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Ordering food

January 9, 2009

This happened some time ago at one of the fashionable Hainanese kopitiams that seem so popular these days.

Me: I’ll have the toast set no. 3 and iced white coffee, thanks.

My Australian friend: I’ll have the same, but I want the toast to be not too dark, not too much margarine, and go easy on the jam. I only want one small spoon of sugar with my coffee and just one cube of ice. I’ll also have a plate of fried noodles with a fried egg on top. Oh, and the fried egg, can you make it sunny side up and then flip it over for just a couple of seconds. I don’t like it too raw. And I’ll have a glass of plain water with a slice of lemon please.

The poor waiter looked completely lost. Trying to understand my friend’s thick Ozzie accent was one thing. The barrage of “product modifications” was another but he bravely put on a straight face and scribbled away on his order pad.

And sure enough, what came back was nothing like what my friend ordered. I burst out laughing. Serve you right, I said.

In the US, Burger King would serve you your burger any way you want it. I would usually tell them to hold the pickles, onions and mustard (yucks), and add extra cheese and a little more lettuce. In fact BK sets itself apart from McDonalds by inviting customers to customize their meals.

If I went to McDonalds and asked them to remove the pickles, they’ll probably shove it to me and say, “Take them out yourself!” They serve food only one way – their way. Not a bad business model, seeing how their stocks have risen by 5-10% on Wall Street as everyone is taken to the cleaners.

Over here, most restaurants sell products, not a service. The Hainanese kopitiams, the mamak shops all sell products. They’re just not set up like the American diner where you can customize things to your heart’s content. Not for the prices you pay anyway. Its something I have to educate my visiting friends all the time.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2009 12:38 am

    Different businesses different models. If you want to customize, then you will have to pay a lot more. I bet you can customize your food in Chilis or TGI. But in a kopitiam-styled? Maybe the coffee can la. haha. That’s the best they can do. You pay what you get. πŸ˜› Maybe if the price of a kopi is RM 50, then you can customize that way. πŸ˜€

    Yes, I tried ‘reconfiguring’ my nachos at Chilis and they got it right. Still, its funny to see gwai lohs treat the mamak shop as a Chilis and get their orders all messed up, hahaha.

  2. January 10, 2009 7:03 pm

    Similarly, some Asians go to high class gwai loh restaurants with kopitiam-styled attitudes. πŸ˜›

    Yeah, I do that sometimes. haha. πŸ˜€

  3. January 14, 2009 5:38 pm

    I’m always of the opinion that food is just nutrition. If it tastes great, that’s a bonus. Spare me that art of fine-dining or ‘less of this and more of that’ stuff. Can’t understand why eating gets so complicated. Must be all that commercialism. Hahaha…

    Spoken like a true engineer, hehe. I always thought food here is a passion more than a necessity, going by the sheer number of Malaysian food blogs. The complications come in when people believe that for the $4.00 they pay for a bowl of noodles, that customer is king. Its fun to watch.

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