So when I first started as bartender back in 1987 I was told constantly that I was in the Service Industry and my ideas of service were perhaps tied to the amount of respect I got for my job – I was a servant who ran around after (rather ungrateful) people doing whatever they asked. Later on as I got good at bartending (and as the revival of cocktails and bartending occurred) I modified my idea and instead convinced myself (and anyone that would listen) that I was providing a service for people and dispensing fine alcohols and complicated cocktails. I was some sort of craftsman or artisan creating complex orders and executing them efficiently – we were providing a service few others could.
It was not until I began travelling the world and having amazing experiences in other bars and also slowed down in my shift life to see what my guests seemed to really treasure when they were in my bar that I realised that in fact I was wrong. My job was not to do specific things for people but it was to be of Service to them and to make them feel things. People came to my bar and to the bars and restaurants of people I admire not just because of fancy drinks or starched tablecloths but because great service is not what you do to people but it about how you make people feel about themselves when they are in your care.
The essence of great service is not all the shiny bells and whistles that we are so proud of but in fact very basic and human emotions that we all share at just about anytime from Michelin 3 stars to the dive bar on the corner. The essence of great service is to make me feel Welcome, Comfortable, Important and Understood. To us all this is far more important than fancy drinks or leather bound menus or vast backbars and if you do this well then you will help start to change your customers to guests and your guests to raving fans. The Golden Rule of Hospitality was always “treat other people as you want to be treated” but it has been shown to be wrong and in fact you “treat guests how they want to be treated” Now in the era of Covid we may also want to add an extra ‘feel’ in that people now also want to feel safe and this needs to be illustrated not by a bouncer or doorman but in fact by a very visible set of hygiene and cleansing procedures and ensuring your staff maintain the highest visible standards of hygiene. But in fact the Pandemic has made the original feels even more important – guests are not coming to you just for booze but for a sense of humanity and community and connection. They come not just for alcohol but for the way you make them feel in this scary world.
I look around now at all the other jobs that fall under the umbrella of the Service Industry and often argue that we are in such a prime position and honoured role as we don’t just provide a service of food and drink; we don’t just run around heedlessly responding to guest’s whims but in fact every single interaction is an honour and a noble responsibility to be of service to our pour fellow human and to make people feel something: welcome, comfortable, understood, important and safe. Just make them feel better. And better is good. We could all do with some better just about now…