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I have just received and read an interesting article:

Serving up a great restaurant customer experience

To be honest, I do mostly agree with the article. Yes – a friendly, engaging, enabling atmosphere and approach to guests is important. However there is one big issue: Nowadays people (managers / directors) assume, that if you are good with guest engagement as well as complaint handling, you do have a winner venue.

I am sure, that you are not surprised, that I have got a very different opinion.

The issue here is, that guest engagement supposed to be part of the experience – not the only part of the experience. Guests/customers are dining out, to eat and drink; the quality of residential F&B is (or at least should) be a huge difference of what we F&B professionals should be able to offer.

But due to the very different focus I experienced, that <good> employees and job applicants are often very good “with guests”, but it is almost impossible to find staff, which is very good at the core-skills of their job.

I am for the moment in the process of hiring Head Bartenders. If I would have only guest engagement in mind, I would have found a couple of really great candidates. But as soon as I talk about bar, about beverage knowledge, these candidates are disappointing. I have to chose not the best one, but the least worst one in their job.

These candidates were working years (in average 4.5 years) as bartenders – at times they worked as bar supervisors, head bartenders, even as assistant bar managers (…) and yet they don’t sport a solid knowledge.
This isn’t solely the fault of the candidates. It is an issue, what we do have nowadays in hospitality.

My very own job is a result of this issue: when I was bar manager, I have trained my bartenders, I have negotiated with suppliers, I have amassed and used my beverage knowledge to improve my respective outlet.  If I evaluate my fellow outlet manager and assistant outlet manager colleagues now as beverage manager, I do see, that there is an obvious lack of technical prowess.

If the outlet manager doesn’t know, he/she won’t have an understanding about the qualification of his supervisors and bartenders (…). And if he/she does an interview, he/she doesn’t know, how to acknowledge these specific talents. Let’s not talk about training and setting training as priority!

To bring in a beverage manager doesn’t completely solve the issue, because it is about setting priorities and understanding weaknesses.

If you are buying a table of a carpenter, and this table doesn’t meet your expectations due to the lack of the skills of this very carpenter, you would not be completely satisfied, if the carpenter is engaging, very friendly and knows how to handle a complaint. You probably want to have a table, which meets your expectations!

We have to ensure, that we are not only focusing on the “soft targets” – the guest engagement, but that we are putting the craft first! My experience shows, that if you are knowledgeable and skillful (but still down to earth), the guest experience will follow almost automatically.