AUGUST 2 — It's a sign of a rough economy when news of shops or chains closing is more frequent than of new chains opening.
It can't be helped really. As a friend said, the F&B industry in Malaysia is vicious. The competition is fierce and even if you somehow came up with a popular, original concept, someone(s) will copy it and try to undercut you.
Malaysians in F&B more often than not aren't into doing new things — too many instead find out who's doing best in one particular niche and copy that concept instead.
Yet there are good cafes and restaurants that still struggle, thanks to inflation and rising costs.
It doesn't help that Malaysians in general are kiamsap and lousy customers.
We don't have a tipping culture, so we rarely tip. I even get stories from friends who go to the US about how they avoid tipping, whether it's to hotel staff, restaurants or bellboys.
“We pay service tax, what. What for want to tip?” Newsflash: that service tax doesn't actually go to the help.
Then there are freeloaders. You know the ones — five of you go to the cafe, not all of them will order. I think that's silly and selfish. You're using the airconditioning, you're taking up a seat — at least buy one drink and no, a glass of water won't cut it.
If you're the type who brings a water bottle everywhere to avoid paying for drinks, then buy a snack. Pay for something. Cafes are businesses, they don't operate for free.
I think all cafes should have that rule; spend more than 15 minutes at a cafe, buy something or leave. That might sound harsh but you're in an eatery and not a park.
Some friends now eschew Starbucks because they can no longer spend hours there, as WiFI passes are only good for two hours and then you need to buy another drink. Well, no one said the second drink had to be an expensive one right?
Or, maybe if you can't afford to buy a drink every two hours, maybe Starbucks isn't where you should be. There are good (and not too expensive) coffee places who serve better, cheaper coffee and still serve up WiFi.
“But Erna! That's so expensive! I'm poor.” Good WiFI, my friend, isn't cheap. I should know. I pay good money each month for a data plan on my phone as well as high-speed broadband at home. I can't afford to not have access to Internet wherever I go, and anyhow public WiFi can prove a security risk if unsecured.
So if you want a cafe you like to stay open, then maybe when you can afford to visit, be a good customer. After all, you do expect good service so at least, remember to pay for it.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.