Lessons in Love

A Tale of Two Restaurants

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A month ago on Valentine’s Day, the wife seemed pretty keen on Sushi that evening. Having a one year old at home means that it is a lot easier and convenient to order in, so on my way home I stopped at a nearby Sushi restaurant, Yamada Sushi (Waterfall Corner) to place an order and wait for it.

Before ordering, I experienced one of those moments where you should really trust your gut instinct before going ahead. There were 6 or 7 people hanging around the takeaway / payment counter in a way that seemed to display a lack of order or coherence. I couldn’t quite work out if there was a queue to order or not and when my turn was. Things were just a bit messy. Five minutes later I managed to place my order, and told the manager I’d wait at the sushi bar with a glass of wine. A few minutes later one of the waitresses arrived with the glass, and seeing the levels of disorder and how frenzied things were getting, I asked her for my bill before she forgot me entirely.

During the following few minutes I enjoyed my usual habit of observing the people around me and the social dynamics happening, but after 20 minutes with no bill and an empty drink, this started getting a little tiresome. I tried to find the waitress for my bill. Eventually I caught her attention and reminded her. Ten minutes later my elusive bill was nowhere to be seen and the chaos around the counter was now at boiling point, with 20 people crowding around. One big guy in a grey shirt was screaming at the manager about ordering an hour ago, even going to the extent of stepping behind the counter to wrap is own food. The problem was compounded by the fact that the manager was a gentlemen of far eastern descent whose English was extremely basic.

Restaurant customers going berserk is always a curious thing to me. It always shows a lack of class, self-control and just creates one big spectacle of yourself. If a place doesn’t deliver, just don’t go back.

I ventured into the chaos. There were packs of food stacked around haphazardly and the manager, looking increasingly frazzled, was clearly losing in his battle of bringing the situation under control. I noticed that the waitresses were too busy servicing the restaurant patrons to offer much help. It was one big mess. I realised that after 45 minutes my bill was still a long way off, while the food itself didn’t seem to be within sight at all.

I quietly walked out. I know, I know – I broke the law not paying for my wine, but I would have literally had to fight through 30 minutes of carnage to get it. They didn’t deserve my time or money. If Yamada Sushi Waterfall read this and want their money for the wine I had, I’ll gladly pay up. (It was a glass of house Sauvignon Blanc, by the way Yamada.)

Directly next to Yamada is an Indian restaurant called The Raj. I decided that Sushi had just changed to curry. I’d have to explain reasons why in detail to the wife. I walked in, and was greeted with a completely different atmosphere entirely. A waitress immediately came over to take my order. When done she told me it would take 10 minutes, and that I was welcome to take a seat in the comfortable lounge chair which she pointed to. The manager came by to ask if I was ok, after which another waiter came by and gave me a free glass of champagne, explaining that it was due to Valentine’s Day. I accepted. I was now two drinks down and I hadn’t paid for either of them.

Looking around it struck me that that despite being busy, the Raj had a sense of peace and control about it. Everyone knew their role. Unlike Yamada, the manager wasn’t bound to operational tasks behind the counter, but freely roamed to ensure customer satisfaction and staff efficiency. Unlike Yamada who seemed caught off guard by the high number of customers, The Raj had clearly expected the increased clientele levels due to Valentines Day and were prepared.

10 minutes later, as promised, the waitress brought me the food package and I left. I’m writing about this now, a month later, because the contrast between the two still astounds me.

What Yamada Sushi perhaps need to remember is that for every loud mouthed obnoxious prick like the big guy in grey at the counter, there are three or four people like me, who keep a sense of dignity and calm . . . but just don’t come back.

Valentine’s Day – for me another lesson in how to love or not love the customer.

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