Art Caffe – Overdue Post

I first started blogging about the Art Caffe in Nairobi in June last year. I’m finally publishing the post. Now, this is less a ‘review’ more a ‘rant’. Let me explain. I’ve been to Art Caffee three times… All three times I’ve had a *bad* experience.

Friends had been going to the Art Caffee and seemed to enjoy the experience, when it opened, but it was always out of my way, so I never really bothered going there. So, the first time at the Westgate Mall, I decided to try it out. Here goes experience one:

First Experience: House Coffee is a Latte

This was during one the first #140 Conference. The service was prompt. I asked what I then thought was a pleasant waitress (this would change by the time I had left the establishment) for a latte. I was served standard house coffee. She apologized about it, said something about the machine.  I figured, oh well, I’m was going to be there for a short time, let me enjoy the coffee and the ambience. So, I requested the bill which again promptly arrives, but it reads that I had a double latte (which is in excess of 200 bob), I tell her I had house coffee.  She then tells me that I had a ‘Double Latte’ and that it’s the same thing as house coffee. I explain the difference between the two to her and she simply says I ‘don’t know what I’m saying they are the same thing, if I don’t want to pay, I should say so. The price difference was 100 bob, I was leaving, I let it slide.

 

Second Experience – Coffee is above 100 KES

A friend of mine started working at the Art Caffe and suggested that I should give them a second chance. One Sunday evening, in June, I chose to stop by for a quick meal & coffee. As I approached the place, I noticed that it seemed congested, I asked the waitress at the door for a seat, politely informing her that I will not have company, hence I needed space either at the bar or at a two seater table. She chose to ‘politely’ inform me that in said establishment, coffee was in excess of 100 KES, and that  I should bear that in mind. I responded by telling her that I was well aware of the pricing and that she should get a handle on her job, there is a menu if I needed to check pricing, I’m perfectly capable of reading. It later hit me that she actually had not listened to a word I was saying and probably was assuming I chose to speak to her to find out the pricing. I did go in, had a cappuccino, which I did not finish due to time constraints.

 

Experience 3 – Still not good enough

This particular issue got to their management and that weekend they requested me to come back for a ‘better experience’… Being rather open minded, I showed up the next Saturday. I was seated. Chose to work. Waited. For two odd hours, no service, the initial excuse was that they were having their morning team meeting and hence would get to me in a while. The meeting ended and every waiter I beckoned said they have gone to get me the ‘waiter responsible for my table’. I did place an order, eventually, but it never arrived. You can imagine my surprise when, a few min later, a european family came to order breakfast got roughly 3 waiters taking their orders (suddenly table responsibility was not an issue) and had their meal in roughly 17 min. While I sat. Idle. I left without as much as a blink from the staff…

I eventually figured it out, after speaking to a couple of their waiters I realised why. Apparently, it’s because I’m black… Yes… According to the waiters, Kenyan’s tip badly hence you don’t prioritize serving them, while the others tip well… My problem with such reasoning is that it perpetuates the myth, because, if the Kenyans are necessarily treated badly, they will not tip, because the service was poor. So it’s a nasty cycle. The management has been made aware of this, but they don’t seem to really care about it. On speaking to my friends, I found out that they all had had issues at one point or another with the Art Caffe, similar issues. These have been raised severally to their management but have fallen on deaf ears… I don’t know whichI find worse, the persistent poor customer service that management ignores or the incorrigibly provincial thinking shown by their staff.

My suggestion? They should hang one of these at their door, that way, I’d have known not to bother…

EDIT – 20th June 2013

Just to clarify – my issue is that the waiters conduct racial profiling, but management couldn’t be bothered to address this issue. This issue keeps cropping up too many times to be pure hearsay. If you go through the comments, the waiters openly say that they do racially profile customers. Management, even with direct feedback from staff have chosen to do nothing about this – and that’s my problem. It may not be a problem of Art Cafe’s making but the’ve failed to address the issue.