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Everybody has had at least one experience with bad service. But are we so upset about it that we never visit the restaurant again?

Not necessarily. The reasons that we still come back range between

  • because the food was good
  • because the venue is convenient
  • because the prices are reasonable

So when service ranks so low in our criterion of “a good night out” isn’t it then our own fault when we don’t receive good service? Aren’t customer expectations one of the things that shape a restaurant?

I always thought the different types of eating venue to be clearly defined:

  • you go to a street vendor – you get no service that’s why the food is cheap
  • you go to a country pub – you get basic food and a little bit of service at an affordable price
  •  you go to a restaurant – you get good food and good service and are happy to pay for it

But it turns out it is a little bit different:

  • you go to a restaurant – you are paying a lot of money to receive good food and if you are lucky good service
  • you go to a country pub – you are paying a lot of money to have average food with unfriendly service
  • you go to a street vendor – you are paying a lot of money for good food with no service

What message does this send out to customers? You are paying for food only. Everything else is a bonus depending on the venue you are in. And customers are playing along – they are paying $40 for a steak that they first have to queue for, before they can place an order, to then receive a buzzer so they can collect the steak directly from the kitchen window and afterwards having to clear the table of all the dishes themselves because they want to sit a bit longer and have a chat.

Everybody knows that you can get the same steak (if not better) for $40 in a restaurant with cloth napkins, orders taken and delivered and all together table service. What is going on? Is it the customers that are to blame because they don’t complain, or is it the industry that does not differentiate for the customer?

How can a customer appreciate service when it has no value for him (on the price he is paying)? And more importantly, how can restaurants afford their cost of service, when customers don’t value it?