A serving of good service

21 Aug 2019 / 11:03 H.


TAN SRI NOORUL AINUR, someone I knew during the course of my work, recently complimented the staff at a coffee chain in Ampang for a great breakfast she had together with her hubby.

I texted her to say that they were perhaps great customers, too.

We often forget that reciprocity is a great human value. I often feel for service staff who toil for hours to serve up pleasant memories and happy tummies almost all day long.

We should lighten their burdens by not being gruff, or think that they are some riff-raff. Respect is a two-way street.

At a recent conference on migrant workers, I learnt that we need not berate foreign workers if they do not understand the local language.

The onus is on employers to ensure their workers are adequately trained before throwing them into the deep end.

Talking about good service, a nasi kandar outlet near the MRT station at Kota Damansara really makes its customers feel at home. But I can’t say the same for its sister outlet in Ampang.

These two are branches of a famous Penang restaurant dating back to 1907. That flagship restaurant at Lebuh Campbell is always packed to the brim.

As I’ve said before, training is important because customers’ expectations are always high. And when that expectation is not met, it leaves a sour taste in their customers’ mouths.

Like what happened at a soya bean drink chain when a request was made for a certain item just minutes after it opened for business in Sri Hartamas.

The customer was told that the item was already sold out! Now that’s hardly possible!

Business owners must anticipate such situations. They need to teach their employees, who are foreigners in most cases, how to respond to customers’ requests, and not just give the easiest or standard reply.

Likely, the item was not yet ready, or on the way from the central kitchen, or not available for that day – certainly not sold out at the start of the business day!

Also, how well you handle your customers makes a great difference. Take my problematic bulky weight as a good case study.

Some waiters watch with trepidation whenever I pull a plastic chair to sit on. Now, not all plastic chairs are the same.

Some are flimsy and the experienced eye will know better (but not me) that they can’t take my 150kg frame.

One operator of a steamed fish outlet in PJ’s Section 17 takes the cake for his ability to put me at ease. He insisted that I sit on two plastic chairs instead of one!

He cited the slippery floor tiles of his restaurant as being the reason. But he was being diplomatic, really.

My bulk has gotten me into trouble with chairs twice before.

The first time was when I was dining al fresco at Penang’s Gurney Drive with some of my colleagues some time back.

One of the legs of the flimsy plastic chair I was sitting on suddenly gave way. I was so embarrassed. But my host, Mariati Ariff, put me at ease and made light of the incident.

After I scouted around for a stronger chair, we continued with our meal but with me sitting there with my face embarrassingly flushed!

As for the second incident, it happened in picturesque Langkawi with another colleague, Aniceta Ferns.

I was happily on my second glass of ice-cold duty-free beer when the foldable wooden chair gave way. And I fell on to the sandy beach!

The red-faced owner came running towards me when he heard the commotion. He said the chairs were new and that shouldn’t have happened.

I told him: “I’m sorry, I think I was the problem.”

But he wouldn’t hear any of it and apologised profusely. In the end, he gave a huge discount on our bill!

Now you know whom to contact when you want to have meal discounts due to wobbly chairs, right?

Jeff Yong, after making his mark in the twisty maze of mainstream journalism, has finally decided to enjoy what he does best – observing the unusual and recounting the gleeful. He can be contacted at

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