Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Visit to Bungalow 9 - a lesson in Hubris.

As a comparatively new blogger (I only started this May) I was thrilled to receive an invitation from the Social Media Div., Percept Profile to visit and dine at Bungalow 9 - a restaurant they represent. They wanted to host me at their restaurant, wanted me to meet the Chef, and then write about my experience on my blog. I was thrilled and replied back in the affirmative. Ms Priyanka called me up and insisted that me and my wife come and experience a 'true fine dining experience' at Bungalow 9 a property which was represented by her company. We fixed Monday the 14th of November at 8.30pm. She was very solicitous of my comfort and recommended the outside seating as the weather was pleasant and confirmed to me that Monday would be perfect as the Chef wanted to meet and speak to me and that his day-off was on Tuesdays. Armed with all this, a careful perusal of the restaurants website, and a bucket of confidence I convinced Rhea (my wife) to drive all the way across town (45km away) with me to have dinner on a week-day (read working day) evening. 

We arrived after a 95 minute drive and gave our car to the valet and sauntered into the premises of Bungalow 9. Upon being greeted by the usher I gave them my name and informed them that I had a table for 8.30pm. They looked blankly at me and informed me that there was no reservation in my name. This is when it all began to unravel. I informed them that I had been invited here and told them that I was expected. The Maitre d' - or someone I suppose was the maitre d' - then came up and asked me who I was ... I gave him my visiting card and once again repeated that I had been invited here on this day at this time by the corporation involved in promoting their restaurant using social media. He looked blankly at me and pointed out that neither was my name on the reservations list nor had their business partners informed him of any such event. He went on to inform me that in such a scenario Percept Profile promptly emailed all details to the restaurant followed by a telephonic confirmation and that the restaurant had received no such missive or communication. He offered me a seat and led me to a small corner sofa instead of a table whilst I desperately tried to bring up the email details on my phone. To my increasing chagrin there was very low coverage and the phone couldn't access my emails. I then reiterated the same (previously mentioned) details to the maitre d' who looked at me in a rather doubtful fashion and informed me that there was no such communication and that if I so desired a table could be made available as they were not full up. By this time I was mortified, deeply embarrassed and had a very highly upset spouse at my side. I decided I had had enough and left.

An hour later after having caught up with an old friend and having accessed my email over her iPad I was in the process of dialing Ms Priyanka when she called. She informed me that she had been in a meeting and had just received a call from the restaurant and that there seemed to have been some mix-up. She continued to assure me that it was obviously just human error and that she had made a booking (for 2) and had confirmed the same with the restaurant, I then informed her that the restaurant had stuck the reservation book under my nose and that there was no booking in my name, surname or in the name of her company. Her reaction was - Oh! 

She then told me that it was a human error and that her colleague/junior had probably bungled it and that the restaurant had confused everything because I asked for a table for 8!! I was completely flummoxed ... there were just two of us at the restaurant and I had specified the same to the usher and the maitre d'. She asked if I could go right back to the restaurant, I declined. She promised that that she/the company/the restaurant would make this up to me and that she hoped that I understood this was just human error and that this could happen anywhere. I was with a friend and a rather irate spouse not to mention deeply embarrassed and insulted - I refrained from further conversation.

It was a rather expensive lesson in humility and in my father's old adage - there is nothing like a free lunch.

I have eaten at Mumbai's and India's best restaurants, both fancy and simple, and at some absolute dives ... in all my years I had never experienced this. I realised it was a fitting reply to my hubris. I was embarrassed, humiliated and insulted that too by someone whom I had never met and who appeared to have been asking a favour of me!! I will probably never visit Bungalow 9 ever again and I doubt very much whether I will ever take up an invite of this kind. 

I have been in the food business for the last 35 years (I was seven when my Mum started the business) and this has definitely been a new and unique experience. I understand mistakes happen. We have made them too ... but when one occurs you try and smooth them over ASAP, you pull out all the stops and bend over backwards ... I waited all day today for a call ... there was none. Neither was there any email. 

I wonder if this is how PR people treat all their targets or was this just for some blogger who didn't deserve any better? 

I received a call from a very distraught Ms Priyanka, 45 mins after I posted the above blog,  who was very hurt that my wife and I held her and her company responsible. She told me that she would forward the email she had sent to Manasi of Bungalow 9. I told her I would append the same in her defense.

I then received a very polite call from Ms Irani the owner of the restaurant who said she had been informed of the incident and that whilst she she hadn't read my blog she'd like to tender an unconditional apology with no excuses whatsoever. She asked me to drop by anytime ... if nothing else for a coffee and a chat. I was very happy and felt somewhat mollified by her call.

Upon going home I opened my mail to find Priyanka's forwarded email. To add insult to injury it mentioned someone else's blog as mine and had that blog's statistics appended to the same. What I had thought was just plain 'human error' was actually gross negligence. I am pasting below her email.

