Monday, May 08, 2006

Work Problems

Moon River Retreat

Speaking English is a passport for whoever wants to work in a restaurant, hotel, or in the tourist industry in general, even just for a normal job that doesn't necessarily need English. That's why there are so many people studying English now.

Moon River Retreat

As I said in my other post about my work place, working in hospitality is not as easy as it looks, especially in Viet Nam, because it not only needs skill but it needs you to speak at least English because most customers who come to my restaurant are foreigners. I feel annoyed sometimes with my clients when they ask my colleagues, "Can I speak with someone can speak English to take my orders?" I have to explain so many times about this situation, that they just have to be patient but some of them get really angry.

Moon River Retreat

Hello? You are in Viet Nam and Vietnamese people try really as hard as possible to communicate. Why don't the customers speak Vietnamese?

Wild Rice

Another problem is that Vietnamese food is served whenever it's ready and we don't serve it in the same formal way as western food. It's the best way to enjoy the food, hot and fresh. But lots of people don’t understand and they try to make a big deal about it, to such an extent that they ask for discount or free meals even though the staff have explained.

Wild Rice

Please give me some advice. I do know that it is also just one of the hazards of working in the hospitality industry. But what can I do to deal with these problems and customers?

42 comments:

Ben said...

From the other side of the fence, I found it annoying when Vietnamese people didn't try to understand my Vietnamese. Not that I speak it very well :)

Nam said...

If your restaurant pays 'peanuts', they'll get Monkeys so management should invest in educating their staff more. The service in Vietnam is not up to standard, (in every industry). There is no customer service in VN!!! (unless you are willing to give them tips)!!!!

Kelvin said...

Kia Ora (hello)from that krazy New Zealand blogger. Firstly, can you send me your email address, as I have a few suggestions.
I would also like to invite you to be a member of my foodie blog. I also intend to start a "learn basis english" blog.
Hope all is well in your part of the world.
Take care & all the best.

FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

I really how I can help you there but all I know is that there are people who really very demanding irregardless of where they are. I suggest that the hotel hire a translator in that way, the hotel earns extra income from that. But usually when a management puts up a hotel they are very sure that they have English speaking people to cater other tourists.

Elaine said...

I find that if you tell customers things in advance after they've ordered, such as that the food comes when it comes, they are less likely to complain about it. Most of the time, people just don't like surprises.

I agree though, if you go to a country, learn the language! Most tourists who come to Canada generally have some English knowledge.

Beach said...

Sounds as if you have gotten frustrated with your job. Every one will be diifferent. Simple adsise would be , pay attention to who you are serving ( Nationality ). Some are more demanding than others. I personally would not ask for any discount if I am not happy with service but I would not tip if I received bad service. Do not expect foreigner to speak Vietnamese. Most would arrive Vietnam with high expectation and inexpensive prices. If they see the price is comparable to where they come from then they would expect the same service. That is not so unusual. One of the blogger earlier said that you should tell customers in advance what to expect. That is a very good suggestion. Like any other service industry, customers is always right ( within reason). Just put on a big smile and move on.

Buddhist with an attitude said...

My ex-husband has a restaurant, so my suggestion to your restaurant, based on my own experience, would be to hire one maître d' or one hostess who speaks relatively fluent English to greet the customers, take their orders and tell them how long the food preparation will take. In the meantime, while waiting to learn English, the waiters will just do the tasks of serving the food, filling the glasses, removing the dishes, etc.. The restaurant should have a salary scale where the staff is remunerated according to their professionalism and their linguistic skills. Competent waiters and waitress are hard to find and they should be paid accordingly, in my opinion.
As to people who want a refund because the food takes too long, remind them that restaurants are not fast food places. If they have been warned by the hostess or the maître d', they have no cause to complain.
Good luck and don't feel too discouraged. You should read this blog instead: http://www.waiterrant.net/

alan said...

Along with these other suggestions, I wonder about a small paragraph in the menu, in English, explaining that the food is prepared after you order it, and will be served when it's ready, fresh and hot! This opposed to it being prepared in advance and waiting on a steam table for hours for you to order it.

