Friday, November 20, 2009

Seeing Quality Service with 20/20 Vision


It has been my pleasure to have worked in the restaurant, hotel and event industry for the last 30 years.

My experience ranges from deli sandwich maker to 5 Star resort captain in some of the world’s finest hotels. During that same period I have enjoyed being a customer in many of the same kind of establishments. As you might expect, as a service professional I am keenly aware of service quality when I visit as a customer.

Sadly, I must report that my general observation is that mediocrity and indifference have become woven into the service standards of many of our restaurants, hotels and especially in special events. It has been a gradual, almost imperceptible decline and included in that downward slide has been our (your) expectation of what quality service truly means.

I would like to offer my vision of quality service. Twenty service basics for restaurant service, which if are all present should merit a 20% gratuity. Should a few service items be missed, I suggest a 1 point reduction in your gratuity. If 10 items are missing, a strong message must be sent by leaving no gratuity, as difficult as it is. Remember it is your hard earned money and don’t you want to spend it where it is deserved.

I call this 20/20 Service Vision, seeing quality service as it should be and rewarding appropriately. For example, do we reward a student for a D grade? No we don’t. Do we reward an employee for doing a poor job; no we don’t. So why do we reward a server or bartender for doing a poor to mediocre job. It does seem to be ingrained into us as Americans that we have to tip no matter what. Well, you don’t and you shouldn’t. And there are really no excuses, even though we as Americans can come up with hundreds as to why we should tip on an experience that we did not enjoy.

Don’t feel you have to memorize the list below either. What’s important is you remember two or three standards at the beginning that may be important to you and then each time you dine out, remember a few more. After a while you will appreciate the distinction between mediocre service and quality service, and tip accordingly.

Now, there are no perfect scenarios or situations where the below list will fit flawlessly. But based on this information, you will be able to determine if your server is working hard at creating a quality experience for you or working hard trying to do as little as possible.


A pleasant smile from the server should be a mandatory beginning but is only one small part of your experience. That smile can also mask many service inadequacies.

Here are BASIC service tasks your server should be performing after you have been seated. If you have a few pet peeves that you insist when dining out, replace a few below that are not that important to you, or just add to the list.

1. The table and chairs should be neat and clean, even at a self-service/buffet.

2. All condiments on the table should be reasonably filled and always clean.

3. You should be acknowledged by the server or “someone” within one minute of sitting down.

4. Server pleasantly greets you and introduces him/herself –it is proper etiquette.

5. The server uses appropriate language; “Yes Sir/Miss” and “May I”. “May I’ clear your plate?” It is a service industry and you should be courteously attended to and respected.

6. Suggestive Selling – the server should know their menu and what variations are available. The server’s responsibility is to match your taste with the products being offered. That includes food as well as beverage.

7. After taking the order, the server says, “Thank you.” – This may not seem important, but it is important that the server is always courteous. A sure sign of creeping mediocrity is the use of “Thanks” rather than a more professional “Thank you”.

8. After taking the order, the server should explain preparation times especially if a specific
menu item takes longer.

9. Water/iced tea/coffee/sodas refilled – you should never have to ask for refills when they are complimentary. This includes the condiments and cream for coffee.

10. You should never have to ask for another cocktail, glass of wine, etc. as the observant server should ask you when your drink is almost finished.

11. When your server brings another drink, the empty glass should be taken away immediately or as soon as it is finished.

12. There should be a napkin/coaster placed under every drink, except wine. Nobody likes to have the overflow or the perspiration from the glass dripping on the table or themselves.

13. If more than one course is served, the following course should not be served until the previous course is completed, unless you have requested it that way.

14. When several courses are served, all empty plates should be removed immediately. The server should ask before clearing a dish if it has some food left.

15. After the entree is served, the server should ask if you would like anything else to complete the meal.

16. Between 2 and 3 minutes after entrée is served, no longer, the server should check back to ensure satisfaction. This is a standard that is so important yet has slowly faded away.

17. Be Available; your server should be visible to you so they can acknowledge your signal for additional service. Many times servers tend to disappear for to long.

18. The table should be completely cleared of empty dishes, glasses, trash, etc., before the bill is presented.

19. The server should say, “Thank you” when presenting the bill and explain how payment can be made.

20. When the server returns with your change/card, he/she should again say, “Thank you and have a nice evening,” or some other courteous farewell. “Thanks” is once again a less genuine thought and not acceptable with quality service.

