A cursory check of reviews on Trip Advisor will show that customer service, or the lack thereof, is something that ranks high on every traveller’s list of priorities. Budapest, despite the many things it has going for it as a city, isn’t exactly famous for how it treats its guests. Mind you, given how obnoxious some tourists can be, I wonder where the fault really lies. Suffice to say that good customer service is still something that makes conversational headlines here in the city, testimony in and of itself to its novelty factor.

When in Athens recently I had no clue that to expect or not to expect in the line of customer service. I’m not one easily impressed in that regard so I was open to the best they had to offer. I have been known to covet an entire wait staff, imagining the wonders I might achieve were I let loose on them on them for a couple of days. I have boycotted cafés and bars and restaurants (and badmouthed them, too) if the service has been rude or non-existent. Hell hath no fury like this particular customer scorned.

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Here in Budapest, Kompót ranks No. 1 for customer service in my book. And in Athens it was the Taverna on Antinoros Str. From the outset, Eleni, the young woman whose job it is to direct the passing footfall to a table, was pleasant and not at all pushy. She struck the perfect balance with a subdued yet assertive style. Score No. 1. The Taverna is the second in a row of cafés/restaurants/bars near the Divani Caravel hotel and we were intent on checking out them all before committing to one. Both of us liked our food too much to rush the choice. But having done the tour, we ended back where we started and Eleni remembered us. Score No. 2.

As we checked the menu, Maïa came and brought us water, set out the cutlery, and told us someone would be out to take our order shortly. And all with a smile. Score No. 3.

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Mr Titus took our drinks order and then he and Xphɛtoɛ (Kristos) kept an eye on us all evening. The food was fantastic, the drinks cold and served to order, the service attentive without being intrusive. It was no wonder that plans to go home at midnight were completely forgotten. When Xphɛtoɛ heard it was my birthday, he planted a birthday candle in my watermelon with the comedic timing of the best that comic talent has to offer. It was a great start to my year. I’m easily pleased. We had a ball. So much so that we went back again, a second time, a couple of days later. Two out of three nights at the same place? Unheard of for me. And interestingly, we recognised some of the other diners, as well.

Some lessons to be learned from the Taverna:

  • Smiling staff who enjoy their work will infect the customers with their good humour. I defy anyone to be in a bad mood for long at the Taverna when these guys are working.
  • Good, uncomplicated food served hot is a perfect complement to local beer and wine served cold. Mix them up and you have a disaster. Get them right and you have it sussed. Simple.
  • Everyone having a watchful eye out for a customer who might just even be thinking about asking for something and then giving the nod to whomever is waiting that particular table makes for seamless service.
  • Take your cue from the customers – If they’re chatty, chat back. If they’re celebrating, pull out all the stops. And if they’re being fussy – remember  – they’re always right. Kill them with kindness and a smile.

Kudos to you all – thanks for a fabulous couple of nights, great food, excellent service, and memories that are worth sharing.

If you’re in Athens, be sure to check it out.

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