Guest Service by Martin Artis

24 09 2008

      When approaching the subject of guess service, we as culinary professionals tend to think one thing; that it should be our highest priority. Even though this may be a true thought throughout our culinary and restaurant world, it isn’t always the highest of our priorities. Restaurants today have changed quite a bit in the last 100 years. We have gone from a casual or fine dining perspective, to a fast food nation. This is good for the industry as a whole, however, the faster our service is the more chance there is for mishaps, or guest service decline.

       Let us take a look at what guest service really is. Many professionals would agree that guest service began around the time of the Roman Empire. During this time, it was servants or slaves that tended to people and their needs in all aspects of eating, as well as life as a whole. At the dawn of the restaurant age, this standard of high service was carried on in the first restaurants in France. Now in America, only 50 percent of all places that can be labeled as restaurants actually have service. That means they are self service establishments. What happened to the idea that a restaurant was a place to go and be restored?

     The term restaurant truthfully means restorative. This meants to restore the bodies health, and rest the body from it’s daily toils. Most modern restaurants are meerly like a ferris wheel that goes around, meaning they rely more on their ability to turn their seats, maximize profit, and continue to serve. When this principal comes into play, we tend to forget that our guests are what makes the restaurant stay open. In a casual or fine dining setting, it is the guest service area that adds value to the food that is being served. In other parts of the world , Europe for example, guest service is a professional career, where as here in the U.S. it is mainly students or people that are between careers that fill this spot. I am not saying that these people can not make good servers, however, there is usually quite a lot of less care and effort put forward towards the guests.

    There are many that woud agree that American Restaurants need to take notes from their European conterparts, and start to turn our idea of service back to the focus on the guest, and their over all experience when dining out. If this principal is adhered to closely, it will gain customer satisfaction, and keep the seats of the restaurant full. These things that need to have a  closer look include decoration, music, appearance of the servers, and the over all service of guests.

     When speaking of decoration, many restaurant owners tend to think that since they own the restaurant, their style is all that matters, and they can decorate how they please. Poor decoration can be the difference between a successful restaurant, and one that fails. If your guests are appauled at your profound idea of decoration, surely they will not return. The second major thing in a restaurant atmosphere is music. The things that people hear will distract them, and it might hinder the way they order from the menu. If music must be present, it more than likely should not be vocal, and kept at a minimum volume. Third, if the appearance of the servers in the front of the house is foul, people will tend to less frequent. Last, if over all service is not at the fore front of any restaurant, it more than likely will fail.

    In conclusion, guest service has changed over the last 100 years, especially with the influx of self serve and fast food restaurants. However, this does not change the fact that people still go out to dinner for the experience, and not always because they are hungry. Guest service in America needs to remain the top priority in our restaurants, if we are to be truthfully comitted to hospitality.

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