Duncan Fraser-Smith Duncan Fraser-Smith

I will admit it; I am a stickler for good service. I truly appreciate the time, energy and practice that goes into being able to pour a glass of wine, mix a cocktail, prepare and serve a chateaubriand. It seems as though I am not alone, as society at large regards service as one of the key attributes to a successful dining experience.

However, it has become increasingly evident to me that our focus on service and the skills set that is needed to provide it, has resulted in a shift away from the traditions for which our industry was founded.

Today, when recruiting, the industry seems fascinated by the calibre and quality of the CV. This piece of paper can determine a person’s employment within a hospitality operation, however, it does not address the key component or ability required for success, that being the candidate’s nature to deliver great hospitality.

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The reason for this is simple: hospitality is by definition an abstract. It’s an attitude, governed by emotion that creates a connection.

Danny Meyer from Union Square Hospitality Group in New York sums this up quite well by describing the following: ‘Service is a monologue, hospitality is a dialogue.’

There are three pillars to create the dialogue required for delivering successful hospitality; engagement, interest and passion. Engagement, as it is the nucleus of conversation; interest as it shows authenticity and understanding; and passion as it’s why we are here in the first place.

Too often these days when dining out, the service might be fantastic, but there is emptiness in its delivery, masked by a complete lack of these three crucial elements.

All memories in life attach themselves to an emotion, whether positive or negative. The true art of hospitality is based on creating a conversation that enables our employees to interact with guests on a personalised level and as such, create that emotional link to the experience.

The benefits for this are far reaching. Restaurateurs spend inordinate amounts of money annually attracting new guests to their outlets. There are marketing budgets and promotions all geared towards getting that customer through the door the first time.

Once inside we look towards effective CRM systems for hospitality operations to create our database of clientele; however all of that data is reliant on the quality of information gathered. You may know a guest’s favourite drink and the way they like their steak cooked, but there is so much more guests are willing to share given the right opportunity to create a meaningful conversation with your staff.

Too often we are subject to the ‘by-rote’ and SOP-driven explanation of menu offerings, that is, the product, the deliverable. SOPs and memorised spiels do not a memory make.

With the right team and the right organisation, service elements can be trained or taught. Any skill can be uplifted and polished, however developing those natural characteristics in our people is something we must as an industry dedicate greater time and focus to. Not just to improve our guests experiences, but to better understand our guests and our colleagues... after all they are our bread and butter.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency which specialises in the development and creation of benchmark F&B concepts.

Visit www.thecuttingedgeagency.com