Highs and byes at Tiki Village
So this past Sunday (March 12th) we celebrated my baby brother's birthday. Baby brother who is now twenty! Let's just call it twenteen because it makes me feel better, and that's still a thing people say right? :/ Anyways, we generally just do a family dinner for birthdays and this was no exception, except that it being a Sunday left us with less options than usual. My family delegated the task of picking the restaurant to me..on Saturday with no criteria except non-indian and it must serve cocktails. Now, I love trying new places and this is always the perfect opportunity to do so, but it's always somewhat stressful trying to find a place everyone would enjoy. I tend to feel personally responsible for bad experiences. So, the place I chose was Tiki Village at Kapok because I know it to be Chinese food (officially Asian/Polynesian as per website description) from having been there a couple times and I remembered it being tasty, albeit with too much peas in the fried rice.
Random fact - I don't necessarily hate peas, but I cannot stand them in my fried rice..I'm weird like that. There's actually a video my friends took the last time we went to Tiki Village of me picking out all the peas for a full five minutes before I would even start eating. Very ridiculous of me I know. I also remembered a very strong rum punch in a Tiki glass that I definitely wanted to have again.
Tiki Village is situated on the eighth floor of the Kapok hotel which is located in Maraval, Port-of-Spain. There's ample and safe parking as there's a carpark for hotel/restaurant guests. With a reservation for 7.30pm, the eight of us (parents and siblings) were seated as soon as we arrived. Our initial waitress was pleasant, handed out menus, and returned to take our drink orders in an adequately timely manner. Now, when I decided I wanted to write about my experiences at different places (experiences, NOT reviews), I wanted it to be positive or I wouldn't write it at all. I definitely didn't want my first post of this type to be anything below average in terms of satisfaction ratings, but I'm also committed to being authentic and honest about these experiences so I'm going to share. One of the biggest reasons for this is that bad customer service is one of my major pet peeves, and in this instance the common thread for us having a bad night was consistently poor, or non-existent customer service.
So remember how excited I was about my Tiki Rum Punch in the cute cup...well, I talked about it so much, three of the boys also ordered it with me. For those of you who know me, you'd know that my face clearly portrays my emotions, so just picture the befuddled confused look when she brought my Tiki punch in a normal glass. Now, I understand that it's petty, BUT I'm a very visual person that gets excited by the little things and I wanted my Tiki cup. So, I nicely asked the waitress with a voice filled with disappointment if they no longer serve their specialty drink in the Tiki cups, to which she responded..well...yes, but we didn't have enough for the table order, so we brought all in normal glasses. If I had never been there before, I would not have known I was missing anything, and it wouldn't have even been a topic for discussion, but I did know, and to me, if I had to drink it in the regular glass, it would have just tasted like disappointment (dramatic much?!). So I kindly asked if it would be possible to get at least two in the long anticipated Tiki cups. She kindly and pleasantly obliged, and I was most grateful...See below for rum punch served both in and out of the tiki glasses. I also included a picture of my happy face for reference. It was delicious...and strong! :D For the record, I had no problem with this waitress' service. She was very pregnant, so I can only imagine how crazy difficult it was to manage such a demanding job, but she did with a great attitude for the short time period she was our server, and for that I send so much love and light her way. Her exit was also probably the last bit of good customer service we received for the night.
Unfortunately, after that, she was no longer our waitress. Someone else came and rushed through our orders, and then flittered around while the food was being delivered, without the main course of rice for two persons. She then disappeared. No one EVER asked us if we were okay, if we wanted another drink, etc. When we were finished eating, persons appeared and cleared the table, again with no communication. We were left waiting for at least twenty minutes before being able to flag down someone to get the dessert menu. By then, you can imagine we were pissed. We had no problem waiting...but at least let us have drinks while we do so. Not at this place. Not even water glasses were refilled. When someone did drop a couple dessert menus, it was another wait to have the order taken. Everyone was so upset they just wanted to leave at this point, but the birthday boy wanted dessert, so we waited, and waited some more. When someone finally showed up and took the order, I ordered the dessert, and requested the bill at the same time and also the manager to have a word.
Here's the best part...the person that showed up and said.."Hi, you wanted to speak to the Manager?" is the same second waitress who ignored us for the duration. WHAT!? So, after my initial few seconds of speechless shock, I calmly and without being rude explained all the ways we were disappointed (list below). I also noted that the wait times were especially ridiculous, and nobody checking up on us truly unfathomable. I also noted that it is very uncomfortable to have this conversation with her, and even voicing my concerns seem futile as the person I am complaining to is the person who gave me unsatisfactory service. You know those apologies you get with a but that makes your blood boil? Well...that's what I got..on repeat! There was no "I am sorry. This is our bad." Instead, a whole lot of "I am sorry, BUT you can see how it is tonight with us being short staffed." Hold up! Did she really say that to me? As I noted to her, while it is unfortunate, your staffing problems are frankly not my concern. I still have to pay the same amount of service charge for NO service. How is that fair to the customer? Additionally, things happen and we are understanding people, but at no point did anyone pass by the table to spare five seconds BEFOREHAND to say, I apologise guys but we're short staffed, and trying our best. We had to complain afterwards for you to then justify it? Utter unprofessionalism, and ridiculousness. To show just how unprepared this manager is for manager-ing, subsequent to this 'talk', she literally avoided the table. She went to the other tables all around us, and it was so blatantly obvious that she was avoiding us. Steups. Just steups.