As for the other, there are a lot of rude people in this world, and some, if they have enough money to travel, they probably feel entitled to be rude as well!

alan

lillian said...

I like what buddist with an attitude said.. also a broshure telling the guest what to expect would help.

NWO said...

Well, in any service industry, there's a concept called "managing expectations." If you let people know what to expect, then they are unlikely to be upset later. So, in your case, if language and service style are likely problems, just start the encounter with either written or spoken explanation of what to expect.

Even after that, there's not much that can be done about rude customers. I admire those who can go through a day with people like that and go home smiling.

junebee said...

I have a friend who just got finished working for 6 months in a mid-level (not too fancy, but not fast food) restaurant. He said so many people have the fast-food mentality.

I like the idea about printing a small explanation on the menu, and hiring a hostess or maitre'd who is proficient in English.

In the meantime, I feel Americans could make themselves more welcome in other countries by at least learning a few courtesy words (hello, please, thank you) of the country they will be visiting. I imagine Vietnamese is hard for Americans because it has even more tones than Chinese, plus there are probably many dialects. Still it couldn't hurt to learn those 3 words in the prominent dialect.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I agree with having a small paragraph in the menu explaining how things work in your establishment. That way the customer knows what to expect and is not surprised.

Some people are just rude anyway and there is nothing you can do about them.

It sounds like customers are giving you a hard time and I really hate that. I eat at a Mexican food restaurant where the waiters & staff can hardly speak or understand English very well, but they try and we try and everything works out fine...and if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world and it's nothing to get upset over.

I really love the pictures that you have posted.

drifter1dc said...

God,

Sounds like you need a vacation....play hard so that you can work hard. I also work in a service industry, yes people can be bad sometimes, but when I try my Vietnamese at a restaurant they just say...speak English please, because my Vietnamese must sound like a missionary or something! Don't let it get you down...take the good with the bad...that's life.

Kelvin said...

Kia Ora Tu, It looks like you already have quite a few suggestions - Can you not explain to the waiters, etc the basic english version of each dish or is there too many dishes ??? Email soon inviting you to be a member of my foodie blog. take care Tu, until the restaurant sacks you !!! (hehe)

Winn said...

hey there.
hmm.. maybe u could stick some paper nicely on the wall letting the tourist know of what is to be expected of the cultures and doings of vietnams..

but customers thk they are always rite,. * shrug*

sometimes u jus have to be patient :)

forgive them for being ignorant..

April said...

ah i remmeber those days of working in a restaurant. i can honestly say that no matter what you do, you can't please everyone. there are always people who will complain.

also, i wonder if your (and other staff's) english is the problem or if it is just the accents. oftentimes i feel this is the case. to help with this problem, at some point, an explanation needs to be provided to the customer. let them know when to expect the food (as others have said). this alleviates a ton of problems.

i still can't believe the audacity of some people. if they are in vietnam and can't communiacte in vietnamese, they should be more humble. that double standard really ticks me off.

Thao said...

I think you don't have to pay much attention to ignorant people (ok oke you work in hospitality, and the quality of the service is everything), but after you serve them, there is no need to think about their attitudes. One of things that makes the whole travel experience pleasant is to enjoy and try to do things like the local. I guess that comes with experiences in travelling in Asia, I think

Thao said...

and we can't expect guests to speak our language because we are the one who provides them the service.Dunno if you have been in Thailand but the service in hospiltaity is very good, people are smiling, relax...and well, they speak English even though it might not be good. Vnese are too shy when it comes to speaking foreign language, even though we want to.On the other hand, travellers should know that they are in the foreign country (go to China,then you will see, nobody speaks any English there).Since your restaurant's main customers are foreigners, maybe it is best to hire some English speaking staffs, but if your restaurant is local focus, don't waste time and money on having English speaking staffs

traveller one said...

Well you got a lot of good advice already so I'll jsut say that your photos are so pretty :)

Jaggae said...

