THE Costa del Sol’s tourist industry is about to get an overhaul, if hospitality expert Chris Chapman has anything to do with it.

Think Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but for hotels and restaurants in Spain…and with less swearing.

Chapman, a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, has decided to take on the poor service offered in ‘far too many’ restaurants and hotels around Andalucia.

Starting in the Ronda area, the 78-year-old hopes to encourage bosses and staff to improve their offering to tourists, learn how to smile, and be more helpful.

Called CEPA, the idea was sparked after putting up with poor service for a decade while living in the Ronda area.

“It’s a shame because we have a lovely culture here and spectacular landscapes, but we don’t have the service industry to match.

“Too often I’ve seen grumpy waitresses treating tourists like idiots and the managers and owners either haven’t noticed or cared.

“The translation of menus is terrible, the food is not hot, there are so many problems,” he continued.

“One place we went to yesterday put the wrong food on the table, then went outside and had a beer and a smoke. That is not waiting tables.”

Chapman, from Wiltshire, continued: “It is a three-legged stool… I want to help them get ambience, service and quality of the food right. It is very important.”

“When I came here I thought this country was 25 years behind, but in fact it is more like 50 years behind… they need to bring things into the 21st century.”

Chapman started his career as a chef, before becoming a restaurant and later hotel manager.

He worked in catering for the army and police, before finally setting up a restaurant consultancy business in Devon and Cornwall in the 1990s.

While officially retired, he is setting up CEPA with a number of friends, including a local English teacher.

He  has already had good feedback from local businesses.

“I’ve approached a lot of businesses and many seem keen,” he explains. “I’ll be visiting them and assessing what they need to change, then I will write up a report and then can act on that.”

As well as making staff feel more important in their roles, the most important factors are quality of service, ambience and quality of food, he adds.

“Get all those and the repeat visits will come rolling in.”

For more information, call Chris on 627 600 052.


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  1. When I go to London all I hear is Spanish voices and hotels and restaurants are full of them. I wouldn’t say service in Spain is worse than elsewhere…just slower :-)
    Agree with Fred tho. Make up your minds people. Best year ever for tourism or declining. Can’t be both.
    My favourite eateries San Rafael and Marlows both have excellent service. :-)

  2. Service in Spanish establishments is generally far quicker than in the UK. Certainly if you’re looking for a coffee or beer it’s very rapid – attract the attention of the bar staff as you enter and order – often you’re served in a couple of minutes max. Compare and contrast with a UK pub or Coffee chain, where you’re stuck in a queue.
    It has been a record-breaking year for Spanish tourism – as we find to our costs when trying to nab a cheap flight. However you can have too much of a good thing – for example in Barcelona there is a growing movement against too much tourism.

  3. Of course like in all countries you get good and bad service, here I find the top end restaurants service is really good. Saying that I was in one of the top restaurants in Fuengirola over the summer and the waiter served 5 cognac to the table next to us with ice in to a group of Danes. He said sorry then returned with same drinks without the ice meaning cognac was still cold ha ha ha he got right the third time.

    I myself own a Spanish bar and employ Spanish staff and find them very frustrating to work. They are all good people but find the concept of good service js beyond them. Yes they tend to serve the first drink at the table well but after that they neglect the table allowing ashtrays to get dirty, not trying to sell another drink or another round and generally forgetting about the customer. This drives me mad and no matter how many times I tell them they fall back into the same habits very quickly. Last year I employed a manager who worked for me in London (Spanish speaker) and this drives him mad, he says they all take on the new ideas then go home and press reset to return the following day the same.

    The UK service industry in bars and restaurants is pretty good especially in tourist areas where businesses are looking to maximize their profits. Of course in a small town/village the standard drops as I found on a recent trip to UK mainly as staff are normally made up of locals doing part time work.

    It always shocks me how bad in general the service is in bars and restaurants in Fuengirola seeing that tourism is it’s bread and butter. Recently a ex business partner of mine visited Fuengirola and shocked at the lack of service at this hotel ( the best hotel in Fuengirola) and in general when he was walking round during the day.

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