Industry Update
Opinion Article16 May 2019

Pffft! You’ll never get it right.

By Leslie Kalk, Hospitality Coach at Six Figures Waiter

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During the dinner rush last Friday night in a fun-casual downtown restaurant, Tim was running his third solo shift as a manager. And then disaster happened.

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Up until then he was doing a great job - he supported his team and they liked working with him. He had the right amount of charm with guests and the right amount of no-nonsense attitude with store operations. The business volume swelled that night until Tim put guests on a short wait, the kitchen was reliably putting out quality meals in an expeditious manner, and there were minimal voids, comps, complaints or other shenanigans. Tim was handling his shit.

Then suddenly commotion came from section 4. Someone was shouting "Call 911!" Already pulling out his phone, Tim sprang over to find that a guest had collapsed on the floor. The man was unconscious but seemed to be breathing. Tim relayed the operator's instructions to the staff and cleared a path for the paramedics. Once they transported the man to the ambulance, things settled down and started to get back to normal. Whoa. Good job, New Guy.

The next afternoon, during his daily check of the review sites, Tim saw a post from a guest who had been at a nearby table. 3 stars. "We enjoyed our meals and the service was wonderful. But a man at the table next to us had a heart attack! The staff handled it very well but it ruined our celebratory dinner with our friends."

Okaaaaaayyyy…. what?!? It's not even a legitimate restaurant review, yet here it is in black and white. One guest's nachos were disrupted by another guest's life-threatening medical emergency and the restaurant gets 3 stars. Hmm. How would you respond to this? Or WOULD you even respond? Whether or not you do, it's further proof that our guests will always have their own unique perspective, no matter how screwy. So even though Tim's out there crushing it on every level - giving of himself to not only keep his guests happy but to even help save a life - someone's going to be the schmuck who makes it all about them.

We already know most of our guests don't understand how our business works. Like the guest who was shocked that their local restaurant wouldn't take call-in to-go orders on Saturday nights. The guest who asks "Oh you're short-handed today?" when the kitchen backs up. And the guest who instructed their TGIFridays server to just have the kitchen whip up a waffle. But to explain the fine details would be to break the magic spell. It's better to tell them you just sold out of waffles.

So, yes, in the guest's mind it's all about the restaurant being all about them, right? They should get the experience they expect and deserve - right? - whether or not they're subject to circumstances that the restaurant team cannot control. And even if it's as extreme as the poor guy in section 4 suffering a coronary on Friday, someone's nachos are probably getting comped…

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