Priyanka's email to me:
 Dear Kurush,
This is further to our conversation as to where Percept was not at fault in this miscommunication. Below is an email sent to the representative at Bungalow 9 about booking a table for 2 with all other preferences.
At no given point was Percept misinformed or has not informed the concerned representatives at Bungalow 9.
I hope this email below clarifies Percept’s point of view.
Priyanka Agrawal
Sr. Consultant- Digital Media
Percept Profile (A Division of Percept Limited), P-2, Level A3, Raghuvanshi Estate, 11/12 SB Marg, Lower Parel (West),

Her email to Manasi at Bungalow 9:
Dear Manasi,
Mr. Kurush Dalal of The Sassy Fork would like to visit Bungalow 9 on Monday, 14th November, 2011 for dinner at 8.30pm. He is visiting the restaurant with his wife and would prefer to sit outdoor.

Blog Details:
Profile Views: 1200+
No. of followers: 75+
Total Page Views: 58,000+

Priyanka Agrawal

I leave the judgement to the readers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Silk: The latest in a long line of iconic avatars from Cadbury's Chocolates.

Was scrolling through my emails a few days ago when I came across an email from Cadbury's asking me if I'd  care to host a video of  the results of their latest competition (The Silk Affair) for their new flagship brand Silk.

Now Cadbury is synonymous in India with chocolate and the most common method of asking for a chocolate in India is to ask, "bhaiyya ... cadbury hai?". Here 'cadbury' generically means chocolate irrespective of the brand!! Imagine the impact Cadbury's have had on India and the Indian public that all over the country this name is the word that spells chocolate!

I was lost for the next half an hour in a very pleasant fog of memories all having to do with Cadbury's products eaten through the last 40 years or so. I thought back to those heady school days when one desperately craved the one rupee Cadbury bar - a thin slim bar wrapped in purple foil whilst hoping and praying that the parent or grandparent would succumb to ones viles and purchase a Cadbury Krisp (the predecessor of the perk - only with dark chocolate and twice as thick and twice as wide) or a Cadbury Plus (Choclate surrounding a thick almost jammy jelly) the closest thing I have ever found on the net is the Cadbury's Turkish Delight ....

(... I wonder whether it's the same .....????)

The next big thing was the Cadbury's 5 Star an absolute sensation with caremel and toffee all rolled up in smooth silky chocolate with very catch print adverts. The 5Star Bar soon bacame and absolute favourite and is available to this day in India. 

The 5Star Bar soon had competition in the form of the Double Decker Bar a bar with two distinct layers one with chocolate and crunchy cereal (puffed rice?)  and one (the upper) with a sticky chewy white nougat. I was in love!

Round about the same time Cadbury's introduced two creamy centred chocolates in slab form ... Caramello and Orangello .... Caramello is still available in Britain and Australia but the Orangello no one seems to have heard of outside off  India ... even here it had a woefully short career.

The 90's (actually 1989-1995) were perhaps the most startling for Cadbury's fans as Cadbury's entered the market with their own ice-cream brand Dollops ... they soon introduced bar shaped ice-creams called Dairy Milk, 5Star and Double Decker ... though these were a great hit and chocolate ice-cream has never been the same again in India ... Dollops soon closed shop and faded away. Leaving a load of fans in mourning.

The next great thing to come out of the Cadbury stable was a lovely nutty, 'cereally', raisin filled bar coated with caramel and covered with chocolate - it was called the Picnic. Launched with much fanfare in 1998 this really most healthy of chocolates  was a hit with kids and teenagers. Sadly this too is no longer available.

In 2000 Cadbury's launched Perk followed by Ulta Perk in 2007 ... they were reminiscent of Krisp and a direct competition to Nestles KitKat.

Perk in its larger XL avatar.

Ulta Perk had a soft chocolate centre surrounded by a biscuity covering.

Through the years 2000 to 2010 Cadbury's concentrated on pushing it's bar chocolate through their brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan and through a series of very punchy adverts on the telly ... including the now famous 'Pappu pass ho gaya' thereby re-positioning their flagship brand Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate.

In 2010 Cadbury's launched a newer smoother, creamier chocolate called Cadbury's Silk ... as a diehard fan of the old school Cadbury's Dairy Milk I was originally skeptical of this new avatar was this new impostor going to get my vote? The only way to find out was to go and get myself some ... the result was a new love affair with Cadbury's ... Silk is a gorgeous sticky, slightly gooey, all round 'chocolatier' chocolate, it's smoother and has a lower melting point thus making a mess sooner than any other chocolate in India. 

But it's every bit as addictive as the girls in the bharatnatyam recital advert for the product make it seem.

This here is the link to the contest where their winner will get a Fairytale Trip to Paris for two!!

Enjoy :)