Food places in Lebanon: Are you serious about your business?

When we look around, it’s obvious that food business works pretty well in Lebanon. New places open every now and then, others close and some remain. Those who remain are those who have understood how to “play it” and integrate the customer with every decision they make. Some even claim they have the “same standard” in all their branches. Let’s face it, we all prefer certain places more than others when it comes to the same restaurant. We are human beings after all. We all also have bad experiences in our favorite places every now and then too. And now that I think about it, I wonder sometimes how serious food places in Lebanon are serious about their business.

What triggered the writing of this post is mainly the food places in ABC Ashrafieh, but it also made me think of all the other places I have been too as well. Here are a few thoughts:

  • What’s with smoking?
    I will not go through the list of countries who have already banned smoking nor the statistics nor the study carried out by the AUB Tobacco Control Research Group, shows that Lebanon has the highest cigarette consumption per adult, with 12.4 packs per person per month. I just want to point that replies like “We will ban smoking when the law comes out.” is the lamest. No one from the government will come to check who is smoking indoors and hand out a fine. But food places can ban smoking in their premises. If people aren’t supposed to bring in their own food and drinks (not even water) in food places… why is it OK to bring in smokes? People can always smoke OUTSIDE where there is asphalt and cars passing by. The thing is that if WE do not enforce it, no one will. Thank you to places like Classic Burger Joint who made it clear from the beginning: “We do not offer smoked burgers” with a picture of a burger made of ash and places who REINFORCE the policies actively.
  1. Crepaway has “smoking/nonsmoking sections” in all the branches, except ABC Ashrafieh… until recently! I have lost count of the number of my complaints and comments about this. A month before the smoking ban policy was implemented, I asked an employee about it. He showed me a couple of tables outside saying: “These will be non-smoking starting tomorrow.” But, when I came back, it was obvious that it was a lie.
  2. Zaatar w Zeit, in ABC Ashrafieh, has non-smoking stickers on the glass for the indoor space. Last week, after the movies, I spotted an employee smoking indoors. Yes, they were closed; But, HELLO consistency! He was behind glass, customers saw him and sarcasm took off! Who are you kidding?
  3. Casper & Gambini’s, in ABC Ashrafieh, has a small indoor place and a much bigger outdoors place. I don’t understand why the “sections” idea, to start with, is not yet applied.
  4. Sushi Ko, in ABC Ashrafieh, doesn’t ban smoking. Yet the food is prepared in the same room. People are more disgusted to see their own hair on their food but do not mind the cigarette ashes? PLEASE! This goes out to all the places that prepare food in the same room where the customers are… If you had a kitchen, would you allow the Chef and the staff to smoke while preparing the food? (And that is scary, because it actually happens. And even worse happen!). I also had to put up with a fight in this place, when in the middle of my meal, 5 girls showed up and started smoking before they even sat on the table upfront! When I kindly asked them if they could do something about it like smoke outside or move away since the place was empty then, they got all angry and left! The waiter could not find anything else to say instead of: “But we are a smoking place!”.
  5. Cafe-Sho in Monot street decided that the place would be non-smoking 3 times a week. The other days, smokers are seated downstairs and the non-smokers upstairs… SERIOUSLY? Is that because smoke goes down, not up? Besides, when you open the door to go out, you’re on the street already!
  6. Places showing off they are healthy with their “Low calories” menus should think twice when closing their eyes to the health implications due to smoking.
  7. Did you know that NONE of the food places in Kaslik, the street of Empire 2000 for example, even have “sections”?
  8. Burger King banned smoking way before McDonald’s did…and the list goes on and on!!

What’s with menu design and typos?
People spend many days and nights thinking about a concept hoping to make quick profits out of it but overlook the first thing people take in their hands and look at to make their order? Bad menu design and typos show careless food places are about their business. Tiepos in Menuse illustrates some of them already. Here are some of the most recent:

