Good service is always paramount

11 January 2007
Good service is always paramount

I'm always disappointed when I read letters such as the one from Michelle Mellor (Caterer, 21 December, page 16) on good food spoiled by poor service.

I was trained in an era when hotels were operated by hoteliers rather than accountants. The customer was always right. The service you gave was the difference between a second visit or your name being mud. It was a time when owners and managers knew that good service brought financial returns. It was a pleasure to work in the industry and customers were treated with respect - and appreciated it.

I've been involved in the industry all my life and have seen standards fall. Everything is now bottom line - get them in, get them out. The more you fill the restaurant, the more you make. Let the customer do the work. Give them just enough, but not that bit extra.

But there are exceptions. I've worked with a number of groups over the last few years on mystery visits. My reports are always based on the quality of service. Minor faults can be overcome. Decor can be put right, menus changed. The influx of some foreign staff who work hard is good, but language is sometimes a barrier.

A number of hotel groups I feel which are accountant-led are using computerised returns to evaluate their customer satisfaction. That is a tool, as is placing questionnaires in rooms, but a visit by a person can determine whether the service is right. A computer cannot.

There are people who have vast experience in the trade who could do that for you. We have to look at service in our industry. We have to be the best and understand the customer always has alternatives to you.

The marketplace is getting tougher, and good service will keep you at the front.

Dudley R Seale

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