Cris in Ethiopia

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Posted by Cris on March 26, 2007

I, being one of the pre-eminent thinkers of our day, often come up with great ideas, which I call (copyright pending, you slackers) Million Dollar Idea$ (MDI$). Recently however, because of the exchange rate, Ive started coming up with Million Birr Idea$ (MBI$- copyright also pending- nice try). But today, because of recent events (see last post), am feeling downright generous. So get out your pens, because here is a MBI$ Im giving away for free:

Step one: move to Addis Ababa.

Step two: open a restaurant or cafe, either will do (maybe this is really a 2MBI).

Step three- pay attention, as this is the clincher: train your staff to do their jobs. In other words, if someone is supposed to be a waiter, train them. Explain to them, using small words and lots of arm and hand gestures if need be, that when a customer comes to the restaurant, sits down, and starts looking around expectantly, that that customer probably  wants to be served. Explain that when they see that customer, ESPECIALLY if they make EYE CONTACT with that customer, then they should go and s-e-e  w-h-a-t  t-h-e  p-e-r-s-o-n  w-a-n-t-s. Maybe bring them a menu. Teach them, maybe in a later dated/advanced level class, that if someone orders a drink, then they should bring the person a drink. Quickly. The capstone, after many months of honing their skills, would be the class teaching them that if the person has eaten, finished their meal, and starts looking around again, or even making EYE CONTACT, then that person probably wants the bill.

You will make money two ways: first, people will come to your restaurant, see that they are served and treated like customers rather than trespassers, and keep coming back. They will relate your restaurant to happy, fun-filled and carefree times, not the frustration of sitting and staring at 5 or 10 unoccupied waiters who stare back without flinching. Second, though you will pay them more than other servers make, you can get away with hiring 3 to 5 of them, rather than the untamed masses of wide-eyed, low-paid workers in most restaurants here.

You wont be the only one running the show like this. There are others, but they are few and far between, so the competition wont be too fierce. All I ask in return for my 2MBI is a private booth in the corner, next to the windows, with an unobstructed view of the happily functioning restaurant. Good luck, and god speed.        


2 Responses to “MBI$”

  1. Rob said

    Different cultures – different expectations
    In Germany you can wait forever to be seated, because you are supposed to seat yourself. You’ll wait for a menu if you don’t ask because they assume you might be waiting for someone else. You’ll wait to get a bill if you don’t ask because they feel it’s rude to rush you away by bringing one.
    Do the locals get treated the same as you? Maybe there is some deeper rooted social norm that we from the west don’t understand?
    How about next time when you walk in, just pick a likeable chap and walk up to him and pat him on the back and say “I want to have a great meal here my friend. Whenever you see me looking your way, can you come over? If you do this I will reward you!” (okay, I have no idea how you say that in Amharic…)

  2. mom said

    though i don’t usually go out to a place that requires a waiter– rob, i think has got the right idea. from what youv’e said about the grocery stores/ reg. stores in other countries service is not on their top ten. plus, you come from a country that everything is instant, now you are where things are at a slower pace.

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