It’s not every day that you find an award-winning eatery slap bang in the countryside. Nestled within a mile of east Scotland’s beautiful coastlines, the Wee Cook Kitchen is tucked neatly away in well-kept, manicured grounds of Barry Down holiday park, about ten miles from its closest city, Dundee.
Golf courses, agriculture, farming, fishing, hospitality and tourism are in the Tayside regions’ DNA, and small communities like Carnoustie (the Wee Cook Kitchen’s closest town, home to a world-famous golf course) dot the coast all the way from St. Andrew’s in Fife, to Arbroath in Angus, and up to Aberdeen.
Championing local and Scottish produce, the Wee Cook Kitchen is as home-grown as they come. The restaurant and café belongs to Hayley Wilkes, an award-winning businesswoman, celebrating national success with international customers.
Recently, we spoke with Hayley about the Wee Cook Kitchen’s turn to Carbonara App, and discussed why she is now celebrating some of the positive changes it has brought to her venue’s team.
Interested in finding out about how a free reservation system can help restaurants, big and small? Chat to our team to learn all about today’s digital solutions.
Summary — What’s Inside:
The Wee Cook Kitchen has a reputation for paying lip service to Scottish cuisine. We are, of course, talking about a traditional favourite popular around Scotland’s east coast: the humble steak pie.
Beef-pies are a best seller, but the Wee Cook has branched out to more experimental options to great success.
In 2022, the restaurant-café won a gastronomic royal flush for their Vegetarian Caponata Formaggio pie (which won the Best Savoury Pie award at the Scotch Pie championships). The pies have earned a commendation from the UK’s Guild of Fine Food, a highly esteemed accolade named the Great Taste award for cooking excellence.
The Wee Cook Kitchen has received so many compliments about its pies that customers from far and wide visit regularly. The venue even reported visitors from the continent, both from Denmark and Germany, guests with curious taste-buds who travelled hundreds of miles to try the best of Scotland’s pies.
As a result, the Wee Cook Kitchen has an extensive customer base. International guests mostly visit during peak seasons. In summer, for instance, Wee Cook’s guest numbers triple from what they would normally see in the winter months.
This is a reality that largely owes itself to tourism. Hayley even dubbed her restaurant the “pie lovers destination”, a cultural hotspot, “just like France is to wine”.
Since opening its doors in January 2019 (and subsequently weathering the horrors of the COVID-19 lockdowns), the Wee Cook has become exactly that — the mecca of the pie. However, the increase in guest demand also changed their service dramatically.
Wee Cook’s story is about the double-edged nature of a venue’s steady growth. On the positive end, the restaurant-café has received thousands of guests — mostly to the magnificence of their cuisine. On the other hand, however, a mass increase in covers suddenly revealed an unexpected drawback: the limits of a traditional reservation system.
The Wee Cook Kitchen was having trouble with using alternative reservation systems. Meta’s Facebook Book Now Tool, for example, only led to frustration from staff. Hayley explained: “Bookings were coming from every angle [from both landline phone and social media], so it was very hard to manage them.”
The Wee Cook Kitchen’s guest management system required what Hayley called a “duplication of work”.
Every restaurant owner knows the annoyance of manual reservations management. While most take the issue for granted, it has to be said that attempting contact with upcoming customers in a noisy, eventful restaurant environment is no fun.
This is because staff have to remove themselves from floor duties — tables orders, kitchen commands — to return to the host stand, locate guest details in a ledger, and call them up to confirm their reservations.
To manually notify clients and visitors — that was Hayley’s issue.
“Validating their bookings [was] way too time consuming,” she said. All the energy could otherwise go into tasks elsewhere.
Finally, the Wee Cook Kitchen’s overall way of managing reservations was — to use some Scottish lingo — a wee bit chaotic. “We used 3 apps for 1 booking!” Hayley explained. The Wee Cook Kitchen was dealing with multiple digital reservation channels that only led to needless, excessive confusion.
Hayley needed an able solution that could help the Wee Cook Kitchen streamline their reservations, both online and in-person, that could fit the bill for high guest demand. As such the Wee Cook Kitchen was pleased to choose Carbonara App.
The Wee Cook Kitchen saw it like this: they wanted a reservations system that was simple, cost-effective, and helpful when it came to handling guest communications with ease. Hayley and her team found all this and more in Carbonara App.
Simplicity was everything. Hayley’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that a robust management system was a must-have for the future.
But it also needed to be user friendly. “We didn’t want it to be over-complicated,” she said. Carbonara App, she explained, was what her team needed because it is “simple and easy that adjusts to our needs [. . . ] [Plus] it is intuitive. Within 1 day, we switched systems and fell in love”. Restaurants can make the switch in no time at all — find out more.
Second, considering that the hospitality industry is recovering and facing financial challenges, Hayley needed a system that was cost effective. The Wee Cook Kitchen had previously used a digital solution that they paid for, and Hayley claimed that it was very costly, and “not worthy all year round. They would make us pay for functions [we] didn’t really need. Much harder to use”.
Since Carbonara App is completely free, Hayley was glad to get stuck in. “The fact that everyone accesses the app is one of its perks [plus] it’s always updating”.
In the end, Hayley’s venue thought that Carbonara App’s guest communication features made it something special. “The communication with guests is amazing. Carbonara [App] is kind of a bridge. If [customers] ask a question, we reply so fast. Clients were really happy and astonished with the communication.”
So — would Hayley and her team recommend it?
“I absolutely recommend it. I have worked for other restaurants, most systems [are] complex and a mixture of many things. You don’t need to overcomplicate it[,] and everything is more automated. This is a golden opportunity to deliver a better customer’s service. Time’s everything!”