Sigh...tourists who are so demanding are usually the ones who rush all the time, they forget what a vacation is all about...to relax. Does your restaurant plays soft music, like classical or some harmonious Vietnamese folk music? You can also try serving refreshments, here, Chinese Restaurants serves peanuts or achar (a Peranakan snack). The last resort i think would be to hang a sign that says, "Quality takes time." And if it takes a toll, go have a little vacation in the countryside. I really love those movie scenes of Vietnam's mountains & padi fields :) Heaven & Earth is a great movie!

black feline said...

it's a tough job in the service sector..an international phenomena..take heart :) u need a greter amount of EQ than most customers..ohterwise I think u are doing perfectly well..it's just one of those days..take a short breather.

alan said...

Back again...

It's funny that you are going through this, while there are those of us who would be grateful to try the wonderful things you are always showing us here, yet will most likely never get to!

Hope you get it worked out!

alan

slurp! said...

difficult customers exists everywhere in the world, so take it easy!

look at the positive side, every customer complains means an opportunities to learn & improve your service. if nobody comments or full of good words, that there isn't much to learn.

improvement on your menu is worth considering. you just to listen to their comments, but pick the appropriates ones for improving your services.

do u hold meeting with waiter/waitress regular? good to have such exchanges & sharing of ideas & opinions

imho, in hospitality industry, you always try to make customer comfortable with yout services & culture and not the other way round.

as to handling difficult customer, there is no hard & fast rules, it depends on individual skills & experiences. that's why a good waiter/waitress are hard to come by.

anhtho said...

I use to work as a waitress, so I can definitely attest to the hardships of servicing others. Try not to let the bad episodes affect you too much. There is always room for improvement in whatever we do. The earlier comments on expressing wait times up front and about letting trainees stay in non speaking roles until they are ready are all good suggestions. Look at this as an opportunity to reflect a bit on the way the business is run and possibly change for the better. With a few small changes, you may be able to set yourself and the business apart from your competitors and possibly win over more customers. I trust that you will do well and wish you much luck on your endeavors. Bye, bye, anh Tu!

Thuy said...

Beautiful pictures!
Yes, it is sad and arrogance of some people to think that English is a standard language. Most foreign countries (Spain, Swiss, France, German) teach English as a second language. But in America, most people do not speak a second language. High school students (grade 9-12) is only required to take 1 or 2 year of foreign language, in order to meet graduation requirement. 2 years of foreign language here will barely covers the basic.
But that's not what you're asking about. If you are working in the travel industry and you work in a nice hotel or upscale place - the customer is always right - no matter how wrong they are. Just smile and take care of it and move on. You have to tell yourself that it's part of the job. The customers are paying alot of money and they expect a certain high standard of service. If your business take care of the customer well, they will return and spends more money or refer their friends to your business/hotel. Word of mouth.
I had wonderful service in most of the places I visited while in Vietnam, but not all. If Vietnam wants to be the place to travel to, it will have to step up its service.

John J. Goddard said...

I am beginning to break into the restaurant industry in Croatia during high tourist season. I'm a chef, but I'm beginning to wonder if my American English will be more useful in the dining room as a server. Interesting topic... I'll give it some more thought and keep you posted about my experiences with this in Europe.

John J. Goddard

johnjgoddard.com

sophalopalus said...

Lots of people in America eat fast food and are accustomed to getting their food fast. But, I have actually seen notes on restaurant menus here that have the following verbiage:

"Good food takes time to prepare. Each dish is individually prepared for you by our experienced staff. We thank you for being our guest and hope you enjoy your meal."

It certainly sets expectations for diners and lets them know that their food is made from scratch, rather than being heated up in the microwave.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Cergie said...

English seems easy, but it get plenty of nuances, it's so easy to be misunderstood. Vietnamese is difficult to speak, because it's a monosyllabic langage, the sens of each word depends on the prononciation. French is difficult, because of gramatical illogism and German because of gramatical rigour.
I'm sorry that Vietnamese people no more practice French that they so fluently spoke in the past.

Beach said...

Cergie,
I still speak fluent French even though I have spoken it much in 30 years. You would have to look for Vietnamese in their late 40 to have a conversation in French with them. The new generation speak English because it is more practical.

Godknows said...

Thanks for all suggestions. I will ask my boss to do follow some of your comments.
Beach, do you have your own website? send me an email tuvancong2003@yahoo.com

fooDcrazEE said...

tU, BETTER start removing ur mail addy or else ppl will spam your mail addy...

