Food Picture Envy

When you go into a fried chicken shop or a fish and chip shop you never ask the person behind the counter “what does your fried chicken look like?” or “what do your fish and chips look like?”. People will go into a chicken shop or a chippie and order things without kicking a fuss, because whether you are in Sheffield or Shenfield, Newport in Wales or Newport in Essex fish and chips or fried chicken will look pretty much the same irrespective of where you are in the country. 

This is only just slightly more complicated in a Chinese takeaway.

Now I know it seems unfair to compare a chippie or chicken shop with a takeaway because they serve different types of food (no kidding Sherlock), and it’s also the fact that the choice is greater in a Chinese takeaway compared to chippie, a chicken shop or a pie and mash shop (the hint is even in the title).

Ordering from a fish and chip shop is hardly a stretch of anyone’s imagination because because 99 per cent of the time fish and/or chips is normally what people what people buy from a fish and chip shop, and they will more-or-less look identical.

For a Chinese takeaway it’s a different story, and because of the variety on offer from one takeaway to the next, some will serve theirs differently. The best example being that a plain chow mein in one place will include beansprouts and onions while another won’t. In some places if you order a chicken curry you will get rice with it and in others you have to order a rice dish separately.

The problem this does cause however is discrepancies with pictures; in fried chicken shops there are stock images of what fried chicken and chips will look like. With a Chinese takeaway however stock images can sometimes cause problems.

I never rely on pictures as a hard and fast guide of what my meal will look like, I tend to have very low expectations of food, which means that when it comes out of the kitchen I’m less likely to be disappointed. Plus I pretty much eat anything.

I remember the day when Wetherspoons changed their menu and removed the pictures and my friend went into a fit of “Nooo! Why?! Now I don’t know what the food looks like!”

When you walk into our takeaway lining the walls are some faded stock images of the kind of food we serve.

A year ago we finally got round to changing our menu. Our original menu was simply a piece of coloured A4 photocopied and  folded in thirds;  this was cheaper for us because we have a photocopier at home. Now we have a glossier coloured menu and it comes with stock images of things that I’m pretty sure we don’t serve.

There is a close-up image of what looks like won ton noodles with pak choi (we have that but not with pak choi). Similarly there is something that looks a bit like a chicken curry, but there was also a dish that had baby corn and other exotic things which we clearly did not have on the menu.

We did have a customer at one point who spent a lot of time looking at the pictures instead of reading what was on offer. She kept staring at these pictures and then occasionally pointing and asking “is that picture that one?” This one went on for quite a while until I actually went “ok, let’s make this easier basically if you see a picture of a meal chances are we don’t have it.”

In hindsight it was a stupid thing to say, but she was spending so much time basing her decisions on pictures I didn’t know the source of I felt compelled to clear the air and be honest and say “I don’t know where these pictures come from! They just came with the menu!”

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Customer Encounters #14 – The night I became a victim

Assault/Common assault – An unlawful infliction of force/violence, or a hostile act – for example, a threatening gesture – which causes another person to fear that immediate violence will occur.

When you’re working in a takeaway it is quite common to hear stories of assaults, violence, anti-social behaviour and so on being inflicted on businesses either nearby or who are similar to you. Indeed I heard of stories of altercations taking place at my takeaway, but I was never a victim of them until one evening a few weeks ago.

It is very common to get the odd juvenile trying to act like a smart arse and cause a nuisance, but you never quite imagine it to end up in that individual actually assaulting you.

How it all happened was a guy of about 15 years old came in, navy blue hoody with the strings on the hood pulled down so that you couldn’t see the colour of his hair let alone see any distinguishing features.

He said he was hungry and had no money and if I could give him a saveloy with that smug “aren’t I cool” smirk. Immediately I was having flashbacks of the time a guy came in asking for a chicken tikka masala or a korma and I wondered if it was the same guy but I can’t confidently say it was. But my professionalism prevailed and I chose to ignore him and assumed he would leave.

He had his clan of friends with him watching, about two, maybe three waiting outside. He hung around for about a minute and I told my parents that he was just messing around, just ignore him. He began to head towards the door but instead of going out he grabbed two chairs (which were joined together) and threw it towards the counter my first reaction was to cry out “oh my God!” and I screamed. I don’t know if he was intending to throw it over the counter, but the only damage caused was that he chipped a bit of the chair, which collided with the counter.

Dad told mum to call the police but she was slightly hesitant because whenever the police were called they would never turn up and she knew in this case they wouldn’t. I mean lets face it, nothing was severely damaged and no one was injured, we wouldn’t have been a priority case.

Dad was getting agitated and progressively angrier and was demanding to call the police. He then took out his anger on me and said that if I stayed at the counter and watched them instead of ignoring them then this would not have happened. He then said that I should have seen it coming and then made an irrelevant comment about me playing Tetris on my phone and somehow linking it to what had just happened.

The police said they would come in 15 minutes but they never did. Before closing time the owner of the grocers around the corner said the same group had been throwing fruit and vegetables at the counter. He said that this was the fourth time this happened in a month and he called the police several times and no one helped him.

My dad assumed the attack must have been racially motivated given that the guy who owned the grocery shop around the corner was also Asian and similar attacks like this happened in the past. Also the fish and chip shop were right next door to us and there didn’t appear to be an attack on them, and I have trouble imagining that the same group would incite a similar act against a fish and chip shop or even a pie and mash shop.

I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting the attack was racially motivated, there was nothing that they said that suggested it was, but that is a possibility. I spoke to my friend about it afterwards and he suggested that they assumed I must have just been some immigrant who couldn’t speak English and thought I was an easy target.

I know I sound silly suggesting that what just happened was in any way serious, much worse things happened during the summer riots in 2011. As I said before no one was physically hurt, the only thing that was damaged was my pride and confidence really. But it all happened so quickly and I was quite shaken after that and I had to act normal as though nothing had happened, a customer came in and I couldn’t even hold a pen properly and I was even struggling to open up plastic bags, I had never been assaulted before so the was quite shaken that it happened so quickly.

My dad was angry at me and mum and I felt like I was being made to feel that it was my fault this happened, and I went to escape to the bathroom upstairs and actually burst out crying feeling vulnerable, weak and angry that I couldn’t even stop a 15 year-old from hurling a chair.