Sunday, January 30, 2011

Five points for service. What does that tells us?

We, along with a lot of other people consult the SMH and Age “Good Food Guides” from time to time to check out places we might eat. These guides score each eatery out of 20. Five of the 20 points are allocated for service and 3 for ambience. In describing the review process (SMH Good Food Guide 2010, page x), the editors say, “If we wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending a restaurant to a friend, we won’t include it.”
This comment raises an interesting question—how well does the review process capture the full range of reasons that the friend might go to a restaurant and so, how useful is the recommendation?
Based on extensive research and consulting in the food & beverage sector, we have developed a framework for evaluating restaurants and cafes; a framework that has been useful for our clients in helping them to establish a clear perspective when assessing how well their own venues are functioning.
Among other things, the framework highlights the fact that people go to restaurants for a range of reasons. Indeed, the same person might go to the same restaurant for quite different reasons on successive visits. The important thing about this observation is the implications that it has for the kind of service a person experiences.
For example, a group might go from the office to have a working lunch. In this case the restaurant is an extension of the office and the group wants to focus on the work they are doing. The last thing they want is continual interruption from waiters hoping to discuss food, wine and “how is everything?”
One member of the group might go to the same place in the evening with a prospective client. Now, they want to be recognized; they want to have the waiters congratulate them on their knowledge of the wine list. The aim during this meal is to impress a guest. 
Food court restaurants and cafes can usually get away with a service monoculture. People typically drop in for a quick pit stop to revive while shopping or waiting for a movie and they are in the restaurant to satisfy basic needs rather than savour the experience. Restaurants and cafes that set out to provide a memorable experience need to be more adaptable. This adaptability means training staff to recognize when a client sees the motivation for the meal as work, as an opportunity to make an impression, as a celebration and so on. Staff that make these kinds of distinctions and respond appropriately go a long way toward building customer loyalty.
I wonder exactly what kind of service culture is reflected in the Good Food Guide score?
Posted by Rob Hall

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