The holidays are the time of year when everything becomes more hectic, frantic, and frequently more difficult to deal with. Obstacles appear out of nowhere. Customers, who seemed joyous, happy and cordial in October as they booked their holiday parties suddenly, become more demanding than we ever thought they could.
"Tis the season of profitability and the key to that goal is to please your customers. More importantly if that bottom line number is to be reached all the pieces of the puzzle need to come together smoothly. Yet, there always seems to be a few more hurdles placed on the course than previously expected when it comes to making that smooth transition from red to black.
Last Saturday evening I experienced such an instance at The Swiss Hotel in Sonoma, California. Just returning from a week of above average service and accoutrements, I decided to enjoy a quick meal at my favorite Sonoma restaurant. I know the chef, the owner, and most of the waiters and bartenders as I have frequented the establishment weekly for the past five years. Comfort is the mainstay of this historic inn and eatery. A spot for locals, tourists, and weekenders, The Swiss runs like a watch, albeit it one that occasionally needs winding, it seldom slows down and never stops. The Swiss´s owner has a keen eye for detail and the staff is trained in the art of hospitality. The menu, atmosphere, and ambiance are built on tradition and that is the establishment´s attraction.
Walking through the main dining room on Saturday evening I was filled with a festive feeling. Christmas parties were in full swing, holiday travelers had once again found time to visit The Swiss. Something, however, felt a miss as I sat at a table on the patio. Was it the sound of the rain? Was it the flowers in the planters? Something was different. Finally, I realized the red and white checkered table clothes that have signified the restaurants Italian origin for decades had changed. They were no longer the crisp white and red clothes that only weeks ago graced the patio- they were now pink and red. A rather washed out, dingy looking pink.
When the Executive Chef appeared tableside, I asked Nancy if the hotel did their own linen.
"No, we have a linen company. They just can´t seem to get it right. Hank (the owner) is livid. He´s called but they just won´t do anything about it."
The Obstacle – the linen company. A few weeks back I wrote that your vendors are your partners. They not only need to care about the service they offer but also the product they supply. Linen companies are often the biggest culprit in the supply chain. They love to go to the ragged edges of the product before they can replace it and unless you scrutinize each piece of pressed white or folded checked you may be surprised at what lies mid pile.
In the case of the pink and red checked- here´s what happened-when the colors ran on a giant tub of swirling, soapy clothes, nobody took the precaution to do a quick rewash. The colors ran and the pink and red clothes wee invented. The supply house probably had run out of fresh white and red and they had to send the pinkies.
Mistakes happen. And, whether it is aprons, or napkins, or check table clothes, make sure you look at your linen with a magnified eye. Nothing is more embarrassing that setting a table with clothes that are grey, napkins that are frayed and clothes that are pink, when they are supposed to be white.
If you find you have a linen problem, call your vendor immediately, in most cases, the professional linen companies will correct the problem post haste. Then issue a credit for the inconvenience. If they don´t you should find one that will.
Remember, linen costs can fluctuate like the price of lettuce. Make sure you review your bills weekly. And, if there are any problems, it should be your linen company’s responsibility to iron out the wrinkles in the relationship.