Businesses are made up of people. And people screw up. So inevitably, at some point or another, businesses will screw up. We Kenyans (and I suppose human beings in general) are very good at letting the world know exactly when and how businesses have screwed us over and when we do (usually on social media), we address them as if they are some amorphous entities made up of assets, policies and fat bank accounts, never as fallible human beings like ourselves. Maximum vitriol is reserved for businesses that are perceived to have the fattest bank accounts.
So when client service fails to pick up calls, or our flights are delayed or, God forbid, we don’t get all the croissants we ask for in a restaurant, the world will get to know just how evil the business responsible for our woes is. Some businesses seem to treat the complaints as the white noise that it sometimes tends to be but most learn from their mistakes and try to do better.
A recent experience with Artcaffe, synonymous with the infamous ‘croissant’ incident, tells me they might actually fall in the latter category.
First, however, let me be very clear on a number of things: Artcaffe did not pay to have this article written, I do not have relatives or friends working at Artcaffe, I am not looking for a job at Artcaffe and I did not win vouchers for unlimited meals and drinks with my friends at any of their restaurants. Someone there simply did the right thing and for that this story needs to be told.
It all started with the chicken breast and mashed potatoes a friend of mine and I ordered for our dinner at their Junction branch. The initial plan had been to have a glass of wine there then move upstairs to the Japanese restaurant for dinner. But we got a little too comfortable in our seats, especially after our second glass of wine. When the live band checked in we inevitably ended up with a ‘what the heck let’s just have dinner here’ scenario.
So in came the meal. The potatoes were to die for, the chicken was not. It evoked little sensation on the palate and lacked the tenderness and succulence that makes for winning chicken breast recipes. There was no sauce to salvage the dryness.
So we asked for some- sauce that is.
We were told it would be charged separately. Ok, we agreed to be charged separately. Would they please get us that mushroom sauce and quickly, before we finished the chicken. It came. Less than 2 minutes later, great! But it was cold- not great.
The supervisor happened upon our table and asked if everything was ok. It was not, we said. Was the sauce meant to be served cold? We wanted to know. No, he said. Everything was not ok then, we restated.
Could he warm it for us? He asked. Too late, we said, we had already started eating so we would just soldier on with our cold mushroom sauce and dry chicken breast.
The supervisor offered an apology which we accepted, albeit reluctantly- a dry chicken and cold sauce dinner had not been on our plan for the evening.
Another apology came. Then he said something that surprised us for the sole reason that in this town, empty apologies are usually the order of the day. The supervisor was now standing there and telling us that he wouldn’t charge us for the sauce.
His apology had been genuine. We were impressed. Things were starting to get right with the world.
He left us to finish our dinner; the mashed potatoes really were amazing.
When we were done, he didn’t need to ask how our meal was, that had already been established and there was no reason to dwell on the past. But we did tell him about the mashed potatoes. He accepted the compliment with grace and left us.
At the end of the evening, after we paid the bill, he made another appearance at our table. This time he was carrying a baguette. He handed it to us with another apology and what appeared to be a little bow. We were taken aback.
He didn’t need to do that we said. But he insisted and apologized for the cold sauce again.
We might not have relished our food as much as we had hoped but the way we were treated at Artcaffe Junction more than compensated for our cold sauce and dry chicken issues. The supervisor’s judgement call is what we came away with that evening. Given that my feelings about the restaurant in general have been lukewarm at best, even before the croissant drama, it took a lot to have me take the time to write an article about Artcaffe.
It took the supervisor’s genuine apology and an effort to make things right because of a mistake he was not even directly responsible for.
He was called Ambrose.
In one fell swoop, Ambrose has changed my feelings about Artcaffe from lukewarm to warm. No amount of money spent on advertising can achieve that.