Voice of the Restaurant Industry
the more they stay the same! It's a new year and yet some of the most basic and important points about the guest experience still seem to have escaped some restaurant employees in places we've loved and cared about. That's not to say, however, that there aren't plenty of operators who not only 'get it' but have managed to impart a real desire to serve the guest to each and every member of their team.
Yes, as operators tell us all the time, labor is this industry's continuing problem, but that only means that owners - and most good owner/operators truly do care about the quality of the guest experience - must fight a continual battle to make sure their philosophy is transmitted to all employees.
A restaurant owner told us recently that the problem is that we're in America, where no one wants to work in restaurant kitchens in a lowly post because they feel it's beneath them. It's not just that the numerous TV shows about restaurants and chefs make potential restaurant staffers feel they should be celebrity chefs, not dishwashers. It's more about attitude. In Europe, she observed, everyone, even in the lowest level restaurant positions, takes pride in doing their very best. Here, in contrast, that pride is missing, and that is what the very best operators seek to instill in employees at every level.
We were having dinner at the bar in a favorite casual dining place a month or so ago and after we'd placed an order, heard our server tell the bartender, "oh, don't pay too much attention to them. They're just splitting a sandwich."
Oh! Well, our feeling was, don't pay too much attention to a big tip because these servers don't really care about us. It was an unpleasant moment that soured an experience that's usually enjoyable. More recently, we dropped into the bar of a high end place we've loved late, after a movie, for drinks and a shared appetizer.
We had to ask a server if there was a bartender on duty (she disappeared as we sat down), and he couldn't be bothered to go find her. She was wearing a dress that showed her bra straps (tacky!), took our order and proceeded to spend much of the rest of our stay talking to another server. Three waiters stood behind us chatting as they watched the Celtics game on TV. We had to ask for a small plate to share our appetizer. Did she care that we spent nearly $50 on two drinks, one glass of wine and an appetizer? Clearly not. We might as well have not been there. And we might not be again.
On the plus side of the equation, we had Sunday brunch recently at a very popular place that just remodeled. Because it was such a positive experience, we'll give them credit - it was Tremont 647 which is a mainstay of Boston's South End. From the moment we checked in at the FOH where there was a crowd waiting, we were treated warmly, seated promptly, served efficiently and well, and partook not only of good food but enjoyable interactions with the staff. It was textbook hospitality and what struck us was that the servers really loved what they were doing, and it showed.
From the top to the bottom, attitudes matter. When owners take the time to work with personnel and impart their values and mission, it makes for a better guest experience, which makes for better business! If a server doesn't 'get it,' should they really be there, showing their lack of care to the guest? If you're going to work in foodservice, service needs to be a major part of the equation!