Commentary: Service with style

 There is one restaurant in the world where I am not a customer. I am “the man with the special hair.”

That place is Peking Garden, a little Chinese place in a suburb of north Cincinnati. There are a hundred such places in that part of the city, but for me, Peking Garden will always be special because I’ve gone there occasionally since 2003 and the family who runs it still remembers me by the eccentric hairdo I wore when I showed up the first time.

Eatocracy recently served up a piece on customer service which divided commenters as to exactly just how important service is to them. One third of the over 8,000 respondents indicated they would be very upset and might not come back. Over half of the remaining respondents indicated some degree of indifference; if the food is good, service isn’t going to have much of an impact in comparison.

While I know not everyone isn’t about to be phased by a bad waiter, I disagree that good food trumps even the rudest waitperson. In her book Service Included, former waitress Phoebe Damrosch noted servers at cheaper places often flaunt more personality hoping it will increase your satisfaction, as opposed to the more neutral, invisible service at finer places. Better service, be it through friendliness or attentiveness, equals a better experience anywhere. You always like a place where they know your name, what you like to eat or, I suppose, what your hair looks like.

First impressions hold a lot of weight in the mind of a customer, not only in the course of one visit but also in repeated visits to a place. Restaurants improving service is a business because the simple fact is it’s much easier for a customer to reinforce a bad first impression than to formulate a new, positive one. A greeting can make a lifelong customer – or destroy someone’s view of the business forever. Service is a big part of what you pay for in the meal, and it makes all the difference when you want to stand out.

As we’re cruising through Dillonvale and a friend asks me where I want to have lunch, it’s already on the tip of my tongue.

“There’s a Chinese place right along the main stretch where they remember my hairdo from eight years ago,” I say. “Let’s give it a try.”

“That’s amazing,” my passenger replies, scanning the dozen other eateries we pass by.

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