The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

You Can Tell How Much A Restaurant Cares About Their Customers By The Questions They Ask …

Way back in 2014, I wrote a post about my favourite restaurant in Shanghai – Din Tai Fung – and how their ‘comments card’ only had a satisfaction scale that went up to good.

In the post I mused why the company might be so stingy with levels of praise customers could bestow on their excellent staff and suggested it was to ensure the company was always in a position of control.

I loved Din Tai Fung.

In fact it was one of the big reasons I was sad to leave China, so you can imagine my happiness when I discovered they had opened a branch 8 miles from where I live.

Din Tai Fung – the American Edition – is very different to the classic Taiwanese offer I enjoyed over 7 glorious years in the Middle Kingdom.

For a start it is trying to look much trendier.

No Taiwanese/Chinese celebrity cartoons on the walls, instead all earthy tones and oversized lampshades.

Then the choice of food is very different and it doesn’t seem to have as much attention to detail.

The dumplings texture is not as delicate, the soy sauce isn’t as high quality, the ginger looks half dead and the chili sauce is almost sweet.

Then, just as you think they can’t screw things up any more, they serve cocktails. COCKTAILS.

And all for a price that is at least double that of China.

But as much as I can just about cope with that [as it still makes me feel happy] I can’t cope with this …

Yes, I’m talking about their comment card.

Sure, I know that gives the impression they want to improve – but when you read it, you notice a couple of things.

1. The scale of satisfaction is much, much broader.
2. The range of questions is much more general.

In the Asia version of the comments card, there is a huge emphasis on the quality of the food.

The texture. The flavours. The noodle quality.

Each food type is open for critique whereas the US version is simply summed up as ‘food quality’.

Now I get why the US would do that … it’s more concise and doesn’t ask the customer to judge a bunch of criteria … but the Asian version highlights something else.

Food enjoyment is much more than just taste and presentation.

Consciously or not, people constantly and continually are evaluating their experience, so if you want to show you actually care about their perspective – actually care about improving things – then you have to offer them options in the way they will be considering their food.

And they’re right.

I am absolutely the opposite of a foodie snob, but 7 years in China taught me the difference between good dumpling texture and bad.

To simply ask me ‘food quality’ as a blanket question for the overall experience is simplistic to the extreme.

Which is why the US Din Tai Fung will continue to serve me dumplings that are not as delicate as they should be, offer me soy sauce that isn’t as high quality as it should be, ginger that is not as vibrant and fresh as it should be and chili sauce that is far too sweet to complement the food they are serving.

America used to be the blueprint for service.

Asia – or should I say, some elements of Asia – are miles ahead.

20 Comments so far
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Have you really just written a post about dumpling quality and restaurant service.

Comment by DH

Yep, and I’m not even embarrassed by it.

Comment by Rob

You do realize if US immigration see this post and read you’re pitting America behind Asia you’ll be deported. Might send it to them myself.

Comment by DH


Comment by Billy Whizz

I might send it to them myself too.

Comment by Rob

If you don’t like our best in the world american asian dumplings then go back to where you came from.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I would but I’m not sure where I come from anymore.

Or who would be willing to accept me.

Comment by Rob

let me answer that for you campbell.

hell and satan.

Comment by andy@cynic

Was America ever the blueprint for great customer service? I know that is what they used to say but it seems to me it was based almost exclusively on the speed of service, the range of goods on offer and the cheery “have a nice day” shout as you left the premises. That is better than many countries offered (especially compared to 70s Britain) but I’m not sure that qualifies as great service.

Comment by George

I hadn’t thought about it like that. Interesting. Do you think part of it is because of the ‘fast food’ category they invented so choice, speed and ‘have a nice day’ became omni-present in the US which was dramatically different to what other countries offered? [At least at that time]

Comment by Rob

look at the little planners asking each other their fucking little planner questions. sad fucks.

Comment by andy@cynic

And yes Robert, you are most definitely the opposite of a food snob.

Comment by George

Understatement of the decade.

Comment by DH

No brit knows shit about food.

Comment by Billy Whizz

And proud of it.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

Maybe you can educate me on dumpling quality when I visit LA in January? You can consider it your way of apologizing for ruining my holiday trip to Helsinki.

Comment by Lee Hill

You give him free upgrades and tickets and all he does in return is give you headaches and ruins your holiday. How does this work?

Comment by DH

You’ll continue to receive bad dumplings if all you do is write a a passive aggressive post on your blog rather than contact their management in Taiwan.

Comment by John

[…] Don’t get me wrong, it was nice … but some of the ‘classics’ had been adapted to American tastes. […]

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