I can remember the days of being a back waiter at a quaint 4 star establishment, where the Captains were Gods and the Maitre d' was to be more feared than the owners. Service was refined, flawless, and at times "anal". A gratuity was a show of gratitude for a job well done and to be a server was a profession, you truly were a professional.
Today if you can find a restaurant like this you are a very lucky individual. The professional servers and captains of the past have been replaced with college aged kids working for beer money and spring break vacations. The Maitre d' is now a 16 year old high school student looking for a little bit of gas money. The most important duty of the shift is smoking on the back dock and making plans for after work. If they find time in between those two items that might run some food, bus a table, or place an order. Today's servers truly are different: attitudes are lazy, appearance is sloppy, work ethic - non existent, sense of urgency (what's that anymore) and look out if they every get a 10% tip - you'll never hear the end of it unless they're already in the parking lot telling the customer how cheap they are.
Who's to blame??? I don't think it is management - blame it on the labor pool. I work in a metro area that has an unemployment rate of 2.1%, and every single restaurant and business around comes furnished with a NOW HIRING sign in front of it. If you can get people in the door at all you pretty much have to take what you can get and see if they're trainable. It's not about hiring "poor help" its about hiring in general and training those individuals the right way. The poor servers are poor servers because they choose to be. I give them the training and the education to become the best of what they can be, whether or not they use that - they make that choice. If they choose not to, I'm not concerned - I know they will have a new job tomorrow - next door.
To fellow servers -- Eight weeks ago I started as a server. This was about four weeks before I quit my regular job as a Branch Manager for a "temp" employment agency. For the first time in oh..about six years I don't dread going to work!
The restaurant I work for in Terre Haute, Indiana has an excellent staff that really works as a team. This starts with our leaders. People do what you do not what you say. Leadership is the key. This is something they did not teach me in business school. I guess the point I would like to make, having read many of the letters people write...for those of you who are dying to get out of serving and into your cubicle making your big salaries, enjoy serving because you may come to miss it one day.
I have a bachelors in business and spent seven years climbing the corporate ladder for a large steel company in Detroit. By the time I left I had a big office, a bunch of employees, a company car, three weeks paid vacation, and made $60,000. With today's corporate downsizing I was doing the job that 3.5 people once did, and had 10 times the stress. Money is not everything. Granted, the money as a server is not quite as good, but there is a lot less stress. I strongly urge those of you pursuing degrees to not chase the dollar, but do whatever it is that you want to do no matter how crazy those around you think it is. I started as a server basically to see if my dream of owning a restaurant and brew-pub was realistic and if I would even like working in one. I'm looking at this experience as going back to school and getting paid for it. All of my friends and family think I'm nuts for leaving the steel company. If I did not leave I would have been nuts! OK I will get off my soap box now.
When reading the article, it was quite obvious that he has foreseen a lot of similar problems that we in the industry face every day. And although I agree with much of what was written, there's a lot I beg to differ. First of all, I have been in the restaurant industry since I was sixteen and it's definitely in my blood. I have worked for both independent companies and chain restaurants. I even worked in the corporate office for a major restaurant chain for over five years as the assistant to the Vice President and Founder, and the Vice President of Training. Currently, my husband and I just opened a company restaurant which we own a percentage of.
Also, my experience working with youth, as a youth director of our church for three years has made me somewhat qualified to be a voice for our so called Generation X of today.
We are in a very tough job market - quite frankly a lot of the young people do not have to work because they come from very privileged families. The others who do have to work and have come from other restaurants have faced some pretty big obstacles and have had to deal with things that nobody in any business ever should. A lot of managers seem to think their positions give them the power to treat these young individuals like puppets. A lot of girls and guys have been put in positions and given propositions by their managers, owners, and guests that they start to believe that's the way this business is, and they even eventually just accept it, therefore, they are left with very little self-respect and esteem for themselves - so how the heck do we as restaurant owners and managers expect them to take pride in themselves, the industry, and their service??? My husband and I have been overwhelmed with the stories we have heard... now mind you they would never have told us if we didn't demonstrate and prove a true concern for them as individuals - and when they first took the position, they just figured it would be like any other place they have worked. We started out with ordinary servers and through the past month they have become extraordinary people who tell us every day they love their job and couldn't imagine working for anyone else ever again. I look forward to continuing development of these wonderful people and hope when they do decide to move on, they take with them fond memories of a positive and caring work environment.
I know the stories they have told me our true - because I have witnessed it time and time again. How sad is that??? It's pretty bad when a server comes up to you scared to death because her ex-boss was just seated in her section and she now has to wait on him and afraid that he's going to grope her. Needless to say, we didn't make her wait on him, nor did we have any respect for him, or the restaurant company he currently works for.
I know this isn't exactly the feedback you were looking for - but when trying to find a solution to a problem - we should look at the entire picture...
And on a brighter note - I have also worked for wonderful people whom I have the utmost respect for and believe to be given respect, we must first show respect.
I must say, Mr Mauro, I agree with your former employer's hiring methods. I am a server at an upscale restaurant in San Diego, and I assist in interviewing potential servers and hostesses. I interviewed two applicants today, both of whom fell FAR short of my standards for a professional server. One applicant arrived dressed in a Bugle Boy button-down shirt (a little baggy, and no tie), his sunglasses were placed ever so sloppily in his shirt pocket, and his whole demeanor was, well, just plain goofy. The second applicant was this hulking dark and handsome-wow-look-how-gorgeous-I-am "sales" person. Dressed in a sweater (!), and eager to tell me about what a brilliant salesperson he is, and how efficiently he communicates with the "help" (bus staff).
After talking with these two gentlemen, I am left to wonder, does anyone wear a suit to a job interview anymore? And what about professionalism and polish and elegance? Have these concepts been completely lost? I completely agree with you, Mr Mauro, about the difference between the professional server and the "Vegas" style server. The professional server will enhance and polish the dining experience, the "Vegas" server will up sell the guest to death; the professional server will ensure that the marriage proposal, the birthday, the celebration, are treated like fine crystal, the "Vegas" server will not give a moment's thought to the guest's special occasions.