2008-08-27 13:33:45
Bahamas Restaurants: Bad Service, Bad Attitudes
With the economy in decline, and jobs harder to get, you would think service at Nassau restaurants would be on the up and up, with waitresses desperate to show off their professional credentials.

On the contrary, though, service in Nassau seems to get worse and worse, much to the dismay of American tourists who are used to first-class treatment back home.

What is it about Bahamian waitresses, in particular, that gives restaurants in the Bahamas such a bad name? Why are they so routinely sour-faced? Why do they find it so hard to raise a smile and make a customer feel at home?

A senior employee at Atlantis probably revealed the true answer when he told TASTE: "The automatic 15 per cent gratuity is the killer. It's a sad fact that many Bahamian waitresses can only exude pleasantness if they have a financial incentive to do so.

"If they don't have that incentive, they will revert to type - which, unhappily for all concerned, means being unaccommodating and sometimes downright hostile."

Atlantis, the source confessed, was having trouble maintaining four-star service with staff who, very often, were incapable of offering more than a two-star performance.

"It's as though these women bring all the troubles of home to work with them. It's true some of them have unpleasant domestic circumstances - unfaithful husbands, unruly children etc - but they have to be professional enough to leave their troubles behind when they come to work."

Poor service in Nassau is not all about bad attitudes, though. Sometimes, it's just plain etiquette that falls down.

Have you ever been eating a meal in a restaurant when the waitress has turned up to clear the plates away? So while you're still chomping away happily, chatting to your friends, everyone's crockery is cleared and you're left there, exposed and embarrassed.

Surely, one of the first lessons in hotel and catering school is that you only clear the table when everyone has finished eating.

And what about the vexed question of change? If your bill is $60 and you hand over $70 because you don't have the right notes to give the right amount, are you really expected to wait 20 minutes to get your money?

There is no doubt that the delayed delivery of change is a tactic used by many waitresses - waiters, too - in the hope you will get fed up and leave, boosting their compulsory gratuity to even greater heights.

Change should always be returned to the customer promptly, whether it is $10 or 50 cents. Money becomes the staff's property only when the customer says so.

And just how much is a customer expected to leave as a tip when they've already been hit by that 15 percent gratuity?

If the service is exceptional, customers feeling buoyant might well leave a substantial extra amount.

But in some restaurants this "top-up tip" is now being seen as another mandatory reward.

Again, waitresses - more so than waiters get vexed if they don't receive it, creating yet more room for tension between staff and customers.

Perhaps the most horrendous example of bad attitude combined with unrealistic expectations came a few days ago in a Nassau restaurant.

A regular customer who routinely leaves an extra dollar to "top up" the l0 percent compulsory gratuity on a nine-dollar meal decided to keep his banknotes and leave coinage instead.

The waitress was so annoyed when she approached the table that she called the customer back as he was about to leave and planked the coins in his hand.

To his credit, the customer coolly said "Thank you" and left, pocketing the tip, thus saving himself being embarrassed in front of other customers, which was clearly the waitress's intention.

This woman was not only getting a 20 percent tip, she was receiving it from a customer who was one of the few regulars left in a restaurant whose business has dropped dramatically in the last two years.

After this potentially embarrassing experience, the customer said: "I have been troubled by the staff's bad attitudes for some time, but still used the restaurant because it offered value for money.

"However, having been there for lunch for nearly ten years, I shall never return. So the waitress has not only cost her employers a very good customer, she has also deprived fellow waitresses of the tips I always left."

What this woman needs, of course, is instant dismissal and ten years of solid unemployment. But one wonders if such a fate would alter her feelings of entitlement.

Hopefully, a comment in The Tribune last week will focus the minds of Nassau's under-performers.

It was speculated that Cuba, when opened up to US tourists, will reduce Nassau's visitors not by 20 percent, as is generally thought, but 70 percent - by any standard a devastating blow to the local economy.

Surly staff like the one cited above will be among the first to hit the streets. Then the tip she so ungratefully rejected will seem more than acceptable in any form, notes or coins. Only then, of course, it will be too late.

But she is the kind of Bahamian who gives this town its bad name. Others like her need to shape up - or find something else to do with their time.

Source: The Tribune
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