We’re a tad more laid back about customer service in the UK. Politeness is generally required, except in those up-market venues when snootiness is mysteriously not only accepted but expected. We don’t do American levels of “have a nice day!” and calling people “m’am” or “sir”, and I’ve also noticed my South African friends have higher levels of expectation with regard to customer service than most UK natives.
Me? I’m pretty relaxed, I prefer friendliness to grunts, but so long as someone isn’t rude, obstructive or downright inefficient, I tend to be content. What I notice is when it’s something exceptional.
When my daughter was approaching her 21st birthday, she lived in a rather nice part of central London. I asked for suggestions of a nice restaurant where we could celebrate, and she suggested one in walking distance of her shared flat, as the menu offered a good selection for non-meat eaters – which both she and her boyfriend were at the time. I duly booked, and an excellent evening was had by all. The food was superb – nouvelle cuisine at it’s finest, the wine magnificent, and the service without measure. The evening was brought to a perfect close when the chef patron did his rounds, chatting to all the diners with charm and good humour.
We went back again. Twice a year, in fact. Eating out wasn’t something we did much, so this was a rare and real treat. My daughter and my boyfriend had birthdays within 2 weeks of each other, as did her boyfriend and I. Those joint birthdays came 6 months apart, so we had May and December dining dates. We never saw any reason to go elsewhere, and we were never disappointed.
The maître d’ was also the sommelier and, although small, the wine list was exceptional; we took to following his recommendations without question. For my brother & sister-in-law’s 40th birthday celebration, we pushed the boat out – having multiple courses each accompanied by the recommended wine (and yes, stayed in a hotel nearby). I don’t drink white wine but was persuaded to have a white dessert wine, despite my fellow diners having a red dessert wine recommended. Although I gazed at their glasses with envy, he was spot on – it was superb & a perfect match.
But none of this was the reason why it tops my customer service experience. It was the fact that both the maître d’ and the chef patron made us believe they remembered us at each visit. Yet, we only went twice a year. You could call them consummate professionals – and indeed they were. But small details about previous conversations were recalled, sporting teams followed were casually dropped into the conversation, there was gentle teasing, witty banter and lots of laughter. When I observed their interactions with other guests, they smoothly varied it to suit each customer’s personality.
Sadly it did close – and what a day to mourn. The chef patron relocated to Scandinavia with his girlfriend, and while he’s back now, COVID has delayed the opening of his new place. I hope he’s retained his maître d’, but regardless, this is one place which appears on my bucket list for when this is all behind us. My daughter’s boyfriend is now her husband, my boyfriend at that time has been (happily) replaced by Himself, and we’d have to find a babysitter for the two grandchildren – but it would be worth it.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve ever had as a customer?
© Debra Carey, 2021