There is a common adage in Italian which says: Paese che vai! Usanze che trovi! (Any country you go to you will find different people’s habits) In English, its equivalent would be: when in Rome do as the Romans do!
Regardless the exact translations of these sentences, the meaning is pretty clear for both. Wherever you go, the mores are different and, acceptance of those is the beginning of any sort of integration and success.
As a professional in Hospitality, I work with people every day and I am completely aware of these customs, however as a professional foreigner I also feel the obligation to provide my contribution in my sector of work, and I tend to observe my customers and other businesses in order to understand them better. I’ve then realised some of the locals’ habits have a negative impact upon the hospitality sector in its integrity and evolution.
Food Customization habit
South Australians have a prominent food customization habit, which may be legitimate under the local customers’ service expectation, but decontextualized, it is a pretty extreme technical non-sense.
Here are some examples of unique requests I have heard during these years of my work in South Australia.
“Could I have my pizza, but without dough…?”
“Could I have a quarter strength cappuccino large, half hot water with milk froth but not milk?”
Could I have the breakfast board but replace all the ingredients with the extras available on the menu instead? Thanks
These customers’ habits are a hassle for restaurants and cafés during operational hours; they cause breaks in service timing, decrease the kitchen team’s morale, increase complexity in stock management and food storage, which perhaps is one of the most critical factors influencing quality of ingredients, and the overall quality of food and service. Moreover, especially in high-end restaurants, recipes are mediums of cultural and/or professional expression. Messing them up is often seen as great sign of disrespect for the people, who have been working hard on designing them, which is why professionals do not like this habit!
But why this habit happens, is it only a customer’s fault? NO!
Business Customer Service:
In South Australia, business can’t afford to say ‘NO!’
It is common thinking that any business would like to be a successful business and no business managers can accept a failure. To guarantee their success, businesses chose their markets and their customers’ segment. However, with such a small population, South Australia doesn’t provide many options, markets are pretty limited and competition is high on any single customer. Therefore, a common marketing strategy is to welcome any customer‘s requirement.
This is what I call: the “yes! marketing strategy”. A strategy which has contributed to the quick success of food establishments that are providing extreme food customization options in exchange for a lower food quality but also helping to establish this bad customer habit creating management difficulties; difficulties which have been partially solved by employing greater numbers of junior temporary workers, with no experience, but keen to accept this egocentric practice.
Kids’ food habits:
Due to my position of foreign father of my 6 years old Australian son, who lives in Adelaide and goes to school there. I had the chance to see and examine, this strange cultural practice in which, kids are allowed the right of choice, to accept or refuse whatever food is offered to them to eat. Disregarding seasons, availability, or even the children’s own health; this habit, which is generally unacceptable in Italy, it is completely ok in here and, in my opinion, not only can be a great danger for the kids’ developing palate but also one of the fundamental roots of the future adulthood’s food customization habit.
There are also two extra players helping to develop this habit, let’s quickly describe them: (I will present them in more deep and adequate individual posts on my blog pages).
Food market limitation:
South Australia has a pretty limited independent food supply chain. Specialized shops with more food selections are available but pretty rare, often providing products from overseas, which are more expensive and limited to the elite of wealthy food connoisseurs. This factor has deeply influenced the customers’ habits and requirements. Big food distributors don’t rely on diverse seasonal and local availability but instead, serve customers with a constant and reliable small selection of fruits, veggies, and standardized goods, which are providing a long-lasting shelf life. This management choice guarantees these businesses a more controllable and profitable operation, although it limits the everyday choice of food ending in our baskets; and as a consequence, creates standardized customers’ palates that are in contrast to our natural needs of food diversity, leading to an increasing need for food customization, which is then satisfied through sauces and extra food options. In addition to that, it is also rare for locals to visit food production areas during harvest seasons, (a practice quite common in Italy and other European countries) which makes it hard for customers to source natural and fully ripened fruits and veggies (which would provide an experience to them, contributing positively to the customers’ palate and understanding of seasonality, food production chains and environments). (see post future post)
Lack of professionals in the market
As mentioned in my previous post (here), there is a lack of professionals in the market. This fact has a negative impact on the industry. Professionals always bring knowledge, and are often keen on educating other professionals and customers; however, if you want to educate, you need to have the knowledge that enables you to say NO!’ Denying choice without this knowledge is a dangerous practice, and without people who love this job and bring passion in it (which I like to call professionals), it is most likely that businesses will allow customers to customize their food choices, instead of showing them the lack of knowledge in the establishment.
There are many factors influencing customer habits, and it is unlikely that it is possible to change all of them in the blink of an eye; however, customers are one of the great stakeholders involved in the Hospitality sector, and unfortunately, in order to attain an increase in South Australia’s appeal on the routes of international tourism (forecasted to reach a pick of $151.4 billions in 2026 upon the overall Australia) , local customers have to be educated to support the state industry and the growth of a State’s market, which at the moment sits 5th in the Australian 2017 hospitality ranking but has potentiality to be one of the Australian’s leading states in both Hospitality and Tourism.
“There are no good or bad customers; it is just a matter of clear communication!” Simone Berliat 31/10/218
DOMESTIC TOURISM FORECASTS | TOURISM RESEARCH AUSTRALIA
In-text: (Tra.gov.au, 2018)
Your Bibliography: Tra.gov.au. (2018). Domestic Tourism Forecasts | Tourism Research Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.tra.gov.au/Domestic/domestic-tourism-forecasts [Accessed 8 Nov. 2018].
Eating out Australia 2017
In-text: (The-drop.com.au, 2018)
Your Bibliography: The-drop.com.au. (2018). [online] Available at: http://www.the-drop.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/EatingOutinAustralia_2017_Respondent-Summary.compressed.pdf [Accessed 8 Nov. 2018].