If it often makes you uncomfortable when someone providing you service is overly formal with you, addressing you as “sir” or “madam”, or employing anachronistic phrases like “it’s been our pleasure serving you this evening”, then there’s a good chance that you are a Millennial. We’ve reached a point in our culture where most people prefer a laid back, personal touch in their server’s approach. So many Millennials in this strange new economy have had to work in hospitality while struggling to find a job in their field that their ability to empathize with service professionals is well developed. The other side of that point is that most people today can sense when a service professional is being inauthentic and sticking to an over rehearsed script. Thus, a new philosophy has been forged in recent years: one that employs casual friendliness while avoiding the pitfall of being overly familiar — even Millennials can sometimes have boundaries and a sense of privacy.
To be fair, there has been something of an evolution towards this moment; from Baby Boomers to the Gen-X crowd, expectations have shifted gradually towards the personal approach. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you want your bartender to tell you about her dating life, but it’s nice to feel like she’s being herself, being authentic. It can feel very old fashioned, very Downton Abbey, to have someone address you as if you are some sort of old timey king or queen. In this culture of equality, just because someone’s making you coffee, doesn’t mean they should be treated like a peasant; we’re all in this together.
To accommodate this new trend in service, many enterprising folks that grew up during this seismic shift are starting businesses that employ a casual, positive attitude from day one. The new service philosophy also espouses the notion that while you can always train someone on the technical side of their job, you can’t necessarily teach someone to have a strong personality or a positive attitude. Therefore, what employers often look for in their staff is not necessarily experience, but a general openness and the ability to adapt on the fly and hold a good conversation with customers while performing a given task.
Another interesting aspect of this shift is that people who don’t necessarily work in the service industry are keen to step behind the curtain and actually get involved with what’s going on. From corporate team building events where you mix your own cocktails – a service offered by the up and coming Canadian company Bartendo.ca to the Korean restaurant trend where you grill your own food, people are interested in rolling up their sleeves and interacting with the culinary process. This desire seems to come from a culture that is less compartmentalized, where people want to pull down walls that have typically divided class and culture, to be able to get a panoramic sense of the scene around them.
Whether you’ve been involved in hospitality for a while, or you’re just setting out on a new career – hell, even if you’re just working a gig to get through college – it’s worth taking a minute to consider the new cultural expectations surrounding service if you want to succeed.