Understanding a foreign worker’s perspective could help improve service
Like apples and oranges, the behaviours that constitute good customer service in restaurants are different from country to country. So, it’s no surprise that misunderstandings can arise when a foreign foodservice worker comes to work in Canada.
Consider, for example, how Chinese restaurant staff would respond to a diner asking for assistance, versus how a Canadian restaurant worker would respond to the same inquiry. In Canada, a server is designated to a specific table and section and will usually be flagged down if there’s a problem. In Chinese eateries, waiters serve everyone and there’s no concept of ‘yours’ and ‘mine.’ Therefore, it makes sense that a Chinese person working in a Canadian restaurant could aggravate other servers who think he or she is pushy and trying to hone in on their territory. Customers could view this server as poor because they aren’t getting the level of individualized service they expect from a Canadian establishment. Conversely, a Canadian working in a Chinese restaurant will likely be thought of as selfish and a poor team player. In both cases, the expectation of what it means to be a good server is completely different.
Ordering food is another way that individualism influences customer expectations. In countries such as France and Japan, the concept of modifying a meal to the customer’s preferences is unthinkable. From their perspective, the chef or restaurateur invests a great deal of time creating the optimum blend of flavours and ingredients to create the perfect dish. To drive the point home, consider the example of a Canadian who ordered a pizza without mushrooms at a Japanese restaurant. The server’s response: “the pizza comes with the toppings listed on the menu.” After several unsuccessful attempts to have the mushrooms kiboshed, the chef came to the table and addressed the request with a similar response to the waiter. Anything less than what was on the menu was deemed sub-optimal. Note that service expectations in Canada are to please the customer and accommodate their preferences (though there are many Canadian chefs who do not allow substitutions as well). The service expectation in France or Japan is to provide a gastronomically satisfying experience.
The list of culture cuisine inconsistencies across the globe doesn’t end here, but it’s clearly important to understand your foreign workers perspective and find the best way to find common ground.
Melissa Magder is a Toronto-based Cross-Cultural Training Consultant.