Customer service in Switzerland

March 13, 2006

I am in a restaurant in the Ouchy district of Lusanne Switzerland and I have to say we as american patrons to american restaurants/bars are spoiled (well I guess you could call it that). This is my second trip back to Switzerland and I am not sure if it is the Italian Swiss or just the culture, but I am in a restaurant with probably 25-30 patrons (maybe more) and there is one waiter. In the US there would be at least 2 maybe 3. So I am not sure if it is the volume of work that this waiter is handling or just how it is here at Italian restaurants but his service is horrible. I look at this service in two ways:

1.) Culture – the US culture is much more fast paced than this life style (at least compared to here in Lusanne). I love good dinner conversation like the rest and it may just be me, but I am really here to eat. My wife is an excellent cook so we can talk over her good food anytime. I like to be waited on and these guys like to talk. If I were to separate the different portions of the meal into percentages it would look like this:

– 10% review menu wait for drink
– 5% wait for food after order (seriously, my pizza was done in 5 minutes – and its really good)
– 40% wait for waiter to come back and ask for another beer
– 30% wait for waiter to come back to ask you if your finished
– 15% wait for check
100% frustrated with service

In the US you are asked every 5 minutes or so if you’d like something or if everything is Ok and I guess I have grown accustomed to that level of service. So in comes the culture. The Swiss can talk! They love to talk, so maybe when the waiter does not come back for 20 minutes after they have run out of wine, its ok for them. Not me. I have now been waiting 5 minutes (seems like longer) for another beer.

Option 2:

2.) Gratuity – OK, so get this, the 7.5% gratuity is included in the meal. Yup, so not only do I have to ‘suffer’ through this service, but at the end of my meal, this waiter is going to get 7.5% of my bill in a tip that he would be lucky to get in the US. Maybe the other side of the coin is that he has no incentive. He can continue to give horrible service and be guaranteed a certain amount tips. I am not sure if waiters are compensated the same as US waiters but if its anything like the US, this guy can not be making a ton of money.

Reminds me of the part in Reservoir Dogs where mister pink (Steve Buschemi) does not want to tip. Anyways, I know I’ll be back, and maybe next time I will order:

235 AS Roma
Parmesan, poivrons, oeuf, mortadella, salami, champigons, piments

Just as soon as I learn what “poivrons”, “ouef”, “chamigons” and “piments” are.

So I spoke with some of the -non swiss- folks here that agreed that the service was lacking. They also confirmed that the reason is that the waiters/waitresses are paid better per hour then you would be in US and the “Tip” (can’t really call it that) which is included in the bill is just extra.

poivrons – peppers
ouef – beef
chamigons – mushrooms
piments – peppers (maybe hot vs. not not)


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