Discussion, news and views on bars, restaurants, gigs, parties and culture in Cambodia. Bar owners can advertise events for free here.
I've had a few observations. They don't apply across the board for sure and many places have excellent, very long-term staff who would do well working anywhere in the world.
The positive is always a bit boring, but it's worth noting that (I don't frequent red light bars so these observations may come off the rails at those) the staff I've dealt with have, for the most part, earnestly attempted to be friendly, are unfailingly honest and go out of their way to try to do what they think is the right thing in terms of their roles and in terms of helping out visitors.
What I've found most interesting though are the list of 5-10 things that mar the otherwise positive experience one has when dealing with staff at many of the more well-reviewed and well-noted expat and tourist dining destinations and accommodations. Yes, it's a nascent society in many ways and there aren't decades of experience in any given sector to build on. Still, I've noticed that some places have perfectly acceptable staff and others don't. So, in no particular order (and the first is definitely not the most important!):
1) Ban your staff from saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Every country around here has one or another bad English language habits (hello, Singlish) and they're always forgivable, but this local habit of people responding "Yeah, yeah, yeah" is really off-putting to native English speakers. Obviously some Cambodian ESL speakers have assimilated the term as meaning, "sure, no problem," but even when you know the intent isn't to be dismissive and rude, that's simply what it means in our language. "Yeah, yeah, yeah" is the English equivalent of "Whatever, jerkoff."
2) Even if your bar & restaurant is a "family establishment" where your family brings the kids out for everyone to say hi to - and they're almost unfailingly cute kids with nice parents - they need to go in the back or to the office after a while. I can't count how many times I've watched popular expat bars here empty out over an hour when a worker or owner brings their child out to the bar and it just wanders around for an hour screaming at random intervals. It doesn't dawn on the staff that the bar is emptying out because a bunch of grown-ups don't go to bars & restaurants to listen to screaming children, but the point should be accessible once explained. That's not to say that people mind meeting and saying hi to kids, but the bar is not a place for kids to hang out all day or night.
3) Train your staff to stop, listen and consider before replying. This one isn't an English communication issue exactly, it must have more to do with the level of education or some cultural nuance, but it does not happen in the surrounding countries here I've lived in where English is spoken no more on average. I've noticed over and over that some staff won't make eye contact when you walk in, then they barely wait for the first bit of speech to clear your lips before instantly interrupting you with whatever they assume you want. At first I thought I was going about things wrong, but after seeing the same thing at a number of places around the city over the course of several months - and not ever seeing it at others - I'm certain part of it's down to poor training. The owners probably have a very different experience than visitors as staff in all countries tend to be more deferential to the boss. As with the other points, I could name specific staff/occasions at a number of specific places here, but I'm not writing this post to slag anyone off
4) Train your staff the difference between paying attention to the customer and standing there gawking at the customer. This is another one that you don't get in Malaysia, Thailand or Laos as much (and at least two of those countries are full of looky loos). Countless times in certain restaurants the staff, after serving, are clearly trying to be attentive, but end up standing directly in view staring at you as you eat or drink or whatever. It's pretty freaky, frankly. This leads to...
5) Ban pen clicking, which is not any worse here than anywhere else in SE Asia I've been. Still, when combined with staff standing there 5' away staring at you is compounded as an annoyance.
6)The staff shouldn't be allowed to congregate in the service area and gab, gossip about the TV and sit around chewing with their mouths open. This is one of the first lessons any front of house manager has to teach staff in any country and it's always in need of reinforcement, because staff just love to sit around and gab. When it's slow, too, it's not such a big deal. Still, there's usually someone around at your business and they don't want to have whatever they're doing interrupted by 5-6 women standing around gossiping, giggling and crunching on bugs/sucking on snails loudly. It's as annoying here as it is in the UK or Australia or Canada, but here it seems less attended. If they need time to gab because they're working long hours, give them space to do it in the back.
7) I always enjoy a chat with the staff and most, like most people anywhere, know the boundaries of having a chat versus babbling on and on. Unfortunately, I've run into managers and staff at a number of places here who apparently have never been told that the customer doesn't want to listen to an endless stream of consciousness about whatever's passing through their mind at the moment. If you notice your staff standing there talking to someone for more than a few minutes you might want to stop by and ask how everything is, give the customer a chance to get a word in and clue you in. Sometimes people go to places specifically to chat with staff they've grown to be friends with - that is not what I'm talking about.
