How to Buss a Business (Trini Style): Part III

Although the prices of basic food items continue to rise, I always seem to end up spending no small portion of my monthly salary at local (fast) food restaurants / cafes (we all need the occasional respite from Ma’s sweet hand). Financial irresponsibility aside (shame on me for not heeding Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams’ urgent call to save), I still expect value for money when I patronise those establishments.

The notion of “value for money,” as we all know, is a very subjective thing. But in my mind, when it comes to food outlets, it generally refers to:

  • order fulfillment (the outlet actually has in stock what you want)
  • the customer service experience (the cashiers and wait-staff are prompt, courteous and accurate when it comes to taking and delivering your order)
  • the quality of product (your order looks, smells and tastes like you would expect)
  • the ambiance of the outlet (clean, adequate lighting and signage, acceptable noise levels, alert security etc.)

Two experiences in the past few months however really had me thinking about those aspects.

1) I am a tea drinker (just plain old Lipton or Red Rose if you please), but sometimes I do need a shot of caffeine and a cold one at that. Habituals Cafe has a mocha chiller offering that really hits the spot and when paired with a freshly pressed panini… Yummy.

Yet that cold/hot combo is not worth the aggravation that I have encountered at a certain mall location in the West.

One evening after work, Mosquito and I decided to visit the aforementioned location. Two staff members could be seen behind the counter. One cashing and another cleaning off the grill. A guy who was not wearing the Habituals uniform was also behind the counter placing doughnuts etc. in the display case.

Mosquito and I were third in line. It took us 8-10 minutes to get to the front of the line to place our order (time includes the negotiation over what kinds of bagels were in stock because (as usual) they were out of something and had no appropriate signage to indicate that).

The crowd at Habituals increased with the arrival of several more customers (a family of five included). The workers behind the counter became noticeably frazzled and were heard announcing intermittently “We are short-staffed. Please bear with us.”

It took 10+ minutes for us to receive our beverages and a further 10+ minutes (and lots of attempts at making eye contact with the counter staff) for one of our sandwiches to be prepared. The sandwich in question was given over to me by the “Doughnut Guy” who, when asked which of the sandwiches he was handing over, said to me very bluntly and not very pleasantly “I doh work here. I jus’ helping dem out.” The sandwich received was missing some of the requested toppings. It took further 5 minutes for the other sandwich to appear. But by then I had lost my appetite. Poor service often does that to me.

The two person staff configuration that I have encountered at a number of Habituals locations just does not seem to be working. One staff member cannot just manage the cash register while another prepares drinks AND sandwiches. Sooner or later the demands of multiple orders per customer result in the cashier abandoning his/her post to help the other. Inefficiency prevails.

I have written about Habituals’ service in the past, but in this day and age when I need my dollar to really be worth something, I am breaking that valueless habit.

2) Habituals and a certain French-styled patisserie/bistro (that does a bustling brunch trade) have been paired up at certain locations. It was only a matter of time before the service issues experienced by its co-tenant would extend its way. Several weeks ago a friend and I visited another West location and decided to sample some of the cheese-cakes displayed. Hunger and limited selections made the decision-making process a quick one. As the pleasant counter staff boxed up our orders, something that had previously gone unnoticed in the display case caught my eye. It was a tea plate containing mouldy cheese-cake, covered in plastic wrap. Good customer that I am, I decided to mention it to one of the servers.

French-style or not, I am sure that cheese-cake is not made of the kind of cheese that gets better with age and mould.

Me: “You know that there is a piece of cheese-cake, with mould on it, in your display case?”

Server: “Yes. That is why it is to the back of the display case.” (Said with a “Duh” tone.)

(No attempt to remove the offending item. Do I have to give a basic bio lesson here about mould and spores?! How about a lesson in appetising food styling, display and presentation?!)

Me: “You know that there is a piece of cheese-cake, with mould on it, in your display case?” (Again for emphasis.)

(Offending item removed.)

Now my friend and I did not cancel our cheesecake orders. In fact, the cheese-cakes tasted darn good. But I will surely think twice about buying anything from there that has not been prepared before my eyes. Fresh ingredients are one of the fundamentals of la vie francaise, n’est-ce pas?

And so, my quest for a superior customer service / value for money experience continues…


~ by mangoandmosquitoblog on May 12, 2008.

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