Thursday, February 24, 2011

I want my spaghetti and meatballs hot and fast.

Not too long ago, my uncle Butch and aunt Carole from South Pasadena came over for their annual homecoming visit to the Philippines. In a break from tradition, they took their children (my cousins) along for the ride as well. When Mabie and I had the opportunity to take them out to dinner in Greenbelt, we were pretty undecided as to where specifically we should be dining in. My cousin Czasha spotted the nearby Italianni's and we thought maybe that was a good option. It had also been a while since I had eaten at Italianni's myself.

How wrong we were.

The dinner started out in the usual manner, with a lady taking our orders at 8pm, as other patrons came in and sat down after our party of six did. Noticeable was her lack of a notepad. Instead, she was reciting our orders off the top of her head, as if to impress us. In the back of our minds Mabie and I smelled a potential point of failure, but kept our silence out of respect. When she went back, we had plenty of time to entertain our guests.

As the night went by and the hands of the clock passed the 9:20pm mark however, we began to notice that we had too much time on our hands to entertain our obviously hungry guests, still with no prospect of dinner arriving on our table.

We must have followed up our orders at least three times. Failure point number two: Noticeable too was how the waiters and waitresses kept their heads down, as if to ignore us. I have to wonder: How is it possible to ignore a seated party of six, when the other outside tables don't number more than three patrons each?

Even worse, remember the other patrons that got their tables after we did? Despite having ordered later than our party, they got their food first!

When our food finally came to our tables, disappointingly it no longer had much of its appetizing heat. Something had obviously gone wrong within the magical process of getting our orders, processing them and getting them to us. Now, I love Italian, and Italianni's food isn't bad, nor is it especially mind-blowing, but the lousy customer experience we had basically tarnished the whole evening more than any particular fault the food may have had.

Fried Calamari

Shrimp and Mushroom Linguine

Spinach and Artichoke Formaggio
Uncle Butch was being generous; he thought maybe it was a bad night for them and we just got the short end of the stick this time. This occurrence is not without its consequences, though. My other cousin JB will bring home memories about Italianni's being a byword for bad service when he goes back to South Pasadena. He was wondering why the service crew acted like they were on holiday - or being more generous, if it was the first night on the job for all of them.

Bistro Group of Restaurants, I offer you a tiny slice of my brain.
  1. Let's not try to reinvent the wheel here, just for the sake of impressing our clientele. Human short-term memory is infamous for failure - this is why it's customary for waiters to carry notepads. It's expected, it's efficient, and it just works. Why would you fool around with a formula that works?
  2. Be attentive to your clientele. Sometimes all this entails is checking the entire area if you have any clientele to serve, and checking up on the status of their orders (here's a hint: computers are not enough). Make them your priority - it is your obligation as service crew to do so.
  3. To finish this post off, I offer you a quote I picked up from my days as a marketing management student, taking up service marketing: "If a customer gets good service, he/she is usually quiet, or will tell one person. If a customer gets bad service, he/she will tell ten people."
Food for thought. We may have kept quiet and not escalated this matter to a manager, but we will protest by taking our pesos and dining elsewhere.

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