Journalist, likes people-watching, no-DSLR shutterbug, revels in the absurd and the nutty, loves books, blogs, travel, food, and tries not to be a cantankerous customer.

Sravanthi C

Of restaurants and customer relationship management

| Updated on September 15, 2013


Recently my friend and I ate out. Both of us ordered a set menu each. The food came at its own pace and by the time the main course was placed on our table, we were quite full and could not eat much.

We asked the waiter to parcel the leftovers and give them to us. He said the rules did not permit them to parcel food from the set menu.

Were they going to reuse it? How could they be sure we had not contaminated the food? I asked the waiter and he said, “Oh no! We’re just going to throw it away.” “So why should I pay for food you are wasting?” I asked. He did not know so he called someone else who called someone else, who, I assume, is senior to him.

When I explained the problem, he said: “This is a set menu. If you didn’t want to eat so much, you should have ordered a la carte. It’s none of my business how much you eat or how much you waste.” Now there’s a customer relationship expert speaking!

I posted this on a food forum on Facebook and a spokesperson for the restaurant replied saying: “Our set menu is unlimited, very similar to the unlimited thali of any South Indian restaurant. And as an obvious policy we will be not able to pack the food that comes with the set menu and we would not reuse it as we run the business with ethics.”

What is so ethical about the restaurant trashing the leftovers and the customer paying for it willy nilly - is it not a dog-in-the-manger attitude coupled with greed? She continued drawing comparisons with a buffet and kept asking me how I could have asked for the food to be packed, making the issue no clearer.

Most people know a buffet is unlimited. They also know food from it will not be parcelled. In a buffet, I serve myself only the amount I can eat. In this case, the quantity was a fait accompli, having been served in bowls, just like an a la carte meal. That the set menu was “unlimited” was not obvious, and immaterial because the question of second helpings did not arise. Moreover, friends tell me other restaurants have packed leftovers from set meals too.

Then, there is the rude chef who spoke to us. How much would it have cost him to be pleasant and helpful? I do not want to fund callousness and disdain in the service industry. Had he been courteous and said he sincerely could not do anything about it, I would have understood.

A foodie friend who has lived abroad and travelled widely says she and others like her have noticed it is only in India that this don’t-care attitude prevails – there is no attempt to set things right nor woo the customer back.

(The discussion on the online forum went on for a day till the restaurant’s spokesperson said she was sorry if her chef had been unpleasant and that henceforth, the restaurant would serve the customer only as much as she/he needed.)

It is not a privilege for me to eat at a restaurant. It is a business transaction and the restaurant’s privilege to have me or any other diner as its guest. Ultimately, what’s left behind is a bad taste in the mouth and a customer who won’t go there again.

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Published on September 15, 2013
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