Monday, 24 October 2016

My Experience As A Mystery Diner At O Comptoir

How many times would you see restaurants springing up all over Singapore but some barely lasting a year?  Many restaurant owners told me that the one thing that plaqued the food and beverage industry in Singapore, and possibly the biggest contributor to its transience was the lack of good staff. I disagree.  The ONLY thing that would make or break a business, whether or not it was a restaurant, would be the failure to put its customers first.  Customer centricity would be key to businesses thriving in an environment of cut-throat competition.  Those operating within the food and beverage industry should know this best.


Over the weekend, I participated in a Mystery Diner program at a crepe and cider restaurant, called O Comptoir.  I was contacted via Instagram after one of my numerous visits to its sister restaurant, O Batignolles.  As an avid foodie, I would never fail to post my photos and reviews of the food and service of restaurants that I had visited, and that would be probably why they contacted me to be part of their Mystery Diner program. I was truly impressed by the management’s dedication to customer centricity as they invested time and resource to ensure that customers at their restaurants, O Batignolles and O Comptoir were delighted by their food and the service.  They were open to comments and suggestions and were genuine in their intent to improve.  I was bowled over.  Frankly, beyond the usual post-dining feedback/comments forms that most restaurants had, I did not think that there were any restaurants in Singapore that had actually implemented a Mystery Diner program.


It was a perfect decision for me to accept the invitation to be part of the program as I had never visited O Comptoir before.  This gave me an opportunity to get to know the restaurant and what was offered on its menu.  Moreover, as I sat within my organization’s Customer Centricity Committee, I wanted to leverage my experience to present this as a best practice case study to my committee members at work.


The program required me to read the program questionnaire at least twice before participating, and then take down every detail from the time I made the reservation right through to my experience of the food, the service and the ambience, to the way my bill was presented.


These were my observations at O Comptoir.


My reservation was made with the restaurant’s manager who noted down every detail including my preferences and any special occasion that I was celebrating then.  When I turned up at the venue, he served me personally, greeted me and led me to my table, asking, “Would this table be okay for you?”


He was very knowledgeable with the menu, explaining what O Comptoir as a restaurant was all about, what was on offer on its menu, and the type of drinks that would pair well with my crepe or galette.  I learnt then, cider and crepe was a marriage made in heaven.  When I was looking rather lost and undecided about what to order, he made some recommendations and intuitively zeroed in on the healthy options when he noted that I was picky with my food choices.  He explained that the galette was made of buckwheat flour which supported my gluten-free diet and if I wanted to choose a galette that was lighter and more diet-friendly, he pointed to a list of healthier options from which I could choose from. This demonstrated his interest in his customers enough to engage them in a way that made them feel that they could enjoy a meal without having to worry about dietary preferences. He did not even wait for me to request for gluten-free options on the menu.  He had just intuitively connected with my needs when he overheard David asking me, ”What can you eat from here?”  


He then proceeded to ask what I wanted to drink.  He mentioned that the best pairing for galette would be a cider.  However, I told him that I preferred a glass of wine instead and proceeded to ask for his recommendations from the wine list.  He demonstrated a good knowledge of the wine list, but requested that I went ahead to order my galette first as specific types of wine would pair better with a specific galette. 


David ordered the Khao San Road, a galette with Thai-inspired flavours that was made up of prawns, mango, peanuts, beansprouts and mint sauce.  I ordered the Duck It which was a galette filled with duck confit, caramelised onions and potatoes.  He asked if we would like to share a side salad to complete our meal which was a nice touch.


Knowing that we preferred a medium to full bodied red wine, he went on to recommend the Haut Medoc.  I asked if we could sample the wine first and he then brought back 2 sample pegs of Haut Medoc.  I did not like the taste of it and decided to opt for the Malbec instead and he happily acceded to my request to change my choice of wine.


So far, the manager handled our orders with a lot of enthusiasm and even when we asked to make some changes to our orders at last minute, he was unfazed.  David asked for the mint sauce to be removed from his Khao San Road galette. He was then asked if it was okay if they added more cheese to his galette so that the dish would not turn out too dry.  That was really thoughtful. I have experienced a server  from another restaurant who took my order, accepted the changes to my order, then served a dish that was almost inedible.  When I indicated that I could not take another bite from the dish, he just shrugged his shoulders, and looked at me accusingly as if to say, “Well, you made that choice.”  At O Comptoir, they were very serious about the quality of the food served to their customers and were keen to ensure that every plate of food leaving their kitchen would be perfect and to their customers’ satisfaction.


I asked for my Duck It galette to be made without potatoes.  This did not compromise the dish in any way because the galette was filled to the brim with duck confit and caramelised onions.  The portion was ample and definitely value for money.


When we finished our meal, they asked if we wanted coffee and dessert but like I said, the galette was huge.  I did not have any space left for dessert which I was sure would have been equally as delightful as the galette.  Instead, we decided to have glass of cider each.  David had the original apple cider and I had the pear cider.  The pear cider was so delicious that I regretted not listening to the manager about pairing it with my galette earlier.


We really enjoyed our evening at O Comptoir.  Most importantly, we were very impressed by the Mystery Diner program which proved that O Comptoir and her sister restaurant O Batignolles were serious about putting their customers first.  The only way that businesses can stay sustainable are those that strive to delight their customers and take customers’ opinions seriously.


About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.



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