Trouble brewing in restaurants

Published 1 September 2018

After being told he couldn’t get a top up of hot water for his teapot, CODE founder Adam Hyman ponders the true meaning of hospitality.

Whether it’s just for the simple pleasure of having a bite to eat with a friend, for a business meeting, or indeed for outside service to meet with a restaurateur or chef, I spend a huge amount of time in restaurants.

Much like meeting someone for the first time, I tend to find that from the moment you step inside the room, you have an idea of what your restaurant experience is going to be like. What prompted me to pen this little piece en-route to City Airport the other day was something that I experienced an hour earlier, whilst grabbing some eggs and a cuppa.

The tea in question had been served in a small teapot. A cup or so later, I asked if there was any chance I could have my teapot refilled with water. The answer was short but not sweet: no.

After a few deep breaths, I sat there, perplexed. Was I being unreasonable in asking for this? Maybe asking for some hot water was a step too far; had I become one of those customers who just takes the piss? Yet sitting there I felt a weird feeling in my stomach. A sort of gut feeling – one that tells you that something isn’t quite right.

I bring regular custom to this place, but on this occasion I’m left, tea-less. And with a bitter taste in my mouth. Part of me felt like getting up and leaving. On the whole I find that any excuse that starts with ‘management insists…’ is, basically, computer says no.

Unfortunately it seems that this regular haunt of mine employs servers who can’t think on their feet, and indeed aren’t encouraged to by ‘management’; they’re not allowed to exercise a little hospitality toward their customers. I’m not going to name the place in question. Partly because I took it up with them offline, but partly because I know them personally. I’m not into naming and shaming, either. We can leave that to the TripAdvisor trolls. 

I know all too well how hard it is to make money in this industry. I know there are customers who do try to scrimp and scrounge in restaurants to get as many freebies as possible. The extra cost is not the point, though. It could have been 50p or £50, but it was the way the reply was delivered: a resounding no. To me, hospitality is about about making people feel happy, giving them a good time, and trying to look after them. You’d like a bit more water in your teapot? no problem, coming right up. 

My friend and restaurant PR expert Hugh Wright observed the following about the incident, “that’s the difference between an operator and a restaurateur: the operator sees you as trying to get something for free that the restaurateur wants you to have.”

Let me leave you with this wonderful saying from Osh Rogers of the Guinea Grill; a man who gets hospitality. “Hospitality is generosity. Without generosity, there is no hospitality.”

Our print magazine – a must-read for anyone in hospitality – is published four times a year. To subscribe, please click here

Weekly bulletin. Eyes and ear of the industry