Loyal customers served deception on a plate?

After being placed under scrutiny, the popular seafood franchise, Ocean Basket, is finally speaking up after businessman, Osman Parker, complained publically that his four children were served angelfish instead of hake fingers, at not only one but five different Ocean Basket restaurants in Cape Town.

The story, which has featured on social media and radio stations, has led many to question the ethics of the restaurant chain. Alina Hardcastle asks if this could have been a profit drive decision.

The Daily Voice reported that over the last six months, Parker and his family have dined at Ocean Basket branches at N1 City, Waterfront, Canal Walk, Vangate Mall and at the flower festival in Vredenburg. He informed the publication that lack of transparency came to light when his children had ordered hake off the kiddies menu and complained because the “hake fingers looked and tasted weird.”

After querying it with management, it was found that the supposed hake fingers were in fact angelfish.

Ocean Baskets rebuttal….

Despite three of five franchises disputing the claim, Jean Sloane, group marketing executive for Ocean Basket, has come forward acknowledging the unfortunate and rare occurrence, explaining how the mistake might have occurred: “We believe the substitution took place because nuggets/fingers are created as a natural by-product of filleting (the angelfish), so some franchisees may have used this to prevent food wastage, an issue that is receiving growing attention worldwide.”

Angelfish vs Hake

Although Sloane is aware that the issue is based around cost and transparency, she claims that angelfish is by no means an inferior substitute. “The comments in the media about it ‘tasting funny’ are clearly mischievous [as] customers happily consume angelfish every day in our restaurants,” she argues.

However, the issue with regards to taste may have arisen as the children were expecting hake, and the angelfish did not taste the same, therefore leading them to think that their hake ‘tasted funny’.

When discussing to the price difference between the two fish, Sloane emphatically explains that hake and angelfish cost Ocean Basket exactly the same amount per kilogram. “Hake is delivered already filleted [R60] and angelfish [R29.99] is delivered whole. The angelfish then needs to be filleted and after filleting delivers a 50% yield. To say that hake is more expensive is simply incorrect.”

Moving forward

The team have insisted that the alleged use of angelfish in Ocean Basket Franchises was not a profit driven decision as the nuggets/fingers available on the children’s menu, generate less than one quarter of a percent in their sales.

In occasional stock-out circumstance (where certain species are not available) Sloane assures us that the team have undertaken measures to ensure improved waitron training so that each customer is informed of alternatives/substitutes.  She adds, “We deeply regret that it happened and are using the experience as a learning curve to correct our customer service chain.”

“We understand that this is rather an issue of transparency and cost and we want to make it extremely clear that we are answering all questions with complete transparency and honesty. “

Sources have informed us that the CEO of the seafood franchise, Grace Harding, who is currently in China, has contacted Parker; the two have agreed to meet when she returns to South Africa later this month.