigbury before returning and that means coffee and a panini at the Venus. We also use the Venus cafe at East Portlemouth when it is open. You provide excellent food, great customer service and are a credit to the South hams in general.
Impressed - Bigbury on Sea
From: Jenny on 28-11-2005
We found ourselves at your cafe at Bigbury on Sea in late September and just wanted to say how impressed we are with your ideals. The food was great, and we just wish you lots of luck in expanding your business round the coast, and making people realise that you can be green/environmental and (hopefully) make a profit.
All the best
Venus webcam curing home sickness!!
From: Patric on 07-11-2005
I have been having your Bigbury on Sea web cam as one of my favorite sites for the last year and it gives me so much happiness!! So this is just a big thanks for sending your images of that beautiful scene around the world for all to see. I am from the south hams, but am now abroad in dark and gloomy Norway working at a desk and my home sickness is instantly cured by your site! – and…..
My brother who lives on the top of the hill above your café at Bigbury works as a diver in the north sea and around the world. Often he is locked away in the diving chambers for weeks on end, miles from home, but I can send an e mail to the ship he is on with a photo of the bay from your camera, the radio operator prints it out and sends it into the diving chamber gas lock system, so he can see his two little girls playing on the beach almost instantly!!… so your little camera on the top of the café is touching more peoples lives than you may realize – Thanks again – Great chips and ice cream by the way…
Blackpool Sands - excellent food both tasty and quickly served
From: Angelina on 21-08-2005
We recently visited The Venus Cafe at Blackpool Sands. I would like to comment on the excellent food which was both tasty and quickly served. The cafe is run very efficiently and would put many fast food outlets to shame. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the excellent taste! I only wish you had an outlet in my home town of Birmingham!
Thanks for bothering - gluten free
From: Julia on 05-08-2005
Hi there - my family have just visited two of your cafes - bigbury and blackpool sands and we just wanted to write and thankyou for a really good experience. My five year old daughter is a coeliac and cannot eat gluten -we usually have a difficult time when we eat out - particularly at fast food places. She was delighted to be able to tuck into a gluten free pie which looked a bit like
her sister's pastie! She really enjoyed it and was even more thrilled when it was followed by an absolutely delicious gluten free brownie - - much tastier than any shop bought brownie I've tasted! Thanks for bothering it really makes her life a little easier and just makes
her feel a bit more normal!
Brilliant place - Bigbury/Bantham
From: Gina on 27-07-2005
What a brilliant place this is. Wonderful: beach, great views and the Cafe Venus is: Clean, Tasty, with excellent coffee.
We come twice a year to Challaborough Bay with our dogs because they love Bigbury Beach - great for them in the sea, and us humans love the Venus Cafe.
Roll on our Christmas visit.
From: David on 18-07-2005
Thanks all at Venus for hosting such a brilliant cam! Bantham beach is my favourite place next to the sea, and your webcam keeps me there even at the office!
Only problem is that it has tilted onto its side recently, so now I'm looking at the view on an angle!
Keep up the good work, Dave.
Most impressed Tolcarne Venus Cafe
From: Christine & Michael on 08-07-2005
We have just returned from a week’s holiday at the Tolcarne Beach complex and thought we’d write to congratulate you on the excellent facilities provided there. We were most impressed by the quality of the food served at the beach café – breakfasts were to die for and set you up for the day! Your care in sourcing suppliers for your ingredients is most praiseworthy – keep it up. Your staff there are an absolute credit to the company for their friendly, helpful approach and the whole area was immaculate.
Many thanks for providing a little haven of quality.
Tolcarne - Best Caesar Salad
From: Emma - Cornish Guardian on 06-06-2005
The Venus Cafe at Tolcarne serves the best Caesar salad I have ever tasted
The Cornish Guardian
Brilliant vegan menu
From: Alison on 04-05-2005
I wrote in the winter asking about the poss of vegan chips - I've just seen the vegan menu - brilliant - thankyou so much! All we need now is some summer weather! Cheers Alison
From: Judith on 04-05-2005
Congratulations (on the Queen's Award) - Newquay are honoured to have such an amazing company!
Very impressed with the menu
From: Maria and Bryce on 24-04-2005
Dear Venus Cafe,
We brought friends to Bigbury Beach today and had a meal and drinks from your cafe. We were all very impressed with the menu. How wonderful to find such a thought provoking and sensible attitude. We loved the local produce, the fairtrade and organic products too. It was also nice to see that you have started serving soyamilk - our vegan mates really appreciated that. Well done, keep up the good work,
Maria and Bryce
tasty & impeccable
From: Helen on 15-04-2005
I had lunch at Blackpool Sands today and not only was it very tasty but the service was impeccable.
