Goethe teaches: "Treat some one as they appear to be, you make them worse than they are. Treat them with what they have the potential to be and you make them what they can be."
We that come before are either part of the problem or the solution and we have a choice in this matter. Just as the Aikido master bows to his new student so must we humble ourselves before the young waiters and new guests. It is our job to first understand them. To serve their needs. Only in our acceptance of them do we earn their respect. Only in serving them well do they understand service. It is at that moment of respect and understanding that we assume our role of teachers.
Einstein said that the most important question that we can ask ourselves is: "Do we see the world as a friendly or unfriendly place?" The former is far more rewarding than the latter which, I fear, is the un-fortunate position Mr. Mauro has taken.
I own 2 steakhouses in California. One has been around for 23 years, The other I started in Dec. Over the years I have found that service is not something that just happens. It is something that needs to be shown by example, time and time again. This combined with the right person makes a server into someone who will make guests come back.
As Jack's column stated, I can tell if I am going to hire someone in the first 15 seconds they walk in the door. The must have made the effort to look decent, neat, combed and dressed appropriately. Then I ask one simple question, "How are you doing today."
You would be amazed at the answers. More often than not people complain about how hard it is to find a job, or the kids are driving them crazy, school is hard, etc, etc.
This eliminates a good percentage right away. Then it is just a matter of finding out if they would be able to communicate well with the guests. This is something that can not be taught. If they have these skills, then we can train them to become very good servers.
There are plenty of good people out there, you just have to work to find them. Then obviously follow up with training, and a guest friendly environment.
The fact that servers make $15 to $20 and hour in addition to their $5.75 min. wage is not a bad way to get people to stay. And to give hosts and bussers incentive to stay, hoping to advance to that level.
Fortunately after being in the Food Service Business for the past 50 years, I am now "Retired". Enjoying Life, and I can Thank the Restaurant Business for that. I've gone from a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, apprentice cook, line cook, short order cook, sous chef, garde' mange', chef and "Master chef", Ass't. Mgr, Manager, Food Service Director and finally owner of my own Restaurant & Catering establishment.
After (13) years in business, I sold out, performing the work was easy, the labor situation drove us up the wall, that's when we decided it was no longer worth the aggravation and packed it in. The problem then and the problem now with service, is, no one is a professional anymore, just out for the quick buck. The average restaurant today doesn't have Cooks or Chefs, they have mechanics performing tasks. I remember the days when we had Professional Waiters, Chefs, Cooks, Pantry personnel, Bakers, and yes Professional Dishwashers, when everyone took pride in their work. The amazing part is, everything today is so much easier, better food products a bevy of sophisticated equipment, computers you name it, and performance is at it's lowest Ebb.
The best Example I guess I can give is: When Food Service Personnel have a meeting or get together we usually get the worst food, the worst service, the worst of everything, I can't explain it, and I doubt if anyone in the business can either.
After retiring for 6 months, couldn't stand it, decided to go back to work, but I wanted something related but different. I got a position as a Food Equipment Sales Rep. I had fantastic results, and also saw things from a different perspective. My past experience gave me entry to Restaurants and all other food establishments. Unfortunately the service and attitude of employees didn't change, and from what I observed, Managers weren't any better.
I have just finished reading this article and to my relief find that there is someone else in the world that feels like me, so it is now confirmed - I am not alone. I have worked in the Hospitality business for 15 years, and have been primarily engaged in Hotel Operations of a very high standard. If my address or position comes across as too cynical in relation to what I'm about to comment on, it's because I wanted it to be this way. I tend to agree with what Jack is saying here.
Despite what marketing campaigns portray (and all operations use them to manipulate or convince potential purchasers that a good time will be had by all), the state of our industry here in Australia is not much better than what Jack reports in his article. It seems that the staff within the industry just keep getting younger and the programmes devised (which are even regulated by the industry bodies here) to teach levels of professionalism cannot make it past introductory stage, simply because we cannot retain a grip on the services of individuals for any length of time.
The world of this "youthful" hospitality is akin to the life of a gypsy. There are no loyalties accept to oneself, and this has developed such an arrogance and attitudinal shift that unless all respective operators pool collective resources, the cancer will only grow wildly out of control. The evidence of this is in the resumes, where it is not uncommon for you to see such a movement within the industry whereby 6 months in one job constitutes long term employment. I know this sounds surreal (I have only been with two company's during my tenure in the business so far), but having been on both sides - as an employee dedicated to providing my all, to ensure the absolute pleasure and accommodation of the guest, and as an operator who then had the task of teaching and (for want of a better word - forgive me Jack for I too have sinned) "nurturing" the same environment that I learned within - I can relate to the frustration of a man who is a proud exponent of his trade.
Whilst the days of the "old school" waiter are gone (or so I firmly believe), it doesn't hurt to have a few of us "dinosaurs" out there at least keeping the young ones honest, as the customers from hell. Let's face we had them ourselves, so I can at least get some level of enjoyment back.
The tried and true old Aussie answer to everything in the Hospitality business used to be - "She'll be right mate", has now been replaced by my credo (in my business) - "Get it right mate!!"
Long live the good old days!!!! Love the article Jack.
I have been receiving your report for several months, as a very good cook I often dine out. The problem I have is that when I go out the service and the meal has to be better than what I can prepare myself. When a establishment makes a 100 percent effort to please the customer, the main reason you are in business, it is more than likely that that customer will come back again. Maybe not the next week or the next month but he or she will be back and at the same time spread the word to many friends about the high quality of the food and service at that establishment. The same reasoning goes for poor service or poor food. Forget it you won't see me again even if Hell freezes over.
While I am at it I want to put my two cents in about smoking in a place where I am eating. If I am spending around $80 or $90 or even more for a meal and a fine wine I want to enjoy that without smoke floating across my face and getting into my food and clothing. I want to go home smelling the same as when I came in and not have to send my good suit or my wife's dress to the dry cleaner because they reek of smoke.
I am thankful that we live in Rochester, NY where smoking is not allowed in restaurants and I wish more cities would pass laws forbidding smoking. I think that the cost to the restaurant in cleaning bills, burned tablecloths etc. far outweighs the amount that the establishment takes in from smokers.
Think of your place as being a home for your guests. Treat them like they are your most valuable friends and you won't have to worry about repeat business.
Robert Menchel - firstname.lastname@example.org