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customer service training

How to Fix a Complaint Before it Goes Viral.

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How to Fix a Complaint Before it Goes Viral.

Love it or hate it, but customers who don’t enjoy their experience have a whole host of public platforms to voice their disgruntlement. No matter how great your restaurant is, there are always going to be some people who don’t like it or perhaps don’t have a great experience (any restaurant can have a bad night). Sometimes a guest's grievances are valid and other times they can be completely unjust. Sadly, Trip Advisor and the like can’t tell the difference. Once a poor review has been published it is there, permanently, for everyone to see. 

 

If your restaurant has been open a few years, perhaps the odd bad review won’t make much difference, but for new enterprises these types of reviews can be hugely damaging. Not just for the success of the restaurant but for the morale of the staff who have all worked so hard to get it open. 

 

I’ll be honest, we’re not big fans of people who don’t mention their grievances in the restaurant (especially new restaurants) only to then go and write scathing reviews online. If they knew how much time, effort and sheer courage it takes to open a restaurant, I’m sure they would take a much softer and rational approach. Let’s be clear it’s far more beneficial for guests to air their grievances to the restaurant privately instead of publicly trying to shame them. 

 

One new restaurant recently came under fire for candidly replying to reviews that they felt were unfair and unjust. Although they were arguably acting in self defence, the owner still had to publicly apologise for his actions. So it does still seem a bit of a one-way street when it comes to public reviews the customer can say whatever they want, but the business’ response still has to be professional and measured. 

 

So what can we do? There are always going to be people who, given the opportunity, will write scathing reviews if they’ve had a bad time. We’re never going to change that. So the changes have to be at our end. 

 

A manager's first response when reading a terrible review is usually something like, “If only I’d known - I would have put it right before they left.” I have no doubt most managers would do everything in their power to resolve an issue and not let the complaint ‘leave the restaurant’. But people aren’t always going to tell you that something’s wrong. People may be shy, embarrassed, scared or there may be a number of other reasons why they aren’t willing to come over and tell you they’re upset.

 

But here’s the thing. No guest should have to tell you something’s wrong. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s obvious. Any guest who is unhappy will give you a whole host of signals that identify they are not satisfied. It’s all about awareness. Managers and servers alike should be incredibly sensitive to those signs. Looking for the slightest shifts in body language, conversations stopping, people looking around anxiously or straight down at their food, lack of smiling, lack of interaction with the server or their dining partner…there’s so many signs to be looking out for. Even though your guests aren’t actually speaking their concerns, their body language will be telling you exactly what’s going on.

 

Notice your guest's mood when they come into your restaurant, if this changes for the worse during their meal, perhaps something has gone wrong. This is then the time for you to step over and subtly interact. Find an excuse to go to the table; pour water, pour wine, clear some plates, make eye contact and they’ll quickly let you know what’s going on. Then you have an opportunity to fix it. Empathy and understanding are key here. 

 

The morale of the story is thus; don’t wait for guests to come to you. It’s you and your team's job to spot things before they happen, and unhappy guests can be spotted a mile off. Of course, not all unhappy guests are going to write scathing online reviews but most of them won’t come back and that's even worse. Guest awareness is the key to not only reducing poor reviews but also to gaining life long customers.

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What ‘the perfect Martini’ can do for service.

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What ‘the perfect Martini’ can do for service.

Meet Keith Mrotek, a bartender from the Norseman Distillery in Minneapolis. He’s making a Martini from a recipe that dates back to 1903. The recipe he’s using details 30ml of Dry Vermouth, 60ml of Gin, Orange Bitters and a Lemon Coin. Three ingredients and a garnish. Pretty precise, right? As he skilfully prepares this classic cocktail, you can hear him say “there’s no such thing as the perfect Martini. But there is a perfect Martini for each guest”. The amount of ice you use, the length of time you stir the drink (Keith likes his stirred for 45 seconds), the amount of orange bitters you use. These all add subtle changes that can be tailored to suit each guest. The cocktail is still their unique recipe, it’s uses their own Gin and Vermouth but there’s flexibility in their approach that delivers something specific to each individual. For me that’s real modern bartending. 

