We are simple consumers. We have a simple wish – to have a pleasant experience whenever we enter a service establishment, and to come out of it just a little happier. Is it that esoteric a wish? I do not think so.

All too often, many service establishments in our locale serve up the minimum standard of “customer service”, that of simply delivering the products (whether it be food or consumer goods) with the barest greetings, and then taking our money. All too often, you leave with a neutral feeling about the establishment, and you hope that the only joy came from the very purchase and the consumption of the products, at the very least.

But, now and then, you find a little gem, perhaps tucked away somewhere, perhaps somewhere deceptively simple looking, perhaps for products so affordable you may not even expect much of, and yet get greeted with not just exceptional products, exceptional value, and exceptional warmth and respect.

I like good quality vegetarian food. I do not like gluten, because it does not agree with my digestive system. I do not like too much soy either, because well, my naturopathic philosophy and understanding means that I much prefer a holistic diet, rather than believing a single nutrient is the panacea to all nutritional needs.

Therefore, while I do eat meats (and they are important dietary needs since we are genetically created as omnivores and not herbivores), I do enjoy eating vegetarian food that provides a full spectrum of greens, beans, and all else. It also helps if it is lovingly and tastily prepared.

One such eatery I frequent is Komala’s Restaurant at ARC (Alexandra Retail Centre). I visit it whenever I feel like a hearty and tasty meal at an unpretentious place. It is a simple eatery, serving South Indian vegetarian food, with familiar items like naan, dosai, uthappam, and value meals with drinks included such as South Indian vegetarian sets. I always ended up choosing the South Indian vegetarian meal set because I get at least 2 full vegetable portions, 2 vegetarian gravies, 1 small soup, rice, yogurt, dessert and a drink of my choice, all for a very affordable price. The food is tasty and not oily. No wonder the eatery is always packed at the evening.

But what makes this place special is not just the food quality and the prices. It is the people. The bosses are always friendly and respectful, and even remember my preferences. They are always kind enough to give a discount when I asked for smaller rice portions (the portions are too large for me). And now and then, perhaps they have intuition, when the bosses sensed that I had a long and hard day, they would give me a hearty snack after my meal. The folks there always made me feel at home and welcomed. I appreciate that.

As a customer service consultant and published author (in 1994) and having served many large and small corporations in service and process quality through the decades, one simple formula remains as the yardstick for service – good quality products at reasonable prices with genuine warmth and delivery.

No amount of gorgeous window-dressing or stoic well-dressed frontliners will make a service establishment “better”. High price tags do not equate to quality either. Advertising and promotion are transient and do not provide sustainable mindshare and marketshare.

What is the essence of a sustainable business? Service.

Every business faces pressure – from ever-increasing rentals from landlords, ever-increasing business and facility costs, ever-increasing manpower costs, and competing establishments. If a simple business like this restaurant can continue to deliver great products affordably, with genuine warmth and respect for its customers, I find little reason to excuse establishments with grandeur and hefty price tags which cannot rise up to this gold standard.

PS – Komala’s Restaurant at ARC runs Indian “Bollywood” music in the background, and I love it. Great upbeat music while I enjoy all those hearty dinners.