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While vacationing in a major city overseas, it was quite impossible for me not to notice how poorly tourists were being treated in some food service establishments. I will not mention the name, but it was a city that was flooded with tourists from all over the world.
Everyone knows, from big city restaurants to restaurants in resort areas, that tourists can be very difficult at times. But, when it comes to restaurant service, the reality is that one must get past the surface, and be most understanding of a tourist's situation.
Jet lag, being in a foreign place, unfamiliarity with the language or currency are all factors that feed into the bizarre actions and wacky behavior of a tourist. I won't even to exclude myself from this category at certain times when traveling.
Instead of taking on these attitudes personally, a restaurant operator or waiter must flip the coin to the other side where a little compassion and understanding goes a very long way regardless of the situation.
For example, I had just experienced a long, but most interesting day touring the incredible and wondrous sights of this city when all I wanted to do was get a decent, relaxing bite to eat.
As I kept walking into restaurants asking a simple question, I would receive unexpected poor treatment in return. Now, everyone in the world who goes out to spend the money to dine wants to relax and feel welcome--not to feel intimidated or threatened in any way.
But, the latter kept happening to me time and again. So I kept walking out of these restaurants in utter disbelief ---refusing to plunk down money for a bad food service experience.
Then, I finally gave it one more chance at a small trattoria on a little side street asking for one of my favorite dishes-- fettuccine with clam sauce. All of the other restaurants had turned me down. They would only serve "spaghetti" with clam sauce and no other variation.
But, this owner of the restaurant said "Yes, certainly sir, whatever you would like us to prepare for you." So, I sat down and enjoyed the entire "fettuccine with clam sauce" thoroughly. Then, I ordered an excellent dessert, and the owner brought me a cappuccino on the house (pennies to make)-- with a big smile on his face.
Well, to say the least, everything was perfect: the meal and the incredible customer service. The owner had relaxed me quite a bit after a somewhat stressful day--as touring can be sometimes.
From that point onward, this customer service expert owned me. At the end of each touring day, I kept returning to enjoy his restaurant -–most happy to bring him the extra business.
As a restaurant service person, if you are going to put in the time and effort into performing a job, why not put the ego aside to please the customer with a smile and friendly service? It really is the humane thing to do. Otherwise, one is wasting precious time in this industry.
Restaurant service for tourists is always a double edged sword. On one hand, it is very difficult to serve tourists for the reasons mentioned above. Yet, on the other hand, their spending can often make or break a business. These days, nobody can afford to lose business simply because of a lack of courtesy and respect.
As time goes by, tourism will be increasing in this world as people with more disposable income want to get out of their own dwellings and find out the mysteries of other cultures. Just because one tourist walks in a little nutty, doesn't mean they all will.
Also remember, these tourists will tell their friends about their restaurant service experiences, even in other countries. I, myself, will definitely recommend this particular restaurant to family and friends who travel to this city in the future.
Who wants to take the chance of getting burned somewhere else?
Whether you are an owner/operator, manager, or waitperson, are you treating tourists well in your establishment?
Richard Saporito, founder of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, has over 30 years restaurant service experience in many diverse and profitable New York City establishments. He has worked in restaurants of all sizes and shapes ranging from small independent start-ups to large scale corporate operations with seating capacities of over 1500. Richard uses this successful experience to help owners, managers, and dining room staffs achieve that outstanding customer service reputation which always sets a restaurant apart from its fierce competition. Richard has written “How To Improve Dining Room Service” which is widely used for setting up and organizing restaurant dining room service. With each consulting job, this book always gets implemented in one way or another. The reasons being is that the concepts explained inside the book will help put the correct dining room service systems in place and keep them functioning properly for years to come.