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Q: Why Is Service So Bad in This Area?

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This week’s question comes to us from Ezra K. of Havertown.

Hi Ezra,

That’s quite a blanket statement. It’s like saying, “Why is it so hot in June?” Some days, it’s a scorcher and, on other days, pleasant temps prevail.

Actually, I feel quite the opposite. Traveling extensively across the continent as I do, my observations are that the Philly region’s overall service standards excel when compared with most other metropolitan environs. It’s no wonder why many of our hotels and restaurants are so highly rated.

One reason why I believe our area has so many hospitality-minded individuals is due, in part, to all of the local schools that offer service industry curriculums: Widener University, The Restaurant School, Opportunities Inn, Temple’s Tourism program. They’re all scholastic breeding grounds for ladies and gentlemen who will one day serve ladies and gentlemen.

I can also pinpoint particular industry incubators: the Starr Restaurants organization (Buddakan, Barclay Prime, The Continental, etc.), Garces Restaurant Group, (Amada, Tinto, Distrito, etc.), Win Signature Restaurants (Teikoku, Azie on Main, Mixx, etc.), and The Rittenhouse Hotel. All have outstanding training programs in place, and, collectively, these companies have produced hundreds of top-notch service professionals, many of whom have gone on to open well-received places of their own.

Also, compared to other regions, I think we, the paying customers, have a better appreciation for good service when we’re given it (which would explain why the Zagat restaurant survey rates Philadelphia metro diners as the top tippers in the country).

When someone states that there’s no good service around these parts, my mind begins to consider recent experiences. All of them yielded truly stellar employee-guest interactions. I had a spot-on dinner at the new Capital Grille in King of Prussia and several nice lunches at Seasons 52 (also in KOP), while Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in Radnor never disappoints, and I’m always impressed by the staff at Nectar in Berwyn. More modest operations like Nudy’s Café work hard to create ever-sunny meals and, if you want to receive the biggest welcoming smile ever, go to Exton’s Panera Bread when Candace is working the register—she’ll put any grumbly bear in a good mood.

But …

I also believe that, for every good service industry experience, a poor one is waiting to happen within the retail sector. This is partly due to a lack of proper training, and also because today’s retail workforce has been inundated by job seekers from other professions who may have little face-to-face experience with the public. These days, the sad reality is that good customer service within retail is a rare commodity. (I cite two unfortunate situations that stick deep within my memory: the teenage clerk texting while ringing me up at the local pharmacy and how I’m “just another number” at the convenience store’s deli counter.)

Outstanding service is in the eye of the beholder, Ezra. And I hope you get to meet more hospitality-minded folks as you shop, wine and dine locally in the future.

Hospitably Yours,
Ken Alan

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