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It's just hard to believe the Covid time warp that has taken place. Four years ago, heading into the holidays, we began this journey when smart investors started buying long on Charmin and Huggies anticipating the world shutting down in March. Just crazy now to look back almost four years later. Business and how we do business has been forever changed since coming out of the pandemic, and the looming heaviness of AI threatens so many industries and trades as it creeps in. But the one thing that will never, ever be affected or altered - no matter how many Ubers and Door Dashes and Green Chefs will try - is the experience of going out to eat at a restaurant. The joy of sitting in a well-curated dining room in all the right ways with lighting and music and comfortable chairs and clean aesthetics and restaurant people trying to create a really relaxing and memorable moment for you and your the way we restaurant people do.

So what has changed? Service has changed. The hospitality industry is the second largest employer in the United States with 15.5M folks making their living saying "how can I help you?” And with millions more up and down the supply chain. But there is no doubt, the guest service experience in many industries has dramatically changed from what it was prior to Covid. What happened? I heard a story from a smart friend yesterday talking about the farming industry after World War II and how farmers and wine makers in Europe were dramatically challenged because to younger generations farming was no longer something interesting to them, as it had been to generations before them. When I was a young cook in the kitchens of San Francisco's Zuni and Berekley's Chez Panisse, I was at 22 the youngest cook in the kitchen, by a lot. Servers were older, bar staff was older. Wisdom and legacy trained the newbies, and the inherited knowledge was passed on almost ceremonially. That legacy went away during and shortly after Covid, and hospitality employees still in the game now, who were fully engaged prior to the pandemic, are the most valuable treasures our businesses have. Working in restaurants has changed. And for you guests who came to really know and love the best team at your favorite restaurants, you have seen them go like never before. 

So now, we restaurants are trying harder than ever to recapture that magic that happens in a restaurant or bar when you have passionate and curious and excited hospitalitarians who create amazing memories and exceptional experiences, because that is what gets them out of bed in the morning. And luckily for all of us, we have so many brightly shining, intelligent people coming in our back doors looking for work. And even more luckily for us, these awesome folks are just as hungry and passionate and curious as those who came before them. But it will take time for our industry to reset. In the meantime, you, our guests, have reached a level of service fatigue that carries far beyond the walls of restaurants into grocery, clothing, airline, automotive and every seeming aspect of retail. Service in America is challenging right now, and those who are delivering on the promise of great service, should be applauded. We in the hospitality industry get it. We live it. We get shaved from both sides of the razor, spending the work part of our life delivering the service and the living part of our lives being guests and customers just like you. We get it. We really do. 

In that meantime, we can all be ambassadors of the effort at improving the guest/customer experience. If you spend money at a business and those folks have their heads all the way up their keesters and clearly no one at any level seems to care about what happened and how it happened, then by all means, get online and blast them in whatever way you deem necessary. But if you truly like the business, maybe know some of the participants or at least sense that someone cares about the outcome and that your experience wasn't maybe the normal experience, reach out directly to the owner. I have been the recipient of 100+ Yelp reviews a week since it was born in that special corner of hell it came from. And for any of us truly trying to make every guest experience better every day, regardless of how harsh the most creative of harsh reviews has ever been, there are nuggets and wisdom to be gleaned from all of it. But the more powerful and appreciated and respectful customer feedback are those sent to us directly, not posted on a world wide site for the wide world to see. Doesn't mean the direct outreach has to be any less direct. You can tell that business owner or manager exactly what you think in the way you think it. But the end result is a better opportunity for the business owner to make it right, to reach back out to you personally to make it right, and for the messaging to be so much more impactful and helpful to the business than just blasting someone on a public platform trying to earn reverence and elite status. 

Business in America is really challenging right now. And anybody worth a shake showing up for work every day has gotta care about the brilliance of which they and their staff are operating. Those that don't won't last long, and those that do might, but there is no guarantee. Have just a little more patience with your service experiences. The restaurant industry as a whole is aware of the problem. We hear it, we get it, we live it and we are working harder than ever to change it. But when an entire industry loses its long-standing, deeply rooted wisdom and elders - as Europe's farming industry did in the 50's and as our industry did over the past three years - it takes a minute to rebuild. The service experience will come back bigger and better and more passionate and efficient than ever, it just has to. Until then, more cowbell.