Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DG Review of the Hilton Kuwait's Ramadan Tent

I was invited to a promotional dinner for the Hilton’s Ramadan tent last night. First, let me say that it is always nice to receive any invitation from anywhere and I’m truly grateful when people remember me. I also think that it is an outstanding public relations move on the part of the hotel management – IF everything goes smoothly. If not, they jeopardize losing future business. What they didn’t provide last night was comment cards. They should have as it is free “business analysis” at the hand of people you want to impress in the future (or those who you just don't give a schmidt about, but can provide you with a different perspective; something you may not have considered before).

I was not impressed by the 1st-line-of-contact to the hotel: the security guard at the first checkpoint who on most nights is very polite and asks kindly where you are going (different guards at different times). Last night, we weren’t so lucky. He was an arrogant little prick (tell us how you really feel, DG!) who just said rather aggressively, “Aye mukan”? (translation: which place?). Not, “Good evening, sir. Where will you be visiting on our property tonight?” DG: ‘Run him over, baby! Hit hiiiiim! Git ‘im with the door!’

Way-into-the-hotel review
Valet parker: very good (except when we got our car on the way out and he almost reversed into an on-coming car). Reception staff: very good. Arabic coffee decanter (“della”) strategically placed for guests next to the reception desk: empty and was never refilled. Let me ask you this: Why the HELL doesn’t the Hilton ever clean the fish tanks they have? It is not only bad for the poor fish, but a disgusting visual for guests. Dudes, put in an aquarium filter! How long has the hotel been open? The aquariums have been there an equal amount of time – and are never clean.

The Hilton Sales Management staff greeted us in somewhat of a receiving line on the way into the tent. (Since it was a promotional event, every one of them should have been wearing a name tag with their title and had a business card immediately ready.) The Hilton has bought a new tent structure; one of those pre-fab type (no longer made of fabric, but perhaps heavy-duty plastic siding on a steel frame). It is very pretty inside: chandeliers and flowing silky fabrics (fire retardant materials, I wondered?). I noted 4 well-lit emergency exits. We looked all over and never saw a fire extinguisher. After the horrors of the Jahra wedding tent fires; I pay careful attention now. Since the tent fire tragedy was so recent, I thought that any hotel with a large tent would have placards on the tables noting their safety features (but perhaps that was just my wishful thinking). We sat close to one of the walls and immediately noticed that we could crawl under the tent siding should we have to. For some reason, the lighting inside the tent was up to Old People Code: So bright that I could count the crumbs on the floor. Dunno why it was like that. Made my eyes hurt.

I’ve been to the Hilton tent during past Ramadans and had vowed not to return. I remember distinctly that they ran out of food on the buffet one year and all that was left were remnants of food in the bottom of chaffing dishes. It really made me angry that no one tried to make amends about it. If you pay a sizeable chunk of money for a meal, there should actually be FOOD there. We went another time during Ramadan and the food just wasn’t very tasty; quite bland actually. Last night, we arrived early - at 9 - so we got their on the beginning of the night rather than the end; plenty of food on the buffet.

Unfortunately, the tent’s food is still boring (again, I am grateful I got the invite – not to look a gift horse in the mouth). The “spouse” had pasta and he didn’t even like that. I tried “samples” of just about everything: bland, bland, bland – and tasteless. If you are going to offer bland; offer condiments that people can use to shake it up a bit. Even Tabasco would have helped. Chef – have you not heard of those leetle things called “spices”? I noted in the Hilton Newsletter that the chef studied in the US, but c’mon y’all – our food is not that bland. Even McDonald’s has special sauce.

Also, it really disturbs me when I go to a Ramadan tent IN Kuwait and there is nothing even slightly resembling Kuwaiti traditional Ramadan foods. As you know, I promote Kuwaiti traditional things – especially to visitors to Kuwait. The Hilton has a kousheri station (Egyptian), but nothing Kuwaiti at all – not even gaymat. Unfortunately, newcomers to Kuwait (mass visitors to the hotel) might not even know that these dishes aren’t Kuwaiti – which disturbs me even more. (“Yeah, I went to that thar Ramadayn tent over at the Hill-tun in Kooowayt and got me some traditional Koowayti food called “kooo-sherry”. Mighty good.”) Don’t get me wrong, I like pasta and adore some kickass kousheri, but not for Ramadan. They also had fish on the buffet. Who serves fish during Ramadan??? It makes you so thirsty –regardless of when you eat it. They also had a station with plastic containers of yogurt. I’m sorry, but I think that any type of food in plastic containers is best left for a picnic, not a dinner buffet – ok maybe a breakfast buffet. (A good chef will be able to create good yogurt and offer it in an appropriate serving vessel – like crystal surrounded by ice – quite nice.)

