Fnb Pasta Mania

Bryan Freeman

The first Pastamania restaurant opened in Singapore on April 1998, it has since expanded across the island and into neighbouring countries and regions.
The facade of the restaurant is wide open, lacking the barriers that direct customer traffic, unlike other restaurants in the mall. In fact, the old-time feel coupled with the warm, cosy ambience is reminiscent of Italian mob pasta eateries sans the mobsters.
Or it could just be me.
The restaurant hoists a selection of themed colours; red, orange, black and white. These carry through throughout the entire restaurant, from the diamond tiled floor, to the orange stippled wall, to the black dropdown over the counter that carries the logo and even the service counter, a nice bright, supple red. These strong earth tones push waves of comfort and ???homeliness??™ through the restaurant and even lapped upon me, as I stood at the entrance.
The entrance was blocked by the dinner crowd, queuing to place orders at the service counter. The line extended out and across the restaurant, forming a human blockade that really made for difficult navigation.
The menu offers a variety of main dishes, separated into categories of Pasta, Pizza and Panini. It also offers the other usual items like Desserts and Beverages; nothing too exciting there.
The menu itself is just a pleasant explosion of colour and tantalising pictures, the three-flap menu will confuse at first, as I was when I opened it, but after some processing, becomes easy to read and understand. Food items were described well enough to give an understanding of the dish but not enough to whet my appetite.
I order the Meatballs in Fusilli together with a Combo set of a coke, garlic bread and a bowl of soup. Payment is quick and I get my drink straightaway, together with my garlic bread; I??™m told the soup was being prepared and I would get it within the next five minutes.
The garlic bread, despite noticing that they just re-toast frozen, pre-prepared slices, was very fresh tasting and well-presented. Crispy just at the edges and springy everywhere else, the first dish made for a great start on my meal.
My meatball fusilli arrives. When the server was delivering the main courses of my friends and I, he did not put it down in front of them, let alone extend his arm to bring it closer to whomever raised their hands, instead, he just set it down on the table, expecting us to pass it along; disappointing. However the food is pleasantly hot and I add flakes of cheese and paprika from the condiments stand (Every table has one, eliminating the need to request from staff). The food tastes great; the garnish a fresh green and the meatballs, bouncy and moist. The sauce was strong but looks-wise, a little too runny. I poke at a fusilli and take a bite; it has firmness to it that more than anything else, comes from having been pre-made, which is understandable given that the restaurant prides itself on fast service. At this point, I??™m still waiting for my soup.
With irritation, I request again. The manager this time (Li-An) came on the scene and personally delivered the soup. Her disposition was patient, apologetic and basically very customer-centred.
Apart from the aforementioned minor setback, my experience at Pastamania @ Tampines mall was slightly above average, a huge part due to the server personalities of my servers as well as the ambience and speed of my pasta, which was most important of all.
The meal cost me $13.80 in total, a good price all in all, considering the speed of service and quality of food.
1) Overflow of queue/Queue designation
Having gone during the dinner period, the restaurant was crowded and the food order queue had extended beyond the confines of the restaurant, out into the walkway and across the length of the entrance. This formed a screen and served as an irritant for me and I??™m sure for others who want to enter as well.
* The Japanese have a very good system in place that I feel could be quite effective here in Singapore as well, if implemented. Machines at the front of the restaurant that act like a vending machine; key in your orders, table area and it will churn out a table plague for identification and a server will deliver your meal to you. This will speed up service tremendously as a few simple button presses will eliminate all need for verbal contact and occasionally, clarification.
However, this is a pretty rare concept to find in Singapore, alternatively they could just remove a few tables along the side closer to the service counter and thus shift the queue inwards parallel to the service counter.
2) Monitoring of to-be-served orders
Most times, as is standard procedure, the drink and soup/bread would be served together straight after you order the food. After receiving my main course, my soup still had not arrived. I enquired and waited and ten minutes later, enquired again. It seems that they do not have a system to monitor ???non-standard??™ issues such as serving of soup as mentioned; the soup usually comes together at the service counter.
* A simple solution would be to just upgrade the current order plagues for main courses. If the customer were to be lacking a side order, just peg on an associated coloured peg so that the servers would know that they have other needs to meet apart from just the pasta.
3) Seating arrangements/allocations
The restaurant prides itself on fast serving of food, by that virtue; we can see that it is trying to achieve high turnover rates. However, by jamming seats into the restaurant, it detracts from the overall customer satisfaction. The narrow walk ways make walking a conscious effort and one has to be mindful not to hit another chair when pulling the seat out.

* Take some tables away from the inner section of the restaurant. Pastamania is also an Al Fresco restaurant, meaning it boasts outdoor dining. When I went that night, I noticed that although the inner restaurant was packed, the outdoor seating still had several empty tables. The flow of customers can be redirected to those tables instead, freeing up much needed pedestrian space for both customers as well as the staff when delivering the meals.