Comment: What can save restaurants? Try hospitality

COVID-19 and inflation have brought restaurants to their knees, and everyone with a vested interest, from owner to chef to server to customer, seems to have an opinion on how to get them back up and running.

Permanent “parklet” restoration will save the day. Meal kits will be, or better pay, more compassionate work hours, menu price hikes, smaller menus, the addition of a wine shop or organized market, a reasonable owner – or a combination of the above.

It’s all dollars and cents, though; someone forgot to mention hospitality, the unquantifiable element that draws us to one food palace or neighborhood joint or food truck over another. Hospitality is the unsung hero of the dining experience, as essential as any spreadsheet item.

It’s easier to describe it by what it’s not: rambling, one-size-fits-all service, the kind where your water glass stays empty after the first fill, the waiter knows as little about the menu as you and has no energy to find out more, the wrong order arrives late and no longer hot – the equivalent of a prolonged shrug.

At the other end of the spectrum, just as bad but in a different way, is the kind of over-the-top service that leads to jokes about “Hi, I’m Bob, your server, and I’m going to chew your food for you this evening.” False hospitality is a semblance of heat in the same way that a microwave is a semblance of an oven – effective but superficial. The results lack depth.

And hospitality has nothing to do with the power-based behavior displayed by customers, usually men, who expect waiters, usually women, to endure flirtatious behavior in exchange for a tip. decent, or patrons of any gender who expect servers of any gender to tolerate excessive demands that make dinner special. Feeding ourselves is not supposed to involve feeding our ego.

True hospitality? To quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in a 1964 obscenity ruling, “I know it when I see it.”

I will go further: if we want to see it, we must be worthy of it. Hospitality is a relationship, not a delivery system, and the sooner we all respond, customers and employees, the better for our favorite restaurants.

Customers have reverted to some questionable pre-pandemic behavior as we return to restaurants — damning criticism of Yelp as another kind of power grab, pursuit of new restaurants as a competitive sport, demand for dining experiences that will compensate us in some way for everything we have endured over the past two plus years.

We are quite quick to be dissatisfied, and to say so. Take a moment to empathize, however, and consider the other side of the trade: restaurant workers trying to maintain a graceful presence in a battered industry that has seen thousands lose their jobs, thousands more turning their backs, continued closures and still uneven progress in work practices and culture.

How about we engage with them a bit, look up to see exactly who gave us the menus, express our gratitude for a job well done?

We could build better, to use an expression, instead of sitting around waiting to be satisfied. Do not mistake yourself. I’m as quick as anyone to cringe at too little or too much attention when I go out to eat – but when the effort is sincere, it can’t hurt to respond in kind.

It could make life better for all of us. In the 1970s, Stanford University sociologist Mark Granovetter wrote about the importance of “weak ties,” our connection to the people in our lives who are not family but also not strangers. . And even if he wasn’t writing about restaurants, I’d say the theory applies, amplified by the pandemic.

I haven’t seen my close and cautious friends as often as I’d like amid various COVID spikes, but I have seen the baristas at my favorite beer garden, and as the weeks went by, our conversation grew. is extended beyond the intricacies of placing an order. Nothing major – I don’t know how they feel about Roe vs. Wade or January 6 – but enough to make me feel welcome and they feel appreciated.

Which is a lot, when you think about it, especially these days.

I don’t have a long list of restaurants to recommend, although I write about them and should know the next or best new places, but I’ve never been a scout. I like to come home when I go out to dinner, which is to say places that are really welcoming, which implies that I’m a person that a restaurant likes to take care of. Food sustains us; hospitality does too, in ways we can’t measure on a profit and loss account.

Culinary Agents, a professional networking source, recently listed the seven attributes it considers essential for hospitality workers – being a good listener, being humble, being honest and being an effective communicator, basics like that. It couldn’t hurt if those of us who received the table adopted them as well.

(Karen Stabiner is the author of “Generation Chef: Risking It All for a New American Dream”.)

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

#Comment #save #restaurants #hospitality

Add Comment

%d bloggers like this: