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Maintain A High Service Level For Tourists Too

By Richard Saporito

While vacationing in a major city overseas, it was quite impossible for me not to notice how poorly tourists were being treated in some food service establishments. I will not mention the name, but it was a city that was flooded with tourists from all over the world.

Everyone knows, from big city restaurants to restaurants in resort areas, how difficult tourists can be at times. But, when it comes to restaurant service, the reality of the matter is that one must get past the surface, and be most understanding of a tourist's situation.

Jet lag, being in a foreign place, unfamiliarity with the language or currency are all factors that feed into the bizarre actions and wacky behavior of a tourist. I won't even exclude myself from this category at certain times when traveling.

Instead of taking on these attitudes personally, a restaurant operator or waiter must flip the coin to the other side where a little compassion and understanding can go a very long way regardless of the situation.

For example, I had just experienced a long, but most interesting day touring the incredible and wondrous sights of this city when all I wanted to do was get a decent, relaxing bite to eat.

I kept walking into restaurants, asking a simple question and getting some unexpected poor treatment in return. Now, everyone in the world who goes out to spend money to dine wants to relax and feel welcome--not to feel intimidated or threatened in any way.

But, the latter kept happening to me time and again, so I kept walking out of these restaurants in utter disbelief refusing to plunk down money for a bad food service experience.

Then, I finally gave it one more chance at a small trattoria on a little side street asking for one of my favorite dishes -- fettuccine with clam sauce. All of the other restaurants had turned me down because it had to be spaghetti with clam sauce and no variation.

But, this owner or waiter of the restaurant said "Yes, certainly sir, whatever you would like us to prepare for you." So, I sat down, enjoyed the entire delicious meal thoroughly, ordered an excellent dessert, and then he brought me a cappuccino on the house (pennies to make) - with a big smile on his face.

Well, to say the least, everything was perfect, the meal, the incredible customer service and he, himself, had relaxed me so much after a somewhat stressful day--as touring can be sometimes.

From that point onward, this customer service expert owned me. At the end of each touring day, I kept returning to enjoy his restaurant, and even more happy to bring him the extra business.

As a restaurant service person, if you are going to put in the time and effort into performing a job, why not put the ego aside and try to please the customer with a smile and friendly service -- whatever their case may be. It is really the humane thing to do. Otherwise, one is wasting their precious time in this industry.

Restaurant service for tourists is always a double edged sword. On one hand it is very difficult to serve tourists for the reasons mentioned above, yet, on the other hand, their spending can often make or break a business. These days, nobody can afford to lose business simply because of a lack of courteousness and respect.

Just because one tourist walks in a little nutty, doesn't mean they all will. Also, remember, these tourists will tell friends about their restaurant service experiences, even in other countries. I, myself, will definitely recommend this particular restaurant to family and friends who travel to this city in the future. Who wants to take the chance of getting burned somewhere else?

Whether you are an owner/operator, manager, or waiter, are you treating tourists well in your establishment?

Richard Saporito is a NYC Restaurant Insider with more than 30 years experience. He is currently the President of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, Inc. and the author of "How To Improve Dining Room Service." Discover how to improve your restaurant's dining room service and dramatically increase your profits here.

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