Top Hospitality Observations in 2014

In 2014 I’ve seen small garden café’s and large hotel groups. I’ve seen professional and less professional hospitality staff and I’ve been in the back office of many a destination. Here are my top 10 observations from 2014 – take it, use it and take 2015 by storm with new angles, new excitement and new plans:

Consistency is king ©RenatedeVilliers

Consistency is king ©RenatedeVilliers

  1. Why would a hotel room be perfect if housekeeping’s offices behind the scenes are unorganized? Like in life, beauty comes from the inside.  Start there.
  2. Consistency is king. When a guest is served a biscuit with his coffee today and not tomorrow, he will be disappointed. Don’t set a standard you can’t keep up with.
  3. Too few restaurants see the importance in gluten free and other healthier alternatives on their menus. If you ask me, a whole menu section dedicated to that might put you at the top of the list for many customers.
  4. Waitrons need additional communication skills and self-confidence. It seems that many waitrons would rather say nothing and only check their tables once, in order to protect themselves from difficult customers. It’s true that customers are difficult, but a waiter with self-confidence has less trouble than those who serve with fear.
  5. Branding still triggers the memory. Many establishments don’t use branded coasters, swizzle sticks, plates and other tangible items, probably mainly due to cost. Still, seeing the branding image at the entrance of a destination, again at reception, in the room or at the restaurant table and on the bill burns the memory into the customer’s brain. It’s one of the first things he will recall when someone asks for a referral to a restaurant or destination.
  6. Loyalty makes the destination. I’m not talking about customers’ loyalty. I’m talking about employees working for the destination’s loyalty. If staff don’t have the same reason for serving customers than what the destination promises, they might do more damage than good.
  7. First impressions really do last forever. If a guest is not greeted on arrival, not assisted with his luggage or not made feel welcome by a great atmosphere with audible background music, he might just not want to return.
  8. Small things have big impacts. Noticing your regular guests’ preferences and acting on it before they need to request it, makes a big impression. A fresh flower on the bed, bath salt in the bathroom, the guest’s favourite chocolate or hot chocolate on a cold winters’ night – those things make them feel at home.
  9. It’s a human thing. Guests don’t want to feel like numbers. They want to feel like friends. Being able to meet the chef or the general manager, exchanging a few short sentences and getting to know the people who play an integral role at the place they dine and stay, make guests feel important.
  10. At the end of the day, experience is all that matters. The thing with experience is that everything is interlinked: service standards, tastes, textures, ambiance, conversation, views, smells, sounds… That’s why every employee in the company needs to understand the whole restaurant / hotel wheel to see where they fit in and to ensure that they are able to meet those standards.

Restaurants: You’ve got to be consistent

I love visiting new restaurants. There’s a certain sense of excitement to not knowing what to expect. Still, like any customer, I always expect a certain standard when it comes to customer service and the customer journey. Things like a friendly welcome, knowledge about the menu and the correct table settings are a few of the expectations that any normal customer would have.

The other day I was served a compliment in a cup at an upper-class restaurant in Hyde Park – something different to what I expected and which made me feel like the most important customer on the floor. Neatly written in the foam on top were the words: “Nice earrings. You’re beautiful.” My mom was in the area and I called her. “You’ve got to come and have a cappuccino with me!” I said, convinced that her cup would be filled with a compliment too. Unfortunately, when her cup arrived, it looked like any other normal cappuccino from an ordinary restaurant. Needless to say… I was bummed.

Compliment in a cup

Compliment in a cup

Which brings me back to the topic at hand: Be consistent!

Customers like something different, but they want to know that they will receive either the same service or better service the next time around. That’s just how it is. I expected another compliment, or at least one for my mom, and got none. Wouldn’t you expect that too?

What do Restaurants need to be consistent on then?

  • Friendliness – there’s no use in welcoming one customer with a smile and the next with a frown.
  • Food and drink – customers expect food and drinks to look like on the menu. Keep it that way.
  • Timing – When you serve one customer’s meal within less than 10 minutes, the others would expect that too. You’d better keep up the pace then.
  • Small things – When one cup of coffee is served with a bevnap and the other one not, it is not consistency. Same goes for glasses without straws, bills without mints or cappuccinos without biscotti (if that’s your trademark).

Can you think of any other things that you’ve noticed restaurants slip up with regarding consistency?