I was sitting in the bar on Halloween night (last day of October) and remarked to a friend that as the next day was 1 November officially the end of the rainy season and the start of the high season, we could expect all raining to cease forthwith and hordes of tourists to descend on Pattaya. For those of you who don’t know, this has been the rainiest, rainy season in (my) living memory and one of the worst low seasons for bar owners to boot.
The good news is that 1 November proved to be our busiest day in the Beer Garden to date and it didn’t rain. However as I sit here typing this today a wild thunder storm is busy scaring the wife and the rain is persisting down outside. Hopefully the rain will really depart from the high season shortly and bar owners can feel a little relieved at the crowds now descending upon Pattaya. Many people, including me, felt that high season this year might not happen, what with global economic meltdown, fuel price volatility and airlines charging unheard of fares.
Nevertheless it would appear that the draw of Pattaya is to great for many to resist and despite the worlds problems, a holiday in Fun City is still important to many. Early days yet but a good start to November seems to have boosted everyone’s morale. I did a tour of the bars of Walking Street last night and the place was hopping.
The Pattaya Beer Garden does seem to have reached a new level in the last month. We have been very busy at times and are back to a few growing pains. More about that later. Some days it can be hard to find a seat at the bar and the outer tables are often full in the evening. Here’s a few pics of the bar snapped last night.
Mikey an old friend from FLB days and Chef to the stars in Los Angeles was in town during October and generously took time out from a very busy holiday to work with the PBG Chefs on improving their farang food skills. The staff really enjoyed the opportunity to pick the brains of a great western Chef and also managed to pass on to Mikey some of their Thai food secrets.
With Mikey’s help we have added some extra items to the Menu, including Sliders -Three Mini Cheese Burgers with Pickles, Grilled Onions and French Fries, Teriyaki Chicken Sticks - Skewered Chicken tidbits Marinated in Teriyaki Sauce and cooked on an open flame, the classic Tuna Melt, Ham Melt and some really tasty sandwiches including a real American style BLT (much improved from our previous offering) and Meatloaf which is cooked on the premises each day and can be eaten in a sandwich or as a full dinner. We’ve also added a Chicken Korma for those who like Indian food.
As I mentioned above we are still going through growing pains. The bar works well and our level of service seems good. We are struggling again to get food out in a timely manner. At Mikey’s suggestion we added extra cooking equipment inn the kitchen, including a new and much bigger grill, extra burners an additional deep fryer and a second microwave. The kitchen is now split into a farang side and a Thai side which should improve the work flow as well.
During October the number of meals we produce each day doubled, so despite our Kitchen improvements the wait time for food has not shortened and at some times actually got longer. During the busy dinner period from 6 pm to 9 pm there can be delays of 30 minutes or so. That’s not really acceptable to me. We do try and let customers know if the delay is likely to be more than 15 minutes. The Executive Chef and me are working hard to get the times down to acceptable limits but we are not there yet. We will get there though.
On the subject of under performing I read a thread on the Secrets Forum in which the poster complained of receiving a cold meal at the Pattaya Beer Garden. He did not complain to the staff but voted with his feet and left. It was gratifying to see three pages of replies from people saying their experience had been much better and suggesting that most restaurants produce a bad meal from time to time and to give it another try. The original poster agreed to do so and felt due to his alcohol intake he may have been a bit hasty in passing judgement.
I raise the subject because I want to reiterate our commitment to giving all our customers a great experience. Ann and I have been working hard to get it right and we are succeeding. However we can’t get it right 100% of the time. If we mess up we will put it right though. One of our strongest pushes with the staff has been to explain that if a customer is not happy then it is OUR problem and we MUST do something about it. This is not a concept that comes easy to most Thais.
So, if you are not happy with our service, for any reason, please complain. The staff take customer complaints seriously and are under strict instructions to make it right. If that means a refund, or cooking it again, or getting a colder beer, they will do it. Please just ask.
We also added an overhead plate warmer to the kitchen equipment so that if a meal is slow to be served for any reason, it will stay hot.
Having said all of the above I’d still like to remind everyone that Thailand is not the west, Thai’s grasp of English is not that of a native speaker and some communication difficulties are bound to occur. That’s part of the fun of a visit to Thailand.
A few days ago one of the waiters asked me to speak with a customer because his order was not clear. On speaking to the gentleman, he requested a plate of mixed vegetables from the Thai menu with a side of Asparagus and a baked potato from the farang menu but no butter on the potato as he was health conscious. Not a difficult order for me to understand but beyond most Thai waiters.
I passed the order on to the Chef and invented a price on the spot. The mixed vegetables are 70 baht so I added a further 20 baht for the potato and 20 baht for the side of asparagus, all up 110 baht. That seemed fair to me and I explained it to the customer who was happy. Ten minutes later the plate arrived and to my dismay contained about a quarter of the normal mixed vegetable meal a few pieces of Asparagus and a huge baked potato in the middle. The customer was happy with it but there was no way I could charge the additional 40 baht. I put the price back top 70 baht and everyone was happy.
The waiter did not understand the customer, the customer did not understand the waiter, I understood the customer but the Chef did not understand me. What was ordered and what was delivered were somewhat similar but there was lots of room for someone to get upset.
The way our food service works is that all items on the menu have number. The waiter takes the number and passes it on to the cashier. She enter it in the computer which produces a Check in English for the customer and prints a ticket for the Chefs in Thai. This reduces communication problems but chaos can result if you try to change standard items around. We can but try to get it right.
I had to laugh when I noticed the Mixed Vegetable, health conscious customer had drunk 15 Singha Beers prior to his healthy food order. He laughed as well when i pointed it out that it was a little incongruous.
Our daytime business has been great but very few ladies appear during the day. I’d like to see more but really the problem appears to be that the girls who make an effort to come early rarely hook up with a guy. Most customers in the daytime are more interested in Chillin’ than Lookin’. No action for the girls means they don’t come back in the daytime. I think that will slowly get better but if you want to speed things along please do say hello to any girls in the bar during the daylight hours.
Last month I mentioned an abundance of girls appearing around 9 pm and staying to around 11 pm. That has been a useful core time for guys looking to hook up. I am pleased to say that those times have been expanding with quite a few girls turning up as early as 6 pm and more than a few lingering long past midnight. Six months down the track I’d have to say I am happy with progress. More girls, particularly early on would be good but the numbers do seem to coincide with the amount of guys Lookin’. I don’t know how the girls know but they do seem to have a sixth sense about this.
Our free wifi Internet connection has been a bit of a headache this month. It all started to go wrong when I went up country for a week in October. On my return the Internet had stopped working. A quick trip to TOT confirmed they had cut it off for non-payment. Fortunately I’d brought the bill with me with receipt attached. The TOT clerk explained that although the bill had been paid on time in October and was completely current, they had cut it off because we paid the June account a week late six months ago. When I pointed out that that was fu%^&^$%^#$ ridiculous she agreed that they would reconnect it without charge. Thank you so much @#$%((.
Since then it has been very unreliable, dropping out regularly and when it does work its pretty slow. I’ve applied for a new line from TT&T which they said would take a week about three weeks ago. Once it’s in it should fly though as we will have a business package and speeds of 4 mbits. Anyone who has spent time here knows that good Internet service is hard to come by. I am hopeful that with our new service we will be one of the fastest in Pattaya. Time will tell.
Martin and Pin from FLB Bar are regular diners at the PBG and I snapped this pic of them the other night at sunset. I really liked how it turned out and those Pattaya sunsets can be spectacular.
Cheers for now