I had dinner with Slapperella on Thursday night. We were going to go to Ashas at Marina Crescent, but when we drove by, it looked like a scene from Westside Story: What looked like several hundred teenaged boys looking for a fight. Where the hell is the security?!
Anyhoo, we drove by, not wanting to stop, and headed for Al Marsa in Le Meridien on the Gulf Road. We have been there frequently before, but stopped going when the competition started to impress us: Fish Market, Totally Fish, and our favorite, Housny in Hawalli. Al Marsa is expensive - no doubt about it - but the food has always been fantastic.
There used to be a really nice manager there – a big Egyptian guy, Mohammed, who made us feel like we were visiting family whenever we walked into the restaurant. He knew us by name and always ran over with a big smile to welcome us. He’s gone now.
We arrived and were seated right away. The very nice farraj brought us coffee and dates immediately and was very pleasant and friendly. The waitress took our order. Our appetizers arrived pretty quickly right after. We were off to a good start.
…. Cut to an hour later (I’m not exaggerating). The waitress had disappeared. The farraj bussed the tables and ran around trying to take care of the guests. One waiter was in the corner of the room with his back to the few patrons in the restaurant, folding napkins. The manager and hostess (without the “mostest”; a woman who never once smiled the entire time we were there and never made eye contact) were heads-down in conversation at another corner of the room.
I’m usually the instigator of trouble; Slaps usually waits for me to take the lead before she has words, but she rarely blows her top. Thursday was the exception. I guess we had both had a long week. We waited and tried to get someone's attention. Slaps finally got up and walked up to the new manager and asked him why no one had stopped by our table (Slaps was being kind when she said we had only been waiting 30 minutes)? He immediately began a lengthy tirade about how long fish takes to cook. I couldn’t hear them talking (she told me after), but by visuals alone (body language), he was getting quite defensive.
Slaps came back to the table. The manager followed and continued his diatribe to me about why fish takes a long time to cook. I couldn’t have cared less. I wanted the ice for my water that the waitress had promised me an hour ago. We had our appetizers; we were okay with waiting for the fish. I asked him why he was arguing with us over something we hadn’t asked him (why fish takes so long to cook). He (raising his voice) stated that he wasn’t arguing and continued to argue. Arguing about arguing!
Anyways, this went on and on and I finally told him to get the duty manager, who came down and was very nice. THEN the hostess showed up out of no where and started pouring water…. We told her to buzz off. We never got our fish because we were so angry that we walked out. The (first) manager didn’t care at all – he just gave us dirty looks on our way out.
1) High quality restaurant should = high quality service. If I expected low quality service, I would have gone to a fast-food restaurant.
2) I could understand if this type of behavior had been from a junior-level employee, but a “manager”?
3) The Al Marsa currently has a LOT of competition in the market. Food and service are the only things they have going for them. They have already lost on price and venue (in a basement with no windows).
4) There were very few customers in the restaurant.
5) Eye contact and smiling is free and good customer service. If you don't agree with a customer, put on your best "F. you" smile and get on with it.
6) NEVER (I repeat) NEVER argue with a customer.
7) Never raise your voice to a customer.
8) Never give a customer a dirty look on their way out the door – regardless of what happened. They will leave, tell their friends, post about it on their blog, and probably never return to the restaurant.
Slaps and I wondered if the manager would have behaved as badly had we been men. I doubt it. I think if we were two western men, we would have received much better service. The two Kuwaiti men seated behind us appeared to have been treated well, as did the mixed-nationality table across the room.
Giving credit where credit is due: Le Meridien is a beautiful little hotel. It is somewhat of a boutique hotel if you will. It reminds me of good-quality hotels in the US and UK. The décor instills confidence that the quality of service will be good. The valet parkers and junior level staff all have good attitudes.
Unfortunately, it is almost always empty whenever I go there and perhaps it is because of these incidents (even if they are isolated incidents) of horrible customer service. News of bad service spreads quickly; only takes a few times for people to hear about it.
Desert Girl Al Marsa embargo ON.