The Art of Good Service
Certain jobs, which might appear easy to do, often require skill to master and patience to execute. Waiting is definitely one of them.
Someone in the hospitality sector once told me that what sets hotels in the same category apart is neither the décor nor the establishment, but the standard of service the place offers – and I realised just how right this person was when I got to spend a weekend at the Intercontinental Hotel in St Julian’s.
There is something incredibly inspiring in the fact that a hotel that can accommodate up to a thousand people and runs five restaurants (not to mention 11 board rooms, two private lounges, and all the others different departments that come with a hotel) can have such a high standard of service all round.
Unfortunately in Malta, service usually comes last on the list of the most important things for a restaurant or hotel. They often focus on where the food comes from, how it looks, what the ambiance feels like or how they can cram as many people as possible – which is all very important, granted. But they should never forget that a rude waiter can ruin their chances of retaining a customer just as much (if not more) than bad lighting or an overpriced plate of pasta.
Service is vital for a business. Smiling, saying ‘good morning’, suggesting items from the menu, making customers feel welcome, and doing anything in your power to make a guest or client’s experience more enjoyable is just as important as the food you sell or the cleanliness of the rooms you offer. And that’s something Maltese businesses and people need to learn.
The reason I’m writing this post is not because Waterbiscuit’s food is amazing (which it is), and not because they have a relaxed-but-chic atmosphere (which they do), but because their service is so top-notch that it just catches me off guard every single time.
Take Kristian and Istvan, for example, who waited on my friend and I while we were lunching there. They made conversation, suggested dishes and drinks that we should have, made us feel welcome, told us how they enjoy working at the place and genuinely made an effort to be more than plate-bearers and note-takers. In their simple-yet-friendly manner, they just made everything better.
And I can’t fail to mention Silvan, who is one of the managers at the same restaurant, who not only lent me his lighter when he realised I had lost mine, but went on a mini treasure hunt to find me a box of Intercontinental-branded matches without me even having to ask. And, of course, Charlene, who although wasn’t there during this particular weekend, is one of the best people on the team.
For the first time in a long time, I met waiters on this island who do not think the job is degrading and who don’t do it begrudgingly. They enjoy it; they’ve made a career out of it; and they make for a breath of fresh air. And yes, it has to be mentioned that certain places don’t pay their employees enough, but if you’re in the waiting business – be it for the money or for the kicks – just think of it as a job that can give you satisfaction by seeing all-round happy clients.
At the Interconti’s Club Lounge, for example, Csaba and Angelic did exactly that. They made sure none of the guests ever went thirsty or hungry – although it’s very hard to suffer from either at a place that provides breakfast, afternoon tea, and pre-dinner drinks and canapés. They looked us in the eye, acknowledged what time of the day it was, offered refreshment, made conversation, and even cracked a joke or two, which honestly, makes a big difference to someone’s experience and day.
So, please, whether you’re a business (restaurant, hotel, or any other kind) or someone who deals with people (waiter, salesperson, in customer care – ESPECIALLY in customer care) take a leaf out of these people’s and the Intercontinental’s book and treat customers as they should be treated. Your job is not to be rude or sassy, but to be nice and graceful, because that is the only way you’ll retain customers, who ultimately pay your wages.
If you’re with me on this one and you think good service is essential, then support a place that clearly supports you, and believe that there are better days to come in the service industry in Malta.
You can keep up to date with the Intercontinental Hotel on Facebook or by visiting their website. You can view Waterbiscuit’s menu here and follow them on Facebook. The Club Lounge at the Intercontinental is open to non-guests against a fee.