‘I’m the owner of three satellite channels and I had a very bad experience at your restaurant. Your staff is very rude and I have made video of your place with my mobile and I intend to show this on my channels’.

This was the latest entry on the comments book at the front desk of Rangoli, the buffet joint that has managed to inch towards the top 3 buffet restaurants. The person hadn’t written his name but had given his cell number, which is a bit strange. Rangoli has established itself as a major player on the buffet scene which is paradoxical to this complaint. If the customer service of a company, especially that of a service provider sucks, then there’s no way it can become a top player. And yet Rangoli is still climbing the charts.

Maybe this complaint was a one-off case, but then our own experience wasn’t swell either as far as dealing with the desk staff is concerned. This would be revealed later in the article, but first the good things.

As far as the sensory branding strategy is concerned, Rangoli has really made inroads, making full use of 3 out of total 5 five dimensions, namely, sight, sound and taste. It would do well to integrate the other two dimensions (touch and aroma) as well.

The first thing that hits you (after dealing with two sullen fellows at the desk guaranteed to piss you off) is the pleasing ambiance. Although the food hall is brightly lit, the dining hall is dimly light with spacious seating arrangement and enough space between tables to allow sufficient privacy. A balanced privacy in a public place such as a restaurant is an important factor which many restaurants especially those at Zamzama choose to ignore. Rangoli has done justice to this factor.

Then in line with the brand essence of Rangoli, there’s the desi live music with tabla and harmonium and all. What’s interesting is they are rendering the latest Indian songs in the traditional folkloric style, imbibing the senses with a soothing effect.

Coming to the food items, first the salad bar. Unlike Village and Lal Qila, Rangoli has come up with a comprehensive salad bar with all the standard items and more. At Village and Lal Qila, you couldn’t even find the coleslaw, an item that has really hit off with the masses.

The second differentiating factor is the prawns. Prawn and fish are two items that you are almost certain to find in all buffet restaurants irrespective of whether they are desi or continental. However, the way they are cooked varies from restaurant to restaurant. The Tempura style is increasingly becoming popular for the prawns, and you’ll find it at both Village and Rangoli. However, Lal Qila and Shan-e-Mughlia are still stuck on the desi style of basun smeared prawns which isn’t as good as the tempura.

The third differentiating factor is the Sajji. Although Mela does offer it and it’s as good as the Rangoli one, Mela doesn’t belong in the league of these upscale buffet restaurants. In this league, there’s no one else offering the Sajji.

Then there are a number if minor plus points, like the pasta which is cooked right then and there for you and was by far the best dish amongst the plethora of offerings.

Like Village, Rangoli isn’t big on barbeque items, offering just two- chicken boti and seekh kabab. However, both were good enough with succulent chunks of chicken on offer. On the other hand, Lal Qila excels at this cuisine offering a number of diverse bbq items.

One of the minor shortcomings of Rangoli is the division of the food hall into two areas. The problem is that the second smaller section which holds a slew of delectable items like Sajji, Mutton Roast, Pasta, Chicken Handi and Pani Puri is obscurely located with no sign pointing towards it. What’s more, you couldn’t see into that room because the view is blocked by a frosted glass door! We noticed it only after we had moved onto the desserts.

The beef pasta was a pleasant surprise as not many buffet restaurants are able to make this properly. The fried rice were too ordinary. There’s the chowmein missing which has also become part and parcel of most desi buffet dinners. There is however the spaghetti which is alright.

Apart from the afore-mentioned dishes, no other dish on the menu is worth discussing. That’s because they are pretty much what every other buffet dinner offers with no great taste. There’s the nihari, karhai, haleem, Anda Chana, fried rice, thai fish and a number of other items with no great taste.

In the dessert section, although the ice cream on offer had only one flavor – vanilla, it was quite delectable. It wasn’t one of those tasteless ice cream brands which you find at most restaurants but a homemade specialty. Apart from this, the other items more or less the standard affair.

Now we come to their customer service part and why that owner of three satellite channels may have been rightly pissed off. When we arrived at the place at about 8.45pm, we were ushered into the dining hall with the warning that the first shift was going to end at 9.30 pm and that we better hurry up. We were taken aback and asked the head waiter how could he expect us to wrap up the dinner in less than an hour, and that also a buffet one?

What did he say? Okay, we could stay half an hour more but then we should remember taking care of him at the end. Sounds familiar? For all it could have been our policewalas asking for a bribe politely.

We went back to the counter, asked for the dinner+ bowling game deal where we would play first and then come back in the ‘second’ shift where there would be no time constraints. Now, here’s the best part. The guy at the counter refused to reserve seats for us even though we were paying him in advance to book the seat. His audacious reply – that the place gets full by the time we would come back and that they couldn’t risk even a small table lying vacant when it could be earning money by accommodating a customer!

That’s the worst reply you can give to your customer, that the next money making opportunity is more important than the present customer, that he’s no more than a money-minting opportunity. Well, in reality that is the case but you don’t bluntly say it to his face.

No wonder the three-satellite owner guy was pissed off, something similar surely must have happened to him.

It wasn’t just what the desk clerk was saying but his entire body language gave the impression that he didn’t give a damn about the customer, what he only wanted to achieve was filled tables. Period.

Although customer service is not the most promising aspect of any Pakistani business, the utter disdain for your customer is something which is seldom witnessed. With this sort of attitude, Rangoli is surely going to suffer in lean times in spite of all its competitive advantages.