January 2012 Archives

Hospitality lesson at Le Manoir

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Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.jpgI first heard of Le Manoir when at Catering College in France. I remember looking at the pictures of this beautiful hotel and restaurant from the Relais & Chateaux guide.

As students we are all in awe with such places, their excellence and their passion inspired us and made us dream. They were only for the best professionals and working there even for a short placement meant that you were one of a kind.

And so I was particularly excited and happy to go there on the 27 January with my family to celebrate my 40th birthday.

The trip from London was not the best. The traffic was so bad that it took us three hours to get there. I called the reception on the way to let them know we were running late. The girl on the phone could not have been sweeter, more polite and more professional.

She knew of the delays already and what if felt like to be stuck in a traffic jam like this. She was so genuinely sympathetic but what did it for me most of all was her down to earth attitude and her capacity to connect there and then on my level and share a moment with me.

We arrived at 7pm and our reservation was for 7.15pm.

As a fellow professional I felt bad. But not for long, they did not let me....

I'm forty (two times twenty) today!

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cupcake.jpgI can't believe it. I'm Forty (two times twenty) today! Where did time go?


Two times twenty

I am me



Age of reason

Awake, Aware

Grounded, Balanced

Wiser than ever before

Eternal life disciple

Hungry for learning


Twice as fit

Almost immortal

Only one wish

More Time, precious time

Warm feelings

Of Gratitude

Of luck

Inner Joy

Of simple pleasures

From everyday life

My family, my pride

Make memories

For tomorrow


Make a difference

Do the right thing


Love and be loved

Live now


Have fun, be nice

Prepare for

The inevitable

Be ready

To die

Feel light

Let go

And fly

What to do when the kitchen goes down?

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Prevention is always better than cure. That's why it's important the team is always "on the boiling point" ie ready for anything before every service.

No matter how good you are or think you are. When you realise you are down, it is too late. Still it's crucial to get back on track and regain control fast. There is no point to panic or blame anyone. What matters is what happens NOW.

kitchen 1.jpgTeam work

  • Maintain cohesion in the team. Make sure all staff stay in their box/station so that they can look after the guests. Work together; follow the Ten Golden rules of service and your business values.


  • Speak with the chef and establish how long it will take for each table to be ready.
  • If necessary get a "middle course" to keep the guests waiting.
  • Let the team know to be extra attentive in the room. You don't want guests to complain about the lack of attention or service on top of the wait for the food.
  • Inform the guests of the delay once you know exactly how long it will take. Keep to your words and deliver what you promised.
  • Depending on the delay a simple "the chef is putting the final touches on your main courses, it will just be a minute now" may suffice. However if the wait is too long a formal apology is necessary.

The domino effect

  • Mistakes happen in series all too often. Stop the dominoes from falling! Nothing more should be allowed to go wrong. Be more vigilant, more alert and ensure the service is perfect from then on. Check, check, check!


  • The bookings and the flow of guests in the room must always be controlled and manageable.
  • If necessary stop or delay any more guests from seating in the restaurant.

Head waiter

  • If necessary delay the order taking process to give a breather to the chef and the kitchen.

The bill

  • If it is warranted and you feel you should, offer the guests a glass of Champagne or a dessert or more even. There are no rules for this, do what you think is right. Make the guests happy.
  • Apologise to the guests as you give them the bill. Make sure they know you mean it.
  • Inform the guests of what you have offered them as a gesture of good will.

After the service

  • Identify where you went down. Ie cold or hot starters, fish or meat or even dessert.
  • Understand why it happened (too many guests ordered at once, new chef on a section, bad rostering, complacency etc...)
  • Set a plan of action to ensure it does not happen again.
  • Ensure everyone understands the plan and the winning part they play in it.
  • Before the next service, brief your team and tell them exactly what you expect.

From my experience kitchens tend to go down in series. If it happened to you yesterday, it will more than likely happen to you again today. So be ready and get on the boiling point!

The message of Danny Meyer

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Last Saturday, following an exchange of emails Danny Meyer came up especially to Galvin at Windows with his young son in tow to meet me and say hello.

Unfortunately my own son Lucien was recovering at home from a small operation. I was therefore not up there to greet him. The visit was not planned and so I felt touched by his thoughtfulness and kindness.

danny meyer.jpgOn Monday I was at the Masters Innholders General Managers Conference at the London Hilton on Park Lane to hear him speak about "The transforming powers of hospitality".

I did manage to meet him before the conference outside the hotel. I waited for him patiently which made me feel like a groupie for the first time in my life.

Danny's message is so simple and straight forward. He talked about following our passion, enjoying life and what we do. Like many of us he thinks that people don't want to join our industry because they confuse service with servitude and don't want to be anyone's slave.

I particularly like the bit where he talked about creativity and innovation. Before the internet, "in the old days" he said one could be great simply by having great ideas and executing them.

Not anymore. Ideas get copied and everyone copies everyone. The shelf life of creativity is
just five seconds.

Therefore he continued, "What I am looking for, what I want for my restaurants is a guest to say- This is my favourite restaurant".

But how do you become someone's favourite restaurant?

  • Through performance ie the technical and mechanical aspect of service (the 49%)
  • Through service ie hospitality (the 51%)

People do not come to restaurants anymore because they are hungry or thirsty but because of the need to share a human and social experience.

Danny's view is that he can train and teach people what the 49% is about. However the 51% is much more difficult (if not impossible) to teach.

Danny calls it the HQ (Hospitality Quotient). Because HQ can't be taught so easily, it is important to hire people who have it already.

Basically people with a high HQ are people who like people. People who like to do things for others, people who like to make other people feel good.

