Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good food not enough

I had two wonderful meals over the long National Day holiday weekend but one left a better impression over the other because of its superior service.

Saturday night saw six of us dining at Shin Yeh, the Taiwanese restaurant at Liang Court. It was my second visit so I knew that I could expect good food.

However, its service was a different matter altogether. One reason could be the standard of our spoken Chinese as it was just not good enough to make ourselves understood.

As we struggled to communicate and got more frustrated with every minute, we ended up speaking a mixture of English, fractured Mandarin and eventually Hokkien.

But what was most disappointing was the service or the lack of it. The restaurant was packed and it was obvious that the number of service staff was insufficient to see to its customers' needs.

Also, the ones who served us were obviously not properly trained. For example, our first dish was brought out without the accompanying condiments and we had to remind them more than once to do it.

When we ordered a bottle of Chilean wine, the waiter was not aware that it was no longer available. So, after being told, we had to choose an Italian red instead.

Then after the wine glasses were placed on our table and the bottle opened, it took like eternity before the wine was served. I don't think they were keeping it back to allow the wine to breath first :)

In contrast, my experience at the Chang Korean BBQ Restaurant in Dempsey on Sunday was a more pleasant one, even though we had to wait awhile before we got our table.

The Filipino serving staff were definitely a cut above the ones at Shin Yeh. Apart from their English language ability, they were more helpful and better organised.

We were particularly impressed with a waiter called Jet. He took the trouble to barbeque the meats and to explain to us what we were having.
Basically, he knew how to take care of the little things that would help to make eating out an enjoyable experience.

He even had time to engage in small talk, telling us that he needed to work as he had to help pay for his sister's education.

These two experiences have reinforced my belief that good food by itself is not sufficient for any restaurant to entice its customers back for more.


  1. Hiya PY :) Happy National Day to you and yes, I agreed that sometimes it is the little details & gesture that won us over rather than food.

    Food is good but service & attitude sucks, I don't think I would like to dine there too.

  2. Some people say that Singaporeans don't have service DNA. I wonder if the very same people extend that to service staff in the PRC and elsewhere?

    If so then they need to look more carefully before they make such an excuse - you can find excellent service in the PRC and every where else in the world, including Singapore.

    You just have to know where to look - or be lucky - in SIN.

    My friend Gordon says that the American Club in SIN was outstanding when Josey (I think that was her name) was running it. But it's standards have slipped.

    I agree.

    Service is not a matter of DNA, it is a state of mind.

    One can learn to serve without being servile or a slave. One can teach service and follow up by observing and then coaching.

    My opinion is the mindset in SIN management is wrong - maybe we need to send the CEOs, COOs and other top execs for re-wiring.

    If only it were as easy as changing a couple of chips (swopping the ones on their shoulders for ones that will light up in their heads).

    Here we use words like 'grab' and 'take' and promote kiasu-ism. ('-ism' is something else I find we use too much as in 'volunteerism').

    It's time we opened the windows of our minds and let in some fresh air and ideas.

    If there's been success training service personnel in the PRC, then it's only us holding ourselves back in SIN with our excuses and our attitudes.

    Or is it all very complex and involves the psyche and the examples we have been set? Hmmmm.......