Godknows said...

Foodcrazee, Thanks, will do

Anonymous said...

I guess I will be a lone dissenter here, but I hope I can convey what I believe is correct. I mean no disrespect to VN and I appreciate VN very much having been there a number of times. Notwithstanding that there may be a consideration for the 'way things are done in VN', I submit that if VN expects to join the rest of the world as a first-class tourist destination, which clearly they hope to do and which I am hopeful for, the food and tourist industry, particularly those who cater to westerner's, need to learn to conform to the way the rest of the world does things. Westerner's usually want their food delivered all at the same time, this is true. As well, in the west it is quite impolite to begin your meal before everyone is served. I have noticed a number of times that Asian restaurants I have visited, particularly the more humble ones, tend to try to bring the food when it is finished in preparation, and I understand their reasoning, truly, but this is why western restaurants have warming lamps in their kitchens which is not necessary the most preferred solution but it does help to avoid this circumstance. I, for one, always tell the waiter to please deliver the food all at once, though sometimes even then, my instructions are either ignored or not-followed - I am less concerned for myself then I am the guests and others with whom I had hoped to enjoy a great meal, and something like this can nearly ruin the occasion. When this happens, you should know, I respond by voting with my feet and I usually will not go back to that restaurant. The restaurants with better staffing understand this and they conform fairly well, which is only reasonable. I close by saying I lived in Asia for 17 years so I am not just speaking off the cuff. In any case, best of everything to you.

Anonymous said...

The whole idea of traveling to VN or anywhere else in the world is to experience the culture provided by the country. If you want the people to serve you in such and such a mannerism, you might as well sit in the comfort of your own home.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me???? Why should they learn vietnamese??? They are tourists. Do u think everytime they travel somewhere, they must learn language of that country. I mean i ve travelled in some countries, so by now i must have known already 6-7 languages. And such industry as hotel&restaurant require speak u english, even if u are in Africa. And one more, i live now in Vietnam and i speak a bit vietnamese but whn i try to open my mouth, vietnamese people become stupidly laughing. I've never seen so proud people like vietnamese who just care abt their culture, their language and so on. And who lives in Vietnam knows that vietnamese always tend to be late in anything. So very often that complaints abt long preparation of food is fair, by the way i've heard complaints in restaurants from vietnamese customers much more frequently than from foreigners. And if someone will think i hate vietnamese, i just say that i am vietnamese too, but by half though.

Anonymous said...

I see U live in Nha Trang. It's a city that survives just bcz of tourist coming there. Tourism is the main contribiution to ur city. So dont u think that tourists fairly expect wht they request in ur comment. Especially in Nha Trang, everyone can speak english, even sellers on the beach. Show some respect or change industry...

Godknows said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comments. I hate to tell you but I think if you want to serve your food at the same time means you cant eat the real hot food because, Vietnamese food is different as western food unless you want they cook then they will heat it up and serve you all at the same time. And if they do this, your meal will be uwful. Hope you get my idea.

Sarah(Anonymous)I dont think we would love to be heard from you that you also Vietnamese. Good and bad people are everywhere. I never ever heard anyone told me that i am selfish as you said in your email but maybe you are right.

Anyway, thanks for your comment and your advice about what i have to do or quit my job. You are a star!

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PA said...

Hi Godknows! I've been to Wild Lotus with my Swiss boyfriend's family and they all LOVE IT! They said it's the best meal they've ever had in their lives! I'll go back to Vietnam again soon and for sure I'll visit Wild Rice this time! By the way, I didn't feel that I had to wait for a long time for the food to come! Not at all!

I think it's a very good idea that you can advertise your restaurant as fresh food, prepared upon order so that on the one hand, customers can understand that the food will take a bit to be prepared, but on the other hand, they'll see it as a positive thing. How positive they feel about it depends on how you word the idea.

Another suggestion is that: you can also offer a very light and extremely good appetizer for customers while they're waiting for their first course to come. It can be as simple as fresh and really good bread with excellent cheese. When customers have free but excellent appetizer to enjoy, they'll feel that time runs fast and then they won't complain :)

Wish you good luck :)
PA

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