Sunday, May 1, 2011

'Le client n'a jamais tort'

There is a debate regarding the origin of the phrase "the customer is always right" but whether it was an American concept or an English one, we must give credit to Cesar Ritz, a familiar name to those of us in the hospitality industry, who said it first, kind of: "the customer is never wrong".

Though Ritz was a wildly successful hotelier there are certainly some limitations to his concept.  Some guests live their lives intent on wielding their perceived 'always right' power over their service staff.  This is where they cross the line and become most certainly WRONG!

Any restauranteur (or business professional of any kind) knows that it is easier to keep a current customer than it is to gain a new one.  So just how far should a business stretch to accommodate those who are obviously out to have a bad time?  How much effort can be reasonably dispensed to satisfy a guest before that person is deemed expendable?

Often these demanding guests not only provide a difficult situation for their server and the kitchen staff who often have to re-make food or change orders entirely (all because they perceive some horrible injustice has been wrought upon them). But, they also influence the other guests around them, sometimes beyond one section to encompass the entire restaurant.  They stop the flow, and it is often unnecessarily about the lighting in the restaurant or the price-point - these are things that cannot be changed during service.  Call ahead next time and ask to meet with the owner/manager at a more appropriate time if these things are so important.

As an aside, this too lends to my dislike of corporate restaurants where the focus is almost always on the guest, often at the expense of the server (even the server's job is forfeit on occasion due to an un-satisfy-able individual).

There are some great stories to be heard in this town of small independent restaurant owners approaching tables of impossible people and asking them firmly (to say the least) to remove themselves from their restaurants!  This is why I love the independents, they believe in their concept and their staff (BRAVO!) and realise that there are some people who cannot be helped.

So for all you customers out there, bear in mind: these people helping you choose items from the menu, bringing your dinner and/or cooking it, these people actually serve and cook FOR A LIVING!  And though from time to time mistakes are made (don't worry, we know you are perfect in real life) we apologize, but that in no way makes you always right.

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