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That also happens to be the exact approach we have to delivering great service. The U.S. has always been way ahead of us when it comes to customer service, and there’s no doubt we’re catching up. But I also think we’ve picked up some of their bad habits too. As big brands realised the importance of customer service, they developed rules and regulations to create ‘consistency’ throughout the company. Scripted “Good Morning Sir” and “You have a great day Miss” seemed to be the basis of great customer care. The problem is, we’ve got so used to these hollow please and thank-yous that we see straight through them. Robotic and scripted jargon like this is embarrassing for all involved. Airlines are a classic example. Whenever you depart from a flight and the three or four crew say, "thank you" for flying with them, sometimes not even looking at you and repeating the same words in the same tone in between conversations with themselves. Why do they do it? Because the training manual tells them they must. The whole exercise becomes pointless. Sadly that generic, robotic and soul destroying “good” customer service practice has found its way over here. 

 

I’m not saying rules and points of service are a bad thing. They’re not. You couldn’t make this Martini without Gin and Vermouth - but we have to have flexibility. We have to trust front line employees to make their own choices and decide exactly how they think it is best to thank a customer. Our barman Keith takes pride in knowing exactly how to tailor his cocktails to suit his guests. And if you give your employees the right skills to tailor their service to suit each guest, they too will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. It takes no skill to mindlessly repeat “thank you” a hundred times. But it takes a great deal of skill to make each individual guest feel valued, welcomed and appreciated. These are skills that can be taught and honed and are incredibly satisfying to use.

 

Service without the freedom to go off script is tired, out-dated, dishonest, and your guests will see straight through it. Give your team a bit of freedom and trust, and see what they can achieve. 

 

Right, now I’m off for a Martini… Keith?

 

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Motivating Your Front Line Employees.

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Motivating Your Front Line Employees.

Motivating floor staff can be an uphill struggle. Getting your front line employees to hold the same values and enthusiasm you do for your business can be incredibly frustrating. Speaking to any manager or company director you’ll hear similar frustrations: “I just wish they’d get on with - it’s not rocket science”. Perhaps it isn’t. But without the right perspective, it can become impossible to deliver great service consistently. 

 

Take a moment to think about the frustrated front line employee dealing with your customers. Their interior monologue could run something like this: “These customers are all so annoying today. Why I am here? I don’t want to do this anymore. Why is that person so rude? Another idiot I have to deal with. I don’t get paid enough for this!” Sound familiar? 

 

It’s interesting when you look at comments like these how self focused and insular they are. There’s no real perspective. It’s also interesting that depression, anger and other negative feelings follow a similar cycle: An inability to see past the current circumstances to the bigger picture. 

 

One of the techniques we’ve used recently, to great success, is to involve these front-line employees in other aspects of the business. Buddying them up for a few hours with senior managers explaining the details of how the business operates. Going through budgets, labour, forecasting and exactly what the business needs to do to be successful and where things can go wrong. 

 

We’re trying to achieve a few things here. Firstly, we’re creating a greater sense of trust between management and staff. This can be really useful one-on-one time that staff rarely get with management. Secondly, we’re hoping to crate a sense of enthusiasm and interest as team members feel like they are learning useful business skills. Thirdly, we’re creating a sense of perspective, and ownership. The employee realises they have a role to play in the business and that their actions have a direct impact on the financial success of the company. 

 

By creating a new sense of perspective we are removing the self-focused negativity and creating a sense of responsibility and shared ownership in the business. That’s the real key - you want your employees, not to mention your guests, all to feel like they have a sense of ownership in what you do. 

 

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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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What we learnt in the Pinchos Bars of San Sebastian

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What we learnt in the Pinchos Bars of San Sebastian

If you’ve never experienced a chaotic Pinchos bar before, it can be a pretty confusing and intimidating experience. Imagine a packed bar, counter covered with plates of amazing tapas, beautifully displayed, people reaching over you, grabbing things, wine being poured, money flying over your head, and not a queue in sight! Everyone seems to understand how the chaotic system works apart from you, and a few other bewildered tourists desperately trying not to make a social faux pas. 

