Good service is more than just a trend
At the start of each year you come across articles in industry magazines or websites focusing on trends for the next 12 months that lay ahead. They normally ask some well known bartenders what they think will be “the big thing” and in the past we have seen molecular mixology, barrel aging, bottled cocktails, bourbon, rye, gin, rye again…. and so on. One prediction that I kept seeing appear on the lists for 2013 was “service”. Actually, it was “good service”. Is that what we have come to now? Have we bottled every barrel (or is that barrelled every bottle?), made every possible shrub and tincture, run out of teapots, jars and buckets and pickled every living thing we could get our hands on? We are so desperate to offer the customer something new, we are actually considering giving them “good service”? It says a lot about the hospitality industry (yes, foodies, I’m looking at you as well) that good service has become a goal or mantra rather than a given.
Everybody has their opinion on exactly what good service is and some patrons are more demanding than others, but I think it is fair to say that all bar owners start off with “good service” being pretty high on their list of objectives. Then they start to realise that the more people you serve, the more money you make, and instead of customers getting a lesson on the nuances of highland tequila they are being sold bottled Palomas and having their change thrown back at them.
A survey conducted a few years ago found that Japan was seen as the number one country in the world for service (we came in eighth) but what was most interesting is that there is no tipping in the land of the rising sun. In fact it is frowned upon whereas in Russia you are expected to tip 13 per cent of the bill, otherwise Putin himself will ride through the door topless on a stallion and bitch slap you. I mention Russia because they came last out of the 40 countries surveyed. So if the chance of a good tip is not enough for people to provide good service, then what is?
The highlight of my career in this industry so far has been a visit to Hidetsugu Ueno’s Bar High Five in Tokyo. The quality of the cocktails are without peer, the atmosphere is perfect but it is the service that puts him in a league of his own. Culture plays a huge part in this and culture is something that cannot be taught (a visit to a V8 race will tell you that). Training is a good place to start though, and only once we have installed the importance of quality service into the minds of our staff will we be able to focus on the really important issues: where do we put that slushie machine?