Monday, February 5, 2018

Waiter, Please Wait.

You walk in to a restaurant and search for a place to get seated yourself. While you are still contemplating to wash your hands (yes, few of us still do) before eating, the Waiter or the Captain ask you for your Order (A Waiter manages usually 3 tables and a Captain manages 3 Waiters). The Waiter narrates the standard Menu, usually the top selling ones and at times the slowest selling ones as advised by the Kitchen King. You ask for the Menu and the Waiter sulks. You see that he Menu has atleast 200 items and start discussing with the Waiter asking for details about a few interesting names. The sulking and discomfort of the Waiter increases with an indifferent attitude as well and you decide to order something. If you are a bigger group, say 4 plus, things get a bit complicated.


Assuming you order a quick snack, even before you start digging on it, the Waiter again prods you for the next item order. And this repeats till you ask for the Bill. Worse still, the bill arrives even as you are about to start eating the last item you’ve ordered. The Waiter stands till you pay up and if it’s a plastic card you plan to pay, then he gets even more moody for the tip amount then is suspicious. Only till you have left a decent tip on the folder which usually looks dirtiest and appears to be a charity by some Bank, the Waiter leaves you in freedom to enjoy your meal. His sulking continues if he’s unhappy with the tip. And you feel miserable.

Does this sound familiar? Has it happened to you or someone you know?


This is the state of affairs at most restaurants in India, especially in South India where I spend most of my time. When the above scenario occurs, I tell the Waiters and Captains that that they are running a restaurant, especially a dine-in where patience is key. I try to explain one waiter at a time, one hotel at a time, the difference between fast-food and dine-in. Most fast-food joints in India have a pay-up/self-service model where the Guest first pays for the food and drink and then settles down at a table, standing or sitting. While in a dine-in restaurant, you expect someone to actually come to you and serve you. I take the effort to educate the Waiters the difference between the two and that the Guest has preferred their outlet over others. Some get the drift, some pass me on as a complaining customer.

The above has happened to me so many restaurants including some marquee names. Sadly, the fault is not of the Waiter, rather it is the of the Management, which hardly takes the effort and time to train the staff on etiquette and behavior. Most restaurants have this ego that he Guests are flocking to their outlets only for the food they provide. And believe the food taste, quality and price will compensate for any otherwise unacceptable behavior. There are a few at least in Chennai who provide special prices or “Combos” during popular hours and the Waiters believe they are doing charity for Guests who are short on budgets or cash.


In my last 21 years, I have said this every day to my staff – “Remember, our families are able to eat three meals a day because the Customers decided us over the others in the Market. Be grateful for that and treat them as Guests and not as paying machines”. Sadly, somewhere Business owners lack empathy and this drizzles down to the lowest guy in the rank. With his or her educational and cultural background, I do not expect the Waiters to pick up patience and empathy all by themselves. But how many company Chiefs actually walk the floor every day and see what the Guest is going through? At least, I have seen very few of them.



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