 

Finally, you get to front of the bar. Nervous, you muster your best Spanish and ask for two glasses of wine and ask tentatively for a plate, hoping that’s the right thing to do. The barman looks at you with the warmest smile, mocks your Spanish accent with his perfect English, completely disarms you of all tension, and tells you about the specials they have in the kitchen. The encounter only lasts a minute, but you now feel like a Pinchos Jedi - and you have a buddy behind the bar. The bar is packed, but in that minute he gave you his full attention and changed your mood entirely. Five minutes later you're even get a mini check-back. There are three barman working in this bar with over a hundred people wanting service, and you still get great service. The atmosphere is bustling, exciting and fun. 

 

All but one of the Pinchos bars we went in we’re like this, bustling, full of energy and great service to boot. Ironically, the Pinchos bar which had the best food was also the one with the worst atmosphere. We get there as it opens, excited. As soon as you walk in you can feel the tension, the bar is packed but eerily quiet. We get to the front, the barman is distracted, stressed, his manager talking to him whilst he’s taking our order. No real eye contact. The food arrives - it’s amazing - though one of our dishes is wrong. More shouting behind the bar as we eat. I turn and I accidentally bump into the American lady sitting next to us - she looks like she’s going to punch me. We leave as soon as we can. 

 

What I find amazing about the former bar is how only three barman can completely control the mood of over 100 guests. That’s pretty impressive. Even if you run a counter-service company, the relationship of the people behind that counter sets the mood for everyone who comes in.  

 

 

 

 

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The Art of Making People Feel Valued.

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The Art of Making People Feel Valued.

It’s a Tuesday evening in central London, the sun is slowly sinking behind the horizon, and I fancy going for dinner. Where should I go? 

 

Let’s be honest, I have an overwhelming amount of options. The first step is working out what food I fancy...? OK got it. But that still leaves me quite a few places to choose from. The next, and defining step, is all about my memories of places. Think about a restaurant you’ve been to recently. Got one? Ok good. What did you think of it? Would you go there again? Would you recommend it to a friend? The thought process you’ve just been through is a pretty complex one. You will have conjured up images of the place, sound, textures and will now have an emotional response to it. And it is this emotional response, which is a mixture of all those senses stored in our memory, that influences our decision to return or not. 

 

Our emotional attachment to a restaurant, both good and bad, is essentially a recollection of how we were made to feel. How you make your guests feel is the determining factor as to whether or not they return. 

 

Make each of your guests feel valued and you will have a successful business. Part of that is the food, of course. That’s the foundation of any restaurant. People want to feel like they are getting value for their pounds. That doesn’t have to mean cheap. People will happily pay a lot for a plate of food, but they need to feel that the plate of food is worth it. 

Our emotional attachment to a restaurant, both good and bad, is essentially a recollection of how we were made to feel. How you make your guests feel is the determining factor as to whether or not they return.

If your guests don’t feel that they’re getting their money’s worth they certainly won’t feel valued. If you don’t get this right you’ve fallen at the first hurdle. 

 

But let’s say you do get this right. The next phase is all about your staff. Your staff need to make each and every guest feel valued. Your servers are your brand. They represent you, and you need to invest in them as such.

 

Easier said than done. Don’t forget every guest is different and they all want to be treated differently. What might make one guest feel valued might be over-the-top for another. Also don’t get complacent; regular guests can be in different moods on different days and will want different levels of service. 

 

A good friend of mine is head waiter at an iconic London restaurant. His regulars will behave, and require, completely different styles of service depending on who they are with. If you really want to learn how to adjust service on-the-fly, book one of our courses, but in the mean time, here are the basics... 

 

Listen to them. Actively listen to everything they say. Don’t be too keen to fix and interrupt them. Hosts do this all the time, in a rush to seat their guests, they forget to take the time to properly welcome them. I hear things like

 

“Good Evening. How are you? Table for two?”

 

Don't ask a question and then not wait for the answer! If you ask someone how they are at least have the courtesy to wait for the response. Running questions together with no concern for the answers comes across as scripted, generic, and soulless.  

