Fastfood, too furious: does quality have a place in the fastfood industry?
Customers are fighting back with a vengeance when it comes to bad experiences dining out. And companies can choose to listen and do better or get scratched of the menu.
January 15, 2012 4:00 by Precious de Leon
The UAE is spoilt for choice when it comes to fastfood variety. From burgers and noodles to pizzas and kebabs, we can choose to satiate our hunger with many a quick-hit combo meals. But how many times have you actually gotten a meal that looks exactly like the photo illustration on the menu?
Your burger is never as big and juicy as it is on the poster and salad never looks as fresh or full. Most of us have just gotten used to it, though, and accept this kind of false advertising. But we have our limits. And Mehdi, one of Kipp readers, found his limits to food service quality recently in a so-called ‘value meal’ offer from Pizza Hut.
He contacted Kipp to publish an open letter for the Pizza Hut management in the UAE about his recent experience at one of their outlets. Here’s the letter:
Dear Management at Pizza Hut,
I was in the Barsha area and decided to have a quick lunch while I was having my car washed. I had a few options for places to eat and decided to treat myself to a combo meal I had seen advertised recently.
I don’t eat Pizza Hut regularly, for the main reason that it’s not the healthiest option out there, if not the least healthy. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give you a chance. So I ordered the combo meal from the picture menu. It included a small order of pizza with a side of Potato Wedges, and a soft drink.
The picture looked like it was good value for money, and for 19AED, I was expecting more food than I could finish. Ten minutes later I was presented with a pizza box, another paper box and a paper cup of cola. When I opened the pizza box, I found a small pizza cut into four pieces, each slice had 1 slice of pepperoni on top. The pizza was about 10-15 cm in diameter, hardly something that could be considered the main portion of a “combo meal” and was not loaded with the toppings that were presented in the menu.
I decided to brush off this first disappointed to typical sensationalist advertising and proceeded to open the second box to scoff down my potato wedges. The picture below is what I found.
I actually took the box to the cashier and asked if they have given me the wrong order and that maybe it was somebody’s leftover that they could not finish. When I asked the cashier about this, he said “it’s company policy. It’s only 100g of Potato Wedges per meal”.
I decided not to give him a hard time since he looked genuinely embarrassed, and rightfully so, to be the face of a company that offers such portion sizes to customers. To top it off, the softdrink was what you would expect from a fastfood place, somewhat flat, and very sweet.
I have two comments for Pizza Hut:
1) Your menu is deceiving and the so called “Value Meals” are far from what you promise. As someone in the hospitality industry, I appreciate that pictures are sensationalised to attract customers, however the pictures in your menu are not at all a representation of your product.
2) I find this point more disturbing than the first, you offer a small product in large packaging, oftentimes made of plastic and paper. I am offended by your lack of respect for social responsibility and awareness towards the amount of waste you create. If you want to make money by charging your customers high prices for inferior product, fine, that’s maybe your company policy; however take into consideration the amount of waste you are creating in the process, just to deceive customers into feeling like they are getting value for their meals.
Kipp checked Pizza Hut’s website for a photo of the combo meal and this is the photo advertising the 19-dirham meal. (The photo was really small on the website so it’s very blurry here:
More than ever, restaurants and fastfood outlets have to be on their toes when it comes to dealing with customers who are more tech-savvy and as a result feel empowered to speak out about both their bad and good experiences with a product or brand. This is Word-of-Mouth Supersized, people! So hop to it.
[UPDATE: McDonald's contacted Kipp about the video below. They sent an official statement saying the video was a 'staged fabrication' and stresses the company's ongoing open door programme. To view the official statement, click here. Also, if you are interested in visiting a McDonald's kitchen and write about the experience for Kipp, just contact us!]
Just this morning, Emirates 24/7 published a YouTube link that served as proof that one McDonald’s branch in Saudi Arabia used a washing machine to clean its vegetables.
Here’s the video (Arabic):
And hopefully, instead of ignoring or, worse, reprimanding these people who are criticising brand (Remember the whole fiasco that was Benihana vs Blogger in Kuwait?), companies should accept the feedback and graciously make up for it. After all, you did disappoint a customer who chose to dine at your restaurant/outlet, trusting that they would have a good time there.
Have you had any bad experiences with service and products at fastfood, food service and restaurants recently? Share your stories in the comments section below, on our Facebook page, on Twitter or at [email protected]