Living in Kuala Lumpur you get to see the best and worst of the place and what I have really noticed is how wrong the locals get the hospitality industry. They have the basic ideas down, but there’s a whole lot missing before they can hold themselves up against the likes of London and Australia.
Come to almost any cafe, restaurant or street food vendor and you will get a menu. But before you even get comfortable on your chair you will be asked what you want to drink and if you’re ready to make your food order. It baffles me as to why this is in their order of service up and down the country. Then no one bothers to check up on you in any useful way throughout the meal. So from the start you’re on the back foot.
If you indeed want to glance over the menu, you can ask for a few minutes but that guy or girl won’t be moving an inch. I’ve tried giving them my nicest smile and saying “we will be five minutes” but whatever rules they have in place – they cannot/will not leave you in peace.
Should you need anything, you have to essentially swivel you chair around to try to catch someone’s attention. You find the same when you get the bill. It will come. Sometimes they will just tell you the amount while holding the bill, sometimes they will put it on the table – but either way they will stand over you while you go through your handbag/wallet and hand over the money.
Less Staff on the floor
Yes the minimum wage here is approximately AU$3 in Kuala Lumpur so you can staff your venue to the hilt. But during the week in a cafe that only has a few tables filled, you don’t need 5 staff running the place. If you have worked in hospitality you know it could be done with one barista and one working the floor and till.
$3 x 3 staff x 10 hour shifts (yes that’s how they do it here) could be a saving of $90 a day.
Even with the glut of staff, they still expect you to go and collect your coffee from the counter when it’s ready rather than using those extra bodies they employ to bring it to you and clean it away once it’s finished.It never looks good when your empty coffee cup has been sitting in front of your for an hour and starts attracting flies.
Soft openings that never end
Kuala Lumpur is king of the soft opening while never admitting to it. Unlike the rest of the world, if a cafe has tables, chairs and a coffee machine, it’s time to open the doors. But they insist on the caveat that they will only be doing coffee and cakes as they don’t have a functioning chef yet.
If you’re not ready to serve everything a cafe is supposed to from day one or at least the first week then we (bloggers) know you’re in trouble. We know that once you do start offering food, it won’t be tried and tested and up to standard. This isn’t the best way to run your new venue as there’s another 5 cafes opening weekly at the moment so you’re going to be on the back foot from the start.
And when you do start offering food – don’t go down the route of making waffles your primary food source (hello The Owl Cafe and the rest of you). You don’t need to be a chef to put some cake mixture onto a waffle iron and press down. It’s the cheap and easy way out and almost every cafe these days has shunned cafe food for the ease that is the waffle game. Don’t be a cop out. Get a proper chef and let them shine.
Malaysians don’t understand brunch. They think they do, but they don’t. They have all visited or have family in Australia but copying dishes from a Melbourne cafe’s menu that you saw on holiday does not a good cafe make. We have been here 8 months now and have yet to find a cafe or restaurant that we have eaten a brunch that we have ever thought about revisiting. Most of the time we kick ourselves for bothering to spend the money when local street food would have cost a quarter and been cooked by a professional.
Also – even though it’s a muslim country, cafes and restaurants shouldn’t be put off from serving pork in its dishes. Even locals complain with the substitute of fake bacon that they get served as an alternative.
A timely meal
How does someone head up a kitchen without being able to send out dishes in a) their correct order and b) at the same time as the other diners at the table. I know this also happens in Singapore, where the last time we visited and stayed there wit ha good friend we had a bet that for our entire stay none of our food or drink would arrive at the same time. He was right and it’s the same here in Kuala Lumpur.
We have had coffees come out within 10 minutes of each other, we have had cocktails that we ordered as we sat down arrive in the midst of our main meals and we have had dishes of entrees, mains and desserts all arrive whenever the kitchen deemed it ready to serve. Head chefs and floor staff should be attentive enough to know the flow of service and get their teams up to scratch rather than lining food and drink whenever it suits them.
Have you found any other issues while dining around KL? If so let us know your frustrations.