Tag Archives: customer service

The Casual Restaurant Critics visits Piñuela

The room

It’s a been on the list for a while, but Piñuela, in the heart of the ‘centro’ restaurant scene and in its high-visibility location on the corner of 60 and 57, has never been visited by the Critic.

Until last night. With the always charming and elegant Better Half, the Critic met up with some folks for dinner at this establishment, run by the folks who founded Ku’uk.

The room is pretty enough, but the Critic couldn’t decide if the feel was casual or formal or perhaps casual-formal? The food and settings look elegant, while the television screens showing a Fox Sports futbol match along with lively tropical music are reminiscent of a different ambiance altogether.

Everyone was happy with their meal; the catch of the day, short ribs, octopus and a steak. There was nothing over-the-top that made the Critic’s eyes pop out or achieve the coveted mouthgasm. The food was good, and the presentation of each dish attractive.

Where the restaurant really fell down, in the Critic’s opinion at least, was the service. There was no welcome or host, per se. Waiters and cooks wave you in and when a reservation is mentioned to the world-weary and clearly bored waiter, he simply nods and continues to wave his arm at the empty restaurant. ‘Sit wherever’ is the motto.

The menus are brought over, no drink orders are taken. After requesting it, the drink menu is brought to the table, the waiter leaves. The Critic at this point has had enough of the dragging-his-feet-I’m-so-bored waiter and asks another waiter to wait. Which he does. Critic has to call the second waiter over to get a drink order going. No sales pitch, no attempt to create interest in anything on the drink menu. He literally waits on Critic and BH, to make a decision that is. This second waiter is of the tail-between-the-legs-I’m-not-going-to-the-table-in-case-they-ask-me-something variety. He approaches the table – when called over of course – as an abused animal at the shelter might crawl towards you on his belly to get a pat on the head.

After dinner and the plates cleared, the Critic once again signals for the waiter, who is waiting in the wings, to come over and ask the table about wanting desserts. Which the waiter does and tells everyone what’s on the menu. No use asking which is his favorite, he might flinch. One of everything is ordered and soon our slinky second waiter arrives with the dessert selection. Is coffee offered? Nope.

The service was so distracting that it became a focus of the evening. With decent but nothing special food and this kind of attention, the Critic won’t be back any time soon, especially with so many better options now around in El Centro of Merida.

Food photos below.

Catch of the day

Pulp aka octopus

Shortribs, risotto

Steak

Marquesitas dessert

Creme Brulee

Chocolate cake

Cheesecake

 

 

Miyabi Revisited – What is Wrong with these Servers

Don’t misunderstand – the Casual Restaurant Critic loves Miyabi’s food. And hanging a whack of plywood sheets from the ceiling is apparently is a design concept that is award-winning so there is that. The food is always amazing too; the ramen is the best in town and the fish is always fresh.

What is really puzzling is the staff. With attitudes that range from the completely and defiantly indifferent to the almost Valium-like spaced-out-ness of a lobotomized Walking Dead character, the Critic can’t understand why the service end of this potentially first class restaurant is so bad.

The Critic would also like to add that he has been coming to Miyabi for years now – alone and with several iterations of familial critics – so it’s not like staff doesn’t know who he is which is not implying that a red carpet needs to be laid out, but a simple ‘Hi, glad to have you back’ every once in a blue moon would signal to this particular client anyway, that there is some life, some enthusiasm, some passion for service, behind those rather dead eyes.

Walking in, one is greeted with the sight of several chefs behind the sushi bar, some of whom will look up and then get back to their important work. No greeting is proffered, not even a raised eyebrow acknowledging one’s existence. “Sit anywhere” is not only recommended, it is the policy and that’s what you are told when you ask someone who finally looks your way.

A waiter then eventually slinks to your table, and it is highly recommended that you make the most of this interaction, as any additional visit (to take an order, to replenish a drink, to clear away a dish) will require enthusiastic hand-waving and yoga-like contortions (if the server is behind you) in order to get anyones attention.

Amongst themselves, they are a happy bunch, smiling and laughing but when it comes time to deal with guests, the smile disappears and it’s all slinkiness and tail-between-the-legs standing there, awaiting instructions. Sales pitches for drinks or specials or anything really, are unheard of.

And thank goodness for cell phones, since this is what entertains both waiters who have nothing to do as well as yawning cashiers and anyone else not involved in the cutting of fish or the preparing of rice.

It’s a mystery. Perhaps it’s that they are content in letting the food be their strong card – which it is – and so, if you can put up with the sub-par service, you will be fine.

