What’s happened to restaurant service?

what restaurant service?I hear, read and experience every excuse in the book why restaurant service has taken a turn for the worse, but do we really have to accept it?

I don’t want to bad mouth and criticise innocent restaurant or hotel operators, but we seem to be going in a very wrong direction in the service industry.

Mediocrity is the new benchmark, matched with high end prices and an extra portion of ego on the side.  Whatever happened to good old fashioned service, a polite ‘thank you’ and the restaurant owners/operators that still feel proud to deliver service with a smile?

Let’s recap how I see today’s situation.

Well, often we are faced with a server resembling a heavily laden hardware shop on legs – which translates to piercing and metal pieces poking out from every corner of the head (call me old fashioned, and many do, but that is how I see it); shoes that are dirty, unpolished and have holes; men with unruly facial hair; dirty finger nails and uniform (if it can be called that) that as long as it’s black it’s apparently uniform – maybe you can’t see the dirt, but you often do smell them (have they not heard of detergent, soap or deodorant?) The appearance alone of some service staff can make your stomach churn and leads to a quick loss of appetite.

Staff training – what’s that? The technical ability of many of today’s restaurant service staff is pretty much non-existent. Even a simple task such as explaining the menu and ingredients seems to be a thing of the past, when every second excuse is “I will have to check with the Chef”. On a recent restaurant visit I noted that the menu had a description of each and every ‘strange and unusual’ ingredient at the bottom of the page. Was this for the convenience and comfort of the diner or to make life a little easier for the ‘potentially’ untrained staff?

Courtesy, friendliness and polite discourse with diners also sadly seems to have disappeared, now replaced by curt, surly, condescending and unsmiling staff who seem to think they are doing you some sort of favour by taking your order. Don’t these staff realise that diners will frequently excuse errors in service if the server is friendly, helpful and has a genuine interest in them and their dining experience? And they may also leave a better tip!

So who is to blame?

Well it is easy to blame society, or the attitudes of ‘Gen Y’, or the labour shortage, but much of the responsibility still lies with employers. Whilst I understand the concern of an employer to invest in training their staff with hourly rates in the region of $20-30 and no commitment from service staff to even show up after having been trained, it does raise the question about how the industry is going to fighting off a reputation for declining standards.

Why is service in many parts of Europe so much better across all levels of restaurants, bistros and bars? Is it because a waiter is still considered a profession, requiring an apprenticeship in many European countries or is it just a matter of them having a better attitude…. I reserve judgement!

The most disturbing part of this issue is that many so called ‘high-end’ restaurants and hotels still charge exorbitant prices without feeling guilty for delivering this mediocre service.

Whilst there are still quality operators and some fantastic staff out there in the market, it is of concern when we comment on situations where there is ‘adequate’ rather than ‘exceptional’ service as mediocrity is the new norm and we are becoming so used to poor service.

The consumer ultimately has the upper hand by not returning to establishments where the product and service delivery are below par, and increasingly, are sharing their experiences on social media and restaurant review websites – which could explain the phenomenon of so many short lived F&B operations.

I say power to the consumer and to TripAdvisor and the various other rating avenues on the internet. Maybe this will be the only way operators recognise the importance of staff training and ultimately invest in hiring the right people in the first place…

About the author

rsz_karl_faux_ccKarl Faux is a veteran Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm.
For more information about Karl and Elite Search visit http://www.elitesearch.com.au and The Elite Hotelier http://www.elitehotelier.net

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