Service is always two-way street
Diners need to play a part in improving service standards in Singapore, said food critic and Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh.
He said: "Customers should also behave like world-class ones... They should give proper feedback and talk to the service staff nicely or even joke with them like they are normal humans... (and) not just complain like kids with credit cards."
This echoes what labour chief Lim Swee Say said in his May Day message last month.
"Instead of complaining that the service standard in Singapore is still not good enough, why don't you ask yourself, 'Are the customers in Singapore good enough?'" the NTUC secretary-general said.
"As we strive to become a more advanced economy, we must also strive to be a nation of better customers and better people."
Customer service trainer Ron Kaufman, 58, said good service has to cut both ways and involves the server and the customer.
The founder of service training company Up! Your Service added: "Service is always a two-way street - the way a customer treats a service provider will create or destroy value, and vice versa."
Mr Kaufman also felt that if the woman had asked the staff nicely, the restaurant might have resolved the matter amicably, making both parties happy.
Mr Nathanael Ho, 34, a part-time food blogger at Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow, said poor customer behaviour comes from a "sense of entitlement", with customers believing they can behave any way they want because they are paying.
Agreeing with Mr Lim, he said: "Service is reciprocal. Singaporeans still have some way to go in terms of being good customers."
Restaurant managers and owners contacted by TNP spoke felt that diners have a long way to go and recounted some horror stories.
A cafe manager in Novena said that several customers had rejected their Peranakan platter when they found out it contained beef despite this being stated clearly on the menu.
"They would refuse to eat or demand a refund," he said.
The owner of a restaurant that does not have service charge said: "A customer once shouted at our staff and demanded to be waited on, even though we made clear with notices that self-service is expected."
But not all customers are demanding.
Mr Leo Angelo Sagun, 29, a manager in restaurant chain Fish & Co, said some fussy diners "expect to be treated like kings and queens", but they remain a minority.
A female cafe owner concurred, saying: "Most of my regular customers understand we are short-handed and they even help by refilling their soup themselves."
Mr Roland Tay, 59, CEO of social enterprise Professor Brawn Cafe, said most customers become more forgiving after realising that its employees are special needs people.
He has not encountered a nasty incident in his five years of running the enterprise, he said.
Ms Eugenia Loh, 28, a teacher, who frequents restaurants three to four times a week, said: "No matter how bad the food is, as long as the service staff have a good attitude and basic manners, I'm all right."
(Customers) should give proper feedback and talk to the service staff nicely or even joke with them... (and) not just complain like kids with credit cards.
- Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh