When waiters and customers work together …

The notice at the foot of the menu invited me to ‘tell my friends’ if I had enjoyed my meal, but to ‘tell the management’ if I hadn’t. I wondered how many had actually made the effort to say anything to management when they had a less than pleasant experience because I saw a lady, clearly unhappy with her waiter’s service storm out the restaurant. She would probably be relating the incident to her friends in short order and the management would be blissfully unaware of the situation.

She probably didn’t read the small print at the foot of the menu.

But this got me thinking as to why people are quick to complain to their friends about some place they’re unhappy with but say nothing directly to the owners or managers. They’re also quick to “review” establishments on TripAdvisor but cut out of the loop the people who could change things for the better. Is it because their experience has taught that there are managers who really don’t care what the customer thinks and just get aggressive and defensive when confronted by a complaint? Is it because those complaining feel embarrassed at bringing something to the attention of their “host” and don’t want to draw attention to themselves?

I know that Jon Rutter WaiterWaitress and his professional staff receive many compliments and accolades, but when something needs attention, Jon is the first to know and he sorts it out quickly and efficiently. He knows that the Rutters Stocktaking team’s first priority is giving the customer what they want in the best way possible. Their customers know that they can approach the team with any problem. So why is there a reluctance of diners, hotel guests, and pub patrons?

The answer could be seated in “relationship” – the better the relationship, the more likely the customer will be frank in their assessment of service. Which got me thinking about the way folk like waiters interacted with their tables – those disinterested waiters who merely “take the order,” who offer no suggestions, who have no interest in the customer’s experience are those who create the barrier that the customer feels they cannot cross to lodge a complaint. Or else they overreact, which is just as bad if not worse. Of course, all the “blame” cannot be laid at the waiter’s door – there are times when customers can be difficult and cannot be satisfied at all regardless of how many hoops the management and their staff jump through!

And of course, there is the right and the wrong way to complain – there are books written on the subject! Some will tell you to be polite but firm, to clearly state what your grievance is and to suggest a solution in an even and unemotional way. Others will tell you to go “straight to the top” and let the boss-man know. Still others will suggest that you cool off and then write to the establishment. All are correct and valid – and as with all answers the correct method hangs on the “it all depends” scenario. Either way, there are always going to be things people are going to complain about, there are always going to be difficult customers, and there are always going to be some unresolved issues.

What would be more helpful is that waiters and servers work with the attitude that their table is special and deserves their attention and care – this will go a long way to ensuring those being served enjoy their experience and won’t be reluctant in mentioning something not quite right.

Even more helpful, would be that those being served enjoy their experience and remember that nothing in life is perfect, not even their waiter, and responding to their server’s efforts will make it an enjoyable experience all round.  Bon appetit!


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