The argument for table service
No-one can argue that the advent of Covid-19 and the punitive lockdowns, which disproportionately impacted the leisure and hospitality sector, brought about any benefits.
Hundreds of venues closed their doors for the last time, but Simon Turton, editorial director of Hand Crafted Drinks Magazine reveals the one thing that could be seen as a positive from the pandemic.
I remember going to various bars and restaurants as the lockdown rules were being eased and the one thing that I enjoyed (other than being able to go in to bars and restaurants) was not having to queue at the bar and being served at my table.
But, other than the convenience of not having to keep getting up to queue for drinks or pay your bill — the staff brought the card machines over to you — it was infinitely more relaxing.
If you were alone you didn’t have to worry about your belongings or losing the table and from my personal experience, when the waiting-on staff cleared the empty glasses and asked if you wanted any more nine times out of ten I ordered more drinks.
Venue managers and owners might initially baulk at having to employ more people or get the existing team to work harder, but I think that table service is the way forward.
When I first turned 18 I remember going to bars and nightclubs, where you had to fight your way to get served. I have never found queuing at a bar relaxing and I think the business model that has emerged over the years is flawed.
The leisure and hospitality sector needs to embrace what it does best, which is customer service and not treat their customers like children who have to queue in line for school meals.
Some of the larger chains have introduced their own apps, which allows customers to order at your table, which is a start, but why not do away with the apps and simply have their staff to go round all the tables and take customer orders?
I have no scientific evidence to back-up my theory — that table service delivers more sales — but from my experience it is very much the case.
In addition, those venues that did offer table service as an option are likely to become more popular because they offer a far more relaxing experience. Furthermore, if the venue does offer food there is every likelihood that customers might decide to see the food menu if they are being waited on at their table.
In the coffee shop arena it’s no better — you have no option but to queue for your drink. Of course, you can see why the owners and managers, especially of the high street chains, like the self-service model.
They can get away with employing fewer people than if they were offering an at table service, but if they offered table service for those people eating in and had queues purely for those taking their drinks with them, the number of people that could be served would increase and so would takings, which would more than compensate for any additional employees and this would drive more custom.
When I worked in banqueting when I was in the sixth form to earn some money, I remember seeing a poster in the kitchen that featured a lion accompanied with the words: “The customer is king”.
Sadly, when I visit a bar, pub or coffee shop I think I feel more like a sheep as I obediently wait in line to be served.