Just a heads up: This is more of a blog post, noting technical. 🍹
This summer I visited a small historic town in the countryside with my fiance, and one afternoon we ended up at this awesome small restaurant. It was a Tuscany style place in the embrace of the local vineyards above the city, with a great view.
If you've read me before, you might know that I've spent 6 years in international hospitality somewhere between uni and my tech career. As a result, when it comes to restaurant service, I know what's going on, and it's pretty hard to amaze me. Now they've done it. It was a culinary revelation.
Let me just quote some parts of my Tripadvisor review:
Then this guy who owns the place comes forward to have one or two good words with you. You don't have the world's largest menu, but you have top-quality fish, beef, pork prepared with the mastery of an Italian grandmother. I've seen some people complain about longer service times. Bro. I've seen how 5-star hotel sous-chefs work on the food "production line" to get your "fast service"...
...Then you get LOCAL wines with your food. And I don't mean local like "wine from the city that you can buy in Tesco's" kind of local. I mean "from the local cellars that you can't get anywhere" local.
Now I must let you in on a secret. It was not the steak, wines, or the view that won my admiration. It was the sincerity. The candor of the service.
They're usually fed up with you.
I'm exaggerating a bit, but a lot of times all the charm that you experience is just part of the facade. There is a particular method to this deceit - it is how hospitality businesses intrinsically work. It's all very simple:
- The business owner is looking for the best possible optimization between necessary resource costs and the resulting income potential.
Turns out when you're a hotel or restaurant owner, you don't have much space to optimize. You need good ingredients, competent staff, good equipment. There is still one thing though. As always, it's the human.
- The easiest, safest solution is to optimize on the workforce. A little fewer waiters, a single bartender, and a couple of chefs working overtime can run the business!
Well, they will die of exhaustion on the floor, while trying to wear their smiley face, but that's not all!
They will even provide their creativity, humor, and charm to help the owner get away with logistic mistakes and bad business decisions when ingredients, or tools are missing.
Or when people are waiting ten minutes for a jug of water because the boss put only two guys for the fully booked night shift.
Consequently, even hotel bistros end up like franchise restaurants, exploiting their workers, while trying to squeeze out as much profit as possible. When I walk into one all I see is a capitalist purgatory, despite all the amenities. But that's probably just my distorted vision, due to my past experiences.
The service was not blazing fast, the food was not always the same, and the wines were different from season to season. Instead, it was real and humble hospitality. They did it because they loved doing it.
These places will never be out of fashion - but let the rest be done by bots!
I see that hotels and restaurants employ a tremendous amount of people, and many of them might like their jobs. Though it's a volatile industry - and not even robust, as COVID19 has shown us. I believe in time these jobs can slowly fade and less demanding ones can replace them, as it happened many times in the past. I'm also sure that hospitality done by people will always be something that the rich will indulge themselves in.
I just hope the future will be more righteous in this regard.