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The 'What do you want?" Approach to customer service in restaurants and pubs

The 'What do you want?" Approach to customer service in restaurants and pubs

I just wanted to share a personal experience, which typifies an issue that so many restaurants, pubs and bistros fail to address. It's a biggy - it's CUSTOMER SERVICE!

Last weekend, on a beautiful sunny Sunday, we decided to go out for brunch and enjoy the beachfront views from a local restaurant. It's a well known premium brand chain. it's not the first time we've visited and on previous occasions it's been relatively quiet (as in not busy) and the food has been pretty good.

We arrived at 10.15 - knowing they serve breakfast/brunch until 11.30am. This was our experience:

1. We're greeted at the top of the stairs with a sign 'Wait Here to be Seated". No please, or 'kindly' or in the least bit friendly.

2. 5 minutes pass the head waitress (let's call her Tina) arrives and just looks at us with inquisitor's eyes! Not a word uttered, no question asked. We wait in silence........Here is the ensuing conversation:

Us: "A table for 2 for breakfast please"
Tina: "Have you booked?"
Us: "No, is that a problem?" (looking around at 80% empty tables)
Tina: "I'll have to check" and proceeds to look at the computer screen.
Tina: "It's ok but there will be a long wait"
Us: "Any idea how long?"
Tina: "At least 30 minutes"

We decide on a leisurely Sunday morning that 30 minutes is fine - unlimited coffee refills are available so we agree.

Tina shows us to a table, we ask if a window table is possible (there are at least 4 vacant) it's a lovely day, large windows, super view. "No" says Tina. "You have been warned about the wait" she blasts and walks off!

We wait 10 minutes before another server brings the menu.
We order, coffee arrives, we chat.
Food arrives within 20 minutes but is not hot - we send it back.
Food arrives 15 minutes later - not hot but edible.
Bill arrives - overcharged for coffee but "It's only 50p extra per cup" says waitress.
"And that's 50p too much" I say as I ask her to change it.

Here's how the experience could have been.................

Arrive at the top of the stairs to be greeted by a person preferably - or at worst at sign "We'll be with you as quickly as possible".
Us: "A table for 2 for breakfast please"
Tina: "Yes of course. Where would you like to sit?
Us: "By the window please"
Tina: "Certainly. I'll just to let you know there may be a bit of wait for food, but don't forget you get unlimited refills on coffee or tea. Enjoy the view and I'll get the menu and someone will be with you shortly".
Us: "Thank-you"

We drink coffee and chat. Food arrives hot and edible. The incorrect bill is quickly reviewed with a friendly "Sorry about that, let's blame the till for a Sunday morning error!"

The difference is subtle but for the customer it makes the world of difference. The real conversation creates a negative impression before the customers are even seated, they start clock watching to see how long the food actually takes, they remember the experience for the wrong reasons (as we have). They will tell their friends and will think twice about coming back!