Home Depot Less Than Homey and Superama Far From Super

While I thought I had already ranted about Home Depot and Superama, a quick search on this collection of neurotic writings confirms that I have not.

Oh joy!

I feel particularly inspired as yesterday was a shopping kind of day and I found the customer service on my forays into the two stores mentioned in the title to be far from deficient; it was downright awful and would provoke at least a meeting at the head office, if they cared enough to monitor these kinds of trivialities.

Home Depot

First, it was exchange time at Home Depot. The items I had purchased the day before were the wrong size (stupid of me I know) and I arrived at the inappropriately named customer service desk and patiently waited for the one individual manning the 5 computers there to acknowledge my existence.

While completing the enormous amount of paperwork required for a return and subsequent devolucion of money, I watched his gum chewing, unshaven face as he moved, turtle-like, from one computer to the other, hoping to perhaps catch his eye and therefore initiate what would be in most places a conversation something along the lines of “I’ll be with you in a minute”. Alas, this was not to be and when he finally finished with his Herculean task he looked around indifferently and asked “quien sigue?” Meeting his gaze, I motioned to the couple across the way and off he went, at his jackrabbit pace. During the entire time, many Home Depot employees came and went, joking with Mr. SallowFace and completely ignoring the growing crowd around the counter.

Finally, it was my turn and admittedly the operation was completed in a quick and painless, no-questions-asked fashion. But the complete lack of friendliness from each and everyone of the employees I had (sort of) contact with was amazing.

Superama

Later on that day, towards the evening to be exact, when the xkaues return to the trees on Prolongacion de Montejo creating a racket that any Meridano abroad could immediately identify and would miss wholeheartedly, I entered Superama.

For those who don’t know, Superama is an offshoot of Walmart (yes, another one) and is supposedly geared towards an upscale clientele, as evidenced by their displays and the selection of gourmet products available for purchase. The human resources department, however, did not get the memo and the service of the unfriendly cashiers and employees in general (with the exception of the bag boys who are smiley and eager to provide one with good service) is downright shameful. The announcements over the PA system are identical to those of any supermarket with that sing-song tone and the fact that there are advertisements all over indicating that the prices are better than the Comercial Mexicana make one doubt about who the supermarket is trying to attract. Price is not that an important factor for an upscale clientele who look for service and quality along with their imported Danish cheeses.

In any case, I approached the fresh meat counter and, after waiting for a woman covered in blood (her apron) to appear from the dark netherworld of the meat locker. When she saw me, she nodded upwards and said “Que va a llevar?” If you have lived here for any length of time you know this head-nod greeting; you walk into a store or office and the clerk who was up to that point engrossed in his work (rare), a TV program (more common) or a torta (more common than you would think) in a desk drawer, will look at you and, raising eyebrows and head at the same time in a questioning gesture, may or may not actually utter a word.

In any case, to the bloodied meat lady I said “Buenas noches” whereupon she repeated her question, a little more impatiently this time “Que va a llevar??

Realizing that I was getting nowhere with social niceties, I pushed the envelope a little and asked her if she was in a bad mood or something. She said no, and again asked me what I wanted with a look of exasperation creeping into her expressionless face. A moment later, when a coworker stopped by to chat, I was surprised to see her cracking a smile at some probably excellent gossip. But, following the Superama Customer Service Code, when she turned back to me, the customer, aka the enemy, her smile evaporated and was replaced by her grim, stoney face

To answer her at last and feeling that it might be more appropriate, I decided to switch to a simpler, more Tarzan and Jane monosyllabic conversational style. I said “Pierna” (leg of pork) to which she replied, catching on quickly “Cuanto?” to which my answer was “3 kilos” and in a few more moments, with no more unnecessary pleasantries exchanged, I was on my way.

After buying this and that and checking some product labels which enlightened me to the fact that all the white asparagus, no matter what brand,  comes from China, I proceed to the checkout and met my sneezing cashier, who was spreading her germs in the most carefree and alarming manner. I asked if she had a cold or an allergy to which she shrugged, expressionless. Again, the Superama Customer Service Code at work!

At this point I gave up trying to be sociable and was therefore pleasantly shocked when the bag boy, a lad of no more than 14 actually smiled, looked me in the eye and said “gracias!” when I tipped him in such an enthusiastic manner that it reaffirmed my faith in humanity and proved that not everyone is destined for a future in Superama.

Far from an upscale shopping experience, shopping at Superama is no different (except for the price) than shopping for your groceries at Super Willy’s in downtown Uman.

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I would love to hear your comments and opinions on customer service at either of these not-so-fine establishments and also, what market segment Superama is trying to attract, as I can not figure it out.