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Fri 8 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Honesty is the best policy

Slipping standards can occur in even the best outlets from time to time, it's how you handle them that will set you apart.

You may be in the business of selling food and drink, but as any savvy restaurateur or F&B manager can tell you, the hospitality industry is about far more than that.

The social ambiance you create in your outlet, and you and your staff's personal commitment are perhaps the most crucial elements involved in crafting a positive image for your company.

As part of the management team, you are directly responsible for the energy, enthusiasm and affability of your employees. They, in turn, have a direct impact on the dining pleasure of your customers.

And, as we all know, a good word-of-mouth recommendation from one patron is worth its weight in gold. It would cost you thousands of dollars in PR and advertising to bring the same number of people through your door as you might get as the result of one rave review from a satisfied customer.

Why is it then, that so many restaurants and bars in Dubai are guilty of some of the great sins of sub-standard hospitality?

While most outlets I have visited during my three years in the UAE have got the hang of the basic 'Meet, Greet and Seat' principle, I'm still frequently amazed by the way servers at many restaurants - even supposedly high-end establishments - are ill-informed about items on the menu.

What's today's special? Are the vegetables organic? Does the burger come with fries or a side salad? These are all questions that the serving staff should be able to answer and yet all too often, enquiries like this are met with blank stares and uncomprehending shrugs.

Another unfortunately all-too-common occurrence is waiting staff who give the impression that they have better things to do. They stand around gossiping, fixing each other's hair, or just gazing moodily into space, and seem to have an uncanny knack of disappearing just when you want to order another bottle of wine or ask for the bill.

This type of problem isn't something that most guests are likely to overtly bring to the attention of a supervisor. Instead, they will simply bottle up all the little irritations over the course of the evening so that, while they may leave without having made a formal complaint, their overall experience has been tainted and they are unlikely to ever return.

So, take an honest look around your establishment and - with no sugar-coating - ask yourself whether the guests are really receiving the type of service that's going to keep them coming back. Slipping standards can occur in even the best outlets from time to time and it's how you handle them that will set you part in the eyes of your clientele. You have to admit that things might not be running perfectly before you can change them.

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