Lessons from a bowl of pasta

Everyone has a little guilty indulgence – right?  And one for us is a quasi fast food place known as Piada.  Its a chain that based their restaurant model on the concept used by the likes of Chipolte.  You walk up to the counter, select from either a salad, pasta or a sandwich they call a piada.  The toppings and ingredients are displayed there for you behind the “wall-o-glass” … so you pick your delivery method, your protein, toppings, sauces and you are good to go.

We first discovered Piada on the east side after making a delivery and wanted to get some dinner.. That piada was located across from the new Ahuja Medical Center in Highland Hills.  The place was clean, the service professional, and the food was great at affordable prices.  So we fell in love with the concept.  And we grew even more enthusiastic when we learned that a Piada was opening up in “The Shops of Parma” (which will always be Parmatown to me).

Like all fans, we enthusiastically embraced this new outlet for Italian street food, and the grand opening was great.  But slowly each visit since has begun to teach us a lesson.  Its a sad lesson that I don’t want to see.

One of the super ingredients in any business is the people.  Great people skills wrapped in customer service will propel even the most mediocre places into epic status.  When customers come in to your shop, and they choose to spend their money at your location the customer service charm should be there.  We have selected Piada in the past because it was easy, the people were helpful, and the food was great.   But several nights ago we stopped at “the shoppes of Parma” for Piada after a hectic schedule of studio and deliveries.  The first young face behind the counter we met was delightful… and eager to get things going for us.  But the gal that would put our food together was on another wavelength.  Well, actually, i would say another planet.  Unresponsive to my request to add some spinach to my pasta bowl, she moved on to the next guy… “Hey, excuse me, can i get spinach on my pasta?” was met with a harsh look and obligatory compliance.  In my mind it was like those hideous stories of people spitting on your food in the kitchen…. Her glances and leers inferred her displeasure with her job.  So we move on to the cashier, who was under trained and lost in a fog.  how can it take 10 minutes to ring up two bowls of pasta and two fountain drinks.  Not rocket science… but then it hit me…..

It was the attitudes of the workers that struck me in a negative light.  Yes, Its the pool of labor available to that market that affects the perception of service.  The Piada at Parmatown most likely draws less educated folks who have less exposure to the models of good customer service.  Most likely they are from a lower socio-economic culture, and highly likely they just don’t know how to act because they have never been taught the difference.   As a society something has slipped… we are not taking the time to prepare our young folks for a lifetime of service, and a career that is productive and exemplary.  Simple courtesies are lost, and people are less kind, more self focused.

What am i trying to say here?  It is not my intention to rant about bad service.  What i am trying to say is that I value the courtesy and customer focused efforts wherever they appear.  These recent experiences have served to be a reminder that our society is not investing time to train folks well.  And the attitudes and the drama that accompanied this fast food experience reminded me that we have lost that ability to value each other, and take the time to do things right.  Perhaps it is the impact of electronics and social media.  Most likely it is the impact of parents not drilling manners into their kids.  And likely it  will impact the long term success or failure of places like Piada.

Am i crazy here?  Or do you also struggle with lack of manners and courtesy in the everyday things?