Have you been in a restaurant lately where the server said all the right things while being attentive and even sincere, yet that sense of employee training still shined through? It’s not that I don’t have any appreciation for a good experience in a restaurant or any other business. And, I am sure I must have given the same impression all too often while practicing those five years in a corporate environment. But, I was recently reminded that there is a better way to serve customers which creates a far more memorable and enjoyable experience both for the server and the ones being served. And you may not even think of yourself as a customer.
For Connie and me, the cuisine in Italy far exceeded our expectations in taste, presentation and nutritional value. There was another aspect which left an even more favorable impression on me in the family owned eating establishments we visited. Even though there are an incredible number of trattorias (Italian term for family owned eating establishment) in that small European country, the service rendered to diners was free of any sense of competition. Instead there was a general sense of joy and satisfaction in being able to offer good food and, more importantly, a relaxed time favorable for deepening relationships. Two experiences stand out as examples of naturally occurring customer service.
The first was at La Tagliata, a bustling, family owned establishment near Positano on the Amalfi coast. Even in the dark we couldn’t miss the adjacent garden where vegetables and herbs grew to supply the staples of meals being served. Just as though we were an invited guest into an Italian home, there was no menu. Instead we experienced four waves of entrees prepared in the kitchen for us that night by “mama”. By the time we finished desert, we hoped for a chance to meet her. Sure enough, she came out to greet those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed her cooking and hospitality. The surroundings and the atmosphere were so unique that no thought of comparison to another restaurant dared enter our minds. The servers would never bring our check until it was requested by one of us being served, so there was no sense of being moved along to make room for the next party. We left there hoping we could one day return!
The other was in Rome at lunchtime in a busy and highly successful restaurant. Somehow in the midst of so many crowded tables, we felt the same sense of being a guest in a family home. One brief, unexpected moment during the meal, a man who appeared to be the “papa” gently laid his hand on my shoulder in such a way as to convey sincere individualized attention making me feel as though we were long time friends.
It’s not that customer service in our culture is a bad thing at all. However, if I owned a business, it would be my goal to imitate the shared family type relationship with everyone who sought my services.