Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Post holiday boredom

We've been experiencing the post holiday doldrums in my store. After every big holiday, especially Thanksgiving, we hit a stretch of days where tables are few and far between. Last night was particularly bad. I don't know what the record for the fewest number of guest is in our store, but we had to be approaching it. Many servers left last night having had only 4-6 tables all night. I had 7 in almost 5 hours. That is bad. Especially for my wallet and bills that come due the next few days.

The challenge when it is this slow is to balance giving great service with pestering the guests. I watch some new servers who I honestly think get nervous when it gets this slow, and the result is they interfere with the guest's experience by trying too hard. Then there are the others, generally the old and crabby servers, who simply ignore their tables when it is this slow, slacking off, talking in back with other staff, and basically milking the clock and avoiding the cleaning and side work that needs to be done.

I think it is harder to work when it is slow, we all loose focus. The worst is when your night starts really slow, and then you get a late push. Your mind has slowed down, and you no longer feel energetic like you did when you first arrived for your shift. This is where the good servers rise above the rest and find a way to get it done. This is where the mediocre to poor servers get in trouble, forgetting to ring things in, getting flustered and making mistakes, and generally fouling things up.

I experience this over the weekend when I went out to dinner with my family. We got to a restaurant fairly late (no, not just before closing!) and our waitress was clearly over matched. She seemed to be competent, but it appeared she got caught unprepared by a late rush. Her table approach was poor, her service was scatter brained. She had good personality, but it was clear that she was in the weeds with only 4 tables, 3 of which were 2 tops and my 5 top. I resisted the urge to coach her, nothing worse than unsolicited advice when you are in the weeds.

I left thinking over the need for better training for servers in most restaurants. While some people are simply gifted, and others not cut out for serving, many fall somewhere in between. A book on serving would go a long way to helping these middle people out, giving them tips and ideas on how to deal with things, especially the unexpected. I doubt I am the person to write this book, but I suspect the book if ever written would benefit from a group writing approach, so a larger pool of experience could be tapped for it.

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Duckie said...

I understand what you mean about, when work is slow, you slow down. In my store, when it gets slow, time seems to stretch in front of you forever.

A book on serving sounds good, however I know alot of servers who wouldnt read it, because they're lazy or they dont "need" it.

Brad #1 said...

You need a book you say?

I'm shamelessley plugging for someone else, but here it is:

Clam Chowder: The server's manual


There is also quite an entertaining card game to accompany it.

briliantdonkey said...

Yeah recovering from the 'its going to be a slow night mentality due to a big last minute rush' is definitely hard at times. I agree, with someone else, the book may be a good idea, but most wouldnt read it. Either too lazy, or think they are too good to need it.


blueribbon said...

Lobster Boy,

Bear with me here please. I am not an experienced blogger.

Today I received a confirmation letter from Red Lobster on their decision to bring me on board as a management trainee. Along with the letter came a booklet entitled "Our Compass - Navigating our way to greatness". I found the philosophies expressed in this booklet to be inciteful and motivating so I googled "Red Lobster Compass" and your site came up as a top response.

Some of your comments I read lead me to believe that I could very well benefit from further thoughts of yours as I jump in to learn the Red Lobster/Darden culture and how I may become a valuable member of my upcoming team.

What do you think?

Lobster Boy said...

I would be glad/willing to answer candidly any questions you may have.

In short, the "Darden Culture" has become one of corporate incompetence and micromanagement. I fully understand the need to appease the shareholders, but there is so much that has gone craptastically bad with Red Lobster in the past few years that it is mind blowing. The "Darden Culture" has unfortunately become one where any penny pinched today can justify whoever it burns out or pisses off.

The "Darden Culture" has gone from being a company I was proud to work for, I enjoyed working for, and made great money working for to one that is an embarrassment, sucks to work for (only slightly less than most other chains) and makes me considerably less money than it once did. I couldn't tell you the last time the corporation made a decision with the best interest of the service staff in mind. Managers have been turned into glorified babysitters and ass kissers and nothing more. If that is how you want to make your $45,000+ (management wage after roughly a year of successful service) a year I don't begrudge you of it, but it does take it's toll, on both you and your family.

So ask away. Clearly I'm not afraid to comment and share my thoughts. If you want quick responses, ask in the most current thread even if it isn't on topic.

As an aside, the Red Lobster Compass was a solid idea in general. Not everything from corporate is pure crap.

Lobster Boy