So ladies and gentlemen, if you are happy offering money to someone who does not work for it, that is fine, but also, don’t complain about the service later.

Thank you very much for your time. On a future blog I will offer my 20/20 Service Vision on Catering and special event service.

David B. Jones

Monday, August 03, 2009

Anticipating Equals Quality Service

Hello everyone,

“Anticipation,” Webster defines it as “realizing before hand, to foresee.”

I continue to be intrigued by our perception of quality service. We all have very different ideas of acceptable quality standards and each establishment believes that they are doing their best in the food and beverage industry to deliver quality service by quality oriented service professionals.

As an industry insider, I share insights in this blog that I have gained over the past 30 years in the food and beverage industry. Let me begin with a confession, I am very passionate about service quality. Today my passion is stirred by the sound of Carly Simon singing her classic song “Anticipation.”

In the service industry, I believe this one word to be a key characteristic which truly defines outstanding service.

The very best in the hospitality industry train their staff to “anticipate” their guests’ wants and needs; consistently checking with guests within minutes of delivering a meal to ensure everything is to their liking; filling the half full glass or simply opening a door are basic examples of “anticipating” what the customer would appreciate.

With one of my previous employers, the Ritz-Carlton, those standards are expected. But The Ritz does not have a patent or copyright on “anticipation.” I have witnessed excellent service, anticipating the customer’s needs, at road side diners, pubs and catered events. I have also seen a total lack of "anticipation" at many establishments, including fine dining venues and expensive resorts.

I am convinced that service expectations, service standards and the ability to “anticipate” are created and nurtured by the establishment's management team. Or, they are not. The service standards offered at any business are a direct reflection on a manager’s ability and desire to incorporate those standards.

As soon as any individual in hospitality, no matter their position, understands that anticipating the guests’ needs is the foundation for providing quality service, as soon as they incorporate this characteristic into their daily service, then these individuals can be considered customer service professionals.

It is the responsibility of management and owners to establish this standard. May I suggest that every hotel, restaurant, winery and caterer place a large sign in the back-of-house for employee's to view throughout their workday. This sign would have only one word printed on it. . . “Anticipate.”

So, the next time you have to flag down a server because your meal is served incorrectly, you have to ask for a refill of your drink or a clean fork, ask yourself, “What did I anticipate when I entered the front door?” Did your expectations become a reality? Did the hospitality team anticipate your needs and wants and how well did they do?

And by the way, when you entered, did someone open the door and say “Welcome, thank you for stopping by.”

A future blog will consider the importance of a genuine “Welcome.”

Thank you very much for your time and have a great day.

David B. Jones


Creating Quality Service

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What’s missing in hospitality?

As I walk into a hotel lobby, I look around and observe the employees, some hard at work, some not, no one though is interested in the guest who just walked in. I look at each one and a few glance my way but am not offered any greeting, not even a smile of recognition. It’s like they are thinking, “If I acknowledge this person, he is going to take up my valuable time and I will never get my work done.” I walk through the lobby and no one has said a thing, not even offered to open the door though an employee was standing near by.

Welcome to today’s hospitality industry.

As I observe employees in this industry, especially hotels and restaurants, it is unfortunate that the most important factor of this industry is missing. This factor is the backbone of the industry. This factor is genuine hospitality; the welcome, warmth, generosity and the caring attitude that was once prevalent seems to have checked out from the hotel and restaurant industry. The customer seems to have come in second in a race of two.

Now there are those exceptions where the employee goes out of their way to exceed the customers’ expectations, making each individual feel welcomed and appreciated and they are sincere in those actions and attitudes, they feel good about assisting others. But these individuals seem to be far and few between.

How often do you see an employee stand to the side to let you, the customer walk by when there is only walking space for one person? How often have you seen an employee run past you so he/she can open the door for you? When was the last time an employee for no reason at all said, “How are you today sir, can I assist you in any way?” When was the last time you experienced that “WOW factor about the service staff?” And I do not mean good, as good service today would be considered poor service 25 years ago. I mean WOW!

