After 22hrs of travel and multiple airport connections we finally arrive in Christchurch New Zealand at 7:30 am with no luggage. My wife and I head to THE GEORGE hotel hoping, but not expecting, to be able to check in exceptionally early at 8:30am. We received a very warm welcome and explained our situation. As expected, our room was not ready, but they proceeded to check us in and would see what they could do. We got a map and figured we would get an espresso and buy some clothes as our luggage is still 24 hours away! We take a seat in the lobby to study the map and develop a game plan to occupy us for a few hours. Within a few minutes the receptionist, Amanda (I think that was her name) stoped by to let us know that they were going to upgrade us at no charge to a suite that was available. What struck me wasn’t the upgrade, which was very generous, but the EMPATHY that was shown for our situation. The desire to make us comfortable even though our predicament wasn’t their fault was genuine and heartfelt. It didn’t end there though. What I thought was a bell boy going to grab our carry on out of storage turned out to be the hotel Concierge – Daniel. He met us at the room and does the normal song and dance reviewing the amenities. While doing so, he got and idea of some of the things we were interested in and told us to come down to the desk before we left THE GEORGE. When we came down to the Concierge desk he had a map ready with a list of things to do that we might be interested in. As well, he spent an additional 20 minutes mapping out several other last minute ideas. I know some of this is what a concierge is supposed to do, but there was something different about how he did it. He looked us in the eye, he heard what we said and made us feel comfortable. His empathy for our situation and desire to make our life easier allowed us to relax and really enjoy that first day in New Zealand despite the jet lag and lost luggage. Amanda and Daniel understood the difference between empathy and sympathy a key component in exceptional service!
I was recently in Philadelphia and had dinner at a very hip and trendy restaurant. I was by myself with no reservations, so got a comfy seat at the cool looking oval-like bar in the center of the restaurant. The space had a good feel to it but as soon as I sat at the bar I began to feel uncomfortable. I am not dressed particularly fashionable, and the two “designer” bar tenders seemed less than impressed that I was sitting at their bar. I sat there for 5 minutes and 34 seconds before the male bartender finally broke away from some regulars to greet me. His female counter part was on the other side of the bar primping her hair and face with her girlfriends. If the male tender knew I had been waiting he made no reference to it. In fact, after he gave me a menu he made the comment, “when you know what you want, let me know” and walked away. As the bar began to fill, it became very obvious that the two tenders would make a bee line for the “designer” regulars, but the average looking joe’s like myself were ignored. Normally I always order of a variety of appetizers and an entrée when trying out a new place, but that night I only ordered an entrée because I could not get either bar tender to provide me information about the menu. In fact, my wine glass remained empty most of the night and I had to beg for a 2nd glass when my entrée came out. For a while I thought this entire “designer” image thing was in my head until the irritated customer next to me made the following off handed comment “don’t I look money enough for service” to the one bartender. Unfortunately, as correct as his comment was, he became the “A-hole” customer in the eyes of the two designer bartenders. It was really quite sad as the ambiance and menu of the place looked great. But for the bartenders it was all about them.
One of the perks of being in this industry and being a Master Sommelier is the opportunity to eat at a wide variety of restaurants all over the country. This blog will consist of real life service experiences I have encountered. I will not review ordinary everyday dining experiences but rather the extraordinary events, both good and bad, that just happen. If the server or restaurant goes out of their way, I will post it so everyone can see what the pursuit of excellence requires. If the experience is dreadful it will be posted here, without names, so everyone can see how not to do it. My hope is that it will become a real life service training manual with actual experiences.