Good service is not as hard to provide as you might think

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By: Christina Tembo
ctembo@me.com

When I graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island back in … never mind the year … I didn’t expect to end up back in northern Indiana. More importantly, I didn’t expect to be out of the hospitality industry.

As anyone in the hotel or restaurant business can attest, it’s not exactly family friendly. As the single mother of a now 11-year-old daughter, I needed more stable hours. So I came back to South Bend to be with my parents. My mother has been such a huge help to me. I am very lucky to have her.

I have great admiration and respect for those who offer good service and a very low tolerance for those who don’t.

I come from a large family. I am one of six children. Growing up, dinner in our house was never relaxing and rarely enjoyable. It more closely resembled a clan of meerkats foraging for millipedes. All the while, some of us were having what appeared to be shouting competitions vying for my parents’ attention. It was delightful, really.

Because there were so many of us, we did not often get to go out to eat. I think that might be why I grew up to get an associate’s degree in hotel/restaurant management and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. I was convinced I wanted to own a restaurant.

That dream, however, has not come to fruition. Nevertheless, I love dining out, tasting new dishes and finding little gems of restaurants that I never knew existed.

By the way, apparently I have a penchant for dressing … well let’s say not casually. I own only one pair of jeans and am just as comfortable in a skirt. I have been dubbed “Fancy Pants” by my girlfriends. A term I have only recently come to find endearing.

In my former life, I have worked as a restaurant server, manager and a bar tender, as well as hotel general manager. I have scrubbed toilets, made beds, mopped floors, done dishes, had too many tables at once, been poorly tipped, had customers in my face yelling and even been pulled by the neck over the front desk.

I have great admiration and respect for those who offer good service and a very low tolerance for those who don’t.

Regardless of most circumstances, a smile and a sincere apology are usually all it takes to turn a situation around. How often though, is the server you encountered entirely apathetic? How many times have you walked out of a restaurant and said to your friends or spouse “Wow, he/she was awful! I think we saw them twice the whole time!”

I bet you still left them a tip didn’t you? I know … you only left 15 percent instead of your usual 20 percent, but you still tipped them. Why?

I don’t think my standards are unrealistic. Staff should be friendly. Guests should be greeted with a smile. Bathrooms should be clean. (Yes, they are a direct reflection of the kitchen.) The dining room should be clean and neat and the food should taste good. Seems reasonable, right?

Well, let’s find out together just how attainable these standards are. Needless to say, I am delighted to have the opportunity to write this blog! I am so excited to start this journey with you and I look forward to your feedback along the way.

Christina Tembo spent years in the restaurant and hospitality industry before moving back to South Bend. In her new Flavor 574 blog, Fancy Pants, she’ll write about Michiana restaurants with an expert eye for service and presentation. Follow her journey by signing up for the Fancy Pants email newsletter.

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