After many years as a customer 'servant' in retail management with a little dabble in hospitality and tourism, I understand delivering service from a business's perspective and receiving service as a customer.
I know what service standards should be in theory and the difficulties, sometimes, of putting it into practice.
I think I know what turns customers on and off. I certainly know what turns me on and off. There are shops, restaurants and cafes that will never see another penny piece from me ever for various reasons.
Let me focus in on booking a table in a restaurant. Here are questions I intend to ask at the time of my phone call:
What is your policy on service charges and tipping? (I loathe pressured or expected tipping, enforced service charges and waiting staff's faces changing from grin to grim if I decide not to leave a gratuity. By the way, it's a reason I pause whenever I consider a trip to the US. The vile and vicious tipping culture is a real bummer brought on by tight-fisted employers. It spreads beyond America with even a 'tips box' becoming a fixture in some establishments.) I will evaluate my decision based on whatever the policy is.
Do you have eardrum-busting music blaring out of the ceiling? (I detest the noise of screeching divas screaming for the highest note just below the white noise of a dog whistle while I am trying to have a conversation. It is distracting, annoying and totally unnecessary and, no, it does not add any pleasant atmosphere whatsoever. In addition, it is unseemly to have bleeding ears when in company.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.
Do you allow dogs? (I'm not a dog person and I find the whole notion of dogs in restaurants abhorrent.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.
Do you allow customers to vape at their tables? (I have seen a few examples where this appears to be acceptable in pubs. I saw somebody vaping in a Belfast bar and another in a Chester pub. Noooooo.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.
At the time of this phone call, do you already have bookings for cackling hen parties or rowdy stag parties? If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks, although they are unlikely to admit to the prospect of either or both.
Do you have tables underneath heaters that broil customers as they eat or under air-conditioning units that would freeze the orbs off brass monkeys? Er, you don't allow monkeys and dogs, do you? If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.
Booking a restaurant, for me anyway, has become a complicated business...... as you can tell.