Learning from Others’Mistakes: Circumventing the “Customer is King”?

I recently went to a restaurant a few days ago for lunch. A self-claimed trendy place, right in the pounding heart of Hamra district, which for those who don’t know, is an area filled with strips of shops and restaurants, perhaps a cross between the bar district and downtown – the next best thing for some.Seen from outside, the place gave a rather ‘bistro’ impression. However, once we had stepped in, we were surprised to see the place had a somewhat elaborate design. It was also quite spacey. The staff was altogether very smiley and courteous.The menu offered nothing special and now that I think of it, it screamed “We’ve spent a lot on design so pay up”. We both went for goat cheese salad. Unfortunately, when the food finally came, to our greatest disappointment, two dishes with each two handfuls of curled lettuce, and three little patés of goat cheese with half a cherry tomato stuffed into each were placed in front of us. My friend and I instantly glanced at each other. It was pure mockery. It takes little to make a goat cheese salad – not to mention warm goat cheese – and even this was not it. My friend asked if she could ask for alterations, and I answered that I didn’t mind. Short on time, I had already started eating.My friend called up a gentleman who seemed like the manager and politely told him that when she ordered a salad, she expected at least little more than raw lettuce, then she asked him if he could enhance it with at least some other vegetables and more vinaigrette – something that would actually make it a salad.Now, what caught my attention is the reaction of the man who gave a very risky response. It was something to the effect of:“Every restaurant has their specialty. In our menu, the goat cheese salad is described as goat cheese with a tossed light salad and vinaigrette. If you’d like, however, I can take it back to the kitchen and add whatever you would like to it. I’m sorry this was not what you expected.”Even though he immediately took the salad and brought it back significantly more substancial, the word “specialty” echoed – among others – in my head. Is goat cheese salad your specialty? That is highly unlikely. Then why try and tell your customer: “This is how WE do it around here, ok”? Why repeat it when you actually brought back the salad, too?Here’s the thing, you can go artsy and fusion – as that seems to be the current fascination around town – with dishes, but to some extent, they are what they are because of the way they are served. If you bring me a burger with 2 grams of shrapnels of bread and a rubber ducky, you know you’re seeing this one back in the kitchen.When it comes to restaurants, I get really discouraged when the place seems to be trying too hard to be hip. You have to earn hip, you have to earn trendy. And you have to earn your value and all those words in your brand identity. It doesn’t come from beautiful design, spacious multiple areas to accomodate different profiles of customers. Value comes from the experience you give your customers, and what we left with that day was that this restaurant really wanted their specialty to be a random item on their menu, and that they were sticking to it. Truly, it’s not the only the design or the service that we will be thinking about when deciding where to dine.

Goat Cheese Salad?


Apple Crumble

Apple crumble was alright though :)


  1. Danielle says:

    Let me guess..was this Cello? lol.. I don’t know about you..but it seems that most of my dining experiences have been below par recently..so much so that I’ve started to cook so much more! I hate paying good money to be disappointed!BTW..come to the tweetup at India next week! Would love to meet you in person: http://twtvite.com/IndianatIndia

    1. Haha, you are fantastic! Well, unfortunately, yes, it was.And I agree, so much that sometimes trying a new place sometimes feels like a real exercise of patience. But on the bright side, at least we learn stuff while cooking ;) Will do my best for India, yum.