Keep up the good work
From: John on 24-03-2005
I'm a Devonian but (sadly) no longer live there, but we regularly visit my mother in Buckfastleigh, and now regularly visit all three cafes for breakfast! Our son cannot wait every time we come down. At Christmas we spent my birthday at Bigbury and then Blackpool Sands, they were so busy, it was like summer with coats on - unheard of a few years ago. Impressed at all levels, especially the organics, keep up the good work, and may there be more Venus Cafes in the future!
As a regular consumer of the
From: Rob on 16-03-2005
As a regular consumer of the 'Venus Company Experience' (a Sunday
morning breakfast bap at Blackpool Sands is becoming a bit of an
institution in my household) I can lend my own personal endorsement to
your enlightened business approach. I hope the Venus Company goes from
strength to strength.
All the best
Gluten free & dairy free
From: Sue and Becky on 30-12-2004
Had breakfast this am at bigbury-on-sea venus and spoke to Laurence the
manager (what a nice cheerful man!). When i asked if he had anything
gluten-free dairy-free he said that you were ordering some gluten-free pies
for march and he would mention the dairy-free but he didn't know what
soya-milk to suggest....i recommended Alpro Longlife as it does not need
refrigeration until it is opened and it has the best taste (apart from their
fresh one that is) and makes the best and longest lasting froth for the hot
chocolate and coffee......(our local Starbucks and Costa Coffee in
Waterstones both use it now). He said you would get an email so am sending
this to say a big THANKYOU for the good quality and excellent service you
provide at bigbury.....happy new year....
Excellent - but disabled parking?
From: Hilary on 29-12-2004
Thanks for your swift and helpful response. Whilst I now appreciate that you do not have responsibility for the car park, I am very grateful that you see fit to take this matter up by directing this email to the persons responsible.
My family have been visiting South Hams and Blackpool Sands for 25 years. It is only this past year that my mother in law has become disabled, and I must admit to being astonished at being charged £4.00 to park, even though she had a disabled badge! We do take her on trips, but would never dream of “using” the badge inappropriately, and this surely is one place that should honour the badge
I may not be fully conversant with the most recent legislation about providing access and facilities for disabled folk, but I would have thought that allocated and marked parking spaces, and financial concessions should be provided, as a sign of goodwill at the very least, even if such items are not required by law.
Thank you for offering to bring my concerns to the appropriate people, I would be very interested to be copied in on any response.
Best wishes for the New Year. I know you are open on New Year’s Day, and only wish I could visit on that day, but circumstances prevent. We will however be visiting regularly in 2005.
Many thanks for your message. I am glad you enjoy visiting Blackpool Sands.
The Venus Company is only responsible for the cafe, shop and watersports businesses at Blackpool Sands. The car park, beach and toilets are operated by the land owner Blackpool Sands Devon Utilities Ltd. I am, therefore, copying them in on this correspondence to make them aware of your concerns about disabled parking.
I thought you may also like to know that there is no parking charge at all during the winter months from November to 2 weeks before Easter. The Venus Cafe and shop are open every weekend during this time + Dec 26th to Jan 2nd every day from 10am to 4pm.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us. I hope you have a wonderful 2005.
Michael C B Smith
The Venus Company Ltd
Blackpool Sands is excellent, and we are frequent visitors. Just one comment – last April, I took my disabled 92 year old mother-in-law for a coffee at the café and was told by the car park attendant, who insisted on charging us full price for the car park, that there were no parking concessions, or even designated spaces for disabled badge holders! Come on, get up to date with goodwill (and possibly the DDA legislation) and allow parking concessions for disabled badge holders. I will be looking out for this improvement next season, see you then! Hilary
Just got back from our Devon holiday
From: Deborah, London. on 05-10-2004
Just got back from our Devon holiday, and wanted to let you know how impressed we were with the Bigbury Cafe. It was a real shock to find the wonderful range you have on offer compared to other less enlighted places, and the staff were very helpful and friendly.
One thing - I really go out of my way to avoid hydrogenated fat (experts say it has way more impact on pushing up your cholesterol level than even saturated fats) so I was surprised to see your sandwiches have magarine in them - which usually contains hydrogenated fat. Have you any other feedback on hydrogenated fat or am I out on my own here?!
My other half says he loved the pasties. Keep up the good work.
From: Marjorie and Dave on 26-09-2004
Just to say that we are so looking forward to returning to Bigbury next Saturday. We stay in a bungalow from where we overlook Burgh Island and it's almost directly behind the cafe but across the road from the car park. We love to have a look at the beach via the webcam and it makes it feel not so far away. I have to say though that the weather has looked much wetter, colder and windier, via the webcam, than it has been here at home, near Cambridge. Despite that, we are still looking forward to our annual autumn visit to Devon.