  • What’s with management?
    Since I eat out a lot, I went through many weird moments in several food places. It’s true that we are all humans at the end but there is always a better way to handle any situation and avoid unpleasant repercussions.
  1. Always be up to date concerning the what is still available on the menu: There is nothing more annoying from getting a recommendation from the waiter and having him coming back to the table all confused saying: “Sorry, we do not have this item now.”… Why didn’t you say so in the first place and why did you recommend it then? Although the most recent episode happened at Souccaria, Dbayeh, this happens MOST of  the time! I get upset from Häagen-Dazs every time I can’t find a hot waffle for my ice cream but at least I know I have to make a different choice: the waiter lists the missing items from the menu and makes a suggestion from they still have left.
  2. There is no need to shout at the customers: Although many food places divide the tables’ responsibility on the waiters, it is not uncommon to ask something from any other waiter passing by. It’s not the end of the world if we ask something from another waiter. He can always pass the message. I still can’t get over this incident that happened where I got shouted at because of that at Roadster’s, Citymall. I avoid talking to this waiter now.
  3. Drinks come first: I was never able to understand why this bottle of water comes when I’m halfway through my main dish in several occasions at Crepaway, ABC Ashrafieh. Ironically, this happens when you have that 30-minutes-before-food pill to take or when you’re really thirsty.
  4. Give proper training to the valet. Don’t “sleep on it” because a private company was hired: These guys, if you happened to have them, are the customer’s first contact. Whether they are your own or coming from another company, people will also judge the food place based on their experience with them. I once had to wait 15 minutes before the valet came to take the car; when I went up to Applebee’s, Dbayeh, to inquire, I found him on the other side of the street having a passionate conversation with a bunch of people! And the last time I went to Souccaria, the valet ran to open the passenger’s door careless about the fact that a man was sitting next to me. He did not open my door and the worst is that when I went to the valet booth to get back the car, I found my keys resting on the windshield wipers! HELLO safety! I even got in, started my engine and he did not even notice! Let alone the fact that I’m not found of giving my car to anyone but PLEASE what’s going on?
  5. Allowing waiters to work when they are sick is not a good idea: I was eating with fear in my stomach, hoping I won’t catch the flu from a waiter who also was having trouble managing his runny nose at Casper & Gambini’s, ABC Ashrafieh. Since he comes back and forth to the table several times, it would have been better to let him rest and give him a few days to get back on his feet healthy before allowing him to be in contact with people. The order taker at Burger King did not even answer my question about the new items that were on display, so I ended up not buying any. He looked uneasy maybe suffering from some sort of physical pain. “He’s sick, it’s obvious and they’re making him work anyways” is not what you want people to think  when they come to eat. I felt sorry for these men. They were in no condition to smile nor to provide an “exceptional customer experience”.
  6. Who pays the bill is not your concern: People fight for the bill all the time; it happens in all food places. The word “Wassil” (In English: “It has been settled.”) is open for misinterpretation and confusion. NEVER use it unless the bill was really settled already (One of the guests went to the cashier and paid). NEVER say it when you haven’t even put the bill on the table: it will be understood as an invitation. You have no idea about the negative image nor the disappointment you create when you call back your customers to tell them that there is an unsettled bill because you said “Wassil”. (Try say “Wassil” to the one who was actually inviting and then call this person or anyone else for the invitees back to ask for bill settlement: You have signed your own death certificate here.) If no one settled the bill already, do not say “Wassil”; instead print it out and put it on the table: Whether X or Y pays it, is not your concern; the guests will handle it.
  7. When you are making a contest of some sort and want to reward people, you don’t give away 1 invitation for 1 to social events: We are social beings, we also love to share and impress. When you want to reward people with invitations always start with invitations for two. Whether for diner, a concert, movies or anything else including social events… UNLESS you are giving away items. (You can give mugs, t-shirts, hats, etc… to one person.) I would have preferred a diner for two at Roadster’s instead of a ticket for 1 to a seated concert.
  8. Train your delivery drivers on road safety: It’s incredible how people are careless about road safety and how they complain about it at the same time. 4-wheel-drivers have to put their safety belt on but 2-wheel-drivers are compared to pedestrians? That’s so wrong when we know the kind of speed they can achieve with these little machines. Most of the food places’ delivery drivers are on 2-wheels, they drive recklessly with no helmets on (and if they do have one they don’t buckle it) and do not stop at red lights. Employee safety anyone?
  9. I will pass the numerous times the order and the bill come in late, the times when customers get different dishes from what they ordered or even when they get the main dishes before the appropriate cutlery, the other times when no one even noticed that a customer came in and left etc…

This is by no means a negative publicity to anyone mentioned above. On the opposite, because I care, because I visit these places frequently, it saddens me seeing them making these mistakes inadvertently when they can easily and quickly overcome them. Many food places fall in more than one of these traps. I’m sure that if you write down your own unpleasant experiences, you will end up with a lengthy list; feel free to add them in a comment. (We are humans after all – Said that twice already)

The point is that we have leading food places that are awesome in Lebanon. I literally miss the food here every time I travel. Going from great to awesome is not impossible. In fact, it’s a 24/7 dedication to hard work, quick correct reactions and an unprecedented attention to those devilish details that make all the difference  in the world to show that YES, you are VERY serious about your business.

7 thoughts on “Food places in Lebanon: Are you serious about your business?

    • Thank you very much! I hope you will come back from the blogging hibernation soon 🙂 I just compiled those things that happen all the time and wrote them down. The devil is in the details!

  1. Hello Rita,

    What a nice post 🙂
    We’d like to thank you for letting us know about the “Indoors” smoking issue in ABC. We’ll work on it so that it doesn’t happen again.

    Thank again,
    ZWZ Marketing Team

  2. Dear Rita,

    Very insightful and detailed article. Please note that we will contact you shortly regarding your Rd City Mall issue. We thank you again for your honesty and thank you for caring.

    Have a wonderful day
    Hady C
    Roadster diner

    • Thank you for reading and thanks to the Customer Service Dept. for calling! It was good to go through the details and share some thoughts and concerns!

  3. Great post and glad to know zwz and roadsters responded so quick to your comments 🙂 hopefully these changes will be put into place to improve the issues you mentioned.

    I’d like to also add a point about waiters attentiveness. It’s nice that they ask and check on the table, but some restaurants take it to far always coming to the table. I’d rather the waiters be around and attentive so when I need them I can call for them then have them over my shoulder. A bit of privacy please.. 😛

    Also don’t remove the plate unless it’s clear both parties are done. It’s annoying to feel rushed and have someone pulling the plate the second you drop your fork.

    Anyways, you covered all the main points. That was just my two cents additions 🙂

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