For most intents and purposes, you could say that Vancouver has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to restaurants. As such, we simply cannot and will not tolerate sub-par food, nor will we put up with sub-par service. But that is exactly what I experienced over the weekend at a relatively new Chinese restaurant in the Crystal Mall complex.
I’ve written about terrible customer service in the past, but I also understand that “customer service” usually isn’t the top selling point for most Chinese restaurants in this city. That said, what I had to endure at Victory Seafood Restaurant in Burnaby was simply beyond reproach.
Stepping Up to the Plate
Allow me to establish the situation. My family went out on Sunday evening for Chinese New Year dinner. This is a celebratory time when we can get together with extended family and enjoy a good meal. We had about 15 or 16 people at our table. The standard “set menu” at a seafood restaurant like this is designed for a table of ten.
So, when my aunt made the reservation, she told the manager that she would like to pay 50% more to get 50% larger portions, while maintaining the same set menu. The manager agreed and it seemed like everything was going to be in order. Unfortunately, nearly nothing went according to plan.
Strike #1: The Pop Lie
After the two jugs arrived and we divided it amongst us, we were informed that the pop wasn’t unlimited. Instead, it was $15 per jug. That’s entirely different than what we were told and the management refused to honor the previous agreement. Strike one.
Strike #2: The Insufficient Soup
As mentioned above, we had agreed to pay a 50% premium on the set menu price in order to get 50% larger portions for every dish. When the soup arrived, we were barely able to get a dozen half-filled small bowls. Remember that the standard 10-person menu would have called for ten full bowls of soup, usually with a couple of bowls to spare. With a 50% premium, we should have received at least 15 full bowls.
When we asked the server whether he was sure this was the larger portion, he said he would ask the kitchen. Returning, he said that it was indeed the larger portion. We told him that he could quite clearly see that there was not enough soup for 15 patrons and he agreed, only to shrug his shoulders and to say that there is nothing he could do. Strike two.
Strike #3: The Two Hour Wait
The real nail in the coffin had to do with the timing. If you were following along on Twitter and Facebook that night, then you’ll know what happened. A typical ten course Chinese menu usually takes about two hours to complete. We were nowhere near that timetable.
In fact, after sitting at our table for two hours, we had received only three dishes in total, the third of which was completely out of the standard order. Yes, I understand that Chinese New Year’s Eve is a busy time, but the restaurant would have fully known about this in advance. It is up to the management to prepare for it. They didn’t come around to refill our tea. The staff avoided us when we inquired about the timeline.
Our reservation was at 6pm and we were seated at that time. It was now 8pm and we weren’t even one-third of the way through our meal. Worse yet, the table next to us was seated at 6:30pm and they had not received a single dish in those 90 minutes. Nothing. This is positively disgraceful.
You’re Out: The Utter Indifference
After over two hours, we went to the manager and told him about the situation. We also told him that if we did not receive our next dish in the next 10 minutes that we’d be walking. He nodded and “rushed” to the kitchen to check on the situation.
We let those ten minutes pass and no one came to visit our table. We were fed up and we stood by our word, getting up and walking out of the restaurant. We walked right past the two or three employees who were fully aware of our situation. The waitress turned to her manager and told him that we had not paid. The manager’s response? A simple shrug, stepping aside to let us walk out. That utter indifference really demonstrates how the staff treat this business.
I’ve lived in Vancouver all my life and I’ve seen how the Chinese culture has changed during that time. I don’t expect world class service at most of these kinds of restaurants, but this is well beyond what can be tolerated. In a “foodie” city like Vancouver, utterly disgraceful service with a blatant disregard for your customer cannot and should not survive.
And the irony of their name–“Victory” Seafood Restaurant–really is the icing on the cake (that I never received). Do not, under any circumstances, eat at this restaurant. With an experience like this, I will not be giving “Victory” a second chance.
Aside: It’s times like these that I am so happy about the power of the Internet. My Facebook update on the situation received nearly 30 comments in the first 24 hours. Word of mouth is increasingly powerful and I am grateful for it.