One might argue that Brits sometimes have a hard time being hospitable; controversial foreign leaders that visit can expect protest on the streets and an alleged subtle ribbing from our monarch rather than a polite handshake.
Fair? We’ll let you be the judge of that.
Meanwhile, across the pond in the US, their customer service is seen as second to none. If you’ve ever been on holiday there, you’ll doubtless have been impressed with the way you’re greeted and gently dealt with in retail and hospitality businesses.
With that in mind, here’s six hospitality tactics that UK restaurants could do with adopting from our American cousins.
1. Be engaging
Waiting staff are usually the first point of contact for your customers, but domestic restaurants often ignore the need to train employees in the most effective ways to engage with guests.
Politeness and friendliness go a long way, and in the US, these qualities lie at the core of guest interactions in restaurants.
2. Be flexible
Allowing customers to make changes to dishes, revise orders and generally get a fully bespoke experience when they dine with you is a great idea.
Actively emphasising the flexibility of your restaurant is even better, so get staff to tell guests about all their options to make them feel empowered.
3. Be responsive
Ignoring a diner’s needs is the quickest way to spoil their experience at your restaurant, but in the US the top eateries do their best to listen to customers and respond to their needs.
Again, this is something that requires a proactive rather than passive approach, which is where British staff might need to be coaxed out of their introverted shells.
4. Be unique
This is a little more nebulous, but if you can think outside the box and deliver a dining experience that guests won’t find anywhere else, then your restaurant is more likely to be remembered.
You don’t need to go the whole hog and force employees to wear ‘flare’ or spout a catchphrase every time they approach a table, but if you can offer something different with your service as well as your menu, then you’ll probably boost the number of bookings you receive through word of mouth recommendations.
5. Be anticipatory
Don’t wait for guests to make requests; instead, do your best to anticipate what they might need and provide it without being asked.
This can apply to even the smallest, most seemingly innocuous things, from giving kids something to keep them entertained while their parents check out the menus, to adding an extra plate or set of cutlery so that a couple can share a dish.
6. Be honest
Owning up when you’ve made a mistake or when an issue arises in your restaurant is important, but you need to also offer guests proportionate compensation for any complications they’ve had to put up with.
Sometimes a free drink or desert isn’t enough to win back their affections; be willing to go the extra mile to get back in their good books and you’ll be acting more like a US restaurant in no time.
There’s always room to improve your restaurant’s customer service, so don’t get complacent if your bookings and reviews are solid at the moment; that could all change tomorrow.
The UK is full of amazing, welcoming restaurant experiences, but the American hospitality industry can still teach the UK an awful lot; we just need to be open to the lessons that are on offer.