By Laura Gordon

I’m sensing a real air of optimism in Scotland since the easing of lockdown restrictions.

It’s been just over a week since news of the early relaxation of rules around travel and outdoor mixing, and what a difference it has made. Friends and family up and down the country who were confined to local authority boundaries are finally reunited and have the chance to spend precious time together again.

Now we’re just days away from even more steps to reopen the economy and restore a sense of normality.

As I started making plans, it got me thinking about the things we take for granted. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a new-found appreciation for basic pleasures like socialising.

Going out for a bite to eat used to be commonplace but now it’s something to truly get excited about.

For hospitality bosses it’s very cautious optimism from a sector that had hoped to open sooner. Sadly some businesses have been forced to close and many of those lucky enough to survive still have debts looming.

This sparked some interesting chat on breakfast TV recently around tipping etiquette.

The host asked if we should be leaving larger tips to help workers in the hospitality industry. Many people supported the suggestion and said they’d gladly tip more generously.

But some argued that not everyone can afford to leave gigantic tips, after all, the pandemic has hit lots of people in the pocket from a whole range of industries.

It was an interesting debate and whilst I’m personally a fan of rewarding good service, the point above is an important one and the level of tip we give should be a choice, not an obligation.

But something that wasn’t discussed – that absolutely should be an obligation – is giving courtesy and respect to those who serve us.

Before the pandemic I think a lot of people visited restaurants with a firm “the customer is always right” mentality and expected almost robotic precision.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. I went for lunch with a restaurateur colleague once and I grumbled about something trivial – at which point I was politely put in my place.

He walked me through the detailed process that goes on in the background at a busy restaurant, and the 20-odd touch points at which workers go all-out to make an impression. And crucially he reminded me that the staff are human and fallible and that the occasional blip shouldn’t overshadow a good experience.

He was right – show me one person who has never made a mistake. We all get things wrong from time to time and we should be more accommodating and mindful of one another’s feelings, now more than ever.

You don’t know what sort of pressures your server is under, what sort of day they’ve had, how the pandemic has affected them, or if they’ve lost anyone close to them. Think about that before you kick off about not having enough chocolate sprinkles on your cappuccino.

Remember also that the hospitality industry is not fully opening up just yet – it’s still curtailed by a raft of new regulations around opening hours and the serving of alcohol.

Draft guidelines around physical distancing also proved highly controversial this week with one restaurant owner claiming they’d need tables 11ft long to cater for a party of six.

Challenges like these mean reduced capacity, reduced profits and extra pressures, and some businesses will probably be running at a loss just to maintain customer loyalty until we get back to normal. So as you rush out to take advantage of this partial reopening, be mindful of that, be patient and be kind.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs