The panelists included: Lisa Chrabieh Beyrouthi, an instructor of art of service, protocol, and etiquette at USJ-IGE; Naji Khoury, F&B manager of Hotel Albergo Relais & Chateaux; Richard Khoury, an expert in food service etiquette and hotel management instructor; Fadi LeSidon, a consultant, sommelier, expert in protocol and etiquette, banquet and event organizer; Rabih Nehme, regional manager for the Middle East at Ecole Ferrières; Fady Rbeiz, a visiting professor at USEK; Simon Saade, an F&B consultant at Phoenicia Hotel Beirut; Richard Whaybe, a service and management instructor at Sagesse Technique; John Abdo, assistant F&B manager at Sagesse Technique; and Houssam Younes, a hospitality management instructor and F&B trainer.
The panelists discussed the importance of the service experience and how it can impact a customer’s perception of a business. They highlighted the significance of good hospitality education, continuous training in the field and how service is not just about providing a product or service but also creating a memorable and positive experience for the customer.
Rabih Nehme described the service industry as one that offers intangible products or services and performs tasks that are beneficial to customers, clients, businesses or the general public. He addressed the service industry’s problem in Lebanon by saying: “In my opinion, customer service in Lebanon is subpar due to poor communication skills, unwelcoming behavior, inadequate customer greetings, unprofessional employees and insufficient product knowledge. We are, in fact, facing a major problem with the service quality here in Lebanon due to a poor education system and to a lack of communication between the educational sector and the operational sector.”
Lisa Chrabieh Beyrouthi emphasized the need for the service hospitality industry to continually adapt to changing customer needs and preferences. She said: “It is also essential to stay up to date on new technologies and trends that can enhance the customer experience. The service hospitality industry is an essential part of the economy, and its success depends on the quality of service it provides to its customers. By focusing on creating a welcoming environment, providing exceptional service, and staying up to date on customer needs and preferences, businesses in this industry can ensure their continued success.”
Simon Saade agreed and emphasized that service needs to facilitate customers’ lives and adapt to the new lifestyle and demands of the new age consumer.
Richard Khoury highlighted the fact that the service industry in Lebanon is suffering to the point of non-existence due to the lack of awareness regarding what actual service means. While Fady Rbeiz addressed the issue that currently the employee’s mentality is to serve the boss rather than the clients, thus in order for the service to evolve the organization chart needs to change to prioritize customers over the boss. Establishments, even reputable ones, are not recruiting quality staff and training them properly.
The attendees discussed the impact of the current crises in Lebanon on the service sector. Fadi LeSidon noted: “If restaurant owners want to maintain employee loyalty and uphold the high service standards that existed before the crisis, they should invest in staff training and adjust salaries to align with the current economic challenges.”
Naji Khoury spoke about his relentless efforts in training his staff every step of the way and the fact he is always present around them, supporting and shadowing them to service customers in an optimal way. In a statement he said: “a great customer relation is part of the guest experience. I believe that working in the hospitality industry nowadays requires strong interpersonal skills and the ability to connect with people. Hospitality professionals interact with guests, customers, and colleagues on a daily basis, and being a people person can greatly enhance the overall guest experience and contribute to the success of the business.”