To celebrate my dad’s 68th and my niece’s 10th birthday, my mum decided to book a restaurant for dinner last night at Tiong Bahru’s Seng Poh Lane. Going by the unassuming name of Por Kee Eating House (porky?), the outlet was your typical old-fashioned Chinese restaurant with red plastic chairs and an outdoor al fresco eating area. It was as unpretentious as you can get, with a clear focus on its food rather than ambience.
When we arrived, we were ushered to a space next to the public carpark outside, under the starry moonlit sky. As the evening was cool, most of us didn’t quite mind sitting outside. Especially with a beer or two!
Well, maybe except my mum who wasn’t too pleased as she had earlier reserved a table inside the air conditioned section of the restaurant. She complained to the waiter (a part-timer called Francis) that our seats in cool comfort were not given to us, and that her two grandsons Isaac (five plus years) and Ethan (four plus years) were sweltering away in the humid tropical heat.
This happened despite the earlier phone call she made for reservation which came with explicit instructions.
What could have been a disastrous evening turned out to be a rather fortuitous experience, with the following turn of events:
1) Waiters and waitresses at the restaurant apologising to us thereafter, and attending quite quickly to our needs. In particular, Francis the part-timer, who made sure that we had a good experience. Here’s Francis in black T-shirt showing us how no-frills service recovery is done.
2) A quick turnaround of table seating arrangements, whereby an internal table in air-conditioned comfort was secured for us. All we had to do was to bring our drinks along, and they did the rest of the job of bringing the food items along. Chrysanthemum tea was also refilled.
3) The staff offered to take a family photo for us, and also came quickly with plates for the obligatory birthday cake cutting and song singing ceremony. I guess that helped to put smiles on our faces.
4) The food was fresh and tasty, and served rather expeditiously without hurrying us along. Special mention must be made of the steamed Sri Lankan crabs and steamed fish, which were a cut above most of the seafood restaurants at East Coast.
As an old-styled, “aunty and uncle” restaurant, one could see that the staff were severely limited by lack of training. They were after all not really a Lei Garden or Hai Tien Lo. However, they did understand the concept of service recovery and tried to make a difference. Well, at least the night ended quite all right for us.
Anyway, happy birthday Pop and Mandy!! Sorry for making your celebration a lesson in service recovery!