by Egi Gaisie

A toolkit as defined by a dictionary could mean ‘a set of tools, especially one kept in a bag or box and used for a particular purpose.’ It could also mean ‘ a personal set of resources, abilities, or skills.’ 

Considering the above definitions I can confidently say I used at least three of my senses as a ‘toolkit’ when I was working in the housekeeping department of a hotel. The more I used the kit, the better I become in a particular area of my work.

In this article I suggest how the five senses may be used as a ‘tool kit’ in food and beverage service by food and beverage service personnel.

It may cost nothing but it certainly can become a self-development toolkit for the personnel to influence the culinary experiences of guests/customers, contributing to the exceptional service in discussion.

In Part 1 of this article, i made a number of suggestions to help equip food and beverage service personnel before they encounter the guest/customer to deliver theexceptional service explained in the article.

I mastered the art of ‘identifying clean’ by the use of my eyes (does it look clean?), the use of my nose (does it smell clean?) and the use of the sense of ‘touch'(does if feel clean). Let’s see how an extended version may be used by food and beverage service personnel.

SIGHT: Look up; are there any lights flicking, any too dim to read the menu or any burned out bulbs? Is there anything not quite right as you keep your eyes up and around the whole area dedicated for the service-this is irrespective of whether its indoors or outdoors. Lower your eyes and inspect another circumference. If indoors, you may note the uneven hanging of curtains or shades and slanted wall pictures or artifacts. Step back and assess the pattern of the table layout.

You should be making the needed corrections as you carryout this visual inspection. Note that when guests/customers walk in and they take their seats, their eyes wonder around, consciously or unconsciously, before they even order the drink or food!

The table top is a point of focus as well. It must be attractive, interesting but functional. Before you panic, the modern art of table setting does not require every square centimeter to be filled with cutlery, crockery and glasses. Keep it simple and consider using a centerpiece or decorative item to enhance the table top. For instance when I observed that guests/customers were not particularly impressed by fresh flowers, I used miniature Ghanaian carvings as centerpieces. These made conversations at the tables!

In looking down, observe cables running across the paths(indoors and outdoors) of guests/customers.

SMELL: Many words are used to describe the sense of smell and different types of smells; aroma, fragrance, bouquet, perfume, odor, scent, stench and stink. To simplify this discussion, you want a healthy and pleasant smell.

We all love (I assume) the fresh pleasant and clean smell after a heavy rain storm or which the wind carries down before a thunderstorm.

Note that the longer a room is closed off and is not ventilated, an odor develops ranging from mildly unpleasant to offensively musty, the later indicating the presence of mold or mildew. Spraying an air fresher does not make it any better! Open windows and doors to let in fresh air.

TASTE: The sense of taste, talking about food, is not easy either. I remember organizing a special class, ‘Menu appreciation,’ just so food and beverage personnel will go beyond describing food as ‘nice’ and ‘delicious’.  I observed a big challenge. Many of us are found wanting in finding appropriate vocabulary to describe foods in general. Ghanaian foods are generally described as spicy or mild, but are these adequate?

The tongue recognizes five basic tastes:salty, sweet, sour, bitter and unami-a savory aspect associated with mushrooms and meat. But taste is influenced by many other factors.

Again to simplify the discussion I would like to refer you to the link provided below. Explore expanding your vocab in describing foods.

TOUCH: This is believed to be the first sense we develop as human beings. It is a powerful sense. In transferring it into the food service environment, find the right temperature (if using air condition) which makes the guest/customer comfortable.

A sense of touch may also be impacted by the perception of personal space. If you are sitting alone at a table for 2 near a wall, you would probably feel cozy and secure. If the same table is positioned in the middle of the space surrounded by others you will likely feel exposed and invaded. This tells you that different table styles/layouts influence the environment (cozy and secure, anchored and secure, communal etc).

Last but not the least and perhaps the most obvious on touch is the physical touch of different finishes; ranging from the feel of the table to the comfort of the chairs and even the texture of plates and cutlery.  Food service personnel usually do not have much control over this but I do get upset when paper tissues are used at certain food service environments instead of linen napkins.

HEARING: Sounds create feelings connected to mood. It triggers emotions and builds memories. There is nothing more distracting in a food service environment than loud music or other noises. Consider your type of guests/customers. Volume control is necessary for guests/customers to hear themselves and the type or selection of music must fit the target market.

Come to think of it, as food service personnel we easily complain about not having certain tools available to work. You now realize how amazing our human body may be used to excel in the delivery of food and beverage service! Be intentional/deliberate and  execute an experience which results in exceptional service!

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