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March 18, 2010

SafeFood© and Customer Service

Have you ever debated returning an improperly prepared food item to a restaurant kitchen – hesitating because of fear a staff member will express their frustration by spitting on your food or the like? There are bad stories out there about people working in retail foodservices who probably don’t have the customer service gene in their DNA. Face it, actual physical and technical skills can be taught – like how to serve and clear, refill beverages, or knife skills. Training that will result in changed attitudes is difficult. Incentives (such as tips) might work to a certain degree but I don’t think are the answer. A fundamental desire to help others is needed by staff in service industries, including restaurants and hotels. Matching the person’s Knowledge Skills and Attitudes/Attributes to the right job is the crux of human resources management. How do you know whether a prospective employee in the service field has the right stuff? Many HR offices in the corporate world employ actual tests during the interview process – some very openly, such as personality tests or some that are more discrete, like how many drinks, if any, are ordered at a meal, and which meal).
For a line level position, maybe it isn’t worth the cost to administer a standardized test, but there are some clues that surface about a person’s emotional intelligence and people skills – a manager has to be alert to these. Does the interviewee have a genuine smile? Do they make eye contact? What is their sincerity level? Can they sense if someone needs help – and do they feel inclined to offer it? Hiring the right person for the right job can save headaches – for managers and customers, and avoid having a toxic personality as part of the team. Keep the service in the service industry!

March 08, 2010

SafeFood© Open Kitchens

In keeping with the motto “we’ve got nothing to hide” many restaurants are opening the kitchen to diners. This can be a good thing as people like to see the action, which in a busy kitchen is truly a well choreographed display of talent and dexterity. Obviously, a glass wall obliterates some of the sounds that go with this ballet (what does the chef say when he burns his hand?), which is also a good thing. Some restaurants do place tables in the kitchen – which can be a fun experience for diners. So, what is the downside? Well, there are some employees who will forget they are on stage and practice behaviors that are less than hygienic (such as licking their fingers). I am all for full disclosure and applaud the restaurants providing transparency. Fellow blogger John Foley described the drawbacks very well in his post: People tolerate the occasional bad meal, weak service, or mismatched ambiance. They draw the line at poor hygiene practices.
If you have an open kitchen, don’t let it backfire – train and monitor, and then retrain and continue to monitor employee practices. They are the front line and can ruin a good thing.
Submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS