Hospitality Industry
2 min read

Service excellence at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos

EHL Insights
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In the last days of January, the promenade in Davos has once again become a "Who's Who" of the world economic elite. Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos brings together all the world's leading figures. For more than 20 years part of the event is Manfred Wanger, sommelier and lecturer at the EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (SSTH) in Passugg. He is in high demand due to his widely recognized service excellence.

Service professionals wanted

Top-class guests must be offered excellent service at all times. For years the organizers have been competing for the best service professionals in Switzerland and Manfred Wagner is definitely one of them. After various stops at the WEF in Davos, he has now been on duty for several years for the " Kaffee Klatsch".

This is not an unheard of place during the WEF, renowned global players such as Google and Ulmart have already rented this place. This year, BlackRock, the world's largest investment company, was the host in the "Kaffee Klatsch". So it is only natural that the top elite meets here for meetings.

When it comes to prominent guests, flexibility and empathy are required

Manfred Wagner has seen many prominent guests come and go over the last 20 years. With a smile he remembers especially one particular occasion. A few years ago Bill Clinton, former US president, surprisingly and without prior notice, burst into the ongoing gala dinner. Of course, from one moment to the next this completely changed all the planning and procedures.

The service had to be stopped immediately so that Bill Clinton could sit down and give a short speech. Therefore Manfred Wagner was to serve Bill Clinton red wine at the behest of the event managers.

"But he didn't want red wine, just still water." Behind the scenes there was rumbling and the chaos was perfect, because the toast was supposed to take place with the wine glass according to the ideal idea of the event managers. "But for me, the motto is always, the customer is king. And if Bill Clinton doesn't want wine, I won't force it on him."

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The service professional is a strategist and meets the requirements of all parties

This is always the biggest challenge in the service of such high class events, to reconcile the demands of all participants. The chefs have planned an exquisite and sometimes highly complex menu, which must be brought to the tables professionally and quickly. The event managers plan menu sequences and wine accompaniments in the background. But the experience Manfred Wagner has gained time and time again:

The guests themselves actually only want one thing at the WEF, and that is to talk undisturbed. For them, food and drinks play really only a secondary role.

Practical lesson: What is it that makes for excellent service?

This year Manfred Wagner has used his excellent reputation and took four classes of the EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality in Passugg (SSTH) to the WEF to support. It was important to him that the hospitality management students could witness such a top-class event and gain valuable practical experience.

The SSTH students were engaged in breakfast, lunch and evening service, at the aperitif and at the bar. One of his most important lessons: To be excellent, but to remain in the background when necessary.

At the WEF, different understandings of what good service means will clash with the different nations. Service and its styles are not set in stone. Here, the students had to remain flexible and professional and respond to the various customer requests. And, of course, the maxim always applies: stay friendly!

Although the students were a bit nervous at the beginning, their professionalism and education paid off. The client BlackRock ranked their service A1, the best possible ranking result to achieve. The customer was impressed by the students and their competence. A success all along the line and proof that the SSTH students are able to offer an outstanding service for international guests.

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