What I did like: The desert station (although I wish there was fresh gaymat). The mutabal was good. The kousheri was good (again, not for Ramadan).

The wait staff was cloistered in one corner of the room for a good part of the night. We had a hard time getting a waiter’s attention and went without water for most of our meal. Chel-loo – C’est Ramadan, dudes. There was one outstanding guy – an Egyptian man who was dressed in Kuwaiti national dress, serving Arabic coffee and dates. He worked the entire tent, making sure that guests were happy. He even gave instructions to the servers and cleared tables – all while simultaneously serving coffee. I think he should be promoted to a sales position – really stellar performer. (If someone from Hilton Management happens to read this – his name is Abdulnasser.)

I guess, perhaps, because it was a promotional (free) event, the quality of the guests was lower than normal (God, I hope that’s the case!). It was purty hailag last night. The invitation said, “…pleasure to invite you and your spouse…” It said nothing of inviting screaming brats; but hey, it was free, so why not invite the whole family and anybody else living in your version of a trailer park? There was also a man right next to the buffet table – smoking sheesha all night – who I swear must have Swine flu. He hacked and spewed all night long; seemingly oblivious to the fact that people all around him were trying to eat a nice meal. We both started shouting out “WOOJAH!” every time he did it. It became like "bullshit bingo". We had to walk past him on our way out and I looked at him and made the same noises he had made all night. People at surrounding tables laughed. There was also an obvious misunderstanding of appropriate attire: Torn jeans, t-shirts, and one young lady who appeared to be wearing not only a very bad wig, but what might have been some form of spandex undergarment in its previous existence. I'm sorry, Hilton Staff, but the patrons last night reminded me of the buffet at Chicken Tika in Salmiya.

There is just too much competition out there for the Hilton not to kick it up a few notches. I would say that the Movenpick Bidaa is probably giving them a run for their money right now. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Messila Beach Hotel eventually opens: it’s a large property that can compete with the Hilton on size and perhaps on venue (sea front, etc.).

My overall opinion of the night: Refer to Paragraph One, Sentence 3 above. I hope that my insightfulness has worked towards the improvement of the quality management system. Feedback is always positive. Change is good.

For 11 KD per person (total of 22 KD out of pocket for the Hotel), I have provided the management with my business analysis and written a letter (report). Normally, I would charge in the neighborhood of 250KD. I think they got a real bargain. I hope they see it that way.


Purgatory said...

eh sounds correct to me.

Papyrus said...

Here one more hotel gone to the dark side of the moon with Holiday Inn Salmiya, if you're talking about Hilton Mangaf "as I think there's another Hilton in Kuwait" in that case I totally agree, I tried it few years ago in Ramadan, and decided never to go there again, of course I don't have the knowledge and experience to write such a professinal review report like yours -which I loved by the way, the points, the systematic analysis, the discussion,all of it- but I had spent quite big money and quite hard time that night in that hotel, I'm not suprised to read that about it now. I don't mind eating fish anytime, three meals a day:) but I don't like Kushari at all :)
Only I wish you write down one short list of good places to go in Kuwait :)

Anonymous said...

I was there last week for a work related party. I think they banned us from going there again. Apparently having a good time isn't allowed during Ramadan! :-)

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous - No, it isn't allowed - especially if you are PAYING to have a good time.

Aescleah said...

Hey DG,

The staff at AIS Kuwait were treated to a really nice Iftar dinner at the Marina Hotel last week. Seems ours was everything yours wasn't.

Sorry to hear that. Have you tried the Marina? The desert was esp. amazing...if you like to OD on chocolate like me anyway. lol

The list of restaurants will do us N00Bs good in the coming year. Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

You would think for $38.00 USD there would be more consideration for the guests and local food, but alas like most things in Kuwait , it all looks good from a distance. Don't get me wrong, I have been in Kuwait since Oct 2004, seen some good things, but bby and large seen alot of things bad/wrong/terrible.

Can only hope your next event will be better !!

Anonymous said...

Great review of a place I was going to go to, today. Think I'll give it a miss.