Frank Kane’s notebook: making a song and dance out of mealtimes

Contrasting service standards on the ground at Jumeirah Emirates Towers and in the air with flydubai.

I had dinner the other night in the Rib Room restaurant at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. Nothing too posh. Just a long-planned but frequently postponed soirée with an old friend and our wives.

She – my friend’s wife – is Italian by birth and an opera singer by training. I’ve never heard her sing, but from her conversational voice it must be a delight, and I look forward to a live performance at a suitable venue sometime soon.

The dinner table chat was flowing and fascinating, but, as is often the case in restaurants and cafes, I was having trouble getting the attention of the waiter. Sitting there with my arm in the air, calling “excuse me” in a suitably low tone (you don’t want to shout in these places do you?), neither of these were working.

My operatic companion decided to take over, and with one finger raised she muttered “excuse me” in a soft voice I could barely hear. The waiter looked up, snapped to attention and hot-footed it to our table.

She explained that it was a technique she often used in crowded restaurants and other public places. Apparently her voice – a mezzo-soprano – carries more distinctly than my baritone. She seldom gets poor service.

It got me thinking about overall service levels in Dubai. While facilities and food are generally good, service can be slipshod. (I don’t intend these comments to apply especially to the Rib Room, by the way).

Many waiters just don’t seem to be paying attention. They are texting on mobiles, or talking between themselves, or looking at the ceiling, anything other than looking at the guests’ table to see if a glass is empty, or a course is finished, or there is an obvious need for more butter.

The countries’ five-star establishments could invest a little more in service training.

Flydubai, the emirate’s no-frills airline, is anything but five-star, but you know that when you book. The job of low-cost airlines is to get you from A to B quickly, efficiently and cheaply, and you know when you buy the ticket you will not be getting business class treatment.

But on a recent flight, even the minimal standards expected were not reached. On a two-and-a-half hour flight, at lunchtime, you might excuse the passengers for feeling a little peckish. You realise you have to pay for food, of course, but so be it. That’s the deal.

On this flight, the attendants ran out of sandwiches long before they reached me in seat 22F. I grumpily complained, and was told that the “assessor” would have a word with me.

I’d never heard of an in-flight assessor before, but Jennifer was a very pleasant young lady, who perched on the arm of the seat in front of me and explained, sweetly and efficiently, that flydubai wanted to keep in-flight food wastage to a minimum, and assessed, before take-off, how many people would be eating that day.

Obviously they had miscalculated on this flight, she apologised. She would put in a report to up the ration on the next day’s flight, and again regretted any inconvenience to me and my family.

My grumpiness faded, but my rumbling stomach continued, and I resolved to complain formally to flyduabai. I was mentally preparing the email when back came Jennifer with a small Tupperware container. She opened it to show me a chicken sandwich.

“I was going to have this for my lunch, but you are very welcome,” she said.

I declined, of course, but admired her expertise in defusing a potential crisis. Now that’s what I call service.

fkane@thenational.ae

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Published: May 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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