Self-service is very tricky to get right. My rule of thumb is that self-service excellence needs to be designed such that customers prefer the self-service to a readily available full service alternative. A great example is airline check-in kiosks. When these kiosks first appeared, passengers felt compelled to use them only because carriers had allowed the lines in front of staffed counters to become ridiculous. Now many frequent fliers prefer the kiosks. They’re fast, easy-to-use and they provide more control over the service experience, primarily through the seat-selection chart. This self-service solution is now preferred to a readily available full-service alternative. As a counter example, consider the self-checkout options at many supermarkets – customers have revealed little interest in managing the complexity and effort of scanning and bagging their own groceries.
Fire and Ice clearly failed this “better than the full-service alternative” test for you. There could be two explanations. Either its service design is inferior or its service is not designed for you. Given the thriving business you referenced — and indeed I see its success each time I walk past it – my inclination is to say that you’re not part of its target market. That it resists making changes for customers like you who fall outside this market is to be applauded, in my mind. Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons?