I had an interesting experience on the weekend at a high-end venue which was frustrating and disappointing, yet provoked some thinking and discussion.

I was quite excited to have a girlfriend visit me from interstate and my husband booked a table at the 8 pm sitting at a rather well known, high-end bar/restaurant. Regarding set sitting times, I’m still torn, and not sure how I feel about being told what time I am to eat when I’m spending big bucks. Whilst I completely understand from the venue perspective on why they structure sitting times, I still find being asked to move to a different table as soon as I have taken my last bite annoying, especially if we have spent hundreds of dollars! Surely there is an in-between – but this discussion is for another time. We have frequented this venue numerous times in the past, and have always enjoyed not only their food but their service. In fact, I have experienced service in this venue that went above and beyond what is required and shared it with whoever would listen!

Happy to share my latest experience however I wonder first if there is in fact a link between spending expectation vs dining experience? Would I have found the customer service at this venue poor if the expectation wasn’t that it was a premier dining venue; likely to cost me far more than an average amount although the return was going to be delivered back to me in an exceptional experience.

We were enjoying a drink in the bar and could see that our table was ready at 7:50 pm. We asked if we could go to our table but was advised that we couldn’t until they came to get us. We then sat there on our uncomfortable chairs, looking at our empty table until we were greeted ten minutes later.

We then had to wait a while, well actually we had to ask to see the menu. We enjoyed the “chef’s selection”, however, were served by a number of staff (am I being precious to suggest it is nicer to have 1 waiter/ress dedicated to our table?) We enjoyed delightful wine however had to call a waiter/ress to refill our drinks….. Hmm where are you??? This became even more frustrating given 4 waitresses were enjoying a laugh and a chat grouped together. Am I wrong to suggest that it is the simple things that ensure that patrons return?

I like good food. Simple. I like great restaurants, wine, and the social aspect of eating out. Given that I also work in the industry, eating out it is a good way for me to keep my finger on the pulse around what is being done well and what isn’t, especially in relation to innovation and customer experience. My recent experience has led me to ask the question; would you continue to dine in an amazing venue, where the ambiance, food, and wine is exceptional (and I mean exceptional) if you were to receive less than satisfactory service? Or do you tend to frequent a place where the food is so-so however the service is outstanding?

Hmmmmm, tough one and worth pondering. Fair to say that I probably could list frequent haunts of mine that fall into both categories, however; I have made my decision. I will not go back to this venue. I shall miss the ambiance, I will miss the wine and let me tell you that words cannot describe how much I will miss the food. However, I will not miss the service.

Let’s define it: customer service is the assistance and advice you provide to your diners. Customer service is equal parts communication and genuine attention to your diners. When guests visit a restaurant, they want you to make them feel welcome. Satisfied customers are integral to a successful venue’s business model. But the exciting thing is, your staff providing great customer service is free! A smile. Eye contact. The genuine interest shown, that’s all it takes.

In this day and age when HUGE DOLLARS are being spent by vendors on ensuring that their venues are on point with the latest fad, trend, or demographic clientele, not to mention having the best chef possible and yet it is all for nothing if your service is poor. People will simply not return. In this day and age, I do not think that any business has the luxury of losing clientele. One could argue that my expectations are too high however in this industry when patrons are not short of choices, more attention needs to be given to the front of house staff and how they make your customers feel.