 

Always make your guests feel like you have time for them. No matter how busy you are. Whenever you are at a table your focus should just be on that table. Open body language, no tension, good eye contact - soft, gentle tone, and a good pace of speech at a good volume (your voice should be audible enough for the guest to easily hear but, not loud enough to push past them to any other tables). 

 

Do not approach tables too often. There’s nothing more annoying then getting three check-backs during a meal, or being interrupted mid-conversation. This happens because the server is lacking awareness. You should never interrupt a table more than is absolutely necessary. Again, book on one of our courses to learn how to deliver great attentive service from afar. 

 

Finally give a genuine goodbye. One of my massive bug bears is when three different people say goodbye and not one of them has meant it. Screaming goodbye at me, with no eye contact, means nothing. 

 

A good goodbye, is soft, gentle, warm, and genuine. I only need one of those. 

 

Managers you should value your staff as equally as you value your guests. Listen to them, have time for them, when you’re speaking to them, they should feel like they have your full attention. If you can make them feel valued they in turn will find it much easier to make your guests feel valued. 

A good goodbye, is soft, gentle, warm, and genuine. I only need one of those.

 

It’s all about making people feel good. If you make someone feel good, that makes you feel good. The more you can cultivate this win win scenario the more successful your business will be and the more likely I, and the rest of London,  will be to pop in on a Tuesday night.

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Waste not, want not

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Waste not, want not

A recent report commissioned by Marie Curie, entitled ‘The Long and Winding Road’ estimates that poor communication costs the NHS one billion pounds every year... Yes, that’s right, one billion pounds every year. Of course the NHS is wonderful, complicated, and unwieldily beast, but in the time of the NHS crunch, 1 billion seems quite a steep price to pay for a breakdown in communications.

At Hop, this got us thinking about the cost of poor communication in the hospitality industry, and before too long, we had an unwieldily beast of our own. Staff conflict, staff turnover, additional recruitment, spiralling HR costs, mistakes, wastage, and on top of this a potentially toxic atmosphere on the restaurant floor... And all because we’ve overlooked that fundamental thing that got us out of the swamp in the first place. The ability to communicate, to empathize and to understand one another.

Thankfully the NHS is now sitting up and paying attention, because you cannot ignore these three little words; one billion pounds. However, how much is the hospitality industry doing to address the money it’s wasting through poor communication skills? Or perhaps more pertinently, how much is your company wasting? It may not be billions, but it’s enough to get one thinking.

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Mindfulness Mid Shift?!  I haven't got time for that…No Really.

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Mindfulness Mid Shift?! I haven't got time for that…No Really.

OK I admit it, at first glance the idea of finding time to be mindful, in a hectic restaurant may seem a little crazy. Taking fifteen minutes out to meditate on a Saturday lunch (although it would be wonderful) isn’t the most practical of ideas and certainly wouldn’t help your labour budget. But what if I suggested that there are ways to get a good dose of mindfulness even in the most hectic of shifts, and these moments of consciousness, aren’t just good for your mental well-being but are, in fact, vital to the growing success of your business? Even if you’re not sold on the idea of mindfulness and presence, read on, you may just find it useful.

 

So let’s imagine you’re a waiter, it’s a Saturday lunch, it’s busy, it’s hot, the bar are running a little behind on drinks and the host has just given you one too many tables. Just take a moment, imagine this situation (I get a little tense just thinking about it). Now, I want you to start thinking about your thought process at this point, the stream of consciousness inside your head. As the pressure grows that interior monologue gets quicker and quicker, louder and louder, “where are my drinks? "I told that host not to sit me any more tables!" "I hate this job? What am I doing here? Where’s the spinach for table 6?” Our heart rate increases, tension grows, and we start to become less and less present and more and more locked in our heads. Awareness decreases and stress increases.  

 

This scenario is not uncommon, go into any busy restaurant on a Saturday night and you may just see it. But is it really that bad? Surely that’s just part of working in a restaurant isn’t it? Well yes and no. Yes it is bad, I’ll go into why in a second, and yes it is part of working in a restaurant.

