If you haven’t read the post that’s currently trending on #Mocambo, here’s what it’s about in a nutshell.

Girl feels guilty about her driver missing lunch. Decides to treat him to dinner at Mocambo, a pretty famous (but obnoxiously overrated place in Kolkata). Mocambo tells her that it’ll take 15 minutes to seat her. Then says it’ll take 45 minutes. Then finally says that they can seat her, but not her driver. Woman is (rightly) furious, writes this note on facebook shaming Mocambo, and thousands of people who’ve been loyal patrons of the place all collectively decide to boycott it.
Heartwarming story. Only, there’s another side to this.
I started a website called The Vomit a year or so back. The site you’re on now, incidentally. It was a place for well written opinionated content. I was very clear about the tone of voice I wanted for the site, and as far as contributions went, anything that didn’t match up to the tone of voice of Vomit, was ruthlessly rejected.
Even though, they were by themselves, very well written pieces.
Here’s the thing. Vomit was my baby. I decided what went up there, and what didn’t. Gradually, contributions dwindled because (I’m sure) writers felt disheartened when their pieces weren’t published. And they just stopped coming to the site.
Tough luck for me.
Mocambo, like a thousand other restaurants all over the world has a sign on its door that says ‘Rights of admission reserved’. Basically, it means ‘Fuck you, we decide who we choose to serve’.
I went to this girl’s house once. It was like a date kind of thing. She seemed friendly, and our conversations bordered on wit. Green signal. Anyway, so I ring her doorbell, and she opens the door. I walk in, and before I’ve taken three steps inside, she asks me to please remove my shoes at the door and wear slippers.
I detest removing shoes. Mostly because I have ugly feet. And I want to launch into a lengthy debate about why I should keep my shoes in, but I figure it’s her house, her rules. So I remove them. Sit for ten minutes, and leave.
I haven’t set foot (bare or shoe-d) in her house again.
I’m a member at Tollygunge Club in Kolkata. It’s a lovely British club. But here’s the thing – if you want to have a drink at the bar, you have to be in a collared shirt. And it’s not just Tolly. Calcutta Club has the same rule, so does Saturday Club, I think. As does RCGC.
Why do they have this bizarre rule? Does wearing a round neck T shirt make me a ragamuffin? Nope.
It’s about branding. It’s about visual identity. When you walk into a bar at a club, you expect people to look a certain way, talk in a certain hushed way, behave in a certain way. That’s why you’re going there, and not Oly Pub, for example.
Why does one pay a thousand bucks for a meal at Mocambo, when they can get the same kind of grub for a hundred bucks somewhere else?
Because you’re not paying for the food. You’re paying for the experience. You’re paying to be around a certain kind of people, in a similar socio-economic strata as yours. The food is just incidental.
The driver not being allowed inside is fucked up. It’s completely fucked up, and inhuman. But here’s the thing – Mocambo (or any other restaurant) doesn’t revolve its business plan around being human. Salman Khan’s clothing venture does, and even that isn’t human. Mocambo is in hospitality. And their business is being hospitable to a certain kind of clientele.
Okay come on. Raise your hand up. How many of you would be comfortable if say you walked into Indigo, or TGIF, and saw next to your table, a table occupied by four truck drivers? What, when you finished your meal and left the restaurant, would be your impression of the restaurant?
Would the money you just forked out, seem worth it? Or would you feel a little shortchanged? A little let down? Because you expected something a little more ‘premium’ for the money you were charged?
A friend of mine does these art events. At a recent event I was told, they would screen people on Sundays. Why? Because that’s when most people came. And having the riff-raff from Delhi would mean diluting the kind of brand they were.
Yes, it’s inhuman. Yes, it’s unfair.
But we subscribe to it.
Every time we go for lunch with the family, and have the maids who take care of our babies sit outside, we subscribe to it.
Every time we give our drivers a glass of water outside our door, and not inside, we subscribe to it. Every time we have our house help follow behind us at a mall, and not walk with us, we subscribe to it.
So please. I understand you want to share the young woman’s anger. I understand your outrage, and I understand you want to boycott Mocambo for ever and all that.

But please understand we’re all a part of this system of visual identity. Although, congratulations to her for trying to break it.

  • mojaswi

    Please put a link to the original post.

