This blogpost on the very interesting blog of Steve Curtin made me realize what I already knew secretly: Most people don’t complain because they like to complain, want reduction or to try make your life difficult. Instead of that 95% of the complaints are because the guest experiences something different than what (s)he expected on the basis of the price they pay, the image of the restaurant or what (s)he has heard or read on the internet. In fact this is the very basis of all ServQual models. A well know formula is Quality = Perceived Service – Expectations.
If you keep this in mind, it’s much easier to handle complaints and to solve them. Let me remind you of some basic (well-known) rules
Don’t take it personal and don’t be too defensive
Paraphrase (repeat in other words) to see whether you have a full understanding of the problem
Show comprehension:’I understand that you..‘. Use the I-form as much as possible to show that you feel responsibility to solve the problem. Apologize if applicable
Ask what the guests expected/expects or wants. Often this little question (what do you expect me to do) is the beginning of the guest’s satisfaction
Solve it yourself! If you receive the plaint, it’s yours and your responsibilty to solve it. Of course you can give the problem to another person (a collegue if you don’t have time or your manager if it’s beyond your limits) but it stays your responsibility and checkback if everything is allright at the end
Use the complaint as input for improvements in your service, food or procedures
It was my birthday in 2007. A little English girl at table 406 proves that the best presents aren’t tangible. She’s sitting less than a second at table and is already asking a signature from me. It happens that I give one at the end of the dinner, but never that fast at the beginning. A bit astonished I say very humble:”But I’m not important“. Her answer is very prompt:”But everybody is important” and gives these words meaning by giving a big hug! Maybe one of the best birthday presents ever !
The new season starts and that means a bunch of new collegues from all over Europe (around 3000 this summer!) One of them is Pedro from Spain. Another camerero loco ! (maybe even more loco than me :)) Specially dedicated to him this song from 2002.
The song tells the story of a pimp-like “afro-gipsy, rastafari” character named Diego who walks into a crowded nightclub at midnight, and the DJ, as he sees Diego walk in, plays the “twelve-o’clock anthem”, “the song he desires most”, which happens to be the 1979 rap hit “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang. The first verse of Rapper’s Delight: “I say the hip hop, the hippie…”, pronounced phonetically in Spanish the way it would sound to someone who does not understand English, becomes the chorus of The Ketchup Song. Although technically meaningless and sometimes referred to as gibberish, the chorus is a more-or-less phonetic pronunciation of the first verse almost in its entirety.
I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie
Aserejé ja de jé de jebe
do the hip hip hop, a you don’t stop
tu de jebere sebiunouva
the rockin’ to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie
When I came to my current workplace almost five years ago, I saw several maps in different languages. “What would it be cool to be able to understand and speak them all”, I thought- and wished by myself. I started with Dutch (mother tongue), English and a very basic knowledge of French and German.
Then I had to take orders in Spanish, so I started to learn that language. Later I got Italian friends, thus I wanted also be able to speak with them in their mothertongue. It’s still surprising how fast you get rapport with people -at work or in privatelife- when you speak their mother tongue.
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela
I did it all with the colleagues, guests and of course my fantastic friends from all over Europe. They even started a Facebook group:”Also I have corrected the CrazyWaiter at least once in my life”. I also used magazines, music and a lot internet resources. (start with hospitalitywords.com of course!) I didn’t really work hard for it (in the sense that I closed myself in the library to learn lists of words) but it didn’t go automatically neither.
Today my manager handed me a little pinboard with four flags. (French isn’t given because everybody speaks it. And unfortunately they don’t have it for five languages – so my mother tongue is a separate pin ;)). A very tangible prove that my wish of 2006 has been fulfilled and yours will also become reality as long as you work hard for it and wish enough. Hey, didn’t I work in a place where dreams come true?
This improvisation can also be done with real guests (or collegues), with real conversations. You “translate” what the other says by using you’re fantasy, in a real language or not. A lot of variations is possible, also depending on your own knowledge of the languages and inspiration. You can add up fun with non-verbal signs and face-expressions!
I do it also with collegues who speak Arab or Hindi in our break. Nobody understands them (included me), but I’m so kind to ‘translate’ for my colleagues. Ofcourse you use similar sounds, so when somebedy says ‘tingelingeling’, you translate it as ‘bell’ or ‘phone’.
Take care, not everybody likes to be fake-dubbed 🙂 That’s why it might be safer to do it with colleagues (warned or not warned by you) in front of the guests.
Here somebody speaks ‘Swedish’ about a Volvo and the other has to “translate”. It comes from Whose line is it anyway and the game is called expert translation.
This idea is also used in one of my favorite films ‘La vita è bella’
Beside explaining the buffet, we’re not speakers for big groups or audiences (not yet ;)) but also we have our hostile guests who keep their distance to you. The strategy of Diane DiResta is also useful to handle them: depersonalize, detach and defuse.
A very nice quote in the Parisien English-bookshop Shakespeare and company. This is a pretty famous English bookshop near the Notre Dame in Paris. See these photos to get an impression.
The inscription at the top of the stairs is a welcome sign at the gates of heaven. Heaven in this case is the Tumbleweed Hotel, the upper floors of the shop, where chances are the vagabonds you meet will be tumbleweeds and wanderers will be angels. (*) In former days writers could spend the night at this upper floor in exchange for some help in the shop. Other obligations were making up your own bed and read a book a day! (*) A very special kind of hospitality, isn’t it?
So be extra nice next time when you serve a guest you don’t know, it might be an angel!
