Professionalism above the bar


Last night I had dinner at the bar of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. (The Gazpacho is excellent by the way) Normally I would blog about consulting excellence but an incident occurred that I think is noteworthy on the topic of professionalism.  The bar (in the photo) has chairs on opposite sides with the bartender in the middle. In the evening, it is very classy with candles along the bar and dimly lit. A gentleman sat across from me on the other side of the bar, ordered a drink and began to read his newspaper.  He accidentally lowered the back of the newspaper into the candle on the bar and it caught fire. He didn’t notice immediately.


The bartender did and within a second or so, grabbed another copy of the same newspaper, walked over and said “may I exchange your paper sir”, placing the burning one in the nearby sink with water and placing a new one (same publisher) in front of his guest.  The whole process concluded before I could even shout “Le journal est sur le feu!” which turned out to be completely unnecessary, perhaps 3-5 seconds in total from flame to finish. The guest started to apologize profusely and the bartender quickly stepped in with “not at all sir, it happens all the time, may I refresh your drink?”

Professionalism above the bar.

Look at what the bartender did.  He looked for a way to deal with the situation with the minimum impact to his client. He brought him the exact same newspaper to do the switch.  Quickly extinguished the burning one, without the slightest comment or fuss and then diverted the client’s conversation from an apology to “can I refresh your drink Sir?”.

Now what had happened is that someone had actually caused a fire in a crowded restaurant, a few seconds more and the newspaper would have been ablaze and potentially could have been a dramatic situation.  But the cool, fast-thinking bartender, made the whole thing a non-event except for the lingering smoke for the next 15 minutes.

What amazed me about the sequence was that his client’s well-being was so important to him. He didn’t throw a pitcher of water at him, he didn’t just grab the newspaper and submerge it, he looked for a way that would be of minimal impact and embarrassment to his client.

I wonder on IT projects if we could get the same level of empathy for our clients and always seek professionalism that’s above the bar?

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