January 25, 2012
Beluga Restaurant Owner Can’t Seem To Take Constructive Criticism.
So a few weeks back, The Girlfriend and I decided to celebrate Thursday and head off to Beluga in Greenpoint, to smash our faces with cocktails and sushi (which they are famous for). Now, I’ve written about Beluga before, we’ve been there quite a few times, and we generally have a good time. On this occasion we didn’t though, so get a comfortable chair and read why.
Right, so upon being seated, we were greeted by our waiter, who greeted us warmly and everything seemed great.
Things quickly went downhill from there however. Kind of like a B-grade slasher horror movie where the opening scenes shows everyone happy and getting on and by the end of the film, everyone is dead except the dark-haired chick with the haunted past? Yeah, that’s kind of how things went.
Upon ordering food and drink, we started picking up a “bit of a vibe” from him, as he openly started questioning the round of drinks we ordered. “Oh, you can drink but you can’t eat,” he said at one point, which annoyed me, as I don’t appreciated my drinking habits being put in the spotlight. (we had had one drink at that point) Eventually we asked him what he thought we had ordered to eat, and it turns out, he had taken our order down as a “bean curd” instead of a “green plate”.
Ha ha okay, honest mistake. Let’s laugh it off and move on then. Instead though, he (perhaps in a failed attempt at humour) kept carrying on about the drinks, and at this point asked for the 3rd/4th time whether The Girlfriend was sure she wanted what she ordered (a Cosmo and a prawn hand roll). The Girlfriend, who by this time was getting annoyed, pointed out that to her knowledge, the waiter wasn’t her father (I was pretty sure of this as well), and requested that he stop questioning her. The waiter, who I can only assume was still clinging on to a humour card even as he must have sensed the train wreck this conversation was turning into, then asked if she “wanted a hug”.
Now, this was a pretty ballsy thing for a waiter to say to a patron, attempt at humour or not. The Girlfriend replied with (and pay attention, because this bit will be important further down the line “What the f**k, you’re our waiter, you need to jack up. I want to speak to the manager.”
He seemed taken aback that we weren’t playing along with him, but then regained his composure and replied with a snooty “with pleasure” and disappeared. Feeling uncomfortable, we then asked someone walking passed our table to grab the manager, and explained the whole thing to him. We requested a new waiter, as things had obviously deteriorated between us. The manager, having listened to the story, apologised and said that the waiter was one of the best at Beluga, and that it was likely an attempt at humour that didn’t work well. He then offered to comp our meal. Fine, we were happy with that explanation.
The Girlfriend still felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave – but I have a rule about accepting free food – so we accepted his offer, had our meal, and then left.
Here Is Where It Gets Interesting
The next day The Girlfriend – who knows the owner, Oscar Kotze – sent him an email explaining what went down, and wanting him to be aware of how certain behaviour from staff can be misconstrued and be turned into a bit of a drama. Here with the email below (I’ve blanked out names):
The Girlfriend Wrote:
From: The Girlfriend
To: Oscar Kotze
Subject: harassing waiter
I hope you, **** and **** are doing well.
I just wanted to bring to your attention an incident that happened to Shaun and I last night whilst dining at Beluga. Upon misunderstanding our order (prawn hand rolls, the Green plate, a cosmo and beer) our waiter started making snarky comments to us about what he had thought we ordered (a bean curd soup and prawn hand roll). He continued to harass us when ordering my second cocktail that “I can drink but I can’t eat”… We picked up the hostility and asked him what exactly he thought we had ordered, after we cleared up the ordering fiasco he enquired “Is that all you’re going to eat?”… When I asked why he feels the need to talk to me like my father and pointed out that he has no right speaking to patrons like that, he offered to give me a hug… flabbergasted I requested to speak to the manager, he arrogantly said he would be happy to get the manager for me. In a see-how-far-that-is-going-to-get-you tone.
****** was called and handled the situation by assuring us our waiter would be changed and our bill would be taken care of. He also mentioned that this guy is in fact a really good waiter and that it could be his humour. A lovely, efficient waitress named ** continued to serve us but by then unfortunately our ideas for a lovely night at Beluga were already diminished.
What I would like to point out, Oscar, is that both Shaun and I are bloggers/writers, having good friends who are the top bloggers in Cape Town. Shaun works at the biggest internet marketing company. My connection and the respect I have for you and the hard work and passion I know you put into the Caviar Group I reassure you I would never make a public stink out of your restaurants. I just would like you to be aware that something like this did happen and hopefully you could put a stop to something like this happening in the future. And if this is indeed the waiter’s sense of humour, maybe it will go down well at some pub in Brackenveld but educated young professionals in Seapoint go out to have a pleasant experience.
