To listen is to serve
There is a very popular food joint near my last workplace. It has 3 different restaurants under the same roof. This review or blog post is all about how unique this place is both in terms of food and the experience. If you think I am going to write about the delicacies and ambiance, you really need to read on.
It was a bright sunny day and we were exhausted after the first few grueling morning hours at work. We decided to go for the buffet in one of the restaurants. Oh my, was it delicious?! I have lived in North India for 25 years and I can guarantee that the rotis, rajmas and the jal jeeras were perfect.
On another evening, we decided to sit in the 'cafe' in the same place. Turned out that they serve items from all restaurants irrespective of where you are seated. We ordered some chaats & coffee. The person taking the order looked confused and said that he will have to check. He came back saying that he wasn't sure of the item that we were asking. A little perplexed, we thought it must be a new person who is still getting trained.
The same person was confused almost exactly to the same extent every time we went in the next few months.
One day, my partner forgot one of his notebooks in the cafe. I called the front desk of the restaurant to check. They found it and assured that they will keep it at the reception for me to come & collect. A day or two later, I went to collect the notepad. What happened next took less than a minute. The manager took out the notebook, smiled at me and said "I used it already. So, here (tearing the first 2 pages) are the pages with your stuff and I will keep this as a gift from you."
I had the 2 pages in my hand, a look of shock on my face and had no idea how I to respond. I thought about it for a second. The pages were torn off and he had scribbled on the notepad. "Should I take it from him since it's mine? or should I at least let one person use it while it's still in one piece?" I did the latter. Some people thought that was the wrong decision but how often do people act like this? Eventually, I went and took it back from him since my partner couldn't deal with the fact that someone just kept stuff that belonged to him.
There were many more perplexing episodes where the owners of the place were supervising the experienced yet under-trained staff, and failing at it. However, this last episode is a story with an interesting climax.
I went with 2 other colleagues for lunch. In first person, here is the order that we placed.
Colleague 1 : Can I have a vegetarian penne pasta with pesto sauce?
Waiter : Sure ma'm!
Me : Can I have a Vegetarian Crepe?
Waiter : Would you like some spicy sauce in it?
Me : If it comes with spicy sauce, why not?
Colleague 2 : I would like some chicken pasta.
Waiter : How about some cream sauce in it sir?
Colleague 2: That would be interesting!
Waiter (summarizing the order) : So, it's all vegetarian & 3 drinks.
Before we could react, he walked away.
It was over 15 minutes and even the drinks weren't served yet. We hailed the waiter and when we asked him, he behaved as if he never took the order. In the next 5 minutes however, our drinks were served. After ten more minutes of waiting, the food finally arrived. Colleague 1's pasta was red in color and my crepe looked anything but spicy.
The red pesto pasta conversation :
C1: Dude! I asked for penne in pesto sauce
Waiter : Ma'm you said Arabbiata and that's tomato sauce.
C1 looked at me to check if she had placed the wrong order. After a 3 minute argument on what the original order was, the waiter took back the pasta. He didn't even bring the order slip to check. When I asked him where the spicy sauce in my crepe was, he seemed to not remember that either. After a 30 second pause, he said that it was inside the Crepe.
By now, colleague 2 was smiling at the waiter.
C2: Sir, I ordered Chicken Pasta.
Waiter : No sir, you ordered vegetarian cream pasta.
C2: Excuse me? Do you remember that you had suggested cream sauce on top of it?
Waiter (nodding in negative) : Not really sir!
We were zapped and instead of losing our temper, we started laughing. In the interest of time, Colleague-2 decided to have the vegetarian chicken pasta and I settled for the hidden spicy sauce in my Crepe.
The truth is that the food was lip-smacking! It tasted so good that we didn't want to spoil our moods further.
As we were leaving the place, we spoke to the i-wrote-on-your-notepad manager about our experience. This is what I told him "The food was delicious except that the chicken pasta was a 100% vegetarian, pesto sauce had tomatoes in it and the spicy sauce was totally hidden." Yes, I was sarcastic but to my utter surprise, the guy laughed before he realized he was supposed to look into the matter.
Product v/s Service
The various episodes haven't discouraged me from having food in this place. But why? I have heard so many people complain about their bad experience and how it drove them to give up on the product. Looks like, sometimes the product does supersede the service by an extraordinary margin. And that is when you ignore the copy and focus on the content. I mean, focus on the food and not the waiter!