Improving Customer Service

Issue # 68 of 70 




John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self


This Y2K Thing...


There has been SO much talk about this New Year's Eve. Big deal. I'm fairly certain I know what will happen. Imagine the scene roughly nine months from now:

After much build-up in the media about the doom and gloom associated with the coming new year, the restaurant industry has prepared for the worst that the Y2K "problem" can dish out. Not since hurricane scares have restaurants seen such disaster preparation. As this reporter walks into a nice restaurant for the special Y2K menu, I glance at the cases of toilet paper stacked to the ceiling. They were purchased because of the anticipated shortage that was considered a liklihood due to transportation disruptions or a major run (no pun intended, of course) on toilet paper. In fact, restaurants have purchased so much toilet paper that there is a shortage around the country.

After being seated and having eaten a wonderful meal, I glance around at the other customers, as the hour approaches midnight. I can sense everyone's anticipation building. There is a nervous energy that is so apparent, it is almost palpable. One thing that has lived up to the hype is the quantity of alcohol that has been consumed so far this day. It has broken all records in every restaurant in the nation.

Even with champagne prices climbing to astronomical levels, the demand for champagne has been phenomenal to the point where many restaurants have been shorted in their orders. Some of the more popular champagnes have even had to go to a lottery system for distribution. Even swill that has the word "Champagne" hand-written (and misspelled) and was probably bottled in the same neighborhood sold well, along with sparkling wine with screw caps.

Live bands that normally couldn't get booked at the local highschool have been booked for months at nice restaurants at triple their normal rates because of the craving for live bands on this most historic night.

I have paced myself and as the clock ticks to the midnight hour, I take a deep drink right at the birth of a millennium. The big moment arrives as everyone holds his breath. Just before midnight, the manager switches the restaurant's sound system to the radio just as Dick Clark announces midnight.

So what happens?

Then you hear it. A strange sound--actually it is more like the absence of sound. The non-sound that champagne makes when it has gone flat. Curious, you think to yourself, that all the champagne in the restaurant would go flat at once. Then you notice another silence usually in the background of every restaurant. All registers in the restaurant have stopped working simultaneously.

Then you hear another sound: Yes, it sounds like an airplane screaming towards the ground. And then another one, and yet another. Well I'll be...airplanes really are falling out of the sky. Then Dick announces that all of the world's stock markets have crashed, but for some reason, the post office has chosen this time to announce price reductions in stamps.

But what will really happen? Probably nothing except for the following predictions:

  • Alcohol in general (and Champagne in particular) will break every previous sales record
  • Special Y2K menus will become obligatory in every restaurant--chefs will get especially creative
  • People will overload on champagne
  • There will be Employee shortages to work on New Year's Eve
  • A television frenzy will be caused by customer interest in CNN for international coverage
  • A very, very long night will be had by restaurant managers
  • A very, very slow day will be had by us all on January 1

And that's all.

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.


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Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.