After what’s been a very busy few months it’s been great to get away for a while and take a trip to the USA. I always love to go to the States as they are so creative when it comes to food and service that I’m always inspired. Usually I’d kick off with some ideas about food but this time I’m going to give you a few thoughts on service.

For years the States have been held up as the epitome (flash word!) of outstanding customer service. Over the years I’ve been in catering both Wendy and I have been sent to the States to see what ‘real service’ is all about; but things have changed!

‘Tellers’ in supermarkets, waiters in fancy-schmancy Manhattan restaurants, even our cousins in the catering service front line have all lost it. It always amuses me in the land of the free where there was the hope, nay expectation that the class system which oppressed so many has gravitated to those Posh Manhattan restaurants where, much like our own posh places the waiters have the ability to make you feel like you’re a fumbling country bumpkin who really shouldn’t have been allowed to get past the front door.

The highlight for me was in Colonial Williamsburg (by the way if you’re ever there go and visit it. It’s a fascinating place) where, in a ‘ye olde worlde’ tea room, a queue formed patiently out of the door into the roasting Virginian midday sun all to buy a soft drink and equally soft biscuit. Behind me was a young mum trying to cope with a pram and two children. There were two ‘wenches’ on the till -one ringing things through and the other , less than one imperial yard away was calling out what the customer had on their tray and only then asking if you wanted any drinks at which point she start to prepare your coffee. I just wanted to scream. The cherry on the cake was when the poor girl behind me (the one with the two children) finally got there. She asked for chilled apple juice, which they‘d run out of so settled on two hot chocolates. Asked if they could be put into two plastic beakers for the children the ‘wench’ told her to take the lids off for her. The beakers had ice in and the ‘wench’ told her that she would have to get rid of it or she kindly offered to put the hot chocolate on the ice in the cups! So the poor mum had to go out of the store, throw away the ice and leave her two children in the store while the queue got bigger and bigger and the ‘wench’ was clearly oblivious to any aspect of the situation.

It strikes me as odd that in a land of friendly chatty people where you genuinely cannot walk down a road without someone saying hi and hello, the minute service comes into the equation all that American charm seems to be funnelling away.

Ok, to quote Georgina Cooper “I’ll get off my soap box now!”, tune in next time for some of the great food ideas we’ve seen.

What’s your most painful service experience?

My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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