How to deliver michelin star customer service with Chris Bakowski

To celebrate the return of hospitality, Indeed Flex hosted 8 webinars as part of a series titled ‘Hospitality’s Road To Reopening’. The...

Indeed Flex

20 May 2021

4 min read

To celebrate the return of hospitality, Indeed Flex hosted 8 webinars as part of a series titled ‘Hospitality’s Road To Reopening’. The webinars supported our Flexer community and business owners alike, with up-to-date information on regulations and useful insights from industry experts. In the fourth session, we spoke with the wonderful Chris Bakowski – director of Primo Hospitality and Primo People. Chris chatted about delivering Michelin Star customer service and the importance of high standard customer service in general.  Chris, who has previously worked for some well-known names, including Gordon Ramsey and Jason Atherton, generously shared his expertise during the session. Here is an overview of what we discussed:

What would be your advice to those returning to hospitality and those starting afresh?

“In terms of looking after the guests, I think people can overcomplicate service. But if you work in a certain type of restaurant and if you work at a Michelin standard, there’s a body of knowledge that goes behind it.

“You have to be fluent in the language of what you’re serving, and you need to be able to communicate the provenance of things that are cooked and prepared. But at the heart of it, you’re just looking after people. So you’re in the people business before you’re in the food and drink business if that makes sense.

“The basis of service for me is anticipating the guest’s needs being able to cater to their wants before they realise they have them.”

How do you deal with demanding customers?

“You’ve got to assume that most people if they are complaining in a restaurant, are coming at you with a legitimate gripe, or at least think they have a legitimate gripe.

“People aren’t generally out to get you… you’re not there to be right; you’re there to make sure people have a good time. You need to make sure their people leave happy, whatever the circumstances. As long as you catch it early enough, you can make up for most things throughout the meal. That comes from engaging with your guests and talking to them.

“One way or another, if your guest has an issue, you must make sure it’s handled. You should deal with it in the restaurant on the night by talking to them and trying to find out what it is that’s upsetting them and how you can make up for it.”

What would you say to people considering hospitality as a full-time job?

“It’s always felt to me like a genuine craft in a world where a lot of people don’t think that their job matters.

“Have you ever been to a party and you ask someone what they do and they mumble ‘I’m an analyst systems developer…’ and they’re a little embarrassed about what they do, and they kind of look down like it’s not an important thing. You never feel like that in hospitality.

“If you work in a bar or restaurant, people come to you when they’re happy, and people come to you when they’re sad. People come to you to celebrate every kind of life marker, getting engaged, getting married. People get together in restaurants, and people break up in restaurants. People come to do all those kinds of important things, and they come to do them with you, and you get to share a part of that.

“Aside from that, the positive feedback you get from it is so short. If you’re doing an office or business-based job, you might be working on it for six months before it comes to fruition, and you know whether you did a good job or not. In a restaurant, if you’re a waiter and you’re on a station, you’ve got 12 tables a night, and you’re going to know whether you did a good job or not by the way they look a6t you. “The feedback loop on it is so short. So it’s really rewarding to go home and have that experience 12 times a night.”

What are your top tips for customer service?

“Anticipating the guests’ needs. That has got to be at the heart of it. Being relatable is another thing. You’re a person dealing with people, just be relatable and be a normal person with people.

It was great to hear the advice on delivering Michelin star customer service from Chris. Thanks to our guests for joining us in discussing such an important topic as the industry reopens.