Living in the culinary wonderland of Fulton Market in downtown Chicago, I have a choice of grabbing a cup o’ joe at several coffee houses within a half-mile radius. Every custom blended local bean that can be grounded, roasted, steamed, poured-over and crafted imaginable. However my daily stroll takes me to the familiar green-logo’d mermaid a block away. Why? Not because they make the best cappuccino I have ever tasted; but because they have provided me the best customer service experience in the past ten years. At this local corner shop, they have mastered the art of true hospitality through the human touch.
When you think of a corporate food service behemoth and the future of the hospitality industry, the conversation always leads to technological advances. What does the consumer of today desire? Speed, efficiency and a “no wait” experience. Today’s urban consumer wants the ease of ordering from their smartphone. The drive-thru allows the suburban consumer to not even get out of their seat. Uber, DoorDash, Caviar and GrubHub have changed the face of our catering industry. Restaurants deliver food now and are “Caterers”. Technology has changed our world. It has certainly made things convenient for the customer. But is it better? Is it still the hospitality industry?
Several months ago I stopped in to grab my standard drink, a grande non-fat “dry” cappuccino. The barista was unfamiliar with “dry”, so I explained to him that I was recently educated on that as well (more foam, less milk). So as we were chatting up, I asked him his name. He said Jermaine. I said “Jermaine, I am Jen, it’s nice to meet you.” And it has been a pleasure to meet him. He has a lovely smile, demeanor and genuine pleasantness that is a welcome asset in any service industry.
Since my introduction to Jermaine, he has now trained others at the “shop”; “Lucy, that’s Jen. She has a grande non-fat dry cappuccino”. There will be a line ten people deep and Jermaine will see me, smile and say “ Hi Jen!”. You can see everyone in the line turn around thinking, who is this Jen person? To think such a large corporation has created such a community for me as a customer, why would I go anywhere else that is so impersonal?
So each and every morning, I continue to marvel at the beauty of my simple five-minute hospitality experience. This really comes down human touch vs. technology. When it comes to the service industry, I am still leaning toward the conversation, the smile, my daily hello and knowing someone’s name. I’m not just “Jen” on a label. Thanks Jermaine. I appreciate you keeping me in touch with true hospitality.