The Innocent Crime of Hospitality - Are you Guilty?
This blog also appeared on The Huffington Post - http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/giles-gordonsmith/the-hospitality-pandemic-_b_12637174.html
Everything seemed to be going so well, and then it happened again. “ENJOY”. Nothing with it, other than perhaps an exclamation mark - “ENJOY!”. You’ve heard it too, right? You must have done, it’s everywhere; from London to LA and back again the long way around, that word echoes through our industry.
I know by now to try to block it out but occasionally one slips through the net like a cardamom pod in a biryani - Whack! ENJOY! Don’t let the Michelin star and the immaculately groomed waiter fool you either, a Swiss sommelier once hit me with one after decanting a rather fine bottle of claret and telling us a wonderful story about the owner of the house (who used to sit on table three). I nosed and tasted the perfectly poured measure and then he got me. “ENJOY!”
This was another good one – I was in a hotel in Istanbul and I’d asked for some shampoo to be sent to the room. The delivery interaction went something like this:
Friendly attendant: Good evening Mr. Gordon-Smith, I have the shampoo that you requested.
Me: Thank you, that’s kind.
Friendly attendant: Enjoy!
What? How? Okay, it was good shampoo and it left a pleasant scent of lime groves, but really. I even used to count them - fourteen 'enjoys' in a meal was the record (I won't name and shame the hotel). I get that it’s an easy thing to say and, your supervisor does it and it’s better than silence, but please, think about stopping.
It’s indicative of something bigger
Okay, I’m being playful, but actually I think that this innocuous and essentially well-meaning five letter word is reflective of something larger. Oh, and here’s my confession; I used to use it too. I wasn’t really even aware, but I did. It was only when it was pointed out to me by none other than my mother, that I started to realise the abandon with which I used the word.
Habitual behaviour can be a positive in hospitality; you need it to be prepared on a daily basis and to deliver service according to the expected rigorous standards. However, becoming too rehearsed by nature can have a negative effect. Repeatedly using terms such as ‘enjoy’ is reflective of a contagious roboticism in the industry that is getting in the way of natural service. Variations include the over-use of affirmations such as ‘you’re welcome’ and ‘that’s fine’ (I should hope that it’s fine to ask for a menu) and superlatives such as ‘wonderful’ and ‘absolutely’ - especially bothersome when taken out of context and not relating to what you have just said as a guest. It also demonstrates lack of thought and a certain ‘presenteeism’ - being there, but going through the motions.
Am I Guilty?
Given that I was unaware that I was using the term so much, perhaps you are too? Maybe you have your own verbal tick? The fact that you are now asking the question is a good start; after all, self-awareness is hugely important when trying to improve the way that we interact with guests, friends and colleagues.
If the answer is yes, what do we do about it?
The problem is that me telling you what to say as an alternative is paradoxical and so I’m not going to do that. What I would urge instead is to think. Look to be present in the moment when you are serving guests and where possible, make your comment relevant to what’s gone before in your interactions. By way of a compromise and to wean yourself off the shortened version, you could even revert to the fuller version “I hope you enjoy your scallops madam”, but don’t say it if you don’t mean it. As always, look to make eye contact and listen to the guest, and if they thank you for the dish, there’s your opportunity to respond in kind. This might sound like extraordinarily elementary advice, but take it from somebody who has been lucky enough to have had thousands of fine dining experiences around the world - it’s advice that’s needed. Your guests want to feel understood and appreciated, and you simply cannot do that by adopting a ‘one phrase fits all’ service mentality. Enj… Good luck.