Are you really a Londoner if you haven’t seen tourists packing into an Angus Steakhouse in town and thought to yourself: Why?
The glowing red purveyor of unseasoned steak is part of the West End’s essential framework. In fact, alongside the Rainforest Café, the Ice Bar (RIP), Hard Rock Café, M&Ms World and the central island of Piccadilly Circus, it’s one of a number of tourist-luring spots in the city that feel immovable and eternal… Despite no one you know ever having actually gone there.
Anyway: turns out the Steakhouse is not immovable or eternal. It’s reported that the chain, which was actually trendy in the ’70s and ’80s, is now on the brink of collapse, trying to find support as it negotiates rent agreements before the government ban on evictions ends. It comes after the impact of the pandemic on business as well as a massive decline in profit in recent years. In 2018, the chain made less than a quarter of what it did in 2017. It’s now left with just five venues, compared to 21 in 2002. But what’s the reality of working at this strangely legendary spot? We asked a waiter, who’s worked there for a whopping eight years, to reveal all.
‘Some people come to London for five nights, and come for five dinners here’
Everyone thinks Angus Steakhouse is just a place for tourists, but although we get a lot of international customers, we have loads of local Londoners who come back time and time again. There are people who will walk in and we know what they will have before they even order because they visit so often.
You can tell exactly where people are from based on what they order. Italians love to have a lot of food, there’s always bread on the table and they don’t care about the bill. A lot of South-East Asian tourists will order four or five main courses, and end up taking pictures the whole night. A thing that happens a lot is that they will start with a rocky road sundae and end with a steak, which is quite funny. The biggest tippers? Americans for sure. One table once tipped me £150. It is sad when people don’t tip you, especially in busy times when you’re just doing your best for the customers.
The English are one of the most stingy groups we get in terms of tipping and they love to complain too. When people complain it’s really frustrating. When people try to make you look stupid in front of your colleagues, you can take that personally.
People running away without paying is fairly common. It happens a lot in central London, and there are repeat offenders who do it in other restaurants. We can’t do a lot about it if they manage to leave the premises; all we can do is call the police and hope they deal with it, as the security of our staff comes first. Similarly, with alcohol, it can be a big problem with people getting too drunk and becoming aggressive or spoiling the experience for other diners. We have zero tolerance on it and will refuse to sell it to drunk people and will ask them to leave.
I think Angus Steakhouse has managed to endure when other chains have shut for various reasons. The central locations help, we [were] always very busy [in normal times]. But we go out of our way to create a good atmosphere. A big part of going out is being treated nicely and food comes second. Some people come to London for five nights, and come for five dinners here. Giving people a good experience makes it all worth it.
It’s an intense job. There are nights where we have ten birthday parties in at a time. It requires a lot of thinking on your feet, and we train for a month before we are allowed on the floor to serve customers. There’s a good sense of camaraderie among the staff: we are like family and there have been people who’ve gone on to marry and have kids through meeting working here.
One staff member recalls the highs and lows of working at the Ice Bar.
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