Telling Lies, Saving Lives and More: Service Staff Share Their Unforgettable Customer Stories
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
We get some F&B service crew, past and present, to reveal their most unforgettable customer experience stories.
1. From cuisine to culture
For Muhammad Fadil, who used to manage (working title) Burger Bar, this meant telling his story through Kampong Glam, where the humble burger spot calls home.
He recalls a particular day at the restaurant when a British couple seemed to be taking quite some time perusing the menu. Approaching them to suggest recommendations, their conversation veered instead from cuisine to culture.
“They were tourists, and they asked about the history of Kampong Glam, the people who made up Singapore, our ethnicities, our history,” Fadil shares, “they were so amazed, because the area was so different to other parts of Singapore where it’s full of high-rise buildings.”
“So I told them how Kampong Glam comes alive through the vibrant living traditions of the Malay community here in Singapore,” he continues. If you could sense the excitement in his voice when recounting the conversation, you’d feel as though he’s also verbally showing you through the area: around the iconic landmarks, through the eclectic small alleys.
Their encounter didn’t just end in the restaurant. Fadil even took the couple to the nearby Sultan Mosque after their meal. (There was someone else on shift who could manage the restaurant, he made sure to clarify!)
“Even though Malays are a relatively minority ethnic group in Singapore, I felt like I could still give my community a voice and share our traditions with people, whether they’re foreigners or locals,” he muses.
2. Faked it, but didn’t make it
“I used to wait tables at a western seafood restaurant where they easily had over 30 selections of fish,” Darren Yeo explains, setting the scene for his story.
“It’s my first day, and I’m eager to impress. A well-dressed pair of diners ask for recommendations, and they look like they’d know a thing or two about food, so I act like I know the menu really well and recommend the most exotic-sounding fish.”
They take his recommendation, and everything goes well (for the moment). After all, what could go wrong?
Here’s what. “I serve them their food, and even keep up the act, saying, ‘Here you go, this is seriously my favourite!’ But when I walk back to the kitchen counter, I realised I served them the wrong dish. Their actual dish looked completely different!”
“I had to go back up to the diners and replace their dishes, which was essentially admitting that I’d totally lied about my ‘favourite’ recommendation.”
“That’s so many hiccups in one,” Darren jokes. Luckily, the diners didn’t say anything about it, but he still remembers it as one of the most awkward experiences as a service staff.
3. You don’t always have to follow the rules
In fact, these stories of heritage are what inspired Hayley Ridgwell to go from customer to service staff, and eventually to a managerial position.
Originally from the UK, Hayley was vacationing in Singapore back in 2015 and staying in the hostel above (working title) Burger Bar.
“I loved it so much – the vibes, the area, the city – that I eventually returned to Singapore to work at (working title)!”
Such spontaneity, I think to myself, and I’m certain her most unforgettable customer stories are fuelled by this spontaneous spark as well.
“Sometimes, we’d get elderly folks selling tissues coming into our shop,” Hayley recalls. “And it’s actually illegal for them to do so, which meant we’d have to ask them to leave.”
“But we’ll ask them to sit down and have a meal on the house instead. One time, another customer saw this, and they left a glowing review for us!”
4. That’s nuts!
We get it, ice cream is hard to resist. Just ask the two teenage boys who walked into the ice cream parlour that Cassandra was working at.
“One boy ordered a double scoop of hazelnut ice cream,” Cassandra recounts, “and as I was scooping it, I heard the other boy ask, ‘Aren’t you allergic to nuts?’ To which he replied, ‘Aiya, whatever, I’m really craving.’”
Pardon the pun, but well, she froze. What’s more, she was the only one on shift, and she didn’t know what would happen if she rejected their order.
Well, a lot more could have happened if she accepted their order. When she decided not to serve them in the end, she was met with a slew of nasty remarks before they stormed out. At least no lives were endangered that day.
5. It’s about the little things
Norish Khairina was one of the pioneer service staff at homey brunch spot Santap when it first opened.
She shares, “Santap at the time was new and wasn’t very busy, so our boss encouraged us to sit down with customers and talk to them when we had the chance.”
And so Norish, a self-professed introvert, did.
“Now, one of the families that I talked to once still recognize me and say hi even when we bump into each other on the street.”
“And I’m always changing my hair colour, so it mustn’t be very easy to recognize me!” She adds, amused.