Marjorie and Dave
Inspired to write to congratulate .....
From: Mike on 12-09-2004
Inspired to write to congratulate you on your Venus Café at Bigbury on
I'm a surfer and a relative local, having been surfing, walking and swimming down at Bantham and Bigbury for years, and was dead impressed by your Café at Bigbury, which we 'dined' at yesterday, (Sunday).
So, so good to eat decent, fresh, local organic food at a good price and with a smile, compared to the usual rubbish served elsewhere in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, usually from grumpy ill mannered staff.
We were all dead impressed by the quality of the food and drinks and the fact that your staff were still smiling towards the end of another busy > season and day.
From: Huw on 07-06-2004
My family and I have just returned from Devon where we used your facilities
at Blackpool Sands, and I'm writing to say how impressed we were by them. We
loved your environmentally aware approach and your great attention to
detail. Well Done!
One quick favour to ask. Where do you get your cardboard straws from, as I'd
like my local wholefood shop to stock them to save me buying plastic for our
Great Cafes for great locations
From: Gary on 09-04-2004
Hi! I just wanted to say a big thanks to all the Venus Cafe staff at Bigbury On Sea and Blackpool Sands. All were very friendly and the food was great!! Great cafes for great locations. Thank you very much!
Bigbury on Sea webcam
From: Jayne from Derbyshire on 06-10-2003
I would like to let you know how much I appreciate the Bigbury-on-Sea webcam. I have had many cups of coffee at The Venus, appreciating the fantastic view of the estuary and sea. I can now see that from home in Derbyshire every day. It is just fantastic and wanted the people responsible for it to know how very very much it is appreciated.
Thank you, thank you.
Staffs on 04-09-2003
On a recent visit to the beautiful beach at Blackpool Sands, I had the pleasure to visit your cafe where I purchased a vegetarian pasty made with wholemeal pastry. It was delicious! Please can you help me track down the supply, so I don't have to wait until my holiday next year to sample another one?
Blackpool Sands & Bigbury
From: Brian on 26-08-2003
Four of us has a great day out at both these locations over the weekend and started both days with a Venus Breakfast. Very good value, good service and served with a smile. Good to see good value and service.
Excellent value. As we live in Exeter we will be down for another as soon as we can.
From: Henry, Exeter on 05-08-2003
Hi Venus & Co.
My family & I travelled to Bigbury on Sat 2 Aug. All the parts were in place for a great day on the beach - but we made one mistake. We took the trouble to take along a picnic lunch because we are very fond of food and don't 'do' beach cafes. But we couldn't resist a cup of tea. Not only was the tea excellent but the packaging, service and even the price impressed us. So much so that we ended up staying for supper. I had the chicken caesar salad. As soon as I began it, I wished I had ordered two. But one was enough after all! I will be dining out on my tale of the Venus Cafe at Bigbury for years to come. I am a craftsman that appreciates detail. You guys have got it in spades.
A thousand thanks for making a very good day perfect!
Wales on 30-07-2003
......it must be noted that the food shop was first class ..... . Give credit where it is due and in this case a very well run establishment with quality wholesome products, well presented and positive staff attitude as a direct consequence of employing the right (mature) staff to get the best out of the youth.
Both my wife and family fully support the facilities at Blackpool Beach and heap praise on the lady supervising the cafe area.
Struck by the Magic Dart - Sunday Times
From: Sunday Times on 27-07-2003
A few minutes drive (or an hour or so's walk) beyond the 14th century castle that guards the estuary is one of Devon's finest beaches. The Blue Flagged Blackpool Sands, set between a claw of wooded headlands, couldn't be more different from its namesake. The only development is the excellent Venus Cafe and shop, where you can rent sea kayaks and paddle away under the watchful eye of lifeguards shipped in from the Gold Coast.
Seaside snapshot - Guardian
From: Guardian Newspaper on 05-07-2003
Best stretches of beach:
Bigbury on Sea is a corker (Blue Flag) with fine sand .......... Blackpool Sands, a sheltered bay flanked by evergreens and pines, is another unmissable Blue Flag beach, with the excellent organic Venus cafe.
From: Victoria, Brixham on 02-07-2003
...All the food was absolutely fantastic. We had a truly memorable and wonderful day.
From: Pauline, London on 23-04-2003
My daughters loved the beach shop and once they got their wetsuits on, I couldn't keep them out of the water.
From: Rachel on 19-04-2003
We had such a good time last week. The beaches are clean, tidy and full of fun. Be back next year.
South Hams beaches are the best!
From: Ali on 15-04-2003
The beaches in the South Hams are the best and the paninis are the most delicious I've ever eaten!