8) This one's touchy in Asia, and definitely not specific to Cambodia, but it bears saying. You definitely need to instruct staff to keep any racial opinions to themselves on the clock. It's not uncommon to hold beliefs or have stereotypes, but having your staff openly say, "I hate black man" in normal conversation where the entire bar can hear it (as I've heard at at least two very old guard establishments here) is not acceptable. Sure, maybe their only experience is with scamming Africans or something and it's just an uneducated opinion, but "We hate black people" is not something you'd want written on the sign at your business (one hopes). Nor "We hate Indians" or "We hate Arabs" or whatever other stereotype opinions held by your staff.
I'm sure people will think I'm a troll or that these opinions are those of some short-term tourist who just hasn't adapted to life here. I can assure you neither is true. I've lived around here for years and years. I imagine that many of these things simply don't bother business owners here, which is also okay. Managing employees in cultures in this area is quite a bit different than in the West for sure, I've been there. People will work long hours, but quit over tiny things like being corrected about something in public. Still, there's a fine line between give and take with staff and, on the other hand, letting the inmates run the asylum. These are the things I noticed in common between a number of establishments, which I thought made them worth bringing up for debate (if I were making a list for Thailand and Laos it would include some opposite problems, like 'actually go by the customer's table once in a while to check if they need anything'). Whether they're down to specific management styles in Cambodia, cultural nuance or just coincidence I can't say for sure.
I know there are quite a number of bar owners and restauranteurs who post here, so I'm sure there will be more than 1-2 opinions on the topic and I'm sure I'll learn something from any responses.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm going to print this out and use it as a discussion piece for my front house staff.
Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men.
I totally agree with 4), I absolutely hate it when the staff hang over you. I've had it happen in a couple of shops too. Once I had to tell the staff in a clothes shop to back off because I couldn't even turn around and look at something that I had just put down as they were standing right behind me.
I think it's just that they always use "jaaa.. jaaa.. jaaa.." if female or "baht.. baht.. baht.." if male for confirmation in Khmer and just do the same in English but use "yeah". They just speak the same way they do in Khmer but use English words.
I've found this to be typical of most people. Myself included. One speaks whatever language it is one is learning in the way one speaks one's native language.. (Until one learns enough to know better )
Anyway.. good first post.. Extra points for not being overly cynical
Last edited by doktor_d on Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Alcohol is necessary so that a man can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts
Write shit down - if there's one thing that is bloody annoying its the smug "I can remember your whole order in my head" idiot who proceeds to completely screw it up. There are no bonus marks for being Mr. Memory, but you'll lose customers if your staff consistently get orders wrong; blaming it on the guy out the back doesn't wash either ...
Have some fun with it. Just do a quick U turn and 'accidently' walk into them then do another quick U turn just to confuse them. If there are aisles in the shop, turn down take one step and do a U turn and repeat for all the aisles. Walk backwards down the aisle.
Nice to see things we've all thought of written down.
Other stuff to add to the list, which although not directly involved with customer service, would be when then stock/glassware has reached a minimum level (not Zero) tell the boss. But as with everything thats just part of training, a good manual and remembering where you put the manual.
I do the freak them out spin all the time.
"Garage music is not bad, because Christ was born in a manger,which was probably like a garage of that time." Sky Saxon
Anyone who believes the saying "there are no bad kids, only bad parents" can add to that "there are no bad staff, only bad management".
I have a favorite bar in Cebu city where the staff always seemed to know instinctively that you're ready for another beer. Took me months to work out that the boss had educated them to watch the angle of the bottle as the customer takes a swig and listen to the sound of the bottle being put back on the table.
Earlier this year I spent a month of nights in Cavern bar on 104 and there were a couple of girls serving that did just that. I don't remember ever having to reorder a beer. That's down to management.
A very perceptive and insightful post on the service industry in this country. The learning of regular
customers names and their preferred drinks as well as a decent knowledge of the components of
the food and drinks on the menu also applies. The 'kids' scenario is easier to manage in a larger
Another thing that is bothersome. We call for delivery every now and then, the GF will explain at length (why do we have addresses) where we live and yet they will drive around for 45 minutes lost while the food gets cold, not calling US for help, but will talk to the restaurant people who we have called once or twice. Eventually they find the house with the cold food in hand.
This one really pisses me off.
For the floor staff that just don't get the message, even after asking them to back off -
1. Return the space invasion and move toward them each time you move, chase them backwards
2. Always reach for something right behind where they are standing
3. Step on toes and smile
4. Cough as near to them as possible - and make sure it's a full-on, sputum dribbling, bubbling and sticky reach of a TB cough... head colds are good for this.
5. Sneeze, see above.
I'd rather have an armed ape on the door watching multi-screened CCTV that covers every possible angle of each and every square inch of the premises than be followed at half an arm's distance and peered at suspiciously by someone who knows nothing of even the shop's stock.
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests