Jun 28 2010

Royal Betting – Customer Losing

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 10:54 pm

To elaborate on the previous tweet regarding the Royal Betting Sports Bar (part of the Kings Hotel complex) in Astana, we were originally heading there to take our place at a reserved table, to watch the England versus Germany World Cup match. A friend of Dan’s had kindly contacted Royal Betting the day before, to check if we could make sure we would have seats to watch the match, and get a feel for the place. He was told on the phone that a table of around 20-40 people would need to spend at least 15,000 Tenge. This equates to around $90, which even allowing for the designated drivers in our group just drinking coke or juice was absolutely fine.
However, upon our arrival, we discovered just why Royal Betting was a bar to avoid in Astana (see half way down the page for some info in Russian and pictures). The manager met us at the door, and told us there was a non-refundable deposit of $35 per person! If each person did not spend that much by the time they left, the bar kept the difference! Although my friends and I have come across other examples of rip off joints in Astana before, this tended to be in night clubs that were desperate to exude an exclusive rich night clubber clientele image. Certainly not in bars that were absolutely empty, and were aware that a few dozen ex-pats were about to watch a football match, spend a fair amount (when this was a voluntary option!) and most likely praise/condemn the venue to friends!
Anyway, the bar itself looked nice enough (the lobsters in the fish tank seemed to be mouldy/furry though!), and whilst the uncompromising/care free attitude of the manager was nothing unusual for customer service levels in Kazakhstan, the fact that when the original reservations were made, a completely different figure and set up was explained (by senior staff/the manager) compared to what we were confronted with on the day, meant I can’t recommend this place unless your company is footing the bill. Check the second link for some more shots from flickr of the venue to avoid in Astana, Kazakhstan.
We eventually went on to a German style pub/bar about a kilometre or two away, where the service was slow but friendly, there was no minimum spend, and the beers were cheaper. Obviously England lost (we were robbed of a goal, but not the match to be fair), and our German friends seemed more than happy with the result (“Justice – 44 years late” referring to yesterday’s vs. 1966’s infamous ball crossing/not crossing the goal line)!

I just wanted to clarify one point – having to pay some sort of deposit for sitting at a table isn’t that uncommon over here. Being told one (reasonable) price only to find a more expensive charge being attempted at the very last minute (bait & switch) hasn’t happened to me before. Perhaps I’m just being naïve, or don’t sit down that often when drinking, but it just seemed like a con, or at the very least really short sighted business sense. The place was dead, a mere 30 minutes before kick off, and losing the good will of so many potential customers & positive word of mouth advertisers seemed ridiculous.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jul 10 2008

The Good, The Bad And The Last Minute Recovery

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 4:06 am

Before I forget the details, I wanted to let anyone who was planning on visiting a local restaurant called Patio about our experience there. We had gone with Natalya to have a nice meal (they were going for the Sushi, I was hoping to find some nice pasta). Upon arriving, we were told that ordering food was possible, but would involve a one hour wait, as they were very busy. We decided to stay and have a few drinks whilst we waited. We eventually managed to order the drinks, after being ignored by several waiters and waitresses. The drinks arrived within twenty minutes or so, and we had decided which delicacies we hoped to be delighted by, and so made our order. Over the next 45 minutes or so, various items were found to have disappeared from the menu, as the kitchen had run out of ingredients. This information came in dribs and drabs, but eventually we found a combination that did not seem to cause any problems. The girls’ starters and main course arrived, as did my garlic bread. After another hour or so, we asked the waiter where my lasagne was, as the kitchen was about to close… oh, no, that has run out, and the kitchen is already closed! We weren’t best pleased, and so asked to speak to the manager. Eventually a shift supervisor turned up, listened to our grievances and basically said nothing could be done… tough luck! We asked her to again speak to the manager, and she replied that the boss was very busy. No problem, we’ll wait, but please get her ASAP. Another twenty minutes had passed, so we phoned the telephone number listed on the back of the bill we had received. The boss herself answered, and was surprised to hear that customers were waiting to talk to her! It turns out the staff were probably worried about revealing unhappy customers were in her restaurant, and had hoped we would just pay the bill and leave. At this point the manager offered to re-open the kitchen and get some sort of food sorted, but we had had enough waiting around, and declined the offer. We inferred that the bill was perhaps an item we could come to an amicable agreement over (I may have mentioned I reviewed the local restaurants at this point, and Natalya may have accidentally inferred that my opinions held a little more clout that they do 😉 ). Without more than a couple of seconds passing, the manager offered to wipe the cost of all the food from our bill, just leaving us to pay for the drinks. In this city, I have never encountered such an offer where problems have occurred, so I was very glad to see that the principle of customer service appears to be slowly seeping into the right minds. Compare this to the fiasco of our last meal in one of the local Samovars, for example, and I can see why friends had recommended the Patio to us in the first place 🙂
Would we go back there again? Probably, though if there was any hint of another waiter who had only just started working there, or a kitchen running out of food, we may just stay for drinks instead…

Tags: , , ,