Yesterday Twitter was a-buzz with the news that Beluga restaurant owner Oskar ‘Blonde’ Kotze had banned blogger Shaun Oakes from his restaurant, because his girlfriend had written to him to share their poor service experience at the restaurant with him. It is rare that one sees such a reaction to an incident on Twitter.  A link was provided in a comment on Oakes’ blog to our Sour Service Award given to Beluga, for similar heavy-handed treatment by Kotze, and had a record of more than 1000 unique views yesterday.  The volume of activity about the Beluga ban was reminiscent of the Portofino owner and customer interaction, which was featured on the 2Oceansvibe website almost two years ago.

In short, the service from the waiter was poor and he was cheeky, the couple complained, received the meal and drinks on the house, and the girlfriend sent an e-mail to Kotze, to which Kotze sent an angry reply, all of which Oakes documented in his blogpost. This was Kotze’s ‘Blonde’ (Oskar loves blonds and ‘Blonde’ is the name of his failed restaurant in Gardens) reply: 

“The fact that you swore at my waiter **** is completely unacceptable – I have convinced him to lay a criminal case against you, and the company will back him all the way – its the year 2011 and no one has the right to speak to people the way you did – even your mail below is degrading and condescending. From my side, I am sorry that I was not here, I would have chased you out of my restaurant if I was. As to your personality, lack of manners and general attitude to life I will refrain from commenting – the fact that you even have the audacity to contact me and threaten me after what you did – seriously, wow, what a joke.  This will be the last communication that you will receive from me – I have asked ***** to provide me with your ID number so that we can use that for the criminal case.  Obviously I never want you to come close to any of my businesses ever again – and if your friends condone the way to deal with people, and you convince them not to come to my restaurants, well then that will also be ok”.

Beluga is completely out of line in its reaction to Oakes and his girlfriend:

*   The restaurant has lost not just one couple as clients, but possibly hundreds too, if the more than hundred comments posted to Oakes’ blogpost is anything to go by, the majority of commenters disparaging the poor service and poor quality food at the restaurant.  Very few positive comments were seen to be in support of Beluga.  Capetonians who had not been to Beluga even wrote that they would not try it out, because of Kotze’s action.

*   There is no legal action that Beluga’s waiter can take against Oakes, as he and his girlfriend have not contravened any law

*   Beluga’s action is illegal relative to the new Consumer Protection Act, which does not allow one to discriminate against customers in any form

*   Beluga’s action goes against all norms of customer service.  Yesterday we wrote about a new initiative of the Department of Tourism to introduce a National Service Excellence standard for the tourism industry, which would include restaurants, and it contained a service standard of : Service: should be friendly, professional, guest focused and driven, and offer an effective service recovery”, none of which is reflected in Kotze’s action!

Oakes could lay a charge against Beluga for discrimination against him as a customer with the National Consumer Commission, as well as the Western Cape Consumer Protector, that is if he would ever want to return to Beluga.  The treatment we received from Kotze, in sending the police to evict me from the restaurant as an invited guest due to giving sister restaurant Sevruga a Sour Service Award, and other feedback I have heard from past staff, makes one wonder why action has not been taken against Beluga and its owner!  The only winner in the Beluga blogger ban is Oakes, whom most other bloggers had not heard of before, but whose blog will have achieved a record number of hits yesterday, and who has become one of the best-known bloggers in Cape Town overnight.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage