FINE FARE - In the Mood for Food

dining adventures of a food fantatic and dessert devotee in Singapore


The Chocolate Factory - Service with a Scowl

Here's an update to the Sept 2006 Chocolate Factory review.

Questions about Service:

  • Why do the proprietors have perma-frowns on their faces?
    Isn't chocolate supposed to make people happy?

  • If the cafe has a "no photos" policy, why is this not communicated upfront?
    A growing community of nice people (family, friends, aquaintances) have been told off rather rudely by the proprietor and his wife that they "do not like people to take photos of the food". [Complimentary pair of perma-frowns included]

  • How come the "no photos" policy did not apply to 2 American models who were allowed to take photos of the shop, cakes and chocolates?
    The trigger happy models, shiny camera in hand, snapped away directly in front of the proprietress and the staff. Well... at least the perma-frown remained a consistent feature.

18 Responses to “The Chocolate Factory - Service with a Scowl”

  1. # Anonymous laurent

    so far most of the blog regarding the chocolate factory have been postive, it is a matter of fact than the chocolate factory cannot make everyone happy. We do allow patron to take pictures if this is done without disturbing others customer and in respect of others privacy ( it did happen recently, than a customer ask a blogger to remove a picture from is blogg within 48h )We just like patron to ask the permission before, i think this is courtesy, and respect for each others. It is gross to take pictures without permission like it is gross to call the proprietors perma-frowns...
    There is no record so far of of "leggy american model" taking pictures.
    It is true than some patrons have been allow to take pictures of the boutique, as they did ask the permission before doing it.they where local,as "Leggy models" are not blogging , or if they do, they blogg about fashion, everyone have is center of interest.It's seems you've been very affected by the fact than you where not allow to take pictures and i'm very sorry about that, but you should ask us why while you where at the boutique. imagine anyone coming to your office and shouting everything....you will apreciate that persone ask the permission before.I belive it is not post on the door of your office to not take picture, like it is not mention to not insult the staff and proprietors.There is some resons why we do not like everyone shouting all around like in a zoo.It is not a ZOO! security, athmosphere, image control,invasion of privacy... It is comon sens,respect and courtesy. You should not publicly insult the proprietors, this doesn't make you look smart.....i hope you will be fair enough to publish this comment.  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Andrea, you are not alone.

    I was told to go over to the counter and lectured by the proprietor when I tried to get a snap for my blog. He threatened that he can sue me for taking picture of his cafe without premission!(Wow! Need to double check with my lawyer on this.)

    And yes, that was the last time I stepped into that cafe. I am suprised you gave it a second chance ! I agreed Chef Pang from Canele is so much friendlier and the chocolate is so much better!  

  3. # Anonymous James

    The problem is not about allowing picture taking or not. Its the rude manner by the owner who is being plain arrogant.

    I had the same experience, and so I told myself, fine, what's the big deal? Even if the chocolate there is fantastic (im not saying it is), it won't make a plesant dining experience there.  

  4. # Anonymous laurent

    Anonymous:
    Please see your attorney, not us but a customer did sue a blogger for posting is picture on is blogg recently.It is not me to threatened you to sue you if you take pics of the cake.You probably misuderstand. privacy is rare nowoday!

    Andrea:
    I'm glad you like canele, i like it too! Chef Pang is very talented, we doing differents thinks, that's all.We know each others and respect each others. I still think you've been a bite emotionaly affected with the pics,we are not the only establishement limiting the use of cam. More and more restaurants are planing to ban the use of cam in there establishement.Due to the poor quality of pictures taken, image control,anoying, etc.... You should understand than some are really disturbing, some customers are complaining about that. If you drop at the boutique sometimes, come to say hello, i will be glad to have a chat with you. i think for now your reader may be bored by our comments and may like something more interesting to read than this post.
    2:12 AM  

  5. # Blogger andrea

    Laurent,

    Let me summarise my thoughts in this post, and put the disagreement behind us. I hope you understand that I'm just writing about my experiences at your cafe, and am not out to insult anyone.

    My friends and I don't have any issues with the no photos policy. However, we do not appreciate the rude/chiding approach and manner in which this was communicated to us, especially since we were not aware of such a rule in the first place.

    I agree with you that it is disrespectful to take photos of people without their permission. However, in this case, the customer is merely taking a photo of an item he/she has purchased. Besides, I'm not sure if cakes have any rights to privacy, especially in a public space like a cafe...

