Saturday, March 26, 2011

Carluccio's Kuwait: Bad Service = Lost Opportunity

Yesterday afternoon my wife & I decided to enjoy our Friday at The Avenues Mall-like the majority of the population (the other place being 360-Degrees Mall) and had our taste buds programmed to tune of the simple-yet-effective Le Relais de l'Entrecote, especially since the weather was so nice (before the Dust storm from hell!). 
So we headed over to it's location on the second floor, found a short line and politely noted down our name & contact number. The man at the entrance informed us that it would be around a 10-minute wait, so we decided to check out the Deer & Dear store nearby. After around 15 minutes, without a call, we decided to inquire with the man at the door about our table. The moment he saw us, he said, "Oh yes, I've been looking for you!", to which my reply was, "I thought that's why you took my number!", but he pretended not to notice, as if my words were lost in the hum and chatter of the ambiance-it was a nice day, so I let that miscalculation on his part slip!

We were seated next to the windows, overlooking the grand rooftops of Al Rai's  industrial warehouses and street-view showrooms. But it was a nice, sunny day, so we didn't mind the view; as long as we didn't look down, we were OK. 

Long story short; We were seated by 3:25 PM, and our order was taken by 3:30 PM, we were that hungry! It consisted of a bread basket, two appetizers and two main courses, with a bottle of still water to share. By 3:45 PM the only thing on our table was the bottle of water, so I asked our waiter to speed up our order, quite politely, and joyfully, in the hopes of maybe shaming him into fixing us up with our order. Five minutes later, we spoke to another waiter, who spoke to another waiter who disappeared completely. 

During the course of the 30 minute waiting period, little kids were playing "Hide & Seek" between the tables & chairs, loudly! I tried to pass the time by reminiscing about our experiences with Carluccio's in London, specifically the one in Market Place, off Oxford Street, and the one at Canary Wharf. I admit, the pasta dishes and appetizers we had at those two places were all very good, and I was actually looking forward to see whether they'd measure up in Kuwait as well. 

All the time, dishes were speedily making their way to tables all around us, with not even the bread basket I'd ordered on ours! On top of that, my wife told me that the man & woman that were seated behind me had just left their table, (not Kuwaitis) and that while seated, the man had been consuming his Pasta dish using his bare hands!

It was around this time that I'd heard a loud angry noise coming from a table a short distance behind me. Apparently, a family that had placed their order much earlier than we did were complaining to the waiter that their order hadn't arrived yet.

The restaurant wasn't very crowded, and there were lots and lots of waiters jostling around, picking up empty plates and delivering full ones and so on, The juice bar alone hat two waiters to prepare the drinks! There was simply nothing at all that would justify making us wait for 30 minutes, nothing at all!

That's when we decided that enough was enough!

I called up the nearest waiter I could find, asked her how much the bottle of water costs, (950 fils, or $3.42, or 2.25 Pounds Sterling), paid it, and left without saying a word. On my way out, the genius superstar-customer-service-man-at-the-door asked me what the problem was. I told him, "Your customer service is very bad and I don't want to dine here anymore". He responded by assuring me that my order was, in fact, ready, and glancing towards the kitchen area helplessly, as if he was half-expecting our order to be standing there behind the counter, waving it's hands in the air, crying "I'm here! I'm here!" 

I responded that it was too late for that (I was being a bit of a snob, I know, but come on, 30 minutes?!), and that I may return if their service improved in the future. All he said was, "OK, sir, OK", and waved us off.

I stop here, and ask this question; If you had just started operating a famous restaurant chain that was very proud of it's reputation, and your service level was so bad that your customers had literally walked out on you after they had placed their orders, wouldn't you, at least, call them up later and do something that would entice them to return? 

Like apologize?! 

I would, even if I'd owned a shawarma stand in Jleeb Al Shyookh!

Eventually, we walked towards the l'Entrecote, (long walk, especially on an empty stomach!) and were happily munching away at our salads 5 minutes after we were seated! The weather was nice, the steaks were delicious, the salad was very flavorful, and all was well, On top of all that, the waitresses were all around us like flies, whether we wanted them or not, they were always an eye's glance away. 

Now, I'm not a star blogger, and I'm not making waves by locking horns with a global conglomerate, and my followers are a numerous as the population of Ants in the Arctic circle, but this is the best way for me to vent my frustrations, and hopefully enlighten some people with a small piece of wisdom; A Brand name means nothing if  you can't satisfy your customers! Carluccio's of Kuwait lost two new customers to l'Entrecote yesterday simply because their table was as empty as they'd found it, 30 minutes after they'd been seated!

Some Contrast: Al Batreeq delivers your order to your car within 10 minutes (or less) of you paying the waiter, and that's just a local fast-food joint!

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