Book Review On the Line, by Ripert & Muhlke (2008)
In order to perform the control functions, an enterprise or an organization, which specializes in catering, has to create an appropriate structure of the control system, which is a set of the interconnected processes, adopted and implemented through the management decisions. With respect to an individual enterprise (association), catering guild may be typical for both large and small businesses. The essence of the restaurant management process presupposes a set of relationships and actions that are aimed at ensuring the optimal ratio of labor, material, and financial resources. The management process in a restaurant is aimed at creating favorable conditions for the production and selling of the goods as well as at providing the high level of service. It is regarded as a special truth when the restaurants with the world known names and those, which hold four stars, are considered. The book On the line: The stations, the heat, the cooks, the costs, the chaos and the triumphs inside the world of Le Bernardin, by Ripert & Muhlke (2008) is one of the greatest examples of how a restaurant is expected to be governed (from the point of view of all its components and departments) in order to maintain high quality services and occupy the best position in the market among other similar services. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to review the book in question by Ripert & Muhlke (2008) and to understand what made the Le Bernardin restaurant to be able to provide one of the best catering services at the moment.
First and foremost, the book serves as a powerful experience-full source for people, who are (or are going to be) engaged in the restaurant business. This is due to the reason that the writing piece contains a number of situations of professional character, which are likely to occur in each cafe or restaurant. It is believed to enrich the experience of a reader in this specific field and to create the total understanding of the inner process, which takes place within the restaurant. Second, the book consists of the numerous dramas (as the authors state), which show the situations happening at the backstage of the restaurant (Ripert & Muhlke, 2008). Hence, Ripert & Muhlke (2008) have a conviction that restaurant business is similar to the theater or to the cinematography, in which the most interesting actions take place at the backstage. The process of work at Le Bernardin restaurant is compared with the actors' work on stage, while the process of cooking and management is similar to the theater or to the cinematography's backstage. Third, the authors provide numerous pieces of advice on how the business is supposed to be conducted and what would help to make it versatile and successful at once.
Therefore, Ripert & Muhlke (2008) state that when managing the restaurant of four stars, it is important to foresee the clients' requests and to act according to them. By this, the authors mean that it is extremely necessary to consider all possible questions about the service that clients may raise and try to avoid any possible negative situations. They also believe that it is important not just to mention but also to implement all the elements and aspects of the services that are promised to customers in their daily work. Furthermore, it is significant to ask customers various questions in order to get the feedback. It is possible that the manager's idea of a quality service is not complete or correct. As a consequence, it is necessary to follow the customer's application deadlines and to demonstrate expertise. It means that a specialist, experienced in the restaurant business, obviously has more knowledge in his professional area than the client. Willingness to share the information and to act as an expert increases the confidence of the client. Moreover, it is essential that the restaurant's employees, while entering any interaction with the client, remember that they are the official representatives of the company, so they have to share the corporate values and contribute to the implementation of the company's mission. (The authors note that the four-started restaurant must have its own values and culture, which are unique and strictly followed) (Ripert & Muhlke, 2008). Finally, it is important that the staff, employed in the sphere of customer service, is able to communicate effectively. Namely, the workers should be competent to greet and to establish the contact with a customer in a respectful and friendly tone, applying personal approach and being able to conduct the identification of the customer's needs.
Today, as Ripert & Muhlke (2008) claim with confidence, the high quality of customer service is not only a competitive advantage of the Le Bernardin restaurant, but it also has a significant influence on the formation of the customer loyalty, shifting the focus from the issue of price to the question of satisfaction with the obtained services. The authors make an emphasis on the concept of quality service, which, in addition to the convenience of the location, a wide range of products, leadership in commodity group, and sometimes competitive prices, has a tendency of adding such elements as courtesy of the staff, the knowledge of the product, the involvement of the staff in the process of the product selection, as well as its assistance and enthusiasm. Ripert & Muhlke (2008) have a conviction that poor service organization prevents the business from development, whereas good service enables the company to maintain its position in the market. It presupposes that only excellent service guarantees the advancement of the company to a greater profitability.
One of the most interesting ideas, the authors provide a reader with, consists in the fact that the restaurant service is not very different from any other service company that is focused on the customer service. The only difference is that a restaurant deals with its guests, and the key word in this case is 'hospitality.' It is important to remember that the guests do not go anywhere. By saying this, Ripert & Muhlke (2008) evolve another idea that if a guest has been lost today, it means that will become a client of the competitor tomorrow.
In the authors' opinion, each company is intuitive and it understands how the process of interaction with the customer must be arranged in order to make the customers happy and to persuade them to vote in favor of this particular restaurant, as it has been in case of the Le Bernardin.
The authors of the book show that on the basis of studies and internal analysis of the Le Bernardin restaurant, a quality management system has been developed, in which a special place is given to the service standards. As a consequence, the authors draw the readers attention to the general guidelines for the development of the service standards. Certainly, these standards are not given in a bullet point format, because they should be perceived as conclusions from each particular drama.
Thus, Ripert & Muhlke (2008) believe that the standards should be based on the needs and expectations of people. In general, standards should be clear and measurable. They should be developed on the basis of what the clients (the guests of the restaurant) say and think, by which it is implied that the vision of even the highest managers is a secondary issue. The standards should be achievable for the staff and flexible in relation to different markets and situations (which were numerous enough throughout the Le Bernardins restaurant work).
Ripert & Muhlke (2008) have a conviction that the standards should come from the outset and reimburse all expenses, incurred by consumers, as well as they should be shared by all team members both managers and ordinary employees. Similar to the way it happens in Le Bernardin restaurant, the standards should be publicly announced and used to perform the measurement of the company's level of development, service, and customers satisfaction. Finally, the standards can and should change over the time, because service standards as well as market strategy, positioning, and branding that were once established can become outdated.
Regarding the dramas, which took place in the Le Bernardin restaurant after the death of its chef, the authors do not focus mainly on the work and function of people. More concentration is given to the people's work results. This is, according to Ripert & Muhlke (2008), the essence of standards and, consequently, the key aspect in the position of Le Bernardin. Thus, the standards in Le Bernardin define what the staff should be like: sociable, friendly, having good look and ability to work in a team. Implementation of these standards ensures the stability of quality indicators, because there can not be a 'good or a bad' waiters shift, as everyone always works in a standard way. Both the administrator and the waiter have to know, understand, and abide scrupulously the professional standards. In terms of qualification requirements all employees of the Le Bernardin restaurant can be divided into three major groups: the management team (director, manager, administrator); staff working with guests (waiters, bartenders); and support departments (engineering, warehouse workers). The competence of the staff of all these groups is of a great importance for quality management. As a consequence, the authors believe that the restaurant management should ensure that the staff has necessary qualifications and can fulfill its work well, applying the necessary knowledge and skills.
In conclusion, the book presents an incredible example of how to make an ordinary catering business a four-stared restaurant, in which the standards are above all, and the clients are satisfied to a great extent with the services they receive. The book would be of a great interest for the restaurant business participants and for the ordinary readers, who like the depictions of backstage situations.