Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Importance of Service

Service. I've had two particular experiences that made me really start to think about service. First, the positive. I had the great opportunity to spend Father's Day with my dad golfing at an insanely expensive golf course. No Blackberry, no restaurant, no farms, no food....just me, my dad and five hours for me to launch a large collection of golf balls out of bounds. We were paired with two guys from Maryland, who instead of riding in a cart had elected to have a caddy for the day. Yes, you read that correctly. It today's age of fat ass, cigar smoking, beer drinking, no manners, over testosteroned(I can hit it farther that you, Bill) jack assed, poseur golfers, these guys had elected to have a caddy walk along with them(of course he carried both of their bags the whole way). What an awesome piece of civility and a touch of the old school. Here's where the service comes in....their caddy provided US with local info, read greens, etc. He didn't have to; we weren't paying him. However, it did make for a great experience. Granted, most of his info was going to my dad. The best piece of advice he gave me all day was 'geez, you better hit another ball'. He turned what would have been a great experience into one that I really thought was over the top cool...even though I sucked ass that day. Now the negative. I have a wireless phone. My negative service experience involves my unnamed wireless company(AT&T wireless...come on, you knew I was going to name them....). Last week, I didn't have service for three hours. OK, whatever. Yesterday, I didn't have service for over an hour, so I decided to go to the store where I bought my overly expensive phone and ask what they could do for me. Here's the answer I got....'we only sell phones here, we can't help you'. Now, I'm fairly educated...I can look around and see that they do in fact sell phones. However, the person who 'only sells phones' happened to be the half wit who also SOLD ME A TWO YEAR CONTRACT FOR THAT DAMN PHONE!!!!!! I was told to call customer service. Here's the thing. If I was a salesperson, it would have gone like this.....' I'm sorry to hear about your outtage. I've inquired about the problem and AT&T will offer you a $20 credit to your bill because of the problem...here's the number you need to call and they'll hook you up. Unfortunately, we don't do billing at our store or I'd take care of it for you right now. I'm really sorry for the trouble and I hope you'll come back if you have any other issues. I'd be happy to take care of them for you. Thank you and have a great day!' That's service, AT&T. The folks at the NORTH HANOVER MALL IN HANOVER, PA SHOULD TAKE NOTES!!!!!!!!

Back to the point. Service. I write almost exclusively about food on this blog. The thing is, there is so much more to a restaurant experience. The ambiance, the grounds, the centerpiece, but the biggest part of all of this is your service. The picture above is of one of our dining rooms. Looks cool, right? Well, to me, it's just a room. It has a table where food can be placed and consumed. What's it missing, you ask? It's missing personality. Much has been written recently about my use of local ingredients and building a truly regional cuisine. Well, it's not all about the food.(what the hell? Did I just say that?) Our front of the house manager, Karen Van Guilder works very hard crafting a style of service that not only matches the food, but also matches the area we live in. It is relaxed and professional....the perfect blend of formal technique and engaging storytellers. Yes, storytellers. Our waiters are the ones who breathe life into the dining rooms. When you sit down, you're in our waiter's hands for the next two to three hours. Some folks might think that's a bit overbearing; it's not. Here's the beauty of Karen's style of service. If the waiter estimates that you just want to be left alone. Bingo, left alone. Still formally correct service, but you get what you are looking for in the experience. Wanna know everything about every ingredient?( a tip here: if you are inquiring about every ingredient on the menu, the waiter will alert me thinking that you might be a food writer and you'll get VIP'd) You got it. Again, it's all a matter of service and providing the experience the guest want. I'm not going out on a limb here by saying that we've got the best service team from Harrisburg to Baltimore. We do. By far. The next time you're at a great restaurant, take notice to how the waiters and front of the house staff breathe life into the experience and how they add personality to the experience and the room. Without them, it's just four walls, some tables, some chairs and food. Boring. Really boring.

1 comment:

ostman said...

My humble philosophy on the subject...

The folks at the phone store you went to were there because it's a job. They're paid to sell phones, and that is the limit to what they see as their investment. They may even "sell phones" well, but because they feel no further personal investment, they feel they have no further obligation to you as a customer.

Great service at a restaurant (or any business, institution, whatever) is due to the person providing the service (waiter, manager, chef, cash register operator, teacher, doctor, etc.) feeling a sense of investment in the product or action they provide. This investment may be due to either some intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

The staff at the Mansion provides great service because they "buy into" the product. Figure out why, and make sure those reasons continue!