If you want to improve your service and ensure it is a key focus for your business, you have to know what it means first. With this in mind, we asked members of the industry to give us their definitions of the term.
Dylan Murray, operations director Drake & Morgan:
"To me, good service means the ability to anticipate and understand exactly what a customer wants and needs without having to ask. At Drake & Morgan, we focus on the overall experience a customer has during their visit, and good service without a doubt plays an instrumental part in ensuring customers return.
"Good service starts from the moment a customer steps through the door. Customers need to feel valued, so acknowledging them sincerely and through the use of body language, such as eye contact will help give them a warm welcome. Service needs to be efficient and effective and it is key to recognise what a customer wants, whether it’s a leisurely breakfast or quick dinner. It’s about knowing when a customer needs assistance, and just as importantly, to know when a customer doesn’t want to be bothered. It’s about getting the level of interaction right and understanding each customer’s needs as an individual to make sure they’ve had the best possible experience."
Kellie Rixon MBE, brand director, Macdonald Hotels & Resorts:
"I look at service not as a transaction, as a meeting. It's a conversation between two people and the more you can make it about a conversation between two people, on the right level, in the right way and in the right tone, it changes the dynamic of service. It is all about the individual and adapting to meet the needs of the other person. When service is done right it's effortless and elegant. The transaction is secondary. It's a meeting of two people and as they walk away from the table and the bar you want them to say to each other 'how great was she or he'. That's the meeting."
Johnny Smith, front-of-house, The Clove Club, London
“It’s really important that the service at the Clove Club is relaxed and informal, but at the same time it’s important that staff are knowledgeable, that service on point and everything is as good as it can be. Just because it is relaxed and informal it doesn’t mean too casual.
“It’s important that we put pride into and take a lot of care for every single element of the guest experience. It’s about setting an ethos for staff and setting an example for them. They should be connecting with the guests, to talk about the food and their day a little bit. Good service is adaptive service, ensuring what’s right for each individual customer.”
Martin Williams, M Restaurants, London:
"The thing I've always tried to do in a restaurant is create an experience and that starts by mirroring what they do in great hotels, where the door is always open for you. Treat every guest like they're attending a dinner party. If you had a dinner party at home you would open the door to every guest, welcome them, shake their hand, smile, and use their name. If you can take those principles and manners and put them into a restaurant experience with guests who haven’t had the experience of that, that’s when you’re giving heightened hospitality, that’s the ethos I have tried to create."
Bridget Croft, senior operations director ETM Group:
"Good service is making a guest feel like they are the most important person in the building no matter who they are, ensuring that everything they want and need is provided. Good service is going the extra mile naturally, when no request is too unreasonable and we do everything in our power to make the guest happy. Good service is having the ability to make somebody’s day better.
"Good service can only happen if the staff love what they do. If you love what you do then the charisma and passion will come alive during service and influence the guest to try something new and trust them to lead their dining experience. Good service is what makes or breaks our industry. We could serve the most delicious food and amazing cocktails but if it is not served with flair and charisma and love, people will not come back."
Andrew Mosley, general manager, The Grand Brighton:
“Great customer service means understanding our customer needs and wants and delivering a consistently flawless and personalised experience, leaving a positive lasting impression. Achieving this at The Grand, is all about providing our teams with the guidelines and training to successfully carry out their role, as well as empowering our staff to feel that they are contributing to the experience through using their own initiative. This accomplishes better results and is tremendously motivating.”
Willy Bauer OBE, chairman AB Hotels & founder and trustee of the Gold Service Scholarship:
“Great service is all about making customers feel welcome and valued. It is about knowledge, enthusiasm and passion. Talented front-of-house professionals will have the right attitude, the drive to succeed and a genuine enthusiasm for what they are doing. This will come across in their interactions with customers.”
Alex Tozer, restaurant manager, Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall:
"Great service is achieved by having a good balance of food and service, but the important thing is that everyone - from the head chef to the kitchen porter to the restaurant manager and food runner – cares. It’s about everyone caring about that person who walks through the door and making sure that they have a great night. Great service, for us is only constituted by caring about your customers and genuinely wanting them to have the best experience they can. If you’ve got a team that doesn't care, or is even slightly ambivalent about it then it will fall apart. Some things, like menu or wine knowledge, can be learnt, but you can't learn how to care and that's why you have to hire on personality first and foremost."