+Scott Watson

Monday, 16 September 2013

When Will Jamie's Italian Learn That Bullying Customers Is Bad For Business?

What are your thoughts on tipping in restaurants?

Do you feel socially obligated to leave a tip following a decent meal which is accompanied by decent service?  Or, do you feel that you reserve the right to decide for yourself as to whether you would like to leave a few spare quid to the waiter or waitress?

Perhaps you and I are in the same boat here.  Personally, I prefer to leave a tip if a financial reward, in addition to the cost of the meal and refreshments has been earned by good food and at least 'good' service to match.  By 'good' I mean friendly, attentive and responsive service, and not 'Well it wasn't as bad as the last time' standard.

Now here's the thing for you and your organisation.  Do you really understand the impact your customer facing colleagues have on your trusting customers and/or end users?   And do you understand what impact, positive and negative, they are having on your organisation?  If you don't, it's a very precarious position to find yourself in, as you never know who will be so disappointed or frustrated by your quality of service that they never return to purchase your product or service.  And this (once again) is the challenge I experience on visits to Jamie's Italian, Leeds.

Bear in mind that Jamie Oliver is not just a chef, and a rather fantastic one at that, he is an entrepreneur.  An entrepreneur with stakeholders such as financial investors, employees and perhaps even his family.  But ultimately, Jamie Oliver is a national and international brand.  And as we've witnessed in recent years with the likes of some of the UK's biggest financial institutions and high street retailers, when a brand is damaged, sometimes it just never recovers.

Here's the challenge, the gripe, the complaint and feedback for Jamie and Jamie's Italian managers in Leeds.  

'Stop bullying diners in to leaving a tip.'

If you take a look at my previous blog post about this outlet, you will see just how abhorrent I feel the practice of underlining the wording on the bill which states that tips are not included in the price of your food and drink.  Not only is wording underlined, but some staff (who I expect have chosen to work at this outlet and not on a bare minimum wage), choose to *asterisk* the wording so as to draw the customers attention to their plight.  Their plight being extremely self-serving, unethical as well as downright unprofessional.

But as you'll notice from my previous blog post, the very same practice has been implemented by more than one member of the waiting staff.  What suspicion does this raise for you?  Is it one or two rogue waiting staff looking out for themselves, or, is this practice more of an organisational or management practice which the waiting staff are instructed to undertake?  Well, as you can see from the photo below, and the photo in the earlier post, there is a standard in place here.

The strange thing in all of this?  Even though I understand in quite some detail how (ethical) influencing works in a business and personal context, this disgraceful behaviour demonstrated by two of Jamie's Italian staff resulted in me feeling rather uncomfortable.  So uncomfortable in fact that on the first occasion I took the opportunity to express my concern and discomfort to a member of the management team in Leeds.  The strange thing about the incident this past weekend was, the lady serving us was absolutely first class.  So brilliant in fact, I mentioned her brilliance to the manager on duty.  So why does a hospitality 'professional' feel the need to get involved with trying to rip off diners?

Let's work out the maths on this activity.  You're a waiter and in one hour you look after seven tables of diners.  There are two diners on each table and each table of guests 'tips' you £2 each.  That's £14 straight in your pocket and I do wonder whether this income is declared to HMRC.  And over a seven hour shift at £14 per hour tips and excluding the hourly wage, that's a whopping £98 per shift.

If I lacked even a small amount of decency I'd pack up my running my own business and become a waiter at this outlet.  Well, just look at the income.  Wouldn't I be a fool not to?

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