Monday, July 18, 2011

No respect, no love, no thanks for the service industry

Both the customers and the industry in Singapore need to change their mentality towards the women and men who wait our dining tables.  Tets’ take on the service industry in Singapore:

“A waiter is not a servant, but a highly trained individual with a special skill.  If you think about it, the service staff are the ones who make us chefs look good, through flawless presentation of our food.  It is not just about getting people to respect our waitstaff, but also about giving due credit to the profession and attracting more good people who want to stay in this line.” – Tetsuya Wakuda, Chef-owner of Tetsuya (Australia) and Waku-Ghin (Singapore)

Myself, Josephine and Tets
While the kitchens in Singapore are ever growing and evolving to match international standards, the service industry is struggling to keep up.  Singaporeans don't want to get into hospitality because they think they're above it, yet get touchy about restaurants wanting to hire only foreigners (restaurants can only hire a maximum of 50% foreigners anyway, due to government employment restrictions to appease whiny Singaporeans).  Restaurants struggle to even find willing PR & Singaporean applicants, let alone find any who actually want to do the job well.  And "adding tips" alone is not going to solve this problem.  
(Please note that I am generalizing.  More props to the exceptions out there.)

Here are three very different countries known for great service, and equally known to respect their hospitality industry back:
France: The service is arrogant.  Rude, haughty - you'd think you owed them something.  But demeanor aside, their service is impeccable.  Polished and professional, and proud of their line of work (then again, you can say the French are just proud in general... which isn't always a bad thing.).
Japan: Hospitality is bred into the Japanese culture.  In Japan, the customer is always right.  The needs and comfort of the customer is always considered whether you are ordering $200 dessert or $2 ramen.  Service is swift, graceful and unobtrusive.  Service is simply beautiful in Japan and the customers tend to reciprocate with equal mannerliness.
United States: You get what you pay for.  At a fine-dining establishment, expect the best.  Waiters here range from French-style arrogance (the raised eyebrow when you order tap water instead of sparkling) to the ones who treat you like a king or their favorite nephew.  Regardless of their personality (and Americans love to show their personality), every crumb will be swept off the table and water will be refilled without asking.  American-style service tends to be more chatty and personable; it's our way of showing we care about the customer. 

Service makes or breaks a restaurant.  There's no shame in being front of house. Remember: People will always remember good service better than they remember bad service, and good service has the power to guarantee a repeat customer.  Like any other profession, the only shame is if you don't perform to your best.  Take pride in your work--how do you expect people to respect your job when you don't respect it yourself?

Likewise for the customer, especially for the ones who have never and will never be in the service industry, your waiter isn't your servant.  Expect good service, but remember to show respect for your fellow people.  Waiting tables is physically taxing, and dealing with hungry customers face-to-face is one of the most exhausting first-world duties you can imagine.


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