 

Nothing frustrates a customer more than when they feel the waiter is not giving them their full attention.

 

So why is it bad? Firstly, for the waiter. Health wise, both physically and mentally that amount of stress is simply not good for you. It’s exhausting. I’ve just been reading The Art of the Restauranteur by Nicholas Lander. There are so many incredible people who have founded wonderful restaurants only to tragically die of a heart attack ten years in. Leaving their business partners to carry on alone. That’s the pay off for working with all that stress. Secondly, for the customer. The customer is on the receiving end of distracted service. Nothing frustrates a customer more than when they feel the waiter is not giving them their full attention. Thirdly, for you, the owner. As stress increases our ability to make rational decision decreases. There's proper scientific studies into this. The more distracted we become the more mistakes we make, the more wastage we create, the less productive we become. Not to mention the fact that your customers are now not having a great time either and might not be too keen to return. 

 

That idea of mediating for fifteen minutes doesn’t quite seem so crazy now does it? I jest... But we do need to get present, and we need to be able to do it quickly. It can’t interrupt service and it has to be done on the floor. So here’s how we do it. Every time you go to a table it is an opportunity to be present. Think about that for a second. The waiters have to talk to the tables. So why not use this time to bring yourself into the present. To stop all that interior monologue. A three minute break from all the stress to enjoy being with your guests. When you’re at a table, you don’t have to run food or drink all you have to do is be present. Listen to them, speak to them, enjoy that human connection. If you find that connection you will become present. Simple. 

 

At the heart of it, we are social beings who enjoy connecting with other people.

 

On a busy shift you need to see tables as a gift, a gift to be present. Like a mini pit stop during service. So many waiters go over to a table so distracted and rushed they completely miss this golden opportunity. 

 

Here at Hop there’s a little mantra we teach all of our students to remind them how to get present on busy shifts. Before they go over to a table they take a second, I literally mean one second. They take a breath and say the following in their heads. “Establish. Engage. Enjoy.” Now let me explain. Establish: they establish good body language, usually just letting go of tension. Engage: they genuinely try to engage their guests, great eye contact, good smile. Enjoy: now they have the engagement from the guest they can enjoy that connection, enjoy that human experience. That’s why we all do this job because, at the heart of it, we are social beings who enjoy connecting with other people. 

 

Establish. Engage. Enjoy. At first waiters will say I haven’t got time for all that. But it only takes seconds. At first they will feel like they're spending longer at the table, because they are speaking at a more relaxed pace. But in reality the actual time at the table is the same.

 

Furthermore, whilst they’re at the table their stress will reduce, their awareness will increase, the guests will be getting a much more unique and genuine experience and you will have a happy restaurant with a better atmosphere. 

 

That’s how to get a good dose of mindfulness in a busy shift. Joss sticks are optional. 

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 Managing the Unmanageable

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Managing the Unmanageable

One of the unique things about the restaurant industry in the UK is it’s workforce. Love it or hate it, the restaurant industry is a stop gap for many on a path to something else. Lawyers, Actors, Economists, Writers, Nurses, Teachers, Photographers, Athletes. These are just few of the professions I’ve come across moonlighting in the restaurant game. Personally, I think it’s something to be embraced, where else would you find such a diverse group of talented people all working in one place. 

 

But, as with most things, there are drawbacks. Some people enter the industry with every intention of moving on but, like it so much they stay. They choose to go into management and push on from there. I can think of a few well known and highly successful company directors who ‘fell’ into the industry. 

 

Then there are those who were always planning to leave but never quite did. They don’t want to go into management, they don’t really want to work in the restaurant, they don’t really know what they want to do. They become stuck, which leads to frustration, conflict with colleagues and most importantly poor service. There’s no joy in what they do anymore. All because they feel their life isn’t where it should be. The vision, if it was there in the first place, has gone and with it, their enthusiasm. 

 

These people can be highly destructive to a team and managing them properly is key. You can’t just hope they will leave, or hope you can build up a big enough case against them for gross misconduct. By that time your whole floor team could be ruined. 

