Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Human Touch

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While skimming Cheryl Clark's review in today's print edition of the Times-Union, something I do each week with a mixture of shock and awe, a sentiment stood out for me: "...lacking the human touch that makes a restaurant welcoming."  Ah, yes, the human touch.  In a restaurant, this human touch is what makes the guests feel welcomed and taken care of and generally acknowledged and indulged.  It's the part of the restaurant business with which I am most familiar - it's what I do, hopefully, with grace and sincerity, every night I work the front of the house in a dining room.

I've been thinking about the human touch, the personal component of a restaurant which evolves and magically comes together to create the fabric which binds a restaurant together.  If you've ever worked in a restaurant perhaps you've been fortunate enough to be a part of a team that together creates something beyond what each is capable of achieving individually.  I can recall having this sort of experience only 3 times in my 25+ years in the business.  It is that rare and special, in my opinion.  The irony of this restaurant kismet is that unfortunately, one often doesn't realize the amazing circumstances until they have changed, a natural occurrence in the restaurant business.  Everyone knows that the hospitality industry is filled with people going places - to school to prepare for a "real" job, to resort areas to capitalize upon tourists and their free-spending ways, to new ventures and opportunities.  This transience is as much the nature of the business as the drinking, the alleged drug abuse and the otherwise loose morals of which we restaurant folks are always being accused.  It's how it works.

I have a tendency to stay at a restaurant - I'm not one for change, particularly in a business where employees are guaranteed a  new adventure every single night they work.  The only occasions when I've left a restaurant to immediately begin working at another restaurant, were directly related to my desire to improve myself and were related to food quality - I can't serve something I don't heartily endorse.  Both of these times, I gave my professional 2 weeks notice and departed with no hard feelings on either side.  It was understood that my decision to move on was based upon personal opportunities and interests.  I was doing something for me, not doing something against my employer.  And, yes, it really is that simple.  And it is something which occurs every single day in the hospitality industry. 

Failing to understand that the human touch is integral to the success of a restaurant is on par with confusing business decisions with those more personal in nature.  It only creates a situation which leaves a distinct "bad touch" feeling behind.

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