I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.Herbert Bayard Swope – American editor and journalist, first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize
I had the pleasure of dining at a very nice venue some months ago with my girlfriend.
Everything was perfect. At least, I had nothing to complain about. But this could just be attributed to me having more relaxed standards.
- We were promptly sat at a nice table with a great view.
- Our waters were topped up when needed.
- Each dish came at the right moment.
- The paired wine was served at the right time.
I can’t speak for the other tables, but we had a great time.
Win Some, Lose Some
Being in the same line of work, I started thinking.
For each perfectly satisfied table, there is probably at least one other that was not completely happy.
When I apply that thinking to my own work, my feeling of unease intensifies.
And when I think of every night that I have worked as a sommelier for the last 5 years I feel like crawling into the fetal position in shame.
How could I possibly live with myself ever again?
I’m sorry if I was not there to top up your wine often enough.
I’m sorry if I was not there to refill your waters all the time.
I’m sorry if the wine you ordered was not in stock. Or if the last bottle had just been ordered by another guest. Or you did get the last bottle, but it turned out to be corked and tainted by trichloroanisole (TCA).
I’m sorry we do not have a wine that’s both dry and sweet.
I’m sorry I don’t speak Japanese/Chinese/Korean.
I’m sorry we don’t have a bottle of Merlot in the $30 range on our wine list.
I’m sorry the guest at the other table took so long to discuss their month-long wine vacation in Europe, and couldn’t find a diplomatic way to eject sooner.
I’m sorry for being an imperfectable human being.
Obviously much of the above is presented tongue-in-cheek.
The real lesson is that you can’t 100% satisfy 100% of the people 100% of the time. To base one’s self-worth on this goal is a recipe for misery.
The real lesson, for me, was to observe those more experienced and knowledgeable than us, and think of ways to apply similar practices in our own lives.
The real lesson is, for me to enjoy myself, I have to stop thinking about work sometimes.
Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.– John F. Kennedy
Read more: A Day In The Life: 3 Stories From The Restaurant Floor