Service in Dubai: Excuse Me, May I Get A Little Less Attitude On This Table Please?


Bhoomika Ghaghada Society ,,,,,,,,,,,

Author’s Disclaimer: I am stickler for good customer service, offering a commentary on the stand-out exceptions in an otherwise well-served city, which all service providers [non-food-related too] can learn from. This article only discusses cafes and restaurants.

Having visited countless restaurants & cafes on the teeming streets of India, rainy sidewalks in London, and sunny districts in San Francisco, I’ve encountered service ranging from ‘I would come here, regardless of anything, for over-the-counter interaction’ to ‘You just ruined my entire evening.’

This city boasts hundreds of five-star chefs and critically-acclaimed restaurateurs, but when it comes to service in Dubai, the discussion becomes very specific. A survey conducted by Emirates 24/7 tells us that 49% of Residents tag customer service in the city as ‘bad’. That’s a high number, folks. This is bad news for firms economically too since it is speculated that firms lose millions in the UAE due to poor customer service, as reported by The National.

With thousands spent on interiors and kitchen staff, service providers need to shift their focus. Step it up; it here referring to training the service staff. It’s about walking into a restaurant and receiving unanimous, consistently good service, even if the staff changes. We’re not talking overly-enthusiastic smiles, but friendly basics. This prime factor in customer retention is often wrongly overlooked as minor – it can make or break a relationship.

Here is a compilation of some horrendous service encounters and how they could have been easily avoided through a bit of training:

Criticism: Don’t dish it out, take it

We strolled into the TCF on my birthday last year and had an unusually appalling exchange with the wait-staff. An international chain, that on all other occasions has provided commendable service, fell very short this time around.

Following a meal that did not meet our high expectations [we’re regulars], when asked how the meal was by the server, I mentioned it wasn’t up to the usual mark since we always order the same dishes. This evening, there was a definite lack of seasoning, I commented.

The server’s response?
“Maybe there’s something wrong with your taste buds today”

Training servers to take criticism and feedback in stride, rigorously showing them how to manage customer expectations, being flexible according to customer needs and teaching them to pacify an unsatisfied customer are indispensable must-dos for management. One encounter like the above and you’ve lost a dedicated regular.

Hello, my name is Sam, and I will not leave your table tonight

Recently, my family and I visited an Indian restaurant near Garhoud and came across the friendliest waiter we’ve ever met. Too friendly. Despite the mouthwatering food, great company and perfect-degree weather, the evening was a bust.

Now, I’m all ears for interesting stories, but if the waiter proceeds to hijack our intimate night out, standing by our table for the length of 30 minutes narrating his life story [with everyone at the table too astounded to say anything], then you need to get a hold on your staff. Instead of serving tables nearby that seemed to be vying for his attention, he rambled on.

30 minutes – that’s a quarter of our mealtime, all for a glowing ‘mention my name to the manager’ request at the end. I thought to myself: If you wanted a recommendation, you were just working against your goal.

Appropriate length of stay near the table, volume and quality of small talk, frequency of ‘Is everything alright?’ table visits should make lesson 1 of customer service reps training.

Our restaurant has unreasonable rules, and I have to comply – to ruin your day

A few weeks ago, my friend and I went to an international Chinese chain restaurant in a mall. After placing the order, my friend had to take a work call and came back to the table in about 7 minutes, by which time the food had already been served.

Now cold, we asked the server for our plate of beans to be re-heated. This simple request was met by the accusatory “It’s not our fault your friend wasn’t here for 10 minutes.” Apparently, a safety rule they abide by does not allow re-heating any dish.

Needless to say, I was utterly disappointed that they didn’t have a contingency in place, bringing in a new plate of beans, disposing off the one on our table after a very unpleasant argument with the staff [an entire plate wasted!].

Contingency plans, flexibility, preparation; even if you are providing service with a smile on your face, the rigidness of processes in your organization are stifling me.

These are only some of the wondrous encounters I’ve had where a few changes by management could ensure I was retained as a regular, contrary to what happened.

The biggest issue that needs to be addressed here is an open line for feedback and accountability upwards: servers fear negative feedback since they would receive a rap on the wrist instead of a pat on the back by management. The issues on-ground often don’t make their way up the command chain where authority to effect real change lies.

This needs to change – A comment card with a two-line slot that never makes it to the manager will eventually hurt your business, not help it.

Uninformed, inattentive, clueless servers, rude servers, can’t-take-feedback servers, lazy servers, slow servers, arrogant servers; I’ve seen the whole array and the bar for a friendly wait staff could really use some lifting in several outlets in Dubai.

I’ll leave you with this little note, managers & business owners: I will never remember the name of the server, but I will remember the name of your restaurant, so get your staff together and cover all your bases. We all know that word of mouth in Dubai persists, travels fast, and is highly influential – make it positive.

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Have you had a bad service experience in Dubai? Share yours in the comments below: