A couple of years ago, I wrote a shining report card for Azabu Sabo, the Japanese restaurant that initially was known for its Hokkaido gelato, then had its first restaurant outlet at Marina Square. Today, I returned only to be totally flabbergasted and totally let down. Here’s a bullet-pointed list of what went wrong:

  • The sign said “please wait to be seated” so I did, but after 5mins of being ignored by the almost empty restaurant the ice-cream counter boy came over to seat us. 
  • Nothing was said when a waitress came to our table to pour 2 cups of green tea – was this complimentary? Did we even have a say in whether we wanted it? Was it refillable? Well, we could only guess. 
  • Guy in black uniform came over to take our order – no biggie that he didn’t smile, no biggie that he didn’t upsell. Maybe he was having a bad day. 
  • Food came, was ok, my dessert was supposed to come later, but when I asked for it, it came only 20mins later (after my sister went to the loo and came back). I bet the staff must have walked past my table at least 4 times by now, but they didn’t take notice to clear the table even after I helped them stack the bowls and plates together. Also, no one bothered to refill the green tea which I assumed was refillable. 
  • When the dessert finally came, I had to tell Guy in black uniform to clear my table because he obviously didn’t realise that he should’ve done that. I also asked for refilling of the green tea, if it was possible, but I only got a slight nod, no smiles and Guy in black shirt turned on his heels and left. Hmm. 
  • By this time I was fuming, because not only was my dessert delayed and the staff not paying any attention even though I made meaningful eye contact with this Filipino waitress who I told to serve my dessert, there was never a smile, or please, or thank you from the time I entered the restaurant until then. 
  • So I called this other Chinese waitress and told her that I want my bill, but not before they void out my dessert and the service charge of 10% of the total bill. 
  • Chinese waitress came back without doing either of the above, so I told her again of the same thing, and complained about the lack of service, adding including herself, this is ridiculous. What did she say in return? “But I’m on my break!”. No sorry, no sign of even being apologetic, only an indignant remark that doesn’t explain anything at all. Really, what’s her EQ? Negative?
  • I demanded to see the manager. Twice. 
  • And guess who was the manager? None other than Guy in black uniform!!! LMFAO. I immediately asked “Are you the manager?” (yes) “I’m so surprised you’re the manager!” and went on to explain how everything went wrong. And his response? “We have only 1 staff working today” and repeated that line 2 more times, as if I was supposed to notice and understand this and reduce my expectations as a customer?!? All this time, his face was expressionless, and there was no remorse or any hint of effort to do a service recovery. I was exasperated. So I said “you know saying sorry will be a lot better” and so he said a half-hearted sorry (without injecting any emotion at all) and then turned to leave.

By the time I left the restaurant, I already told myself to remind my HR department to call me if any applicant to my hotel had “Azabu Sabo” in their resumes, if they did, I will personally do a face-recognition test and if it turns out to be anyone who I saw today, they can only pray that I don’t make sure they are forever banned from the hotel industry, if they even dare try. The manager, especially, can forget about even applying for the most junior position. No service culture in him at all. If the owner of Azabu Sabo called me for consultation, I say change the manager and all the service staff, and rehire people who at least have some EQ. 

Honestly, I could make this a lot more humiliating for them, I’m already being civil by not putting up names. Restaurants with nice decor and decent food but totally disappointing service should already have folded long ago in Singapore where consumers are supposed to be generally more demanding, but by some stroke of dumb luck Azabu Sabo managed to escape that. I can only think of 1 logical explanation for this – the owner is unwilling to close down the restaurant, so he resorts to cutting staff and cutting pay, and the manager is stuck with the restaurant with a contract (something like a bond) for a nominal pay, so his agony is filtered down to the rest of the staff and me – the customer!!! 

I will stay away from that place from now on…… :S

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