Remove the “G” from Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Steakhouse

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I wasn’t going to blog about this, but I saw Tuesday’s ST headline about bad service and realised that bad service was a national epidemic, and therefore had to be talked about, the same way we talked about SARS, and swine flu. Because talking about it spreads awareness, and when you’re aware, you’re less likely to suffer from it. Or something.

Last Saturday, because we had Kai in pram and we were stuck somewhere near Forum Galleria (as you would when you have a child in pram), and because we were hungry and didn’t want to eat at California Pizza Kitchen again, we decided to chance our arm at Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Steakhouse at Orchard Parade Hotel.

There, we were treated to the most bewildering display of the opposite extremes of service attitudes.

When we stepped onto the premises, we saw that staff members were dressed in different uniforms reflecting their vocations – much like how the sarong kebaya on SQ girls have different colours (my brother once said the green one was for the staff sergeant stewardess) – and there were these two men dressed in dark coloured shirts, carrying and talking to each other on their walkie-talkies, I swear, within sight and earshot of each other.

Like little boys play acting at emergency services, they continued their radio jargon-filled requests for chairs and tables while we waited to be seated. One of these fellows then asked if we wanted a table outside or inside, “but inside no more table already”. Naomi very kindly asked him why he would ask if we wanted a table inside if there were none inside already. He simply smiled wryly and then spoke into his walkie-talkie. His colleague, standing three metres behind him, responded with something equally unintelligible.

After we had been seated, Naomi’s mum then asked for another chair so that she could put our giant diaper bag and her handbag on it, and one of the dark shirts told her brusquely, “ok ma’am, give me a minute”. Naomi’s mum didn’t hear him clearly, and thought he hadn’t understood her request and so repeated it, to which he repeated “ma’am, give me a minute!”, but with raised voice and an expression which said “I just said I’ll get it for you, didn’t you hear me?”

Maybe it was the heat, maybe we had a long day, but we were seething by then. Waiters came and went, fulfilling our little requests – such as having one cutlery setting for every person seated at our table – they were harried because it was after all, a Saturday evening, and the restaurant was full of tourists and their companions from across the road at Orchard Towers.

We ordered our food and the real show started when Naomi’s mum’s rib-eye steak arrived, and to her dismay because she was famished, it was too tough for her to cut with her steak knives, and we asked for it to be sent back. The really nice waiter who attended to us listened to our complaint and told us he’d take it back and tell the chef and manager.

We thought all was settled, and that in a few minutes (how long does it take to make a rib-eye medium rare?) Mum would have her steak and all would be good in the world.

But no. The same Walkie Talkie Dark Shirted Guy (whom we asked for a chair), Assistant Manager Mr Peter Ang came and asked Mum, “What’s the problem Ma’am?”

The rib-eye is too tough!” we cried.

“The cut has too many tendons, maybe?” we added, helpfully.

“We couldn’t even cut it without spraining our wrists”, I exaggerated, demonstrating on a slice Mum had cut out for me, as she always does out of habit.

The rib-eye is a cut that has a lot of fat, so that is why it is tough”, explained Mr Ang The Assistant Manager.

“We’re not talking about fat. You can cut through fat, you can’t cut through tendon and vein”, we countered.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I lost it at that point, and became so incensed at the fella’s attitude that I felt the only way to counter an asshole was to be an asshole as well. I shouted at him, “Hallo, what’s your name?”

Walkie Talkie boy looked unperturbed and came back with a business card with his name and walked away while I was still talking to him. It was too noisy for anyone else to notice that I was shouting “You walk away when I’m talking to you? Hah?”

Except of course my family, and a smiling waiter who waited for me to finish my tirade, then said, “I’m so sorry about that. Maybe he’s under a lot of pressure from the manager also. But I am sorry this is a bad experience. Is there anything I can do for you to make it better?”

We swapped Mum’s order for another, more expensive cut of steak that was not likely to be as tough, so that she wouldn’t go hungry. But by then I was too angry to eat anything. Naomi of course, soothed my jangled nerves by asking me, “so, what are you gonna do about it now that you have his name card? Send him flowers?”

We got a free scoop of ice-cream later – probably the only thing the nice smiling waiter, an Indonesian named Yanwar, could do within his power.

The bill came, and as we expected, nothing had been taken off it. We sullenly settled it before giving Yanwar a big fat tip in person – because we found out that the tip jar is never distributed to the waiters.

As we left, two dark shirted staff members were still talking to each other into their walkie talkies, saying something like, “uhh…. table twenty two only got four chair, why only four chair, can put five chair there, over? yah, roger that, over”

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11 thoughts on “Remove the “G” from Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Steakhouse”

  1. People working in the service industry are getting more yayay these days. Also notice that the nice waiter is an Indonesian. Is it me or only no-Singaporeans is able to provide good service?

  2. from the article, you do sound pretty biased. not sure if it is because of stuff u didn't share…

    what's wrong with asking if you wanted a table inside? it's a matter of preference and some ppl would wait longer just so they could get a table in the air-conditioned environs inside.

    given the above, naomi's request would then have given the impression of a sarcastic/difficult customer. it sounds like you guys started off on the wrong foot and things went rapidly downhill from there. nice waiter though.

  3. I think you should just go straight to the manager and told him about the steak!

    Having said that, perhaps you can write to the Black Angus head office and see what they will do. If they are really serious about service, they would at least send you a coupon to dine there again and hopefully look into staff training.

  4. I believe that in Singapore F&B line service quality are relatively good and high but i guess singapore in general lack of appreciation in return, more of complaints and complaints only. Even recent figures had shown singaporeans takes things to court more than the recent years even things that are not that serious and the figures had went up remarkably. On the other hand you have already started your family, put things in such: someday down the road when you are old and Kai becomes the breadwinner of the family and may be in F&B also, he meets a stranger customer and the same things happen on him… just another regular blogger on the net sharing his or her experience but when a lil too personal and did some graffiti art on the company that Kai is working causing Kai to lose his job… think not on behalf the person that he dealt with, but on behalf of Kai… As a parent or a normal stranger think considerately. I'm a nutreul party here that i strongly think that you shouldn't go so hard on the incident especially when you are already a parent you should learn how to be magnanimous, else Kai will learn this from you like its a must to review only the bad and not appreciate the good and as time goes by i believe that he will think that there is no difference in privilege and entitlement…

  5. After reading your complaint I was wondering why you think all tourists have companions from Orchard Towers.I have lived and worked in Singapore for twelve years.I also frequent the Black Angus at Orchard Parade with my Thai wife of eleven years.I am insulted that you would think my wife spends time at Orchard Towers.That is like saying all Singapore women are whiners and complainers as yourself.

  6. I am sorry if you feel insulted. I did not insinuate that you were a tourist, or that your Thai wife frequented Orchard Towers, or that it would be insulting to say someone frequented Orchard Towers. I did however, say, “it was after all, a Saturday evening, and the restaurant was full of tourists and their companions from across the road at Orchard Towers.”

  7. In your example, waiters who provide good service themselves, should have no problem finding a job elsewhere. If he did not provide good service, then he should be working in another industry anyway

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