Prime the pump
August 23, 2022
International standards aren’t going to come down to meet our subpar service

There’s a saying “you can’t put new wine in old bottles.” It is said that if you do, the wine will break/burst the bottles, you will lose the wine because it will spill, and you will lose the bottles because they will break/burst.

Similarly, if we continue to recycle the best of the worst service providers and put them in new high-end facilities to work, we will continue to lose – they will continue to bring the business down…

Recently we visited a hotel for dinner, we were in the company of an international traveller. I had been talking about a “new experience” to be had here and was keen to introduce my friend. I held my breath hoping that the experience I had six weeks prior was an isolated one.

During that visit, I requested to have my glass of wine changed no fewer than five times. It seemed like flying insects were attracted to the wine.

Eventually, the waiter brought over a paper napkin and asked me to cover the rim of the glass, which meant, that I only had the use of one hand. Whenever I removed my hand, the napkin moved away and insects took over the wine. Eventually I gave up on my attempt to enjoy a glass of wine.

This time, again the ambience was great, but the staff did not demonstrate the knowledge one would expect at such a high-end facility and my friend recognized it off the bat. We were given three menu options and it was only after we carefully selected our drinks, starters and main course and the waiter had taken our order to the kitchen that he was made aware that several items “on the menu” weren’t really “on the menu”. Even after we settled for alternatives some noteworthy offences were committed. Gin and tonic were served without lemon/lime. A good bartender would know that to serve gin and tonic there are some basic pointers: the glass – you set the pace with the right shaped glass. The ice – You need good quality ice that comes from filtered or pure water. The gin – Quality is a must. The tonic – A good tonic.

Rule of thumb is you double the amount of tonic to gin otherwise, flexed to taste. The garnish – A fresh garnish, the go-to being citrus. Finally, the finish – Stir, serve and enjoy – (reference WHICHGIN).

According to the Waiter/Bartender, the citrus was omitted because it was not asked for.

Next, we were served sushi without chopsticks. They apologized for being out of chopsticks.

Some people love sushi and for others, well, it’s more about the experience. While sushi should be eaten with your hand in certain situation, if a restaurant expects you to eat with your hand, it is expected that you will be provided with an extra towel to clean your hand between sushi.

However, if the customer is after the experience, no chopsticks affect the experience.

Finally, the lamb was served without mint. When mint was requested, the waiter returned with garlic sauce, stating it was the chef’s recommendation. According to the “Flavor Network and the Principles of Food Pairings”, an article which was published by researchers in Scientific Reports in 2011, “roasted and grilled lamb has a flavour unlike any other cooked meat, distinguished by the release of volatile aroma compounds in the fat during cooking. The majority of these compounds are branched-chained fatty acids (BCFAs). Mint is rich in branched-chain ketones, which are chemically related to lamb’s BCFAs and have similar, though not identical, aromas. This means, according to the theory of food pairing, that lamb and mint are a scientific match.” It was another “shake our heads” moment.

I vaguely remembered a comment some years ago that created a stir when a politician implied that police officers who have never travelled outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines shouldn’t be assigned to the Immigration Department. It was a solid suggestion and one I fully support.

The sad reality is, there is the “Vincy service standard” and then there is the “international service standard”. We are all excited about the prospects of several new hotels that are in the works. We hope that they will attract international travellers, many of whom will only give us one chance to create an “international standard impression”. International standards aren’t going to come down to meet our limited knowledge and subpar service, we must come up to it. It is an individual’s responsibility, as well as a collective responsibility.