A thread at thatsbj.com has some unkind things to say about The Bookworm as does a former co-worker (she’s written several times via Skype, “I’m in Bookworm and no one’s taking my order”), a current one (“it took an hour and a half to get a coffee and a meal”), and numerous readers. When it opened, I patronized Bookworm thrice weekly, but have found the service increasingly lackluster, including a very bad lunch experience (see last item here).
Around the corner, The Rickshaw has been drawing some of The Bookworm’s wireless crowd, but suffers from its own issues with consistent service. I introduced two friends to the place last night and it took ages to get our food, one guy’s dish came 20 minutes after another’s, and the wings were the puniest I’ve seen (and carrying that new and higher 3-kuai price tag). Another co-worker calls The Rickshaw’s recent service “terrible”, which includes the pay-first policy, confusion among the wait staff, and wrong orders delivered to her table.
On Sunday – that would be July 29: yes, I’m a bit behind on my writing – I decided to check out The Bookworm and The Rickshaw with a simple mission: to see if someone proactively takes my order (it seems reasonable to me that new customers should be approached by the staff, no?).
I arrive in The Bookworm – It’s no secret that there’s a new customer, since I walked in, crossed the room, and made a racket plugging in my computer.
I’ve checked my blog stats. Wow, I’m thirsty! I turn and stare at the service counter for five seconds. Several staff stand around busily chatting to one another – oblivious.
A waitress comes toward the table. She picks up an empty soda can and looks around for other finished drinks but fails to realize I have no finished drink because, well, I have no drink period.
I’m still sans beverage. It can’t be that I smell bad – I took a shower before I came here.
Two guys at a nearby table just got a draft beer and a Corona. Those look pretty good.
I finished a blog post. Man, I’m parched! I remember when I would visit The Bookworm, have a coffee or two, a beer, and then some food, spending several hours and a nice chunk of cash. Actually, The Bookworm is not nearly as busy or loud as usual. It’d be pleasant if I asked for a drink, but I need to stick to the mission.
I can see The Rickshaw from the window. It’s probably hot in there but I could use a pint of Qingdao and a burrito.
The woman across from me wants to pay, thus a waitress is inches away. It would seem a perfect time to look my way and say, “Hey, how about a refreshing beverage?” They both leave…
… and closing my laptop, so do I.
I walk past the women manning the parking lot near The Bookworm – they are having a good time, and getting some cultural education, watching a half-dozen foreigners playing beer pong at The Rickshaw.
Arrive in The Rickshaw: Upstairs is bustling so I park downstairs. There are a half-dozen people, including four with laptops, and overall it’s as crowded as The Bookworm. It’s hot.
A waitress stands two meters from me and looks out at the deck, then turns around and disappears.
Manager Chad comes down and asks a waitress, “Did you get his Margarita yet?” Then he heads back up.
Chad is back to make sure that Margarita is being made and delivered. Two waitresses pass by the table. Man, I feel invisible today. Maybe I do smell.
A waiter comes over, gives me a food and a drinks menu. Nine minutes: not great, but better than The Bookworm… I order a quesadilla and draft beer.
The Qingdao arrives, I pay the bill. Do they have fapiao? Yes.
My change and fapiao arrives.
My burrito arrives as I talk to Chad. it’s great. Twenty minutes in and I have food, drink, wireless and a really sweaty T-shirt.
So, there you have it – Rickshaw tops Bookworm on this particular mission, though it be a somewhat sweaty affair.
By the way, these comments about service should be taken in context. Our fair city is far better off now that is has The Bookworm (witness the excellent lecture there last night by Steven Schwankert) and The Rickshaw (an unpretentious atmosphere perfect for Beijing). Kudos to the owners and the staff for making people like me and my friends and co-workers like these places enough that we patronize – and complain – about them. It’s simplly that we… um… want our drinks and grub! (And are willing to pay cold hard cash for them!)
(Note: I went to The Bookworm last Thursday night and my order was taken and then delilvered within three minutes. Go figure.)