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Features

Suit up and you’ll get served good

Guests at Ciello Lounge. There are places in Kampala where service is determined by your appearance. Photo by Rachel Mabala

 

I write about food. Many times, to piece up a good food or restaurant review, I find myself visiting places more than once. One time I will come for the food, another time the ambience and if I am to do the third time, I may be trying to find out more about the service.
Of course, every time I show up for these experiences, I am dressed differently, with the aid of dreadlocks. Clothes tend to define me often.
One day I will be formal; a long-sleeved shirt, trouser with my locks carefully tied at the back and on another day I will go for shaggy locks; unkempt locks paired with shorts and open shoes.

I guess most of the times my weekend attires have people misunderstanding me, the African fabric and a Rastafarian headwrap, some of these waitresses even tend to believe I am high even when I am only being happy.
For the time I have been writing and blogging about food, I learnt that the best way of getting the best out of restaurants is never announcing your presence — simply show up and ask for food and be the judge.
In the process, I have visited places in as many personalities I own and guess what, I learnt that in Kampala, the quality of service in these restaurants is always as good as your appearance.

Defined service
For instance, I showed up in this high profile restaurant in a suit, and in minutes, the amazing service was all around me, there was someone leading me to my seat, another one, well, just smiling for my comfort.
Unfortunately, I was there for a meeting with a colleague, so I was not going to spend as much as I believe they imagined. In fact, I was only having tea, which was presented in a pot with pleasantries: “Enjoy your beverage.”

I would walk into this same restaurant almost two weeks later, this time I was actually here to spend, I had fallen for the steaks that I wanted to try them on my account. Unfortunately, I showed up in shorts, my locks were out and the African sandals on my feet could not save a situation. Being a place that attracts expatriates, they probably thought I was hunting for a lady with fairer skin.
I did not receive the smiles or warm greetings, in fact, what I got was a menu placed on my table and when I looked up, all I could catch was a glimpse of the waitress’ back as she disappeared.
It was surprising, the same place, two different service delivery forms.

Over the years, I have gotten used to Kampala restaurants and the way they deliver services. For instance, I know a number of bars around Acacia will not pay much attention to a local client when there is a foreigner yet to be served.
I have kept going back to these places and at the end of the day, I have realised Ugandans are judgemental and they carry their sentiments to the service industry.
With a better suit, the waitress will smile, switch it for an unpleasant shirt or walk in with white people, you will be served last if you are lucky enough for your seat to even be noticed.

akaggwa@ug.nationmedia.com

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