Recognizing Service as a Skill in Hospitality

hospitality restaurant hospitality restaurant service Nov 18, 2019

I recently snuck off for a family vacation to the Florida Keys, a place known for peace and quiet, and the ability to disappear for a few days to a different world. And surprisingly during this trip, I learned a great life lesson on the impact a server can have on a customer’s experience. 

The second day on our Florida adventure we decided to go on a snorkeling trip. As guests were boarding we couldn’t help but notice the boat attendant seemed to know many of the other guests. He was shaking their hands and greeting them as if they were old friends.

“I waited on them last night at the restaurant,” Ruben, the attendant, shared cheerfully as one of the couples boarded.  “Just another day in paradise.”

With 80 degrees in crystal clear water all around, I realized he wasn’t being sarcastic.

“I love my job,” he said to my 7-year-old as he handed out our gear.

And he did. We came to learn that he had worked on Royal Caribbean for several years before moving to the Keys, and he genuinely loved to serve.

In an age of struggling to get enough staff, how rare is it to find someone who genuinely loves their job?  And how quickly do we forget the impact great service can have on our guests?

I learned two lessons from Ruben: 

  1. Ruben knew he was talented at serving. But what was clear from our visit was that the resort also honored his experience. He had been there only a few months, and yet he had the best sections and what looked to be the freedom to work both jobs, and interact as much as possible with the guests without management’s interference. The truth is there was a clear difference between Ruben and some of the other servers. But instead of hiding this fact, the ownership seemed happy with letting Ruben shine in his own way.
  2. If Ruben wins, everyone wins. On our last night there, Ruben asked if we might be able to post a review of our stay.

“I’m leading the pool to get a TV,” he beamed. And if I get five more, I’m going to    win a four-night cruise.”

We were excited for him, but also noticed that this operation wasn’t huge, and those were big prizes. But in truth, the impact of a happy Ruben was probably well worth the expense incurred on his prizes.

So many times in hospitality, we spend our labor dollars elsewhere, assuming that the servers will get it right and will be compensated through their tips. But if Ruben’s story is any indication, an incentive program could make a big difference in the bottom line of the operations.

How can you apply this experience to your business?

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Author: Anne Gannon, founder and principal of The Largo Group.

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