Don’t say I want to say, and this is based purely on my own observations, that Singaporeans are more tolerant towards bad food than bad service. If waiting time is long, or the food does not arrive after we’ve ordered it, we are likely to get a little frustrated. Perhaps it can be blamed on stress levels, the shorter lunch hours, and the need to make everything (including our dining) more efficient.
So I am always quite impressed by how some of the Japanese restaurants do it – most are known to be fast, efficient, clean and prompt. Or as what we would like to say, they make things “Easier, Smarter and Safer”.
So how do they do it? And does technology always save time?
Sakae Sushi is known to be the first in Singapore to set up the kaiten conveyor belt sushi system way back in 1997. Their name “Sakae” actually means “growth”, hence the leaping frog mascot.
What I like best about Sakae Sushi is that every table has a hot water tap for you to refill your tea. You don’t have to bother the service staff all the time, and there isn’t a need for someone just to walk around to pour water.
With a computerised menu to order items and track spending, we don’t have to ask anymore “Just how much did we eat?” or wait impossibly long for the waiter to notice our waving hands.
Question: Do you think it is possible for other types of restaurant, say your Chinese, casual Western eateries or fast food restaurants, to put such taps somewhere, and to provide hot and cold water options?
Well, perhaps the first issue is – How much would it cost? Short term wise, there may be a need for some investment in the equipment, but in the long term it could result in more efficient service, and happier, ‘independent’ customers.
Have you ever wondered how these sushi restaurants keep track of how fresh their sushi are, especially when it seems that some plates have been going round and round the restaurant for eternity?
Then I found out that Sakae uses the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system! Wait, don’t they use such system in the military, passports, or tracking down of pets?
Yes, apparently so under the sushi plates as well. There are RFID magnetic tags embedded beneath each sushi plate, and there is a centralised system and a smart “robotic arm” which would remove “expired plates”. So you do not have to worry about freshness. Raw food is cleared after an hour, and cooked food, after two hours.
Plus, there is now a ‘second conveyor belt’ which allows ala-carte orders to be sent down exactly where the customers are sitting. So smart!
Before this system was implemented, there would be chefs employed just to check whether the sushi is ‘expired’ or not. You can imagine it would be such a mundane and tedious job. Plus, the chefs could also miss out some ‘expired’ plates because identification was tough, so some sushi may become not that safe for consumption.
So I asked if technology was replacing the jobs of the chefs. The answer was a big “NO.” Instead, the chefs are deployed for what they are supposed to do, focusing on food creation and preparation, not checking plates.
As minor basic tasks are eliminated, the F&B staff can in turn interact with customers and serve them more promptly.
While the RFID system may be costly at the moment for some smaller-scale F&B restaurants to implement (but never say never), these are differences they can make to really enhance customer service.
What suggestions do you have for the newer F&B outlets to possibly implement?