Great fun was had perusing the latest menu delivered by a local Indian takeaway; it offers a comical variety of items including “vegeable” dishes, rice & “sunies”, “lam” tikka, prawn “cocktel” and “girlic” chicken. You can even buy soft drinks, including “lemoned”, by the “litter”. And even better, for those who fancy a mid-day snack, they deliver at “launch” time.
Now, don’t patronisingly tell me that Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis can’t spell; most of the restaurant owners have perfectly fluent English. The problem is not that English is their second language – the problem is that, like so many business people, some restaurant owners can’t be arsed proofreading.
The point about this anecdote is that, having laughed myself into hunger pangs reading the Garlic Takeaway’s menu, I proceeded to order my takeaway from the Punjabi Grill, another local takeaway and one that doesn’t have the same difficulty with its spelling. I suppose I just felt subconsciously that if the Punjabi could spell and proofread properly it could probably cook properly.
Let’s take the heat off the Indians and turn it on the Italians. This particular rant, by the way, was sparked off by a fellow blogger who complained about “blackened” fish in the restaurant where he worked being referred to by a mystery shopper as “blacked”. It reminded me of being in an Italian restaurant recently where I was much attracted by the sound of the steak in “cherry” sauce. Ooh, that sounds really yummy, I thought, and how unusual. However, when it arrived, the sauce had clearly never been within an inch of a cherry in its short life. It was cherry tomato sauce. Who’d pay for cherry tomato sauce? As far as I’m concerned that’s the sort of lazy dish I can perfectly well throw together myself, at home, with one hand, while posting vitriole about lazy restaurateurs with the other. I discreetly pointed out to the manager that there was a word missing from his menu, and guess what? He laughed. End of conversation.
No pedant likes being laughed at so the incident is now on TripAdvisor, with related comments about how the restaurant was so cold we all had to keep our coats on for the duration of the meal. Businesses need to learn that their indolence in the use of words can come back to bite them on the arse.
I posted a while back about an eye surgery clinic that couldn’t punctuate properly when replying to my enquiries about its procedures. A couple of people who heard this anecdote asked: “Does it matter? The person replying to your email isn’t going to be the person who cuts your eyes open.”
My point is the same in both cases. Corporate culture comes from the top. Demonstrably, somewhere, at the very top of the Indian and Italian restaurant businesses and the eye clinic, is an individual who is prepared to tolerate his/her employees making fundamental and avoidable errors. It’s apparently OK to get things wrong: it doesn’t matter, or no-one will notice, or no-one will complain. Carry on; do your best; keep making money; just don’t bother me.
That lackadaisical individual is the same person who oversees, in the case of the restaurants, the chefs, and in the case of the clinic, the bloke with the scalpel. The message he’s giving his staff is: “Just give it a go. If you give someone food poisoning, or a dangerous eye infection, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Just don’t waste too much time on trying to do it properly in the first place.”
Curry image courtesy of smarnad at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Cherry image courtesy of piyato at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Tomato image courtesy of Keattikorn at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net