In our society today, I don’t even think many of the younger employees in hospitality know or understand what true hospitality means, and I think with the employees who have worked in this business for a long time, that hospitality factor has been beaten down with more important ideas like, the bottom line, costs, labor hours, etc. I have attended about a dozen hotel orientations and only one stressed customer service and courteous actions towards the guests. Most people in general don’t even know what hospitality is anymore.

We live in a "what’s in it for me world," and it is unfortunate as so few individuals today understand that the more you offer assistance to others; customer and co-workers alike, the more you are courteous, the more you will enjoy your work day and the better you will feel about yourself, building your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Now, not every hotel or restaurant has lost its way with hospitality. At hotelinteractive, Editor-in-Chief Glenn Haussman wrote about The Broadmoor Hotel (A Few of My Favorite and Least Favorite Things, 12/30/2008) and raved about their service. I occasionally dine at a restaurant called Oreganos’ in Phoenix, AZ. They are consistently offering me exceptional service and genuine hospitality (plus the food is great). If The Broadmoor and Oreganos’ can succeed in offering every guest a quality experience, why can’t all the other establishments? I can vouch that Oregano’s is constantly packed at lunch and dinner and doing a thriving business.

What I have learned is that customer service training for every employee is important, especially during orientation; back of house employees along with the front of house as every employee is important, every employee is a representative of their employer at work and away.

But the most critical factor in ensuring every customer is offered a quality experience is that the management team and supervisors lead-by-example and treat every employee as if they were a customer also. And when the employee is treated like a customer, then genuine hospitality will be offered and the customers’ expectations will be exceeded day in and day out.

When a management team, starting with the General Manager; as this individual’s attitude and example influences every manager below them, offers their employees the same courtesies as they would their customers; a warm hello, a courteous greeting, a thank you, then employees will reciprocate those actions to their customers.

Reactions are created from actions; positive or negative, employees will mimic their managers’ every day activities, their performances, their attitudes. Training is important, but a lead-by-example attitude will be more influential then any training class.

Thank you for your time.

David Jones

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In The Beginning - Post 1

So, as my first entry into my first blog, what are my first thoughts about what I should write first?

Well first, a quick note about myself. I have worked in the Hotel and Restaurant Industry for 30 years, including a few wineries; from busboy to manager in charge of five departments, my favorite department being banquets. I have worked and lived in Washington, Arizona, California, Nevada and Maui, HI. Because of my food and beverage background, I was able to migrate to Australia and now have dual citizenship. I lived in Australia for six years (Port Douglas, Caines, Alice Springs, Sydney, Adelaide and Noosa), working with numerous establishments there.

As most of my activities at work and away are centered on service in some form or another, I shall start there; especially since this blog will be about service offered, service standards and the service industry. It will also be about service outside of the hospitality industry, service known as “small acts of thoughtfulness.”

I think a lot about the service offered at restaurants and hotels, I am not a food critic but I am a service critic; as my friends and sister can attest to, and in those 30 years in the industry I have watched American service standards slowly and surely deteriorate. What might be considered good service today would be considered poor service 25 years ago (definitely a future subject).

But poor service is not only the industries fault but it is also you, the customer’s fault. That’s right, the customer’s, and it’s all about that gratuity. Many times we as Americans tip way to much for the services rendered (another future subject). That being one reason for poor service, but there are other reasons as well.

I try to keep up to date with hotel and restaurant industry news, in fact a very good source of information on the net is, which writes about current events in the hotel industry and has many excellent articles and authors. After being in the industry for 30 years, it is interesting that many of the subjects written years ago cycle back around and for the most part, haven’t changed in content; on management, service, the employee and the industry on the whole.

It will be interesting for me to see not only on what I write about on future articles (I have a few ideas) but how I write each article and the mood it brings. There are times when I love this industry and there are times when I can’t figure out why I am still in it. But every article will be only my opinion unless otherwise stated. I may upset some of you at times or maybe all the time and some of you may rejoice about the written content. But that is what's great about my own personal slice of the web.

What I can mention now is that I support a healthy and positive work environment, a good work ethic, a team philosophy and a quality experience for every customer. What I am against is laziness, a poor work ethic and an indifferent attitude towards co-workers and customers alike. That will forewarn you about future articles.

I can only hope that, as time sneaks away and articles written, my writing skills, techniques and vocabulary will vastly improve.

Thank you for your time, enjoy and have a great day.

David Jones