3 Lessons I learned about customer service from food allergies

photo by http://flickr.com/photos/mrpbps

“You don’t eat wheat?” As a person wtih a gluten intolerance who also really likes to go out to eat, I’ve heard many explanations (or off-putting remarks) from waiters, servers, and restaurant owners. I’ve also been treated to wonderful, unexpected displays of outstanding service in many other eating establishments where people have gone above and beyond to help me have a great meal (regardless of ingredients, my requests, or food allergy awareness.)

I’ve learned a few important lessons from these experiences about customer service.

#1: Attitude Matters

If the server flat-out stonewalls, says they don’t have any options, it’s ok to leave the restaurant. Really. It’s your job to explain (clearly, without being difficult) and it’s their job to try to make you happy (or at least to tell you politely that there’s nothing more for you to eat here.)

#2: Great Servers (and People) Will Ask You To Explain if They Don’t Understand

I know a lot of ingredients that I should avoid if I want to have a great food experience, and the person who will ask the kitchen about it cheerfully, return promptly with the results, and suggest other options where things don’t work is a service winner in my book. And gets a bigger tip.

#3: Restaurants (and Businesses) that sweat the little stuff that matters make other good decisions too

Restaurants and employees who know the ingredients in every dish and have already thought about potential allergens will have better food. Period. If the servers not only have good familiarity with everything on the menu and also know what’s in their dishes, it’s good for everyone. (Even for the people who aren’t allergic.)

So – what other ideas did I take away from this experience?

  • Offer to help.
  • If you don’t know how, ask how you can help
  • And even if you think you know everything about your product or service, you’ll be better able to help all of your customers (and you should listen very carefully to what they tell you.)

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