what is excellent
I was re-reading a post I did almost a year ago on my last day of my internship at Alla Lanterna: the restaurant in Italy where I apprenticed for 2 months. That particular post was about professionalism and what it means to me, and as I re-read it, I thought about another quality that is important to me: excellent. What does it mean: excellent?
To me, excellent is an elusive word. It has a wide range of meanings from the slang (remember Bill & Ted’s Adventure?) EXCELLENT! when something went right or the way you wanted it to the real meaning from the dictionary:
possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.
Archaic . extraordinary; superior.
I remember my performance evaluations during my time working for Corporate America, and how Excellent was always what we strived for, but were certainly willing to accept ‘satisfactory’ or ‘met objectives’. To achieve Excellent was to overachieve and that rating showed how hard we had worked and that we were recognized for it.
In my new business: the art of cooking, ‘excellent’ is a little more difficult to define. It is a flavor, a texture, a combination of ingredients, a sunny day and a barbecue, a gathering of friends at a picnic with hamburgers and hot dogs…..in other words, it’s more of an emotion as opposed to an adjective. It is also about performance and professionalism. Remember the last time you ate at a great restaurant where all of the elements easily came together: great food, great service, great location, ambience, and even price. You though to yourself: ‘this was an excellent meal’, and because all of those elements came together, right? You wouldn’t say, the food was OK, but the service was really excellent. No, the service would get discounted because the food was just OK.
Excellent is the combination of all elements coming together to create an experience which is deemed superior from other experiences by the recipient. Here’s an example of an experience for us: we recently worked at a wedding where we cooked a variety of different foods for the clients. There was some apprehension from the rest of the the family because they are all people who enjoy cooking. We served several dishes buffet-style and at the end of the evening when we were ready to leave, we received hugs from both the bride and groom who told us that the work we did was EXCELLENT, and that they appreciated what we did for them. Here’s what we did:
1. We showed up on time and served the food on time
2. We prepared all of the food with fresh ingredients and according to the client’s requests
3. We followed up to ensure the food was good and met the expectations of the client
4. We left the premise with a clean kitchen and with happy clients who told us that they were told by their friends that it was the ‘best wedding food they’ve had’.
None of that was difficult to do on our part, but it sure made a difference with the client. We provided an overall excellent experience for them and they will remember it and us!
My point here is not to tout about how great our service is, it’s to help you think about what excellent means to you. It’s not a word that should be used lightly, but I do it thanks to Bill & Ted….
I sometimes feel that the desire to provide excellent service is passé. We all get hit with surveys, and questionnaires, and we get asked for feedback from everyone and their brother…no offense, but I don’t think that buying toilet paper at the grocery store warrants feedback. Does any of that feedback produce excellent service? Does the fact that the grocery store clerk robotically asks you if you found everything OK, and if would you like help out with that one bag of pretzels you bought warrant excellent service? No, that clerk doesn’t mean it; it’s something they are told they must do everyday to every customer who comes through their line. Excellent service would be the clerk engaging me in a genuine conversation, asking me if I found everything, and if I didn’t, making a call to manager to find out why the item I was looking for couldn’t be found and then maybe giving me a rain check or a date when the item would be available again.
Back to food…..I like to think I prepare excellent food because I care about what I am making, whether it is a simple lasagne or a sophisticated dish….it is always made with the best ingredients my client can afford, with care, and attention to detail. I want every bite that goes into a client’s mouth to be a ‘wow that was good’ and I want the overall experience to be ‘wow A Posto provides excellent service’. In turn, I want to receive the same kind of ‘wow’ from services I purchase.
I leave you with no recipe this time; instead, I leave you to think about what excellent means to you and more importantly, that you find it. A presto!