Normally you’d describe a wine by his taste or terms on a flavour wheel. Peter Klose, a luxury restaurant owner and founder of the Academy for Gastronomy has desscribed a new flavour theory to describe wines and match them with food. In this blogpost I describe this system very briefly. Maybe too briefly, so when you’re interested, I advice you to read the extensive English summary which can be found here or even better the original thesis (which can’t be found online, but maybe in the university library nearby).
The central part is mouthfeel. There are three parameters to describe food and beverages in this system
Acidity and saltiness trigger a contracting response in the mouth. Also drying (roughing, puckering) effect in the mouth caused by tannins (red wine) and other bitter tasting elements (as in coffee, tea or unsweetened chocolate) is also characteristic of contracting mouthfeel.
Creamy, fatty substances and those containing a significant amount of dissolved sugars coat the mouth. In other words, they leave a layer of fat or sugar behind. In beverages, alcohol and sugars are viscous, coating elements. They coat the mouth, and this coating may influence the way in which the mouth perceives the next mouthful of food it encounters. Proteins also produce a coating mouthfeel, especially amino acids and some chemical substitutions like gelatin.
How more taste, how higher the flavour richness
Foods and drinks can be classified with the three above-mentioned parameters. Contracting mouthfeel, coating mouthfeel and flavour richness can all be scaled from low to high. Combining these parameters give 8 combinations, which is visualized in the three-dimensional model below: the flavour styles cube
primary flavour factors
3. balance fresh
7. balance ripe
Flavour is what wines and food have in common. Thus, the same descriptors can be used. This leads to new guidelines for the paring of food and wine. Basically, good combinations are found if the flavour profile of wines and foods resemble one another. In other words:
Contracting wines go well with contracting foods
Coating wines go well with coating foods
The flavour richness of wines and foods should be about the same
The rule of thumb when composing a menu is to progress from contracting to coating foods and wines, and from lower levels of flavour richness to higher levels.
Culinary success factors
The research of mr. Klosse also showed that there are six characteristics for a successful combination of product characteristics of a restaurant dish. (‘palatability’). When applied to the recipes in a hospital in Danmark, the patient satisfaction with regard to food has risen very much.
the name and presentation must fit the expectation
the aroma should be appetising and appropriate to the food
there should be a good balance of flavour components in relation to the food
the savoury, ‘deliciousness’ factor, umami (also called the fifth basic taste), must be present
the mouthfeel of the dish should offer a mix of hard and soft textures
The CrazyWaiter spent his well-earned weekend in Brussels. He ate in three restaurants but was surprised by Steakfrit‘. There’s no need to do always fancy things in life, sometimes you have to keep it stupid simple but do it f#cking fabulous. The menu is with traditional belgian dishes for very reasonable prices especially in Brussel where the brasseries ask higher prices in general.
The most popular plate (ordered by 70% of the guests) is of course the steak: Angus primebeef, specially imported from Ireland. The steak is a cut of the finest and tastiest part: the Sirloin and tasted very well. It’s accompanied with belgian frites, stoemp (mashed patatoes with vegetables) and a salade.
The service by Morgane and her coworkers of Steakfrit’ Grand Place was great (BTW I loved their shirts) and one of the many things that made this restaurant special was the unlimited refill (‘la repasse’) with the steak, frites and/or stoemp. This is not usual and makes that you always eat warm food. (and let’s be honest, it costs a little seen the fact that only 20% takes something extra but it gives a great hospitality and ‘value for money’ feeling for your guests). Other remarkable choice of the restaurant is the fact that they only serve three wines to keep life simple: red, rosé and white for one price €18 for a bottle, also very reasonable. Also pretty unusual is the fact that kids up to 8 years dine for free and up to 12 for 50% of the price.
Last but not least : my former qualitymanager-heart started to beat a bit faster when I saw that they gave a questionnaire with the bill. Not too extensive (if I remember well only three questions: what was good, what wasn’t good, do you have suggestions) but it shows again the focus on quality by Steakfrit’ ! It looked like a make-easy-money-tourist trap, but it was GREAT!
If you understand Dutch it’s worth looking at the videos Foodinspiration.be has taken about Steakfrit. (page 3)
In the cinema this summer: CrazyWaiter the movie. I won’t spoil the story already, but I can tell you that it starts as a tragicomedy and will end as a fairytale with a beautiful, lovely princess and a big castle “Once upon a time…” 🙂
Of course this is a gimmick for my facebookfriends, but the question which inspired me to do this was:’If you’re life is a movie, how would it be like?’ It’s an interesting one to think about your history, see the present and dream about the future. What do you want to happen.. and what above all not to happen? How? When? Where? It’s widely known that visualizing your goals is a good technique to reach them. Life is a movie and you are the director!
A 14 year old boy died after eating two hamburgers at Quick (comparable to McDonalds) in the south of France. This was a big shock for me because people in this age aren’t that vulnerable compared to elderly, pregnant women and kids. They are still investigating how this could have happened, but it’ pretty sure that there’s a link between the hygiene in the restaurant and the death of the boy.
This made me aware of the fact that we as waiter are also responsible for e-ve-ry-thing the guest puts in his mouth. A lot of this is touched by us, thus it’s very important to wash our hands well regularly. In this video it’s shown how!
We all know that speaking the guests language is THE way to get rapport with him or her. Especially to make contact with the children it’s good to speak some words of their mothertongue. That’s why I’m started to learn the basics of several languages. I love to share my knowledge, thus I’m proud to present the
Thanks to my lovely friends who added translations and proofread what I had, I can present my readers words to use in your restaurant in 9 languages. More languages and functionalities are to come quick! (follow us at Twitter of Facebook).