As we enjoyed a beautiful autumn morning walk last week-end, we stopped at our local café for our - that's right - café au lait on the terrace.
We - at least Baby Lifestylette and I - are regulars, so at once saw that the owner and usual service were not there.
Nevermind, we order our coffees all the same.
That is, when our order is at last taken.
LFSTYLT husband, who has been in the food and drink business for ages always sees straight away what is wrong in a place.
I do admit it drives me sometimes berserk as he has the ability to completely destroy a place I love.
But most of the times, I love listening to all his knowledge on that matter and how he would improve this and that from the service to the menu to the tables and decoration.
So you will understand he was very irritated as service was taking ages and already asking how many tables were full inside so that could calculate how long service should actually be taking etc. I am sure he was already mentally designing a service blueprint for the café / restaurant.
Happy I could keep him sitting, we then waited for our coffees - again too long for LFSTYLT husband but in my opinion still a reasonable amount of time.
But then - horror movie style music accompanied by my heart sinking, this person was really not helping us stay longer - his cup of coffee had coffee literally spilled ALL. over. the. cup. (and saucer of course). No cute barista latte art, no little speculoos or even a coffee bean in chocolate, but whoa! little coffee grounds to decorate.
This time there was no way I could stop him - and I would be grateful if he wouldn't take off his coat, put on an apron and go behind the bar start steaming milk.
And at this point I can't blame him - the coffee there is not cheap and one does pay well for good coffee AND service.
So there we were - he who will not take any of this nonsense, and I who always want things to run smoothly... Shall we or shan't we say something?
In my family and bringing-up, well first, we rarely went out for a meal or even coffee or so. But when we did, it was so rare and such an event, that we would disregard what we looked upon as little inconveniences.
But I must admit, that the past years I have enjoyed lots of going out to cafés, restaurants, bars etc. and whereas I still keep the education of my parents in mind and heart, there are some things where I do start to speak up.
For instance - and my heart was racing as I did so - in a restaurant where the food was "homemade" and half of it was still frozen. Maybe they had frozen the homemade food. But it still was frozen nonetheless.
When did I start daring to do this thing: complain?
I think when I started realising that service was not matching what I was paying for. I of course do realise that if I go for a cheap burger I should not expect a Michelin-star burger served on a silver plate with white gloves.
But I do think, that over the course of the past few years, the level of service has been decreasing. A lot of people don't seem to care about what they do, how they serve it...and most importantly they don't seem to care about their customers. Ok let's add to this, I have especially noticed this behaviour in Western Europe.
So why is that?
I think in the particular case of food and beverage, a mix of factors.
Over, the past years, I have the impression there has been a big cultural change - again, at least in Europe. A lot of people do not want to service other people. They all want to study - to do what you say? Excellent question, unfortunately, a lot do not know but somehow nowadays you have to study and servicing others is frowned upon.
I find that ridiculous and must admit, I love the culture in the States for instance where no job is frowned upon.
However, these people do need to earn a living so what do they do? Go service others because, "anyone can do it", right?
But that is another mistake - not "anyone can do it". Good service needs to be trained. You need to have the food and drink business, customer orientation, if not in your blood at least in your heart. And with that, some good sense and good training, results good service.
Good training, you say? Yes, from a good boss or manager...who also know and love their business. And that is also a new phenomenon. Is it just me or has everyone over the past years decided they could and should open up a food / drink business? Sorry to break it to you but no, not everyone can do it. And if you aren't good at it, you can't train your team. And don't even get me started on what makes a good boss!
But hey, let us also be fair...this is only one side of the coin. If I have named a few factors leading to the impression of lesser customer service, the customers themselves are, I find, less respectful than they used to be. And remember...if you treat people badly, they will treat you badly...
So even if sometimes, service really is bad, maybe we all should also think twice before saying or not saying anything and especially how we say it :)