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  • The Storyteller

Case Review: Lacklustre Breakfast Service (and the Thoughtful Recovery) at Capella Hanoi

At Capella Hanoi, we were looking very much forward to our first breakfast there before heading out to the pottery village about 90 minutes away.

At the entrance, the employee assigned to be the host was focused more on looking down than up and so he remained completely unaware that we were standing two arms' length from him. We said, "Good Morning" and it probably startled him a little. Looking up with a mask on - perhaps that was why we could not see his nice smile; not that it was showing through his eyes - he nodded and led us to a table before taking a swift departure. No reciprocation of our greeting, no offering of beverages, no explanation of anything. Not even getting our room number. As we sat down, we gave each other an unspoken look of 'Mmmm......not going as well as we were expecting...let's see what's next."

The breakfast service was disorganised and chaotic to say the least. Eventually we got another employee's attention to order our coffees. While our room did include breakfast, we didn't know if we could order anything on the menu since it has prices listed. At the far end near the open kitchen, there seemed to be a mini buffet of sort, but when we approached, it was just a display counter for their coffee, signature crockery and some packaged products.

My bowl of pho was served after about 15 minutes, but the fruits and salmon on toast for my husband had yet to arrive. Neither did we get our juices, though the hot beverages arrived few minutes after the pho. I was pleased to see that the coffee art on my cappuccino was well done.

There seemed to be a little mayhem going on with one or two senior management, the chef, the kitchen and service team at the far end..... After yet another 10 minutes, we tried to catch someone's attention for the remaining dishes and finally when we did, the young lady did not get back to us on the mystery of our missing items. I felt bad for my hungry husband. Perhaps I should stop raving to him how delicious my noodles were...

Another 10 minutes crawled by, and we asked another team member, who told us "the food was coming soon."

Breakfast was getting waaaaaayyyyy too draggy. We decided to change our morning plans since we didn't want to rush back from the pottery village for our pre-booked lunch appointment back in town. It's okay, we would do it the following day.....

At this moment, we saw an employee walking hurriedly with a plate of fruits and something else.....ours? Nope. He placed the fruits platter on the host stand by the entrance and proceeded to serve the second plate to another table in another section. I wondered what impression would the next guest arriving at the entrance have? The plate sat there for less than 3 minutes, and my husband muttered, "I was hoping it was mine, but now I hope it isn't!"

Eventually both his dishes arrived (no, not the one left at the lecturn. A good 35-40 minutes since the order.

Service Bank: Minus 5 💖


That late afternoon, we received a hand-written card and a complementary amenity in our room, acknowledging and apologising for the breakfast delay. "Nice of them to notice and to do this as service recovery", we both thought.

Service Bank: 3 x 💖

The following morning, as we walked towards the restaurant, we met Ms. Ha from the Front Desk. She apologised for the prior breakfast experience and assured us that it would not happen again. She walked us to the restaurant and true to her words, we had a very pleasant time with much efficiency that morning. There was now a small buffet section set-up for the cold dishes and pastries - not sure if this was a new concept starting this day, or could it be the outlet forgot to prepare this entire area the day before? Anyway, it definitely worked.

Post-meal, Ms. Ha also enquired about our satisfaction at breakfast.

Service Bank: 2 x 💖 for Ms. Ha's genuine interest in our well-being.

Side note 1: For senior management, do make it a point to interact with all the tables when there is just 6 occupied tables in the restaurant. Chatting with 3 of them but not coming by to convey basic morning greeting (even just a mere "Good morning"), makes the rest wonder what is the "selection criteria"?

Side note 2: There was another non-uniformed female employee (perhaps Sales and Marketing/PR?) who stood near the outlet entrance as we departed, perhaps waiting to meet with someone to start a meeting. She promptly looked away, walking towards her colleague by the bar, as if avoiding any guest interaction. I am convinced that she had wrongly thought that only those in service operations needed to tend to guests.

Reflective thoughts: List examples whereby team members' unconscious behaviour in a restaurant setting project an image of being ungracious or/and not being service ready.

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