The Depot

Riverside Restaurant

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Great Expectations

Recent research suggests that keeping expectations at low levels is a key ingredient to maintaining robust mental health. In other words, be careful what you wish for: the more you expect, the greater the struggle to deal with possible disappointment when expectations aren’t fulfilled.

Ironically this research coincides with our own bid to manage heightened expectations for window tables and our efforts to deal with the fall out when requests aren’t granted. Given the occasional adverse reaction, we’re tempted to add the research as a p.s. to our window table policy.

But of course we won’t; expectations have always been part and parcel of consumer life and, as such, it’s up to us to manage them effectively. If, despite our best efforts, we don’t satisfy every request and expectation, dealing with the ensuing disappointment goes with the territory. Reducing the expectation in the first place may be advisable: gentle persuasion and effective communication to the fore.

Easier said than done perhaps: people can be pretty insistent and, dare I say, portray increasing levels of entitlement these days, but woe betide any business which doesn’t seek to match, better still exceed, customer expectations.  The adage that ‘the customer is always right’ in this context may not be particularly helpful…it can certainly act as red rag to a stressed waiter, more likely to illicit sulks than smiles.

I’ve always subscribed to the French expression: ‘le client est roi’, which suggests a more subtle understanding, hopefully resulting in a more effective approach to the expectations and demands of the customer. It hints at the ethos of hospitality: treating guests ‘right royally’ and fulfilling their every (reasonable) desire, consequently basking in the warm glow of others’ enjoyment and your role in delivering it…through guest satisfaction comes job satisfaction – classic win win!

Occasionally an assertive approach may be appropriate, when polite and convincing explanations have failed to calm the ardour, but this takes years of experience and assumes a certain level of authority and status. Better sometimes to accept defeat gracefully and draw on reserves of humility to defuse a ‘situation’.

Happily, despite heightened expectations, the vast majority of consumers, savvy, demanding and filled with anticipation though they may be, are a joy to serve. What’s more, even in the face of an inevitable lapse, provided we’ve tried hard, done our level best and communicated effectively, more often than not, the benefit of the doubt will fall our way.

And never forget that these eager, expectants help drive up standards in an industry that hasn’t always been as highly regarded: not so very long ago London restaurants were more endured than enjoyed. The eating out revolution has been a relatively recent occurrence, driven largely by the customer’s great expectations and demands. All the more reason then to take them seriously, respond accordingly and maintain consumer confidence and support.

Vraiment le client est roi, reine and just about anything else he or she wants to be… within reason naturellement!






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