  • Truth101

    I presume an individual opinion is allowed in the comments section? When I pay premium price at a nice restaurant, I pay it for the quality of the food they’re serving, simple as & I know for a fact that many, many people share a similar opinion.
    As long as the truck drivers at the table next to me enjoy their meal without bothering any of the other customers & pay their bill in full, it really is none of my business (or anyone else’s for that matter!) what they do for a living.
    The chink in the armour of this article, so to speak, is the mention of TGIF as if it were a good restaurant! It’s basically a cookie-cutter, same anywhere on the planet American chain that basically serves over priced junk food & decent margaritas at ridiculous mark-ups, nothing noteworthy about their offering & they are therefore understandably not on any real ”best restaurant” lists anywhere on the planet.
    Comparing a restaurant where anyone who can afford the prices can afford to go to with a members only club where only members & their guests are allowed irrespective of how well or badly one is dressed is apples & oranges really.
    I’m a 3rd generation member of the Bangalore Club, as class conscious a club as it can get anywhere in the country & if I’m not mistaken, the last that still has a Men’s bar where women, members or not are not allowed entry.
    I have been there on more than one occasion to witness the fact that money & being deemed eligible to be a member alone does not guarantee behaviour becoming of a club like the Bangalore Club after a longer than usual session of knocking back the large scotchs or single malts, I have also sat at roadside highway dhabas, next to the same mentioned truck drivers & I can tell you for a fact they behaved significantly better than those pissed uncles @ the Men’s bar, which is not to say that unruly & drunken behaviour is the norm or even commonly seen at the Men’s bar or anywhere else on the Club premises because it isn’t & a very stringent view is taken of such behaviour, nonetheless it does occasionally occur & can be slightly difficult to deal with when the member in question is an older, long standing member of the Club.
    In summation, I agree with the latter part of the article that we’re all, in some way or another guilty of visual identity but this is a standalone restaurant we’re discussing, as opposed to a members & their guests only club or even a restaurant within a 5-star where a dress code might be applicable.
    “Rights of admission reserved” is from my understanding aimed at would be patrons that might be inebriated prior to entering the premises, or off their heads on whatever it is they fancy or with too revealing clothing that other patrons might find offensive etc. what it isn’t is the equivalent of a dress code, which is what 5-stars & clubs have in place & clearly state at the entrance.
    Slight difference between ”Right of admission reserved” & ” No T-shirts, jeans, shorts & open toed shoes/sandals allowed.” wot?

    • bodhisatwa dasgupta

      The mention of TGIF was just for reference, nothing more. Also, when you’re paying a premium price at a nice restaurant, you’re not really paying for the food, so much as the decor, the ambience, the surrounding, so to speak.

      And rights of admission reserved, as mentioned in the article really means “We decide”. It’s as open ended as can be. It’s really up to them who they allow inside, and who they don’t. Every restaurant across the world has it.

      • Truth101

        I & many others I know pay premium at a restaurant for the quality of the food, everything else is secondary, but that is perhaps I & the others I referred to actually enjoy good food?! Have been to a few ”fancy” new places with wonderful decor, ambience, surrounding & service but average food or at least, average for the price point, have never returned to those places & at the risk of repeating myself, I know many others who feel the same way. I mean it rather defeats the purpose of going to a ”good expensive” restaurant that serves average food right?!
        But that’s just me, I do know people who simply want to be seen in the right places & will therefore pay premium price irrespective of the food quality on offer, to each their own.

        If, as you say, ”rights of admission reserved” is as open ended as can be, why do social clubs, restaurants/bars/clubs in 5 star hotels around the world specify a dress code of do’s & don’ts in addition to their ”rights of admission reserved” board? The establishment in question after all, is neither a social club nor is it located within a 5-star hotel.

        And while this visual identity might be a thing that many of us are guilty of, in this day & age, with the speed at which information spreads thanks to social media,etc, this was a truly dumb move IMHO, I mean,many people probably never heard of Mocambo prior to this but they have only brought themselves loads of unnecessary negative publicity by pulling this stunt, they are probably old school & didn’t assume the negative image it would bring them but the damage has been done.

        I certainly will not be going there the next time I’m in Calcutta & I’m sure many others feel likewise, their loss.

      • nitre

        Actually “Rights of admission reserved” can’t be based on race, religion, caste etc in most of the countries by law. So, it can’t be as open as it can be. These restaurants are still continuing because no one sued them yet. Basically, you can’t deny service based on any permanent condition. So, “stag entry not allowed” is still legal, since it is a temporary condition.
        I don’t know if you’ve checked these facts already or not but if you haven’t, maybe you should, so that you don’t loose your brand among your readers.

    • saileena sarkar

      +1 to everything in above comment. I pay for quality of food and it should not matter how the other diners are dressed or what their professions are. Also, for customer experience argument, wailing babies ruin my ‘experience’/evening out..is it ok to restrict entry to kids&families with screaming/ill behaved/wailing kids?

  • Sudipto Roy

    A restaurant should have the right to choose who gets in and who does not. Take it or leave it. They did not ask: hey are you a driver? And then said “drivers are not allowed”. They could make out you do not fit their image of a client from whatever – your look, your eyes, your dress, the way you comb your hair – and they decided you do not make the cut. Just gulp the insult and go home. I know I am hopelessly in the minority. At least on social media where it is very easy to take a holier than though stand. We are a bunch of hypocrites in this society. And we jump at such God sent opportunities to show off our social concerns. I have often asked shopkeepers the price of an item and they would routinely say: “it’s very expensive” with a dismissive look – meaning you can clearly not afford it; just FO. And I have, albeit with clenched jaws. I have often been asked at the exclusive self drive parking lot of Taj: kidhar ja raha hai? To which I have always said with a smile: “malkin ko laane”. That’s life. I have never complained. I might even get stopped at Mocambo. If that happens I will not post it on facebook. Incidentally, Mocambo (IIRC) was also in the news for recently not allowing a girl for her short pants. They thought they were too short. The same hypocrites raised a different sort of voice then. I think Mocambo or whoever was right then also. Ranakpur’s Jain temple has a simple system: if they don’t like your skimpy dress they give you some decent clothes to wear (decent in their definition) and enter the temple. You take it or leave it.