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At The Standard: More Adventures in DASM

At The Standard: More Adventures in DASM

The Standard Hotel is new to the Meatpacking District in downtown New York, and I like it quite a bit. I’ll come back when I’m in the neighborhood (our grandchildren are about 10 blocks away). However, dining there is another issue.

The restaurant has been open for only two days, and is still on its “shakedown cruise.” Compared to this, the Titanic had a successful journey.

At breakfast, when people want coffee, it is most difficult to get (drum roll, please): coffee! It takes ten minutes or more because the coffee is a half-mile from the tables, and management insists on “barristas” (how I detest that pomposity) making it in special receptacles that, inexplicably, hold 1.5 cups of coffee, so they are useless for sharing or a refill at the table.

I had to ask a manager for service, since everyone was ignoring our table. My wife’s grapefruit, a fifteen-minute wait, became grapefruit juice, then a “brulee grapefruit,” and finally cancelled. Her soft-cooked eggs were pure liquid. My breakfast sandwich was tasty but cold. Her accompanying “toast soldiers” were AWOL. (“Are they marching to Valley Forge?” she asked an uncomprehending waitress, apparently lacking either a sense of history or irony.)

When we walked into the restaurant, the hostess actually seemed stunned, as if customers were not expected at the front door. When we asked for outside seating, she stopped in her tracks and actually uttered, “Oh!” She eventually got us to one of several tables available, while getting in the way of three servers.

The gentleman next to us, there before us, finally got up and left when the restaurant could not deliver his smoked salmon which, to my shallow culinary knowledge, requires only to be placed on a plate.

I could go on (coffee, when finally served, was not accompanied by spoons), but I may get giddy. This is a management problem, not an employee, motivation, communications, or wage problem. It is the height of stupid management. On your first day, when coffee can’t be delivered within two minutes at breakfast, you move the coffee. (That will be $25,000 for the advice, please.)

The buck stops at management, and fixing these things is not rocket science. We received no check and abundant apologies. We were told to come back, that they were still experimenting.

Yes, but I don’t enjoy being a lab rat.

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 6

  • Mike Meikle

    July 16, 2009

    I’ve experienced this type of chaos in more upscale restaurants than regular dining establishments. I suppose the reason behind that is the owner of the upscale joint hires a friend as “manager”. A place that turns over tables multiple times during peak hours has to have someone who knows good coffee+availability=happy customers 🙂

  • Alan Weiss

    July 16, 2009

    Good point. This “friend” must adhere to chaos theory….

  • Jim Watson

    July 17, 2009

    The restaurant business isn’t in the food business; they’re in the customer service business. The food is an important ingredient, but at the end of the day, if they can’t get the right food to the right place in a timely manner, they haven’t delivered the goods. Period.

    I gave a presentation yesterday titled “Improving Service Delivery through Business Intelligence.” I prefaced the presentation by identifying the core components of service delivery as:

    1. Speed
    2. Quality

    Perhaps if the management at Standard focused more on these core components instead of the fringe elements, you’d be writing about them in a different light.

    PS – I enjoyed the “Valley Forge” comment.

  • Alan Weiss

    July 17, 2009

    Thanks, Jim, good points. However, I think restaurants are in the “dining” business, which includes: food quality, pleasant and cordial service, and ambiance. If you look at Zagat, they rate price, service, and ambiance. If restaurants were merely in the customer service business, then the quality of the chef wouldn’t matter. If you look at the very best restaurants, it is the total experience that brings you back and makes the price irrelevant.

  • Jason Burke

    July 24, 2009

    Of course restaurants, like any other business, operate on a “spectrum” of commoditization. Some are specifically designed to attract the commodity buyer – price is the major (if not only) differentiator.

    The other end of the spectrum is the “experience based” model, which though now is receiving its share of press, really is an old idea. Dining encompasses all of the things that are not the food itself, with food being but one (very important) aspect. Whether such an establishment is “upscale” is relative. What really counts is the resulting experience and a determination of whether it was worth the price.

    However, as Americans’ tastes change, I hope to see businesses take a more proactive approach to these types of management problems. It’s a lesson for all of us. Don’t complain that you’ve slashed your prices and customers sill avoid you. It’s not them – it’s you. And if you’re going to “beta test” your service, do it on willing subjects.

  • Alan Weiss

    July 24, 2009

    I don’t think these are “opposite ends.” People go, at all price levels, where they are treated well, the food is as expected or better, the service is quick and cordial, etc. Some people swear by MacDonald’s over Wendy’s and vice versa.

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