The Queen of the Empire (Hotel)

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I almost wanted to title this post “the tale of two Queens(towns)” to contrast the service you get in Tasmania compared to what you get in New Zealand, but experience shows that blog posts with weird titles get very few reads and I’m nothing if not pragmatic.

Which probably means I’m nothing.

Anyway, as you’ll know from my previous post, I went over to Queenstown for the weekend, and like you do before a trip with people you haven’t met, we all headed down to the local pub for a meal, a drink and a chance to get to know each other.

Which is where we encountered B (We’ll just call her ‘B’).

B runs the bar in the Empire Hotel.

B is scary.

B is very, very scary.

Seriously, I’m not afraid of many things (except the dark, zombies and society in general), but I still wonder if I will ever be able to summon the courage to go back to the Empire Hotel again (despite the wonderful food).

Now before I started this post, I did actually jump over onto tripadvisor to see if I had just got B on a bad night (well two bad nights), but no … here’s some comments from the reviews on the front page …

“The bar waitress was more interested in the upper bar and the young men in there instead of acknowledging my husband and I. Very disappointing … Will defiantly come back for the food but the bar service is a deal breaker for me.”


“The service at the bars was terrible. Blunt, rude, a “whatya want!?” Attitude. The second night we were trying to order drinks in the main bar. The bar attendant was too busy chatting up some locals as we waited…and waited….my husband got his wallet out and held it on the counter to indicate that we intended on spending money…waited…then another two local men came in, walked up to the bar, and got served instantly! Before us! And she had to walk past us to get to them. Oh dear.”

I suspect these people also encountered the ‘B’.

Now, I need to be fair and say that most of the staff in the hotel were fabulously wonderful and friendly (and other reviews show that) and the food is really good pub food, but B is a deal breaker.

Now my problem started when I was sitting at the table chatting to Roy and I noticed one of the local Queenstown guys coming back from the bar with a table number in his hand and so I thought “Oh, we’re ordering meals … I better head to the bar and order mine.

So, I stepped up to the bar and was greeted with a glare and a “ARE YOU SITTING AT THAT TABLE, THAT THOSE OTHER TWO GUYS HAVE JUST ORDERED FROM?

“Yes”, I replied, thinking I was being helpful and she just wanted to put my order on the same number as theirs.


I’m capitalising this because she was almost shouting at me at this point and I was feeling like a misbehaving school child being told off by his teacher, not someone who was standing at a bar about to hand over $50 for a meal and some drinks.

So I didn’t really know where to go with a response at this point.

Now, to be fair to her, she’s right, it would obviously make more sense for the table to have ordered together so the chef can prepare the meals in sequence, however it was hardly a warm welcoming for a table of 10 people who had walked in and who would  (with meals, drinks etc.) probably spend several hundred dollars in the next two hours …

An alternative approach B could have taken … (smile)  “No problems, but just so we can get all of your meals out together, do you know if there is anyone else at your table who hasn’t ordered“.

But not B, she angrily took my order letting me know through her body language just how terrible I was to inconvenience them so much, and then she followed me back to the table, and in a voice they could have been heard back in Hobart yelled “IS THERE ANYONE ELSE AT THIS TABLE THAT HASN’T ORDERED?”.

And that was my introduction to The Empire Hotel.

There are three things that make this hilarious  (now that I’m safely back in Hobart):

1. Right next to the cash register is an A4 poster which reads something like:

Service is out business …  If we don’t provide good Service we don’t have a business” 

And then goes on to explain what good, friendly service is all about (seriously check it out next time you’re in there as I’m not making this up).

If I had a little more confidence that B wouldn’t have sprouted vampire teeth, leapt over the bar and killed me, I may have made a joking reference to that sign.

But I was pretty sure that she would have sprouted vampire teeth, so I just stood there and looked contrite and meek (and hopefully unappetising to a vampire).

2. A few minutes after I sat back down at the table, B appeared (I swear she just appeared) behind me and placed the money I’d paid for my entree on the table saying “We’re out of bread, but lots of other people at this table have ordered bread so you should be able to get some of theirs” and then she walked away (but at least she didn’t shout this time or just disappear).  Yep, service is our business, and thanks for reading my mind as I’m sure I wouldn’t have wanted to order another entree.

3. And this is the one I love the most …  despite our terror, we “out of towners” enjoyed the food so much on the Friday night that we decided to head back on Saturday and have another meal.

This time we didn’t make the mistake of ordering separately.  Nope, we all walked up to the bar together ready to order and there was B standing … waiting for us.

Before we could even get out “We’d like to order a meal …” she cut in with “How many of you are there?“.

Six“, I replied (why I was doing the talking, I do not know).

And I kid you not, in a near empty restaurant this was her reply …

You have to book if there are more than five of you and you want a meal …

The Empire Hotel … Service is our business.

Postscript:  We did get our meals (and they were very nice again with the serving staff were again exceptional) but I did actually think for a moment that we may need to sit at two separate tables if we wanted to get our meal.

The Empire Hotel – Where you do not want to upset the Queen Bee.


  1. Dear John,
    On behalf of the owners of the Empire Hotel, I wish to sincerely and emphatically apologise for your less than positive experience and assure you that we are taking steps to urgently review our customer service standards and delivery. I assure anyone reading this blog, that we will be investigating the circumstances and will be thorough in dealing with this matter. We hope next time you are in Queenstown John, we can make personal restitution to you. The management team at the Empire Hotel take on board your feedback and are obviously extremely disappointed that all their hard work in delivering a positive food experience is totally eclipsed by unacceptable service. Again, our sincerest apologies. Margaret Burt (Business Manager) – Thirdplace Hospitality (

  2. Hi John / Margaret,
    I just wanted to let you know that John is definitely not alone in experiencing this type of service.
    I have frequented both the Empire many times when I have happened to be in Queenstown for either work or recreation, and have had multiple bad service experiences from the person in question.
    My most recent visit was earlier this week and whilst there had been a slight improvement in customer service from 'B' it was definitely no where near the level you should be aiming for after reviews like these.
    Surely Queenstown needs all the visitors and associated business it can get at the moment.

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