Danny listed six emotional skills which form part of the Hospitality DNA:

  • Kindness
  • Curiosity
  • High work ethics
  • Empathy
  • Self awareness
  • Integrity

Then he briefly mentioned reputation and the inevitable legacy we all leave behind. We are all responsible for what we do and it is today that tomorrow is made. Think!

He carried on gently getting his message across by comparing service (one size fits all) and hospitality (one size fits one).

His talk finished where it all started: our birth and the four hospitality gifts we all got when we were born:

  • Eye contact
  • Smile
  • Hug (the best and most beautiful metaphor for hospitality)
  • Food

These four gifts are what we are seeking all our life.

There is one more thing that Danny talked about. Although it was not overtly obvious, I felt it was so important. He talked about his family, his parents, his uncle and therefore also about the obvious guidance, high values and great life foundations he got from the word go.

I too had that. That's our luck and our real heritage.  That is also our responsibility.

For we have it and need to share it with those less fortunate who don't have it.

The thin red line

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There is only a thin red line between good and bad service. At times both services can co-exist side by side and along the thin red line in every restaurant.

The excellent restaurants perform better than the average or the bad ones because they simply "serve" on the right side of the line.

I have had the pleasure to work and eat in some of the best restaurants over the years.  Even in those places where you would expect a personal, courteous, friendly, discreet, professional and simple service you can find yourself on the wrong side of the line.


Guests are the ultimate and only judges and the ones who decide on which side the service was performed. You see, service is more than just service, it's about hospitality and the connections and bonds that people create and share together. Good service is good service and good service at The Ritz is the same as good service in a road side cafe.

So, how can it be that an excellent restaurant "serve" its guests on the wrong side of the line? How can you always ensure you "serve" your guests on the right side?

First things first:

Put yourself in the guest's shoes and see the world through his/her eyes

As soon as a guest book or walk in through your door, stop and think for a second. What does he/she want? Why is he here? What mood is he in? How can I please him? What is he telling me with his body language and facial expression but not with words? Is he here by choice or for another reason? Etc...

Teach your team to do just that and how to make connections with people. Teach them it's their responsibility to make the effort and give first without expecting anything in return.

Train your people

With training, what is important is the meaning of what you say. Not so much the words used. People can then translate the message into their own words for themselves and others. This way the meaning of the message will remain. Never forget to check back for understanding. Ask simple questions to make sure people got the true meaning of your message. And used role play to demonstrate how to translate the message into action.

Remember we are all human

The performance of some people in your team may be influenced by outside factors or their moods. Be ahead of the game, KNOW PEOPLE, know YOUR people. At other times it may be as simple as good planning (ie days off and holidays).

Education and beliefs system.

Many people in this industry come from so many different backgrounds, countries, education and beliefs system. What is "normal" or "obvious" to you may not be for someone else. Do not assume, take anything for granted or as a given.

Good luck!


The Olympics, London and businesses...

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What will be the Olympics impact on the UK, London and our businesses?

Well, opinions are much divided although heavy pessimism (with a glimpse of hope) seems to prevail.

If you consider historic data from the 10 Olympics held between 1964 and 2008. Growth tends to rise in the run-up to the tournament, but the effect starts to fall away even before the games begin, and afterwards, growth tends to be weaker. Indeed revenue and jobs generated through construction and planning happen way before the games start.

We are currently in the middle of that curve. The stadiums are built (or almost done) and the games are only 6 months away.

Only a few cities did well during the game and created a long lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy (Barcelona and Los Angeles). In the case of Barcelona the games were a question of life and death and they chose life, as for Los Angeles they already had a big infrastructure, lots of space and plenty of money from TV and advertisers.

As for Athens and Montreal, the games were a disaster. People there are still paying for the games.

So what about London?

Some say the games will reduce London GDP as the Olympic tourists will largely crowd those who would have come otherwise.

The 'ZIL lanes' for transporting the International Olympic Committee officials around will most probably make central London's traffic hell.

There are also serious doubts about the capabilities of our public transport system. Will it be able to cope?

The length of the game is also not fully understood by most people. The Olympics will start on the 27 July until the 12th August and the Paralympics will then start on the 29th August to the 9th September. We are not looking at 2 weeks of games but almost 2 months! What will happen between the 12th August to the 29th August? 

It is clear that the economic benefits of staging the games can be significant; Barcelona's GDP growth was boosted by 2.9% while Sydney was boosted by 2.1%. Also there is no way to quantify the price of the "game's feel good factor" that can help lift both the nation's spirits and the UK's economy.

Overall however business leaders and economists think the first half of this year will be slow while the second will see an improvement. This, they say will be aided but NOT instigated by the Olympics. For me, this makes sense. Following the doom and gloom of 2011 and the extravagant year-end spend of Christmas consumers are now playing the waiting game with their money until they feel the time is right or have no other options but to spend it.

So what about our businesses and restaurants?

Well it's happening. The games are here and there is one thing for sure:

  • We need to ride the wave!  No matter how big the wave will be we'll need to be and stay on it. It's a matter of survival. It's business and it's also life.
  • No need to worry unnecessarily about what might or might not happen. Let's enjoy 2012, the Olympic Games, the Diamond Jubilee and everything else that life throw at us.
  • Go for Gold!

Video: The Big Christmas Fight for Galvin's Chance

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Thank you so much for your support and very generous donations for the Big Christmas Fight in aid of Galvins Chance.

You can now watch the video of the fight right here on The Art of service blog.

All I ask is a voluntary donation of £5 per view (www.justgiving.com/fred-simon-boxing-challenge) to help us raise further funds and make a positive difference in our communities.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year 2012.



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