Students of City College Norwich are making their debut
- Credit: Keith Whitmore
In the first of a new series looking at life at City College Norwich, Clare Burgess reports on important lessons being learned at the college’s Debut Restaurant
Customer service is not a department, it’s an attitude. This is one of the first and most important lessons that hospitality students at City College Norwich are taught before they start serving customers in the college’s Debut Restaurant, a training facility that allows students to experience a real working environment as part of their courses. With more and more people logging on to sites such as TripAdvisor to write and check reviews, good customer service is of paramount importance in the hospitality and catering industry. Hospitality lecturer and Debut Restaurant manager, Alan George, is no stranger to providing an exemplary customer experience. With a career spanning more than 30 years, Alan has worked in a variety of food service and management roles. His working life has even seen him providing catering functions for A-list stars and members of the royal household.
Alan explains how he ensures his students receive good customer service training and how they can use this in industry: “In today’s society, it is becoming increasingly common for members of the public to judge an establishment on the service that they receive and not just on the food that is served, which is a reflection of how important exemplary customer service is to any restaurant. To provide a good service to your customer, you need to have the ability to understand people and you need to be able to enjoy communicating with them.
“Customer service is all about understanding the needs of your customer which, in the context of a restaurant, should be a skill that is present in all roles and not just limited to those who are working front of house. In my experience, the best chefs are the ones who understand how every aspect of a restaurant operates and are able to provide excellent service themselves, which is why all of our students receive both kitchen and front of house training during their courses.
“To ensure that our students are working to the highest possible standard before entering the world of work, we go to great lengths to ensure that they develop their customer service skills and encourage them to perfect every fine detail. We help them to develop the confidence to approach a table and greet guests, we teach them the importance of eye contact and we even do deportment exercises to assist with their ability to balance a tray.
“We pride ourselves on the high standard of food and service that we deliver in the Debut Restaurant however, as it is a learning environment, we do witness the occasional mistake. Everybody makes mistakes during the learning process but it is also the best way for our students to improve their performance. It also helps to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes in the commercial world.”
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