Monday, April 27, 2009

Who took my breakfast?

Who stole my breakfast?

Why don’t hotels understand the impact that breakfast service has on their clients’ experience? More importantly – why don’t they train their staff to understand this?

Watch how this simple service goes wrong – and the staff didn’t get it.

As a professional speaker, my breakfast is important to me. When delivering a morning presentation out of town I want to arrive the night before.

There are three reasons for this:
Planes can be delayed and I never want to bank on the last plane.
I want to check in and check out the venue the night before when there is lots of time to make adjustments to the room or my presentation.
I want to get up early and enjoy a hearty and peaceful breakfast.

I was speaking out of town this week. I arrived at the hotel restaurant at 7:05 am. I was told that they opened at 7:00 so I allowed a few minutes for them to get into gear. When I arrived there was one other party of about four which grew to at least 15 while I was there.

I placed my order immediately with the server. And it was simple – my usual – scrambled eggs, sausage and brown toast.

Then I read the morning paper while I drank my coffee and waited.

Fortunately there were some interesting articles that day in the paper because the breakfast seemed to take longer than it should.

At one point I looked up expectantly to see my server enter the dinning room with two plates. She walked over to the other table across the room and put one plate down. Then she said to the group, “Who had the sausage and scrambled eggs?” One of the men who had just sat down at that table said, “I’ll take that.” The server gave him that plate.

She gave him my breakfast.

Although I was tempted, I didn’t yell across the room, “That was my breakfast.” But, naturally I was annoyed. And of course I didn’t want it after it had been set done in front of someone else. Would you?

Then I watched the server as she moved to stand with one of her follow servers. I could see that the other said something to her and motioned my way. There was a quick exchange of words between them. Both glanced at me and laughed. Then my server darted into the kitchen.

How would you feel at this point?

I continued to wait less patiently now – even wondering if I was still on the agenda. I was wondering if I would need to leave without breakfast to get to my meeting. I tried to bury my angst in the morning paper. So much for my peaceful breakfast.

In about six minutes my breakfast arrived. It was now 7:30 am. The server said, “There you go.” No apology, no explanation – nothing. Just pretending that nothing was wrong.

Twenty five minutes waiting for breakfast is unacceptable by my standards.

I gobbled down my breakfast because I was behind schedule. The server did not come by to present the bill so I walked to the counter and asked for my bill. I signed it with my room number.

My server was close by so I spoke to her. “I did not give you a tip.” I said softly, so I wouldn’t embarrass her. Her response was, “That’s okay.” I continued, “The reason is that you made two mistakes. You gave away my breakfast and you did not apologize to me. If you had told me what you had done I might have laughed.”

She recoiled. “I made it right.” She insisted.

“No you didn’t. You made a mistake and tried to hide it from me. How do you think I felt?” I responded. Then she started to whine, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I don’t know what she was sorry about: That she made a mistake; that I called her on it. or that I didn’t give her a tip.

I could have ignored the whole thing and said nothing. And as server she might have thought, “No tip – what a jerk.” I wish that she could have seen the incredible service I received recently from the server to which I gladly gave a $15 tip.

Yet I invested my time to offer her my perspective as a customer hoping that she might learn from her mistake. At no time did I chastise her. I simple pointed out what happened and how I felt.

I wonder if she thought about it later and realized that she could have:
Immediately pointed our her error when it happened
Apologized for the delay
Promised to expedite my order
Give me a break on my bill

She could have done any one or more of the above. Instead she did none of the above. When I spoke to her I gave her a second chance. Instead of taking advantage of that – she chose to defend and whine.

Scrambled eggs, sausage with brown toast and a little courtesy. How difficult can it be?

George Torok


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