I have come to the conclusion that intuition is potentially one of the most essential attributes that hospitality and catering staff dealing face to face with customers can deploy.
On a recent trip to America, we were fortunate to be treated to some outstanding customer service in restaurants. Undeniably, I consider myself privileged in having not only visited several counties but also eaten in a huge variety of restaurants. And so it is with experience, rather than any kind of qualification, I feel able to peruse my thoughts on this delectable topic. Perhaps one of the significant factors that waiting staff must immediately surmise, is the seemingly endless catalogue of motives as to why we have chosen to spend our hard-earned cash in that particular restaurant. Be that reason a celebration of some kind, a real treat that someone has had to save hard for, a business or formal meal, a first date or maybe an opportunity to bring together a family.
However, whatever the occasion, as customers we do have some innate and fundamental expectations of our interaction with staff. That said, the quality and quantity of said interaction must surely reflect the style of establishment that you’re in; they go hand in hand. To some degree also, the location could also play a large role. Consider the difference for staff taking orders from a customer that is sat in the blazing sun looking out to a tranquil sea compared to standing at a counter in a fast-food chain in a city centre. The outcome is the same; we want to be acknowledged, spoken to politely and professionally, have the ability to answer any questions honestly and process our order with efficiently.
If we get to the nitty gritty, I consider myself to be a typical customer and having only lasted one shift as a waitress in my teenage years, I try to epitomise certainly being the least awkward customer. I do have bug bears though; there’s nothing worse than spending ages laboriously choosing your main course from a plethora of deliciously sounding options only to be informed, at the point of ordering, that they don’t have any left. For me that is a strong suggestion that the back of house team are not wanting to make the front of house team appear knowledgeable or “on it”, for want of a better phrase. Plates being cleared from the table before everyone has finished eating is my other mild grumble, perhaps because I am a deliberate slow eater and therefore it’s usually me still using my knife and fork.
To return to my recent adventure in America, New York was utterly superb and faultless with their customer service. We felt part of a very large city, it wasn’t over the top but professional yet friendly and genuine and efficient. We had singing waiting staff in Ellen Stardust dinner and a charismatic American Italian in Nizza on 9th Avenue. New York set the bar pretty high and so Florida Keys had a lot to live up to. The cockerels, jet skiing and glorious weather made up for the less-chatty and less-smiley staff that we came across, maybe the tourists aren’t viewed in the same as in New York. In the UK, I would suggest that we have come a long way from Basil Fawlty; an effervescent British hotel owner, entertaining us on TV in the late 1970’s with his cringy and yet refreshingly honest approach to customer service. I’d like to think, that the more recent show staring Catherine Tait’s character Amanda, in the American themed diner, is also far away from reality. As the aforementioned industry are experiencing a predictable lull in filling vacancies, let’s hope they don’t use clips from dust-covered TV comedies as their training alternative!