Man about town: The art of service is back in fashion

Regretfully, while bad service is always remembered, good service often goes unnoticed



A few years ago, the British were a people for whom food was a means to an end. Today, if the growth in the number of restaurants, food programmes and cook books is anything to go by, we have become food obsessives.

This is reflected in our media: if our TV chefs are not salivating over some proper (it's always “proper”, isn't it?) way of preparing salt beef, they are fretting over how the poor are eating too much salty meat.

But regular restaurant goers will know that the obsession with food isn’t always matched with an equal devotion to service. One minute a server with sleeve tattoos will go misty-eyed as they describe the venison cooked sous vide, but 10 minutes later will be (as I had to complain at one hipster place recently) much more interested in playing with his beard than bringing over breakfast. Similarly many will have experienced the obsequious water, overly keen to replace your complimentary bread. While good service often goes by unnoticed, bad service is always remembered.

I’m writing about this as I recently spent a morning watching how it should be done. At Galvin at Windows restaurant at the top floor of the Hilton Hotel in London, I went to see how general manager Fred Sirieix prepares his team for service. Sirieix – who has appeared in this column before in his other role as amateur boxer and charity fundraiser – is a devotee to what he calls The Art of Service, about which he has written, broadcast and even created an educational board game.

I followed the team and made a film of the experience, which you can watch above. Arriving early there was no time for coffee and chatting, as everyone knew what they had to do. No detail was ignored: from table placement to polishing things (which frankly, often didn’t even look like they really needed polishing), to getting the correct angle on soap dispensers in the loos. They were then required to go through some role-playing games where staff would practice serving scenarios, shown how to talk to customers, while having their performances analysed by their managers. Fred made me perform role plays too and I can confirm that they were not easy; but the people and communication skills he was teaching were universal, and not just confined to the restaurant world. Maybe it’s time we became a nation of service obsessives too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam