Service. It’s a term we here at BigHospitality write several times a day. It is, of course, the essence of hospitality. Whatever your core offering may be – drinks, food or a room for guests to sleep in – they can’t be delivered to customers without a person, or people behind it.
Yet, so often when we and others write about the industry, we talk to a head chef or restaurateur about the type of food their new restaurant will serve, or a hotelier about the number of bedrooms and the design of their soon-to-open hotel. We may cover their approach to service, but not all the time and we recognise that needs to change.
Front-of-house professionals are often overlooked by those outside of the industry too. Despite 92 per cent of people recently surveyed by Hospitality GEM saying they wouldn’t return to a venue if they received bad service, you can bet that many would not know the name of the maitre d’ or general manager at some of the UK’s best restaurants, whereas they probably would know the head chef’s.
As former hotelier Willy Bauer OBE and now founder and trustee of the Gold Service Scholarship, says front-of-house has had a ‘long tradition of neglect from the media, with the spotlight very much focused on chefs’.
Bauer, who set up the Gold Service Scholarship in 2012 to inspire a new generation of front-of-house professionals and give them an opportunity to show off their talents is right. How many TV shows can you name that focus on those working front-of-house in hospitality? (I bet the only one is the acclaimed Michel Roux’s Service which ran in 2011). Now do the same for chefs.
But it isn’t just the mainstream media which is to blame for neglecting to highlight the individuals and companies excelling in good service. Chefs are arguably given a greater chance to shine within the industry. There are, of course, awards for front-of-house staff in existence and initiatives like the Fred Sirieix-led National Waiters' Day which aim to recognise hard-working front-of-house staff, but they are fewer and far between.
“Chefs are given many more opportunities to receive accolades and gain prestige among their peers than those working front-of-house, which is a real shame, as service can make or break a customer’s experience. It’s about time that this was recognised and the balance restored,” says Bauer.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be aiming to restore that balance with dedicated content around service – from videos offering top service tips to profiles on some of the hotels, restaurants, pubs and individuals renowned for providing the best service.
We won't be ignoring what happens elsewhere, hospitality wouldn't work without back and front-of-house working together, but it just feels like time that front-of-house was given a greater share of the spotlight.