Stephen Jardine: Secret ingredient is good service

The attitude of the staff can greatly influence a dining experience. Picture: Dan Phillips
The attitude of the staff can greatly influence a dining experience. Picture: Dan Phillips
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At LONG last, Scotland is a land of food and drink. From the land, sky and sea, we have magnificent produce which has made our natural larder the envy of the world. But that is not enough. If our produce isn’t served up with style, confidence and charm then the opportunity to impress has been totally wasted.

We may be a country with a great reputation for hospitality, but outside the home, the whole food and drink experience can still be easily let down by lousy service.

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You know the problem. Usually it is staff who simply don’t belong in the customer service sector and take pleasure in treating the public with rudeness and disdain.

We’ve all got our own favourite stories. Mine include the scowling Highland hotelier who asked for our breakfast order when we checked in, then warned the dinner options were limited “because the freezer was broken”.

Thankfully, experiences like that are now the exception rather than the rule.

That is partly thanks to the great work done by the Scotland’s Hospitality Industry Trust, which this week held their annual scholarship awards for the high flyers of the future.

The scholarship scheme offers an amazing opportunity for emerging hospitality talent to travel the world and learn from the best in the business.

Since 1994, the industry-sponsored initiative has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships and 10,000 bursaries with the lucky recipients travelling to Dubai, Disney and the international hotel school in Switzerland.

These opportunities offer invaluable experience for those inside the industry, but our hospitality will only truly be world class if we all have a fundamental rethink of the role it plays.

Visit France, Spain, Italy or the United States, and you will find people who take huge pride in long service and developing skills in hotels and restaurants. Here, these same jobs are too often seen as a stop-gap until something better comes along.

The minimum wage has ensured hospitality pays just as well as comparable service jobs. It also offers perks such as tips, meals and accommodation, and experience that allows you to transfer your skills almost anywhere in the world.

But more than that, when done well, hospitality empowers employees to actually make people happy. There can be very few other careers where offering great service can so directly improve the kind of day a customer is having.

On that basis, we all need to give the hospitality sector the kudos it deserves but very rarely gets.

On a day-to-day basis, that means not putting up with poor service but equally pointing out when it has been particularly good.

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