Showing posts with label dining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dining. Show all posts

Friday, May 1, 2020

Lockdown Blues!

It’s day 39 of an Official Nationwide lockdown ever since we shut ourselves at home on Tuesday 24 March on Ugadi Day!

The best thing that has happened to most of us is that we spent the last month and a half entirely at our own homes, with our immediate loved ones although many were away from their families.

There’s no bigger joy and happiness that I have had in my entire life that I could spend so many days continuously with my kids and wife. These golden days will be cherished all my life.

I haven’t seen my Sister and Mother for all these days which makes me very sad. Not the longest, since I’ve lived away from them for over 25 years. But this one is rare coz she lives two streets away and I haven’t walked that far.

Though many of us perform household work regularly at home, the lockdown meant No Maids, so we did additional work. Whenever I washed vessels, I felt bad for my elderly maid who washes vessels without a grin. Always. And the mopstick is oh-so bad to handle.


Friends - missed their company the most for I haven’t seen a few for long. Makes me realise how much more important they’re to me. Thanks for being there for me over phone calls!

I ran out of 2 months’ stock of After Shave Lotions so ended up using Savlon. They both do the same job, similar chemicals. But our minds are conditioned to use branded ones than generic ones. Sigh.

We lost choice of many other day today utilities. We used / use what we get. We’ll get used to this.


No outside food. No shopping, visitation to Malls and Cinemas. No hospital / Doc visits. Our body consumed only home cooked food. Bizarre that we could actually survive this.

My Credit Card Bill (mostly official, a bit of household) was the lowest in about 14 years - only FOUR figure bill. Unbelievable. ICICI must be in a state of shock. Also, lost out majorly on my Payback Points.

No new movie releases for 6 weeks, no FDFS. Life moves on. Awaiting OTT releases and FDFS in May 2020.

I never imagined all my life that sales professionals like me can ever work from home. This has been a reckoning of sorts on how we are conditioned to think, act and behave repeatedly on the professional front.


Missed human interactions all along, ironically. Shows why humans are social animals and need socialising. Am quite sure that this too shall also pass and we will come to terms to the new world order, soon.

Indian PM and Tamil Nadu CM have led the Country and the State impeccably all along. Not fair to compare how other countries fared, especially the usual suspects of USA, China, Japan, France & Germany. But our men in Kurta and Veshti have rocked.

We clapped hands on a balcony, lit lamps in the night in solidarity without expecting any miracle. They said, We did. Some didn’t. Many mocked the idea. So be it.


Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor passed away. Many felt bad for them personally. So much of noise on social media for the departed souls. Rishi’s daughter saw the cremation on a Video call. Like how Indian migrant labourers working in Middle East, Africa and South East Asia see the last rites of their departed ones. Just that mostly they don’t have a choice to fly back.

But the same ones who mourned Irrfan and Rishi didn’t condemn on their FB Walls when Dr. Simon’s last rites were disallowed in his preferred Cemetery at Kilpauk, Chennai. The vehicle was vandalised and destroyed with the corpse in it by members of the same community whom he loving served all along. Two men dug the grave for a Doc who saved so many lives all his life.

Priorities. Ignorance. Impatience. Human race, I say.

As always, Bollywood (and Hollywood) comes first. Our own local heroes - Nope.


Of the two drivers who took a corpse to Mizoram in an ambulance from Chennai driving for three straight days, one has tested positive yesterday. Mizo Minister rewarded him ₹2,000 for the trip. No, we will not celebrate this Driver as he was not the original Romantic Hero or a Really emotive actor. Just another labour fellow and driving an Ambulance is his job, after all. Not sure, if he was singing “Hum tum, ek kamre mein bandh ho” along with his co-driver. Very very sad.

Economic Stimulus - Instead of catchups at Cafes and benches at Tea Shops, social media is abuzz on this. From Raghuram Rajan to Raghu Thatha, everyone is advising, Xi, Trump, Modi and Merkel. Nice to see the world has 5 billion Economists. Wow. I should have taken my Class XI and XII Economics Lectures more seriously.

Some people want to urgently open shops, malls, cinemas and salons. But I wonder if Customers are willing to walk outside.

E-Commerce is here to stay. Dot. As I always say, E-Commerce is not a new business, rather it’s just a new channel of distribution.

Lastly, Hyperlocal ECommerce is the way forward. My startup Oyethere did this 5 years back. Potential Investors scoffed and mocked at me then. Today, they are cribbing that Dunzo doesn’t deliver at their Pin code at Bangalore, Bombay or Delhi. The Chennai Investor Mamas still believe it’s best to walk up to the neighbor hood shops than invest on Hyperlocal StartUps. Sigh.


Lastly, I haven’t been to a Temple Precint - longest ever in my life. Missing this aspect the most.

Do share this article if you feel this perspective interests you.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Waiter, Please Wait.

You walk in to a restaurant and search for a place to get seated yourself. While you are still contemplating to wash your hands (yes, few of us still do) before eating, the Waiter or the Captain ask you for your Order (A Waiter manages usually 3 tables and a Captain manages 3 Waiters). The Waiter narrates the standard Menu, usually the top selling ones and at times the slowest selling ones as advised by the Kitchen King. You ask for the Menu and the Waiter sulks. You see that he Menu has atleast 200 items and start discussing with the Waiter asking for details about a few interesting names. The sulking and discomfort of the Waiter increases with an indifferent attitude as well and you decide to order something. If you are a bigger group, say 4 plus, things get a bit complicated.


Assuming you order a quick snack, even before you start digging on it, the Waiter again prods you for the next item order. And this repeats till you ask for the Bill. Worse still, the bill arrives even as you are about to start eating the last item you’ve ordered. The Waiter stands till you pay up and if it’s a plastic card you plan to pay, then he gets even more moody for the tip amount then is suspicious. Only till you have left a decent tip on the folder which usually looks dirtiest and appears to be a charity by some Bank, the Waiter leaves you in freedom to enjoy your meal. His sulking continues if he’s unhappy with the tip. And you feel miserable.

Does this sound familiar? Has it happened to you or someone you know?


This is the state of affairs at most restaurants in India, especially in South India where I spend most of my time. When the above scenario occurs, I tell the Waiters and Captains that that they are running a restaurant, especially a dine-in where patience is key. I try to explain one waiter at a time, one hotel at a time, the difference between fast-food and dine-in. Most fast-food joints in India have a pay-up/self-service model where the Guest first pays for the food and drink and then settles down at a table, standing or sitting. While in a dine-in restaurant, you expect someone to actually come to you and serve you. I take the effort to educate the Waiters the difference between the two and that the Guest has preferred their outlet over others. Some get the drift, some pass me on as a complaining customer.

The above has happened to me so many restaurants including some marquee names. Sadly, the fault is not of the Waiter, rather it is the of the Management, which hardly takes the effort and time to train the staff on etiquette and behavior. Most restaurants have this ego that he Guests are flocking to their outlets only for the food they provide. And believe the food taste, quality and price will compensate for any otherwise unacceptable behavior. There are a few at least in Chennai who provide special prices or “Combos” during popular hours and the Waiters believe they are doing charity for Guests who are short on budgets or cash.


In my last 21 years, I have said this every day to my staff – “Remember, our families are able to eat three meals a day because the Customers decided us over the others in the Market. Be grateful for that and treat them as Guests and not as paying machines”. Sadly, somewhere Business owners lack empathy and this drizzles down to the lowest guy in the rank. With his or her educational and cultural background, I do not expect the Waiters to pick up patience and empathy all by themselves. But how many company Chiefs actually walk the floor every day and see what the Guest is going through? At least, I have seen very few of them.



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Highway Dining & Holiday rush!


I was among the lakhs of people who left our homes last Saturday as the long Christmas weekend and Christmas holidays began. Reports from all over the country in major cities mentioned long traffic snarls at the Toll booths located just outside the city. At Chengelpet Toll booth which is about 70 kms from where I live in Chennai, the queue of vehicles was for almost a kilometer with over 300 vehicles standing to pass through. We managed to cross in about 20 mins but that was just the start. For the next 100 kms all the way up to Villupuram, I was driving at an average speed of 70 kmph. Perhaps the slowest I have ever driven on this highway that I traverse once a month, at least.


