Joyful, a Blog by Toks Adebiyi


A story of two recent restaurant experiences

On Wednesday 24th of August 2016 after a grueling exercise session at my local health club I was in desperate need of good food to restore all the energy I spent on the punching bag J. However, I was disappointed to learn that the restaurant at the club had closed for refurbishment. As tough as it was to find out about the closure, I reluctantly decided to look at the bright side and head down to a popular Nigerian restaurant in London for lunch. I was craving some good motherland Nigerian food that afternoon so perhaps pasta and salad would not have been so satisfying anyway. I wanted to eat Jollof Rice with Assorted Meat and Plantain, and if I was going to get to my desired level of “Santi”, a term in Hausa (a language mostly spoken in Northern Nigeria) where you are so satisfied with food that you begin to say strange things, I had to balance the meal with a chilled bottle of Malt.

A few minutes later I arrived the restaurant at around 12:30pm and was surprised to find no one at the counter. I said “Hello” in a loud voice and still, no one appeared. I then noticed a bell on the counter which I assumed was for getting the attention of kitchen staff at the back, but it had no clapper within so was unusable.

Feeling a bit frustrated I shouted a louder “hello” and finally someone turned up to take my order so I asked for Jollof Rice, Assorted Meat, Plantain and of course a chilled bottle of Malt. The lady at the counter said I just had to wait five minutes extra for plantain but I could pick my bottle of Malt from the fridge. So I did, but before I turned back she had disappeared again without giving me a bottle opener or a glass. Perhaps she assumed I wanted to drink directly from the bottle and use my teeth to open it too. Lol.

About ten minutes later she returned with a plate of Jollof Rice, Assorted Meat and no Plantain, and said “the Plantain is coming”. I then saw her walk out of the building and return a couple of minutes later, so I concluded they were out of Plantain and she had to buy more. A few minutes later the lady returned with Plantain in a plastic bowl and poured it onto my half eaten food.

As you can imagine I was now a bit irritated by the service and I suppose it would have been easy to ignore if the food itself did not taste so stale with soggy Plantain. She had ruined my desire to reach the level of Santi I so wanted to get to that afternoon. I left the restaurant in great disappointment and have no plans of ever returning to it. Oh and did I mention the tables were dirty? There are many fantastic Nigerian restaurants in London but it seems that on this particular day I chose the wrong one to visit.

Now compare this to my other restaurant experience, on Saturday 27th August 2016 to a popular Italian restaurant chain called “Ask”. I went with my two-year-old daughter for lunch after a swim at the health club and arrived at approximately midday. The waiter was attentive to us from the moment we walked in and gave my daughter coloring pens and paper to keep her busy. Service was very fast, restaurant was clean and food was good so I left a generous tip and I look forward to returning next weekend.

I am really disappointed with that Nigerian restaurant, and even with the few customers there who appeared to be ok with the dirty environment and poor level of service. I certainly hope they had a one-off bad day but the truth is it appeared like it was business as usual. They are doing a disservice to the wonderful variety of tasty Nigerian cuisines that presents itself as a great opportunity to share with other nationalities.

What is your business? Are you great at the basics? Do you know what the basic expectations of your customers are?

For example in the restaurant business there are four basic or primary customer requirements which I ranked in order of priority:

1. Great tasting food

2. Good level of food hygiene
3. Clean environment
4. Good service

Did you notice price is not on the list? Although pricing is also important, it is a secondary requirement that varies significantly between customers. A business that is great at the basics can get away with charging more than a business that is not.

Whatever business you are in ensure you are continuously doing well at the basic requirements your customers expect of you. This would encourage “Word of Mouth Marketing” which is the most effective form of marketing.

“Second, we have to make the most of the strengths we have, the amenities that many of our competitors cannot replicate. But again, those advantages won't mean much if we don't do a great job with the basics of our business.”
-Gerard Arpey, former Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation, parent company to American Airlines.

Please pardon all typos. No matter how hard I try, I never see all my own mistakes.

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Author: Toks Adebiyi