Oscar Kotze Wrote:
To: The Girlfriend
Subject: Re: harassing waiter
Ok, so here goes:
The fact that you swore at my waiter **** is completely unacceptable – I have convinced him to lay a criminal case against you, and the company will back him all the way – its the year 2011 and no one has the right to speak to people the way you did – even your mail below is degrading and condescending
>From my side, I am sorry that I was not here, I would have chased you out of my restaurant if I was
As to your personality, lack of manners and general attitude to life I will refrain from commenting – the fact that you even have the audacity to contact me and threaten me after what you did – seriously, wow, what a joke
This will be the last communication that you will receive from me – I have asked ***** to provide me with your ID number so that we can use that for the criminal case
Obviously I never want you to come close to any of my businesses ever again – and if your friends condone the way to deal with people, and you convince them not to come to my restaurants, well then that will also be ok
The Girlfriend Wrote:
From: The Girlfriend
To: Oscar Kotze
Subject: Re: harassing waiter
I have waitressed since I was 14, I think waitressing/service industry is the most difficult industry to be in. I make it a point to always be aware of the stresses they go through and treat them with respect down to eye contact.
I did not swear at your waiter. Shaun and I will both vouch for it and seeing that there was no one else around from Beluga’s side you don’t have a case. Why then was I given an apology and my bill totally paid for, why didn’t ***** “chase” me out. It is unprofessional and you are using brute tactics to scare me.
You are not quite getting what I am trying to say, you are firing guns to a very decent mail pointing out an incident that happened at your establishment and from your response I can see where your waiter gets his rude, abusive conduct from… chased me out, why don’t you just threaten to punch me??? In 2011 you are damn right that people should treat people with respect… that is exactly what I was bringing to your attention, are we just saying that cause not feeling it by your response. I didn’t even want an apology, I wanted to be constructive because you have a good establishment. And no loss to me not being welcome at your restaurant with that service I might as well have lunch at Pallsmoor prison to be treated like that.
Oh and “this will be the last communication that you will receive from me” LOL :)
Were We Out Of Line Here, Or Oscar Kotze?
So that’s where we are then. The owner of Beluga and Sevruga, Oscar Kotze has banned us from his establishments, (in fact, he is sorry that he missed us, as he would have thrown us out himself). Now help me out here, I will gladly admit to being a dick and in the the wrong, but I feel like we were quite reasonable in this instance?
Not sure about you, but I want to be entertained at a restaurant I will go to Madame Zingara. I don’t really care for my waiters to joke around and be “buddy buddy” with me. I certainly don’t care for my waiters offering to give my girlfriend a hug. I want my waiters to help guide my culinary choices and bring me my food, that is all.
As for the swearing allegation, we never told the waiter to “f**k off”, we said “what the f**k”, a bit strong using the F-Bomb perhaps, but he needed to toe the line.
As the restaurant owner though, is this the way you deal with patrons who say things you don’t like? Ban them and threaten to chase them away? Maybe I’m being biased, but I thought The Girlfriend’s email was pretty reasonable. Granted, some of the things she said made her sound quite pretentious a bit of a tit, but she was emotional at the time, so I am willing to forgive her. Oscar Kotze’s response was completely over the top though. This doesn’t feel right to me, he has a massively popular little spot in Cape Town, but he seems to have a really shitty way of dealing with people.
So you’ve read all the facts, the question today, is Shaun Oakes a dick patron, or is Oscar Kotze being a massive bully here? (and yes, I am writing in the 3rd person for dramatic effect)
Oakes signing off.
UPDATE FROM THE GIRLFRIEND
So The Girlfriend offended a few people with her comments in her earlier email (which made her sound like a bit of a tit). She responds below:
In the first email I am sorry for the education comment and the shit spelling, I did explain myself really poorly, what I meant was I wasn’t at a place that doesn’t brand themselves as this “you’ve arrived, be beautiful” trendy image in a trendy part of Cape Town where those go to be seen. I could have said a pub in Newlands or Rondebosch but I am highlighting the word pub, not a restaurant which is branding is all about fine dining. The comment about writers/bloggers is that as a waiter you can’t assume what the young couple in front of you do and chance a situation where the waiter is ruining a potential review or pissing off some ego-centric writer. No threats, it was the truth.
The reason why I wrote an email to Oscar is that I don’t want free stuff, I don’t want an apology… Give me those two hours of unwinding and quality time instead of putting up with SA’s standard of shit service. And then to defend it and threaten more leads us to this blog post. Maybe my mails were a bit harsh, but if Oscar had the balls to threaten and to lay a criminal charge against me then surely he could have told me that my comments were unnecessary and I would have realised and apologised…
So again, sorry for the earlier comments.
THE FINAL WORD
Right, so I think it’s time to draw a line in the sand now. Thanks for all the comments, criticism, feedback and blatant insults, it’s all been quite exciting.
I think the general consensus is that there were no winners in this one.
We clearly came across as douche bags with our initial email, and Beluga response made them come across as douche bags as well (Douche behaviour all around then)
I’m happy to admit that we could have handled it better, and hopefully Oscar feels the same way.
Apologies if you were offended, and hopefully you won’t throw beer in my face if you see me.
If you were entertained, hopefully you will buy me a beer next time you see me.
If you were bored, well, hopefully you will STILL buy me a beer next time you see me.
Time for lunch?
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