Monday, October 20, 2008

Hotels, Service and common sense

I was recently invited for both lunch and dinner to the Mount Lavinia Hotel, a historic hotel that celebrated its 200th anniversary last year. Both meals were had on the terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean.

I ordered a fresh Mango Juice, as Mango is now in season, the price Rs400 before the service and taxes totaling Rs500(US$5). I was extremely disappointed with it. It was very watery and tasteless. The only positive was that no sugar was added, but there is no point if that is done to add so much water so the concentration of Mango is not even one to one. The chef must use good tasty mangos for the juice, and all the battered parts of the mango can be cut out so it is not essential to use a perfect mango for juicing either.

In Sri Lanka there is no point in returning the juice to the kitchen as being tasteless as all the chef would do is add sugar and send it back. It is the concentrate that should be served and if they do not have it they should politely say so, rather than add water to increase the servings.

With this lesson learned not to order fresh juices from a Luxury Hotel, I ordered during evening drinks a Ginger Beer (EGB as it is colloquially known) as one could not go wrong with it. It was served un-iced or barely iced. If one knows about Ginger Beer it needs to be served extremely chilled to enjoy this drink to the fullest. So when I ordered the next bottle, I said please do not serve if the bottle is not well chilled, as it was not the last drink I had. Hey presto it was brought in the same state as before, but with a glass full of ice cubes right up to the top. Immediately on impact with the Ginger Beer, the ice cubes melted, leaving a tasteless watered down drink.

I don’t know who is at fault, but it should lie squarely with the hotel management for not training the staff on the nuances of their drinks, and the dos and don’ts of serving refreshments. Sri Lanka that always prides itself on service, always falls down on its service which surprisingly or not is the weakest area of the hospitality industry. One has to anticipate the problems and cater to them. It is possible that all the good staff leave for better jobs in the Middle East and one is left with the not so good. It is still no excuse when 6star prices are charged to give one star service.

I did not bother complaining. A simple matter like this is not understood, despite it being serious, as the standard they seem to apply is very low.


Anonymous said...

In one of your earlier posts, we learned that your Lankan staff are not capable of following instructions, despite the most meticulous elaboration of their duties. This also would explain why you did not complain, as in your opinion, it would serve no purpose, as it would fall on deaf ears.

So in this case who is to blame? You blamed the management, but could it be that they face the same problems you face as manager of your agro-enterprise? If that is the case, do you take the blame for your workers not executing your instructions as you had instructed?

Ultimately responsibility must lie with the managers for not creating a conducive corporate culture, however from your earlier writings, clearly it is not an easy task!

Anonymous said...

I am the part-owner of a small "eco-resort" in Sri Lanka. I invested a substantial amount of money four years ago, but, because of the current situation in the country, the place is not making any profits. We charge one-star prices.

The staff (chefs, waiters, room boys) are all local young men and women. They have been loyal, staying on through thick and thin. Of course, there aren't many employment opportunities in the area.

They are hard to train, to wean them away from the belif that no one is to be trusted. It's partly because they have been battered by poverty and exploiters.

There is much petty jealousy and suspicion among themselves. This sometimes spreads to their service. It's hard to get a smile or quick service. When shortcomings are pointed out, the sullen faces last could last for days.