Service Recovery at an Aunty Restaurant

April 27, 2008 Blog 6 comments

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!


By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. I remember this place, pretty nice food. And this is also the place that sends every customer scrambling for their cars when the parking attendant comes. Hahaha!

    Further down another lane is the infamous steamboat, owned by a lady. She was featured on newspaper for having gone through a bad marriage and picking up herself in life all over again.

  2. Wow, that’s really very intimate knowledge about that lady…. You are spot on about the car parking arrangement and scrambling when the parking attendant comes though! Well, let’s just say that we had a pretty blissful night once the initial “issues” were resolved… 🙂

  3. Happy birthday to your Daddy and Mandy!! Wah! so fast… one year already ah!

    ethan’s grown much taller but still skinny leh… your family has skinny genes. hehe….

  4. Oh.. I went to the Peranakan Museum yesterday and got sick queuing for a long time in the humid heat to get into the museum. had to leave without seeing… aiyoh… can help anot this weekend? hehe….

    I need photos!

  5. eastcoastlife,

    Thanks for visiting the museum. Oops sorry to hear that you were not able to visit it that day due to the crowd! We will see if its possible to arrange something.

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