The Pathway to Trust: Self-Control
I admit it: I watch Chopped. Yup, the culinary game show where chefs must skillfully overcome the ingredients in a mystery basket, the ticking clock and their own inventiveness to become a “Chopped Champion” and win $10,000. Not only do I remember the winners and some poor losers (and a former colleague of my husband’s who won very gracefully!) I remember this: that one chef, when looking at the contents of his basket, decided to scratch his face.
Not in a ferocious “I have an itch” kind of way. Rather in a thinking kind of way, a way that said “what on earth will I do with these disparate ingredients?” This is common, lots of people will touch their faces when thinking, the classic “thinker pose” is of a man with his head on his hand just thinking. So universal! So poetic! So…. unsanitary!
Watching this chef I had to admit I was hoping for a breakaway shot after this moment to document that this chef went to the handwash sink to wash his hands or at least put on a pair of latex gloves. But no! Into the race he went, grabbing vegetables, boxes of spices, tools, etc. Ripping open packaging and pulling out raw ingredients with the same hands that were just touching his face. Watch out judges, sanitation has been breached.
But this is not just an example of cleanliness. This is an example of self-control. In the restaurant business we must exhibit extreme amounts of self-control both in the kitchen and especially in the dining room. Self-control (controlling the human urge to touch your face, for example) is essential in the dining room as it contributes to two essential parts of service: trust and communication. Trust is a key piece of the service interaction. We routinely trust that the things in a restaurant are going to be sanitary and safe to consume. When staff members forget about self-control then the trust that your guests walk in with has an opportunity to be broken.
Trust is the unspoken but obvious currency in any business transaction. We routinely trust businesses to do what they say, be respectful of our privacy, show care with our payments and credit cards, be fair with pricing and be reliable. Trust is a huge part of making sales in any business and in the restaurant business there is the additional burden of safety; our guests trust us not to harm them with the food we serve and the utensils and china we serve upon.
And be warned: someone will be sure to notice your actions. And what they notice will either collaborate with or dissipate their feeling of trust in our business. We must try, at all costs, to eliminate any moments of doubt in the guest experience. We must uphold and value the trust our guests put in us at every turn, it is just that important!
Self-control also impacts communication. Body language counts far more than actual words in most face-to-face communication (58-93% of communication is said to be non-verbal) so self-control is essential when speaking to strangers. The way you stand, gesture, react and respond is a huge indication of your thoughts and can either support your words or undermine them. Self-control when speaking is a skill that must be taught and reinforced day in and day out in any business where there is face-to-face interaction with customers. A slouch shows disinterest, looking away appears distracted, hand on a hip appears indignant, crossed arms sends a message of “don’t bother me”.
Understanding that you and your actions contribute greatly to the guest experience gives you power: power to enhance the trusting relationship and power to positively impact another person. You have control over yourself and control over what people will see, perceive and remember from their experience in your business. Trust me, you’ve got the power in you to make a positive and memorable impact on others. All you have to do is use your self-control and begin.
NB: this article is based on a chapter in my book Hello! And Every Little Thing That Matters (Palgrave Macmillan).