I've travelled a great deal on business, and one of the less rewarding results is that I've stayed alone in a number of business hotels over the years in towns that wouldn't be my top choice for pleasure trips, at times of year when they're not at their best for sightseeing. The hotel restaurant is populated by men eating alone, and rooms service is busy serving all the women-on-their-own who didn't want to come down for fear of being 'hit on', or for fear of being thought to be looking for 'clients' by the staff.
I choose not to frequent such restaurants as a general rule. I prefer to get out, have a walk, grab "fast food" and eat it back in my room, or in the fast food joint; there's just something about eating alone in a restaurant that makes me want to crawl under the table. But I will make exceptions; some restaurants / chains have it right.
If I'm hungry and there's one to hand, I'll eat alone at TGI Fridays. Why? Isn't it a brash, American Family and Party restaurant? Well, yes, it is ... but they have something right. Something in how the staff interact with and treat the customers. You're not stood over as the order is taken; typically they'll squat at the end of the table to take the order (and I've even had the server sit at the inevitable second seat to take the order). They know if you're on your own that you don't want a long wait to talk (to yourself?) so serve quickly. And they come back to see how the food is ... fill up your drink ... somehow they seem able to get the timing right.
Over the years, I've watched servers in restaurants and learn from them - the good and the bad. Training is very much a service industry, with trainees returning and recommending if they enjoy the experience
. Watch us as we interact and serve coffees, lunches; you'll see the friendly Fridays approach. Even watch me as I present the course and then go round the trainees during practicals
and you'll see some startling similarities ...
Heathrow Airport. Terminal 3. Airside.
Does this sound like a distinctly difficult place to provide good restaurant service. Have you even been through these bigger UK airports and found the staff less than enthusiastic, the food lacklustre and the individuality missing? Well - I have!
Last Thursday, Lisa and I flew to Washington DC from Heathrow. Check in, a dream. Security fast (and no queues) and time to kill in the shops and restaurants. Chose TGIFs ... and pleasantly surprised. Friendly young gent served us - I guess he was from one of the ....nias that joined the EU last year. Came back to check. Food brought out fresh when ready (and not from under a heatlamp), checked we were OK, more coffee offered. Good to see the chain still has these gems of surprises.
Sunday, and a great storm had swept over North East Virginia the previous 24 hours, blanketing it in snow. Everyone was alerted to the risks of going out, and a blizzard followed blowing the snow around. By late morning, roads had been swept but the windchill tempertarure was just 5 degree F (minus 15 C) so we were amongst the first to "brave" out and eat with Sister-in-Law before returning to the airport for our flight home.
Ruby Tuesday's was open. Good meals in the past there, so in we wander. More staff than customers, and we're seated and served quickly. But my order of a steak, rare, turned out to be what I would describe as "well done". Oh well - nice piece of meat; different dish to that ordered but what the heck. SIL felt I should make comment, and did so when the waitress came to check up on "hows the meal". Cutting a longs story short (yes, I CAN), I elected to keep the steak rather that switch to a new one which would have been a different dish, and accepted a desert on the house. Waitress had spoken with manager, apology offered and accepted, recompense offered and, yes, I would eat there again.
Thank you Tuesdays, thank you Fridays for your service and your demonstrations of how it should be done. I'm happy to learn how some of your customer service techniques apply in our field (and we do apply them), and I'll be visiting both of your establishments again in the future. (written 2005-01-25, updated 2006-06-05)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesG501 - Well House Consultants - Customer Service 
On Customer Service - (2004-10-03) 
On line every 24 hours - (2004-10-17) 
Feedback shows the tip of an iceberg - (2004-11-22) 
Confession - (2004-12-13) 
Customer service - examples to warn us - (2005-01-30) 
Giving customers best value - (2005-03-02) 
Business practise, 2005 style - (2005-04-03) 
How far should our support go - (2005-05-28) 
Want to be one better - (2005-06-17) 
Trainer answers phone - (2005-07-28) 
Upgrade! - (2005-09-09) 
Different ways of selling - (2005-11-01) 
Keeping Customers Informed - (2006-01-02) 
May all your screw-ups be big ones - (2006-01-16) 
Instructions for bright people - (2006-01-19) 
Been on a course, but still not got it? - (2006-02-16) 
And the staff put the icing on the cake - (2006-02-23) 
Active Learning - (2006-02-28) 
A person of few words - (2006-03-18) 
A customer service company - (2006-05-11) 
Better communication - (2006-05-19) 
Forum help - a push in the right direction - (2006-08-21) 
Eventful evening - a lesson in looking after contacts - (2006-09-02) 
Just ******* Google it - (2006-11-25) 
Products that our customers want more of - (2006-12-03) 
CSL, KISS and RTFM - (2006-12-05) 
Friends and family - (2006-12-25) 
Bounce, bounce, bounce - (2007-01-20) 
Keep in touch with PHP, Perl, Python and old friends too - (2007-07-09) 
Customer feedback - lifeblood of a business - (2007-08-25) 
Market survey - to learn, to prove a point, or to sell your product? - (2007-11-17) 
An answer to a student asking 'Help' - (2007-11-27) 
Pictures you can use - for free - from our library - (2008-01-23) 
Sheep Shearers, Marathon Runners and Ocean Sailors - (2008-04-09) 
Providing exceptional service - and carrying on doing so. - (2008-05-09) 
23:30 bookings and midnight checkins - (2008-10-12) 
Learning to program as a part of your job - (2009-01-10) 
Rules for a King - (2009-01-13) 
Service Excellence Awards - (2009-01-30) 
Why Choose Well House Consultants for your course? - (2009-02-20) 
What do people think of our Apache httpd / Tomcat course? - (2009-03-24) 
Building down expectations - (2009-04-09) 
Alumni - revisiting and supporting the old University - (2009-06-13) 
Questions I have been asked on answering the phone - (2009-06-26) 
Taking a knock over Santa - (2009-12-08) 
Getting a phone line changed ... - (2010-02-25) 
Getting in touch - Please allow me to see you when you are online - (2010-07-21) 
Initial handling of phone calls and walk in visitors - (2010-09-19) 
Customer Service - the boundary - (2010-11-27) 
Thank you - and Happy Christmas - (2010-12-24) 
The importance of feedback - (2011-04-30) 
It's not just about the jam in the sandwich - (2011-05-19) 
New product - ensuring that supply matches demand - (2011-08-03) 
Can you put names to faces? - (2012-07-19) 
The Information age - not yet truly with us? - (2012-08-12) 
Palty or Parliamentary? - (2013-04-30) 
Train works for me! - (2013-05-02) 
Not wanted here - hotel guests who will not be happy - (2013-12-30)
Some other Articles
The wrong MySQLCurrent MySQL and PHP paths and upgradesSetting up a training room for a coursePython enginesTuesdays and FridaysPink elephant and appreciationa popular bus numberLullWho am I?MTBF of coffee machines