Fast forward to 2016 and it seems that I almost don't know my beloved city anymore. Traffic is rivaling Manila at more hours of the day. People dress up to the nines just to buy dried fish and bananas. And the cityscape has changed dramatically. Just a week ago, I was finally able to visit SM Seaside and was elated to find that Tim Ho Wan was opening there soon. We're getting our first big international Michelin-starred franchise! It was a food milestone as far as I was concerned. Side note: Kyochon was coming too - one of the two restaurants I miss in Manila, the other being Sambokojin. Woot woot!
Going around the malls, there are less food and item shops in Manila that you can't find in Cebu anymore. We really don't need to go to the big city if we're looking for good quality items, options and brands. It's a sign of progress. And it's both welcome and unwelcome since it comes with pros and cons.
There is one thing though (and it's my biggest peeve) that has apparently yet to come to Cebu -- good customer service. Now, mind you, customer service in Manila is not anything to write home about but Cebu's is dreadful. The root of it being that people have no real sense of urgency and accountability. If we revisit the 1990s again, it made sense to be this relaxed -- we imbibed sleepy island living most of the time and globalization hasn't brazenly bared down on our sandy shores just yet. Now, we're at the cusp of really being a true global metropolis and our customer service standards are refusing to receive the memo.
I've written on various restaurants being sloppy on this blog. One of the biggest was being unpleasantly surprised at the F&B of 5-star resort Shangri-la Mactan. Being Filipinos, the only thing going for many of our service personnel are their courtesy in the beginning on a customer encounter. They greet you with warmth and gusto like no other, making you anticipate how much you'll enjoy this experience. Then it hits you, the guy who greeted you left you in the middle of the room. He's also gone back to greeting people and has seemingly forgotten to remember you asking for the menu. Meanwhile, you're table still has spilled-over Coke from the previous eaters and the buss boy is paying you no attention despite being a table away. It seems you have to do all sorts of antics to get any service attention these days. And personally, it has made eating out has stressful. And I find myself looking for higher-end fast foods (places where you order at a counter and get your food yourself) more and more. I just can't deal with the service situation in most places. It's no longer worth the aggravation of:
- Waiting hours for my food (even McDonalds needs 1 hour 30 minutes to deliver here. What gives?!)
- Servers who can't anticipate basic customer needs like a menu, utensils, or clean tables.
- Lack of accountability from the service staff. "Oh your order was late, we had to buy the cashews downstairs since we ran out."
- Alertness, alertness, alertness. Sleepy faced servers are sloppy servers with sleepy faced managers, who are also sloppy managers.
- Managers who can't provide a difference. Try to complain about something in most places and the managers usually can't do much to remedy it. Often they are not empowered to do so. Other times they just don't know how to solve problems that are out of the ordinary. And they'll just give you lip service and unlimited apologies instead. But, yes, your food will still need another 20 mins. to come out since they really did forgot to make it!
- I nearly gagged when I tasted David Tea House's chili and asked for water. I was hacking my throat and lungs away and my server merely relayed the water order to one person and made no other effort. I was coughing for what felt like 5 mins and made a second and third plea for water from the same server. My dad ended up running for the water himself. Apparently the guy my server relegated was filling pitchers of water so he could give multiple tables water in one go. The manager was right in from of me and didn't care.
- ABC Bakery, an Abaca Group establishment, has killed the entire group for me. I have written before that I adored this company and felt that they could do no wrong but it seems I spoke too soon. I have eaten there twice in a span of two months only to be faced with the same bad service for prices that are expensive by Cebu standards. In both cases, our orders were forgotten. I was upstairs on the first occasion and outside on the second.
- In the first instance my friend had ordered Eggs Benedict that took an hour to come out. And when it did, the yoke was dried hard. On the second instance, we ordered a sausage fritata. We were there around 7:30am, a few minutes before the crowds came, and the waiter attended to one person who came after us and completely ignored us. We had to call him back only for him to forget to serve us the order an hour later. He said it took so long because it needed to bake. Bull crap. Everyone who can cook an egg knows it doesn't take an hour.
- Needless to say, I've not gone back. And I do not plan to go back unless all the bakeries close for some crazy reason. Their kitchen can't seem to handle the load and there's something wrong with the management there if the orders keep getting lost. Servers seem attentive but it's superficial. They don't know what to do after the order is taken, especially when the crowds arrive. They get all headless chicken on you. And they don't seem to be keeping track of their pending food orders either. I'm disappointed beyond repair.
Customer service is a pillar for any business, equal to the product itself. I sincerely hope operators realize that before it's too late. In the meantime, I'm sticking to eating home most days. And if I do go out, I'll try and manage my expectations. Try being the operative word. If I need a temper rise, I know a lot of places where I can go.