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  • The Storyteller

Birthday Breakfast at COMO Ubud

The greeting at the restaurant was mediocre and scripted, without much eye contact nor did it acknowledge our response. It was as if what we said did not matter anyway.

Employee: Good morning. Room number please?

Us: Good morning. Our room is 203. Mr & Mrs L.

Employee: One moment. (checking the list). For how many people?

Us: Er…just us two.

Employee: You slept well?

Us: Yes, we did! We slept so good like babies!

Employee: (Turns to speak to colleague). Just one moment. We are preparing the table.

Us: Ok…….thanks…we’re quite hungry

Employee: (Silence)

The lack of engagement made the wait to be seated painfully slow. How we would have liked the interaction to be:

Staff: A very good morning and welcome to (restaurant name). May I have your room number*


Us: Good morning. Room 203, Mr & Mrs L.

Staff: One moment please (checking the list). Yes, I have got you here. Mr. and Mrs L. Please

give us 3 minutes as we are clearing up a table. Would you like to take a look at the menu

first? We also have the buffet section for the pastries, cold cuts and fruits.

Us: Ok sure.

Staff: (Handing out menus) Did you sleep well last night?

Us: Sure. Yes, we slept so good like babies!

Staff: Good to hear. I wish you a relaxing stay stay with us. Give me a moment please (turns to

speak to colleague). Perhaps I could take your beverage orders first? The table will be

ready in a few moments.

Us: It’s ok, we will order when seated. We are quite hungry.

Staff: Sorry for the wait. Perhaps I could show you the buffet line first?

*For smaller properties, it would be even more impressive if team members greet guests by names right away; or, once room number is given, guests are readily addressed by names. It is indeed a feat, and that is why it is a big “Wow” when that happens.

Service Bank: Minus 1 Reflective thoughts: Which interaction is more mutually engaging and makes the team member feel better about himself/herself (i.e. sense of pride, feeling good about oneself)?


While seated, we had different team members approaching to ask about our breakfast every few minutes. By the time the fourth one approached, we nodded readily and repeated, “All’s fine and the food is good.”

Yet, the employee still went ahead with, “How’s the food?”

Service Bank: Minus 3

Reflective thoughts: What needs to be done to enhance the internal communication such that repetitive service is reduced or eliminated? Be specific (and not just “Training” and “To inform during briefing”). What other ways can team members show their attentive service without being repetitive?


The outlet manager came over and asked the following:

1. What’s your name? (And extended a handshake)

2. How’s everything?

3. How’s your room?

4. Anything we can do to make it better?

5. Is the air conditioning too cold in your room?

My immediate sentiments: WHY? And 5 questions in a row?

Name – the outlet already knows. If at all, it’s more polite to ask, “May I have your name?” rather than an interrogative “What’s your name?” Furthermore, a handshake is not that convenient for guests who are dining and holding onto their cutlery.

“How’s everything?” – If I may be truthful and honest, all’s smooth and good except for the interruptive service. You are the 5th person to ask within the last 25 minutes, sir.

“How’s your room?” – Is this really the right moment? How about asking this when we have concluded the breakfast or when escorting us out of the outlet with a fond goodbye?

“Anything we can do to make it better?” – Really good question, though once again, perhaps the timing could be better. It takes a longer conversation and definitely not when I am trying to enjoy my mee goreng…

“Is the air conditioning too cold in your room?” – My first thought was whether this was a major complaint for most guests and whether this happened very regularly.

I repeat, timing is important. There is a right place and time for everything, and I am sorry here is just not it.

Service Bank: Minus 3

Reflective thoughts: How do we ascertain what is an appropriate moment to ask a particular question? Give specific examples and discuss under which circumstances would some good questions be considered inappropriate in timing?


As I was about to leave the restaurant to retrieve my camera from the villa, my husband caught up and asked me to head back to the table as the team was preparing something for me.

Oh-oh….NOT the cake and singing, I kept my fingers crossed.

As I started walking back somewhat hesitantly, four employees started to sing with much gusto, “Hhaaaaaappy Birthdaaaaay to you…………” while I was standing right in the middle of the supposedly tranquil restaurant surrounded by a water lily pond.

As much as I was thankful for the team effort, I felt really uncomfortable at that moment in front of all the guests, right in the midst of the restaurant. What I would have appreciated would have been:

a. For team to read the request on our reservation, which had clearly stated: “Birthday cake, if any, to

be presented in room and not in public spaces like restaurants.”

b. Even if there was no prior indication, it is highly recommended to check discreetly with one member of the party during check-in, when is the best time and where at. The only exception for

a go-ahead without clarifying would be for young kids.

Service Bank: Minus 5

Total Service Bank of Breakfast Experience: Minus 12.

Reflective thoughts: Think of other kind gestures that the team do, which may not be fully appreciated by the guests. Remember, a surprise that is not valued is a waste and may end up being an inconvenience or hassle to the guest.

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