Kopapa Dinner: where I had a thought about service charge

Kopapa is great for weekend brunch. When you talk about lunch/dinner, it’s not so bad either; it’s trusty enough to recommend for relaxed client lunches and casual enough for substantial pre-game dinner with mates. Few weeks ago, some girl friends and I went here for a long overdue catch up. We’ve not seen each other for months so we decided to go somewhere we can have proper conversation and good food. It turned out to be a tense night.

When we were seated, we ordered a mixed platter of starters (£12.50) straight up while we browsed the menu because we were feeling peckish. 
SERVER 1: Is that all? *collecting the menus*
ME: No, we’d order some more. Can you leave the menus please?
SERVER 1: Sure *scoffs away*
Our platter came. Although the plating is questionable, it’s pretty good. You get grilled chorizo, guindilla chillies, globe artichokes, cuts of Manchego, marinated olives, babaganoush & grilled flatbread. 
We ordered some small plates after that.
SERVER 1: *starts collecting the menus*
ME: Can we keep a menu at our table please? We might want to order a few more in a while.
SERVER 1: Why?
ME: Oh. Well, we might be hungrier than we thought.
SERVER 1: *leaves menu and sighs out loud* One plate each should be enough for four of you.
My friends and I looked at each other. That was strange attitude, but we shrugged it off and went on to catch up. Five minutes later, Server 1 comes back and asks if everything was okay. We said yes. Shortly after, whilst I was about to shove a forkul of food in my mouth, Server 2 swung by and asked if we were done. Ulh, obviously not.

One of my favourite things on the menu is the wasabi-cured salmon (£7.30). It comes with wakame and cucumber salad. It’s fresh and delicious and quite apt for a hot summer evening.
We also had some calamari. It’s not actually my favourite, but well… it’s easy to order.
SERVER 1: Is that all you are ordering? *takes the menu without waiting for our answer*
ME: Can we have the Wagyu beef please?
SERVER 1: Okay, is that it?
ME: Well, we might order some more later.
SERVER 1: It might be useful to order everything now, we are busy
FRIEND 1: No. We’d like to order later.
SERVER 1: Suit yourself *rolls eyes and leaves*

My friends were quite shocked. It was a bit rude. Mid-conversation Server 2 asked us if we are okay. Yet again.

Thankfully, the beef was a palate party. The Aussie Wagyu itself was tender and melt-in-the-mouth. The smoked mash was creamy and well seasoned. The plump field & king oyster mushrooms added to that earthy, meaty flavour and the beetroot horseradish added a zing that tied everything together.

We were definitely enjoying our food and our conversation until Server 2 asked us if everything was okay. We said yes and ordered another dish. Few minutes later, Server 1 came by, reached over our table (we had to stop digging into the food), topped up our still-full glasses (missing out on the one empty glass she should’ve refilled), and walked off without a word. Few minutes later after that, Server 2 came back to grab a few of our small plates that still had food. My friend P had to stop her. She then asked if things were okay. All in around ten minutes. 

I’m not quite sure if it was us my annoyance, but when we dug into the Jamaican goat & plantain samosa my taste buds seemed to have lost it. The two small samosas (definitely not justifiable for £9) were oily and the goat was dry and overcooked. The raita was bland and I couldn’t taste the plantain. On top of that, Server 2 came back again and asked if everything was okay.

We were really annoyed now. We were certainly no VIPs and we wondered if VIPs ever get this kind of smothering treatment. I decided to tweet Kopapa.

They’ve responded immediately, and here’s what happened next (you have to read from the bottom).

So a lady called Frith came to apologise (explained that the servers we got were probably still under training) and suggested we stay and have the table for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, my friends were really turned off and just wanted to leave to have dessert elsewhere. We asked for the bill and Frith very kindly gave us the wine for free. Result, indeed, but in a rush to get out, we ended up paying the service charge.

I did have an afterthought though: majority of punters don’t challenge the “optional” or “discretionary” 12.5% service charge for various reasons but when you get bad service and complain about it, shouldn’t this be automatically taken off your bill? I’ve heard stories of people refusing to pay this only to be greeted by excuses and sighs and eye rolls from servers (who would sometimes call their managers who would give more excuses). But then so what?

People are paying so much for food (sometimes more than they should) these days and they expect good value for money as they think they are paying for a good time. If you work in the service industry, surely you’d understand that whilst a huge fraction of any customer’s dining affair is about what they consume, another huge fraction of it relies so much on the service and the experience (your responsibility).

*rant over*

Despite the experience, I still like Kopapa – their menu is quite exciting so I know I’d be back (but more likely for weekend brunch).

32-34 Monmouth St, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London WC2H | +44 (0)20 7240 6076
Ave spend pp: £45
Kopapa on UrbanspoonSquare Meal

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  1. 10th August 2014 / 11:20 am

    This is a really tough one Honey, and your post is food for thought (see what I did there!). As someone who loves to eat out, I'm not ashamed to say that more than once a month I'll eat somewhere and not want to pay the service charge. If I as not to pay it is another question (and often I don't). Maybe it's that the service has been slow, unhelpful in terms of advice or that I found the staff unamicable, not too bothered, hard to catch the attention of. Sometimes it'll be more that they failed to mention dishes that are not available anymore after leaving us to choose for 20 minutes, or you know, simply that maybe I'll find the restaurant's prices are above what I would happily pay for the dishes I've had. For this last point, I know this is debatable because of course, it's not up to me to set prices and I don't know every single thing that goes into a dish, their overhead etc. but if we're honest, I think we all have a sense of the value of things which for a meal comes from the taste, quality, and experience you've had. I really don't mind spending money on meals out but if I feel like things are overpriced it can ruin it a little for me. Maybe asking not to pay the service charge would be an easy way to soften the frustration but I don't know, so far I felt like it was like a line that's really hard to cross. It'd be interesting to know what other people think.

    • 13th August 2014 / 8:35 am

      Insightful, Jesse! And yes, there are many factors that would cause punters to not want to pay service charge. What I find hilarious though, is that more often than never, servers in upmarket restaurants seem a bit more indifferent about service they provide. Which is a shame because sometimes price of the meal does not equate to taste and sometimes you're just banking on the experience for archiving reasons. I'm not generalising at all, just a mere observation. Although I agree – it does ruin the experience! It is a hard line to cross indeed!