Almost every notable restaurant on the way was filled to the brim with vehicles and people who were piling up like there was some major catastrophe coming up in Chennai. Almost all of us, like really, thought leaving before 6 am would help. Alas. Just that too many of us thought the same thing and ended up crowding toll booths, roads and restaurants. When I finally managed to stop at 9am for breakfast, there were about 70 vehicles and at least 200 people in the restaurant where we ended up. We were informed 30 mins waiting time to get a table. So, I preferred to walk up to the adjacent restaurant which is self-service, hoping things would be faster. When I finished breakfast with family, it took us almost the same time as it would have at the other restaurant. Murphy’s Law. We left after an hour plus break and drove for 3 hours and ended up at India’s top Restaurant Chain for South Indian food and glee, things were not better. This place was even more crowded than we had anticipated. Table service again and it took almost an hour plus for us to finish the grub and leave.


I asked Murugan (name changed), a waiter at the restaurant whether they expected such large turnouts and he replied in the negative. Yelling customers were a norm at most of these places who perhaps didn’t realise that some of the staff haven’t even had their breakfast, forget their lunch. As a Retail guy for 20 years, I truly empathized for the staff but I could do nothing more than wait patiently. Kamala (name changed) was frying fresh Vadas at the restaurant where we had breakfast in the morning and she said she’s been at it since 5.30am. Felt bad for the thankless staff members who ensured we, the customers got out food on time, fresh and tasty.

What could have been done differently was a bit of planning. Here’s my short list;

  • ·      Make a simpler, lighter menu. Keep just the basics available so customers don’t have to think too hard to order, and at the same time, the kitchen staff are quick to prepare the stuff ready. Items like Idli and Vada, French Fies, Samosas and so on must be prepared almost continuously so it acts as a filler when patrons order
  • ·      Add more temporary tables and chairs, plastic ones or metal or whatever. Most customers wouldn’t really care the quality of your furniture when their main motive is to rush out of the restaurants
  • ·      At one restaurant where they profess self-service, I saw that the staff were adding accompaniments like chutney and sambhar to each plate along with the main dish. I suggest this could just be done away with. Focus on the main dish and leave the add-ons to the guests. Keep the chutney and sambhar on the tables and let the customers take as much as they want. Yes, there would be a bit of wastage but we all save time together. Also, avoid four varieties of chutneys, no one just cares, just one would do. Ensure you give less choice to guests but what just matters.
  • ·      Hire local boys and girls temporarily to clean the tables & toilets faster. Use good quality cleaning liquids so the tables don’t stink for the next guest. Toilets must be spic and span. Efficiency and speed are the key.
  • ·      Restaurants with larger spaces and staff can perhaps have someone to usher or a sort of token system or tables assigned against request. This would ensure guests don’t pile up at each table and keep staring at those dining, instead wait patiently till their table is ready.
  • ·      Kids – the biggest challenge to be addressed. Keep them engaged. Have a magician or a story teller or folk art. Nothing free to be offered but something to keep them engaged. Have some crayons and paint books at bay, so the kids can keep coloring and be a bit more engaged. Tried and tested is a large Tv screen with cartoon channels. Be sure the kids would be glued in. But ensure there is no remote around, so there is no flipping of channels and fighting amongst young ones.
  • ·      Men – keep them engaged as well. Set-up boys who can wash the windscreens and bumpers. A good driver always likes his Car clean. Well, almost. A tie-up with local shops to sell additives, car cleaning fluids etc. will ensure the boys and men spend more time there than waiting impatiently at the tables.
  • ·      Ensure your staff are taken care well. Meet each one of them personally and ask if they had breakfast, coffee or tea, lunch, snacks and dinner. And their medicines, if any for some may be diabetic or have other ailments. Show empathy, they need it now more than ever. They are, after all your Brand Ambassadors. Shower them love and they will pass it on to the Guests. Ignore them and that’s what the customers will get as well.
  • ·      At the end of the weekend, if your cash registers ring more than usual, send them home with small gestures such as gift packs of sweets. Make them feel proud that your guys achieved ever-highest sales during this weekend and motivate them. Remember, most people don’t work just for money, they need recognition.


These are some very simple hacks but can go a long way in Guest satisfaction. Holidays are always about memories and we as Retailers, especially the F&B guys make a dent on the memories that guests carry. If there is a delay more than usual time, people fret. But when you throw in something extra, customers mostly remember only that “extra” whether it is “extra happiness” or “extra irritation”. With increasing mobility these days, people are travelling more than ever and they will continue to remember what you offered.


Once again during the upcoming New Year weekend, the restaurants and highways are going to get full. I really hope some changes are undertaken by Restaurant owners small and big to ensure better handling of customers and of course, their own staff. Happy New Year!