 

So what are our options? One: we go in hard telling them that they aren’t performing to a high enough standard, they look miserable on the floor and are too negative. But how exactly do we break that down? Tell them they need to smile more? Say please and thank you more? Be kinder to their guests? Good luck with that. If anything you're gonna create a fake over-the-top cynical style of service which won’t last long and then you’re back to square one. You’re not addressing the root of the problem, just temporarily masking it. 

 

So what else can we do? We need to remember these people are stuck. The vision of what they want from their career, their life has gone. You’re job is to help them find that vision again and guide them down a route to achieve it.  Progress makes us happy. Moving towards a goal makes us happy. Would you prefer to be cruising down the motorway or gridlocked on the slip road. 

 

Ok so here’s what to do. Ask them about what they want to achieve both at work and in their personal lives. If they’re not sure give them a few days and tell them to come back with something written down. You’re be surprised what they come back with. Even the most unmotivated will come up with brilliant ideas, when they commit it to paper. So now we have a vision. Now get them to break down these goals into sub goals, or steps along the way that they will need to achieve before reaching the big goal. 

 

For example, Jon has worked in a site for four years, he hates working in the restaurant. A week after out initial chat he comes up with the idea that he wants to travel the world and teach English as a second language. Boom! We have a vision. So now we need to break that goal down into smaller goals. He needs to research courses, he needs to save money, he needs to improve his grammatical understanding of English (couldn’t we all). Jon keeps adding to this sub goal list over the next few days. Next I help Jon break down the goals into daily, weekly and monthly goals. I get him to develop his own planner. We have a vision and now we have clear steps of how to get there. 

 

So yes, Jon might be leaving in a year now but all of a sudden he’s working with discipline, clarity and vision. He knows what he wants and therefore we’ve pulled him out of the well of negativity he was stuck in. Just Google ‘goal setting’ and there’s ton of resources on how to set plans. The Jon you hired four years ago is back and he’s delivering good service again. 

 

You might think this is a lot to do and hasn’t got much to do with the restaurant but it’s worth the time invested. You’re making them make change. Change for them is good, it makes them more malleable and more manageable. It’s also incredibly satisfying, for you as a manager, to create that sort of change in another person. I’m not saying they will be perfect all the time but they will make a huge improvement, and the rest of the team, not to mention your guests, will thank you for it. 

 

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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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Paris Je t'aime

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Paris Je t'aime

What we learnt in Paris.

 

There’s so much to love in Paris. The food, the wine, the cheese, the bread, the level of customer service. Yes - the level of customer service. OK, perhaps Paris hasn’t always been famous for it’s customer service especially not to us Brits. I used to live in France and would often find Brits unable to speak French getting more and more frustrated with a waiter, who seemingly couldn’t speak English. The louder the guest asked “Do you have an English menu?’ The more the waiter would shut down and reply calmly “Je suis désolé monsieur, mais je ne comprend pas”. Ironically, the waiters could all speak English they just refused to, if they took a dislike to certain individuals. Amusing as these episodes were to watch I always thought pride was the key factor. A proud waiter would not be spoken down to by a tourist making no effort at all to speak Europe’s founding language.

 

On this trip I didn’t witness such instances, but I did feel a sense of pride coming from almost every person who served us. Pride in the restaurant they were working in, pride in the food they were serving, pride in helping us pick a wine, pride in taking away our empty plates, knowing we had enjoyed their food, essentially taking pride in making sure we had a good time.

 

One of my new favourite cocktail bars, The Mary Celeste, was packed when we visited, but the barman took his time to speak to us, ask us what we liked, and then made us something completely off spec just for us. He then spent time checking we liked it, he was making sure everyone in that bar felt valued. The energy of the bar was beautiful, bustling and busy, but fun and warm too. After the terrible attacks in Paris it’s service like this which is so important. It makes people feel safe and warm and valued and keeps people going out, and for me that really is something to take pride in. Next time your in Paris make sure you drop in, it’s at 1 Rue Commines. I guess that’s what we learnt in Paris, that pride in your work is key and sometimes making other people feel welcomed, valued and safe really is something to be proud of. 

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