Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm not finished with that yet

Anywhere you go in China, there are going to be wrinkles with the service.

The lasses (and lads) at Fubar, for example, charming though they are and trained to a much better standard than usual, are still prone to occasional lapses into unwelcome Chinese foibles - the girls stroking each other's hair, for example (not great for hygiene). And last week (on a day when neither of the bosses was around) it took me about 5 minutes to get anyone's attention to order another drink because they were all lollygagging down at the far end of the bar, taking each other's photos in Christmas hats, and such.

And the thing that really bugs me..... they have an irksome tendency to remove the drinks menu from you as soon as you've ordered. (And surreptitiously, without asking you!)

It's quite a long menu, with a number of unusual or unique drinks. Making choices there is not easy. It takes time and deliberation. Moreover, I am a quick drinker. Look, people, I'm going to be ordering something else in 15 or 20 minutes, and I'm quite likely to spend a good portion of that time reading the menu - please leave it.

I could understand it if they only had a few copies of it and they were busy. But they have plenty of copies, and the place is seldom that busy when I look in. What is this obsession with sneaking the menu away every time?

Danger Doyle's, of course, manages to go one worse (yes, I ventured back there the other day - just to reaffirm my dire first impressions of the place). They appear to only have one copy of their drinks list, and they really don't like to give it out to people - they look shocked and surprised if you ask to see it. Now, they have a very long list of drinks, especially the list of rare, imported bottled beers (ridiculously long, unwieldy); and the prices aren't on display anywhere else (I don't see the problem with having a board displaying prices [of the most common drinks, at least] and/or tags on the taps and the bottles - but nowhere in Beijing does it; and it's a pain-in-the-arse having to ask the price of everything serially!): Doyle's should really be keeping umpteen copies of that drinks list - and handing one to punters as soon as they come in.

(One brownie point for them, though. I went in there to watch a football game over the weekend, and found the place nearly deserted [no surprise - it's a shitbox, in a mall]; but they did at least accede to my request to turn on the commentary for the game.... and to turn the annoying music down, though not off. That gives them a huge edge over most other Beijing bars - particularly The Den, where any request to change anything about the music or the TVs is treated as an act of lèse-majesté against Paul.)

There's a similar reluctance to let you hang on to the (full of diverting reading matter) menu at The Drugstore. Is this becoming a universal vice? Presumably they're worried about running short if there's a sudden rush. Odd that this should be particularly a problem in places that rarely have much of a rush!

Two simple tips, guys:

1) Print more menus.

2) If you must have your staff restore menus to the stack on the bar as regularly and swiftly as possible.... at least get them to ask customers if it's OK to remove them, rather than just whisking them out from under your nose.

It's not rocket science.

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