Anyways, instead of writing a book about this, I just decided to summarize some of the highs and lows of the experience:
- The only types of fish available were shark and grouper. My dad doesn't eat much meat and prefers fish, but vehemently refused these fish options.
- Lemon chicken - there was no hint of lemon. It was sweet. Overpoweringly sweet. Again, this was the meat option my dad chose to nibble on, as everything else we ordered was spicy, and he doesn't do too much spicy in his diet. So..he got no fish, and bad tasting chicken as the alternative he didn't want in the first place. SIGH. It was not his night for food for sure...
- I asked if it was possible that they could write Happy Birthday on the dessert plate, to which the waiter came and told the birthday boy, who I obviously wanted to be surprised, that there was no writing material. That's apparently what he said. Umm..couldn't they have done it with the same dessert sauce they used to draw a squiggle on the plate? Sorry there's no picture of the dessert, but I was annoyed and well it was so big that it finished in two bites.
- The portion sizes overall were small. They said they would feed 2-3 persons, but in reality, it should be 1-2 persons. My parents eat like birds, and we ordered more than enough based on an average of each meat portion serving 2 persons. Suffice to say, no one left stuffed. I'm not even sure if they left full. I was too embarrassed at picking this restaurant to ask my own family. Ordering more wasn't an option because we didn't want to wait another few hours.
- We did not receive the two portions of chicken fried rice until way after everything else was received..way after being ALL food was done. So it was enjoyed with some of the sauce left over from the meats...yum! :/
- We didn't even get mints with our bill. My bros told me afterwards that it was at the desk close to the elevator, so I guess I was supposed to know that because...? It's funny how we take things for granted, until they're absent right? I honestly don't even know if I wanted the mints, but I wanted the option for sure.
- Again, because I cannot stress this enough...service was consistently non-existent, yet I had to pay a service charge on the bill.
The prices were not exorbitant, but neither were they low, especially considering the portion sizes. Drinks prices were on par with other restaurants. So, it's really the other factors that needed to be considered. Here's the thing, singularly or even one or two of these points together in my opinion can be completely overlooked, but when they were all together, it was too much. I'm also a strong believer that all the other things could have gone wrong, and if we had a pleasant, considerate person serving us, the bad would also have been overlooked. People in businesses really should never underestimate the strength of customer service in creating and maintaining the goodwill of a business.
**You'll see prices noted as before Service Charge (SC) and VAT. Service Charge is first because that is added to the cost, and VAT is then charged on the total of the cost and service charge. Fun right?**
- The bartender was on point. Several different drinks were ordered, and the Cotton Hill was re-ordered a few times, so I guess that was especially fantastic. I was quite happy with my one strong Tiki Punch.
- Food was tasty overall, with the exclusion of the lemon/sweet chicken. Tika chicken was especially delicious to me as I love spicy food.
- Pepper sauce - home-made-esque, and yummo!
- The interior is very nice...I like it..see pic below!
- Apparently we got the birthday boy's dessert (Creme Caramel) complimentary after the chat with the Manager. I only just realised that while checking the bill for prices.
The point of this isn't to show what a horrible person that server was..I'm sure she's a perfectly nice person who had a very rough night, and just didn't deal with our situation in the best way, and that's unfortunate. The worst thing about bad service is that it spoils the experience, and the occasion, and when it's a special occasion, the injury is amplified. We just wanted as a family to celebrate my brother, and also say farewell to three of the others at the table as they would be travelling, and it was the last time we'd all be together for more than three months. I pride myself on taking lots of pictures that I can share with everyone afterwards, and we can all relive these memories. That manager (I got her name but there's no point in including it) and my Tiki Village experience on Sunday night took that away from me, and from my family. I have one semi-decent selfie of the fam, and that's the unforgivable part. Bad customer service is not just bad customer service. It has repercussions. Repercussions that are unfair to the innocent customer who chose to patronize your establishment. I would never recommend that people stop going, because this may have been a one off bad experience, but it was substantially terrible, and even though I am too traumatised to return anytime soon, I hope they fix these issues, because no one else deserves to lose a single second of their happiness because of this or any restaurant and its staff's shortcomings.