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Service

Restaurants: a Beacon of Hope in an Ever More Divisive UK.

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Restaurants: a Beacon of Hope in an Ever More Divisive UK.

The world seems to be a pretty divisive place right now. Post-Brexit and perhaps pre-Trump, we’re living in the most turbulent of times, certainly since I’ve been alive. As society seems to become increasingly divided, with many people retreating into the safety of the known and rejecting the unfamiliar, for me, the hospitality industry is sending out a beacon of hope, cohesion and community. 

 

Let me explain. We’ve been doing a lot of research at Hop HQ on prejudice, how we become prejudiced and how we can overcome it. Race, immigration and religious beliefs are all volatile topics at the moment, spurred on by politicians, news groups and social media. 

 

We are heavily influenced not just by what we read and see, but by who we hang around with, who we care about and who we work with. The most deep-rooted prejudices, and the hardest to break down, are the ones we inherit from our parents. 

 

If there was less prejudice in the world I have no doubt it would be a better place. So what is the best way to get rid of it, even in the most deep-rooted cases?

 

So there’s been lots of studies and on this and many different approaches to diffuse or change someone's prejudice. One was training courses, week long workshops, educating people about other cultures to make them seem more human and develop empathy and understanding. Initially the students did feel less prejudiced but shortly after the courses the old feeling returned. However the most successful trial was when individuals from different backgrounds had to work together towards a joint goal. 

 

The sharing of skills, and cohesion needed to complete the task, removed the prejudice and permanently altered the attitudes towards one another for the better. 

 

So if we want to reduce the amount of prejudice knocking around at the moment we need to bring people together and get them to work towards a common goal. 

Diversity really is something we should be proud of in our industry, it should be celebrated.

That’s exactly what a good restaurant does. The last restaurant we opened had, Polish, Spanish, Italian, Nepalese, British, French, Turkish, Indian, Moroccan, Dutch, Saudi, Sri Lankan and Syrian employees. You can’t get more cohesive than that. I’ve learnt so much from all the different cultures I have been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Diversity really is something we should be proud of in our industry, it should be celebrated.  I’ve always thought the world would be a more empathetic and understanding place if everyone had to work in a restaurant for a year, perhaps now more than ever. 

 

Get Trump on pot wash for a month and let’s see how his attitudes would change.

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Restaurants and French Philosophers.

Maybe our recent trip to Paris has inspired us to bring a bit of philosophy into the restaurant game.  The existentialist philosophers of the 19th and 20th Century may seem to have little relevance when it comes to running a successful restaurant. Can the likes of Soren Kierkegaard, Jean Paul Satre and Albert Camus teach us, in the hospitality sector, anything useful? 

 

Well, firstly, these guys ate out a lot. On any given day you would often find the existentialists philosophers, at a table, wearing a black roll neck, discussing the meaning of life over cocktails and food. But how on earth does this have any relevance in today’s industry? Well existentialism is pretty complicated but it was born out of another, simpler,  philosophy called Phenomenology.  Phenomenology was all about making sure we experience things fully, with full presence and consciousness.

 

So if I’m having a cup of coffee, I focus on that coffee, it’s smell, it’s velvety texture, it’s rich taste, the warm comforting feeling it creates in my body, the bitter chocolaty aftertaste the kick of the caffeine.  All of a sudden a cup of coffee is quite a complex amazing thing. The alternative is to be drinking a cup of coffee with no awareness of what I’m drinking, lost in my own thoughts, oblivious to the wonders of the hot beverage and the world.

 

To Phenomenologists, this was the joy of being human, to be able to be conscience in our interactions with the world. It’s all to easy to switch back to autopilot. I see it all the time; FOH staff just going through the motions with no attempt to connect to the people in front of them. Now I don’t know about you but I want all my staff to be Phenomenologists, staff who are actively engaging with the food we sell, staff that are actively engaging with each and every customer, staff that are present, with their colleagues, their friends, their customers, fully present in their work. If you want a great energy in your restaurant 19th century French philosophy isn’t a bad place to start.

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Heaps of potential.

Something that has always struck me is the amount of untapped potential that lies hidden within the service industry. So much gets overlooked, ignored and ultimately wasted.  In the UK especially we seem to have this rather nonchalant attitude towards people who work in the restaurant industry. It seems to be woven into the fabric of it’s DNA. We just don’t take the careers of people who work there that seriously. Now I’m not talking about your General Managers, or your Head Chefs, I’m talking about your waitering staff, your bar staff, your hosts. How much time do we invest in these guys? In my experience not enough.

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But these guys are the front-line of your business, the direct link between you and your customers. The represent your business, your brand and speak to way more of your customers over the course of a week, month or even a year than you. And yet, if we’re really honest, do we really train them well enough to represent the company, to be engaging, to make every single guest feel welcome, relaxed and uniquely valued? The answer in most cases is no. We train them adequately, so they can achieve a certain level of service. Sounds ok, right? But once they've achieved that level, work can become a little uninspiring and monotonous. Once we become proficient enough at something we tend to start to switch off a bit. “I can do this with my eyes closed I’ve been doing it so long”. Not perhaps the best way to engage your customers.  I see so many Front of House teams lacking motivation and energy. Why? Because no one is investing in them, giving them new skills, unlocking their potential. If you want to change the energy of your team you must invest in them, value them and trust them.

There's heaps of potential in this industry and at HOP it’s all about unlocking it, motivating and inspiring teams through the acquisition of skill. Just even acknowledging that an individual has potential goes such a long way to changing their attitude to work. At HOP we teach teams how to become masterful in what they do. Practical, specific, skills that create change amongst the individual, team and business.

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