    As the owner, you have a vision for how you'd like your cafe to be, and you'd like to have control of how your cafe/desserts are presented to the public (be it by the media or by bloggers). I respect that, and most Singaporeans would understand where you're coming from...afterall, it's not something we're unfamiliar with... :)

    At the end of the day though, food establishments are part of the service industry... by all means, keep the "no photos" policy, but please champion "good service" and "respect the customer" policies as well.

    PS: I'll be glad to drop by your cafe for a chat if I'm in the area... as long as drinks are on you. :)  

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    It's not as if people can taste their food from the screen, you know.

    Plus, I think The Chocolate Factory wasted many opportunities of online, viral and free marketing when he stopped people from taking pictures. My suggestion to Laurent if wants to protect his customers' privacy: "Photography allowed, just no flash"

    Also, I must say that Laurent shot himself in the foot about the "leggy models" not blogging about food. Isn't he stereotyping that models have not brains and/or never eat and thus never blog about food?

    Hey, I like photography, but it doesn't stop me from blogging about food.

    Back to taking photos, does that mean The Chocolate Factory will allow good cameras (dSLRs and better) to take pictures of food since they only want good pictures to be seen on the Internet?

    And final tip for Laurent:
    Welcome to Web 2.0. It will make or break businesses. Being nice to people helps nowadays because Singapore has the highest concentration of bloggers per square metre. This means a lot of people who enter your establishment can and will blog about your business, like it or not. Good for you if they blog positively. Otherwise, you'll gain Internet notoriety.  

  7. # Blogger Shu Yen

    This is an open response to Andrea's entry of this cafe

    I haven't been to The Chocolate Factory but I can't help but think Laurent shot himself in the foot. Here's why...

    Laurent seems to presume that "Leggy models" do not blog, and possibly stereotyping that "Leggy models" have no brains.
    Laurent also seems to presume that "Leggy models" are only capable of blogging about fashion, because fashion is their centre of interest, and thus the likelihood of them blogging about food or other stuff is impossible (since they have no brains, as presumed earlier).

    I can't vouch for the lack of brains, but here's a model who does blog about food and travel. Occasionally, she blogs about fashion. www.cheeserland.com

    Next, I can't say I get the paraphrase of taking photos and shouting.
    Point to note: Shouting is never appropriate. In fact, it is rude, at least in the local context. It isn't rocket science that requires a sign. Plus, if anyone were in a state of mind to shout in the cafe for whatever reason, would he even bother about permission?
    In contrast, taking pictures of your products is subjective, some may find it a compliment.
    For that matter, certain offices do put up the "No Cameras" sign due to the nature of the business. If TCF is affected adversely by people possibly wanting to give compliments and showing that they had a good time at TCF, by all means put up the sign. While it may be assumed to be the case of not-stated-equals-not-allowed, do understand that TCF is a novelty and first time visitors do come with a "tourist mentality", i.e. snapping pictures of the interesting stuff around. So again, I recommend putting up a sign, even to request that patrons get permission to take photos.

    Lastly, if business owners were genuinely serious about their business, they would have asked for the patrons' blog addresses or visit sites like hungrygowhere.com so that they could learn of their shortcomings in their honest reviews and improve on them.

    Let the Internet be the sharpening tool for the business, and not its stumbling block.  

  8. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Bad svc at Choc Factory? I am not surprised. Was there once with a friend and when we went into the cafe, were greeted with rather stone-faced waitresses and proprietor who either did not see us coming in or thought we just stepped in to "take a look". We were on the verge of walking away until kind blogger of Kitchen Crazy Daffy acknowledged us. If they think that first-time customers know what to do upon entering their premises, I think they ought to think again. Being ignored by the owner himself left a very bad taste in the mouth.  

  9. # Anonymous Anonymous

    i think this cafe should be banned, this guy is french, you know what i mean....arogant and so on. i'm not racist but i think he is. poor crazy daffy what did she went to do there ?? was she lost ? did he knew she was a blogger ??this guy should understand than now blogger are making or demolishing business.i don't have a blog but i'm happy to read some and see some pictures. i don't think it's bother anyone if i take pictures of the restaurant. amyway this place will bankrupt soon with a such service and bad food. i will be you i won't go back this doesn't deserve a second chance.i won't go myself if like you said the food is bad and service...you know... french!
    Andrea i thank you very much for posting my comment i hope you will carryone your beautifull blog, please post some pictures of clinic restaurant i want see.  

