Apparently Visit Britain chairman Christopher Rodrigues fears foreign tourists could be put off by low standards in UK hotels and restaurants. What puts me off visiting hotels and restaurants is their plasticisation.
We used to live in Windsor, a charming place once, but now full of plastic bars and cafés with no feeling of authenticity. At least the castle has been there longer than five minutes.
I agree that bad service in terms of poor quality food, dirt and unhelpfulness is damaging, as I remember from many years ago when measuring airport customer service performance as a member of British Airways’ Quality Team. But I also think excessive standardisation and the simpering from staff with idiotic grins on their faces, which some mistake for good service, are just as damaging.
Many of the best hotels, guest houses and restaurants I remember have been quirky. Some of them even had their own rules, like a gentlemen’s club. If the service, accommodation and food is superb, then what’s wrong with a few rules? Better than places which try to please everyone and end up getting everything wrong. Recently, in Oxford, we were asked if we had any special requirements as we requested a table in a lookalike restaurant we had mistaken for another one. “No, we’re just two normals,” I replied.
A little quirkiness added to an otherwise superb venue can add an element of exclusivity too.
So don’t worry about reasonable rules, as not every establishment can hope to deliver everything: better that it does what it can do superbly. I know guest houses with rules who get people coming back again and again, because the rules enable the owners and staff to achieve excellence in the defined service they offer.
I hope UK venues don’t standardise too much and throw away the characteristics that create the best possible experience.