  10. # Anonymous wei lin

    hi annonymous

    you have plenty to say for someone called anonymous.  

  11. # Blogger thomas

    everyone, just imagine no customer-unfriendly business can survive today. laurent needs to learn that. however, he is unlikely capable to learn that.  

  12. # Anonymous keith

    Hi, me and my friends had went there twice. I had took pictures of my cakes before but no one told us off and the wife seemed quite friendly too when she talk to us. Maybe there is a misunderstanding?  

  13. # Blogger andrea

    Hi Keith,

    2 possibilities:
    (1) the moon was blue that day.
    (2) Laurent has taken our feedback on board and service has improved.

    :) I hope it's the 2nd.  

  14. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I went by this evening and noted that all the comments written about how rude he is hasn't discouraged patrons since it remains packed all the time.

    I must say that I agree with all the posts before. Laurent is an extremely rude person and he does not understand customer service at all. At a certain point in time, patrons will no longer be able to take it anymore and will just walk away, especially when there is so much competition now with more chocolate and dessert related cafes starting up all over Singapore. People are still going for the food and not for the service or ambience.

    I was once a very strong supporter of Laurent when he first opened but after being told off so many times, I just couldn't take it anymore. I know he doesn't care about bloggers and he hates them to death but he doesn't realise that bloggers can do alot of good to his business if they write positive things about him. I guess he is still relatively safe since he is still packed out every night but I hope that he learns his lesson sooner than later since he is hoping to expand his business soon.

    For me, I no longer patronise his establishment and I am glad that I am not the only one who feels that way. For a while, I thought it was me that was wrong, that I had done something wrong or that I had somehow offended him but I realise that this is Laurent's character - that he is hot headed and emotionally charged (and he dared call you emotional!) and extremely stupid in some ways because he thinks he is right and the customer is wrong. He is extremely arrogant that way. It has nothing to do with being French because I know many French people and they certainly do not act like him.

    As he no longer uses Amedei chocolate, he is now downgrading his quality and sooner or later, he will become ordinary. The day will come when he pays the price for his arrogance and rudeness.  

  15. # Anonymous Jeffrey Goh

    It's not fair to Mr Laurent Bernard. He is running a business. He is right in saying that there should not be excessive invasion of privacy.

    We should respect the privacy of the other patrons. This is not about free blogging or such. If you like the food, fine. If you don't, it's entirely up to you. Your choice, but please don't slander. It is not right to criticise others when you are not that perfect yourself.

    Laurent Bernard does not require additional publicity. Their products will speak for themselves.

    Mr Bernard and his wife are pleasant people. I had a wonderful experience when speaking with them regarding an order.

    He is an artist dedicated to his area of expertise, in this case, chocolates. It is alright for him to restrict unauthorised people from distracting him and the patrons who frequent his cafe.

    This is basic courtesy. Surely we could do better?  

  16. # Anonymous Anonymous

    This comment might be way overdue but frankly when you open a business, it is necessary to maintain balance between pleasing the customer and pursuing your desired company policies, whatever that may be.

    It is no question that Mr Laurent has a short fuse judging from the reviews here and my personal experience at the cafe.

    Not only this, when I was there at the cafe, I overheard people (a group of 4) at the next table complaining that the boss was unhappy with them for just ordering a coffee and a desert. I personally do not see a problem with that, as long as they are consuming products of the cafe, I think customers should be free to order how much they want, even if it means sharing their food.

    PS. Not going back there again. Service was ok. But really, there are more decent and more reasonably-priced deserts elsewhere.  

  17. # Anonymous Mojo

    Interesting debate. I do agree with Anonymous's comment about welcome to Web 2.0. Regardless of who is right, I will not be going to this place and will not be recommending it to anyone I know. Simply because when I go out to eat, I'm spending my money and I have no desire to run the risk of being treated rudely or even indifferently. If you can't offer good customer service, don't open an establishment that requires it. Box up your chocolate and sell it through someone else establishment.  

  18. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Apart from this blog, I certaintly heard my fair share of ugly stuff going on at TCF from some fellow bloggers.

    Being a food blogger myself, I cannot imagine being treated rudely especially when i start whipping up my camera.

    Perhaps the owners of TCF are too proud and arrogant to face any form of negative publicity?

    I haven't been to The Chocolate Factory and I'm glad that I haven't.  

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