If you are like me, then you are constantly watching the dining room of any establishment where you are dining. It’s almost unavoidable for me to do this, and I am not advocating anyone attempt this highly addictive practice. What I see is a collection of images, a blur of black aproned waitron units circulating around a cleverly decorated environment. If this is what you see when you look, then you are in good company. What I would like to pose as a question to the reading public is very simple in nature, yet difficult to answer.
The question is this, despite the flurry of visuals and aromas in a restaurant; is anyone listening? I know that the background noise is sometimes overwhelming, but I mean as operators, is anyone listening? Does your staff have an opportunity and a method to communicate up the ladder? Do your greeters have any idea what to do with the comments they hopefully obtain to the most overly asked question of “How was everything?”. Surely everyone doesn’t just reply with “fine”, or “goodnight” …do they?
I would suggest that there may be some benefit to placing value back into the table visit. I know that when I am involved in training managers that I challenge them to visit every table. I know that every table is a huge expectation, so I secretly anticipate a smaller number of visits. The point being that if a manager can visit a table without an obvious reason such as overcooked food, then he or she is making that highly lip-serviced connection with the customer.
I can list a number of restaurants I frequent in my area, and although I watch the floor like a hawk, I have never seen a manger make a table visit. I silently assure myself that the manger is simply in the kitchen making sure the food is prepared correctly, but I know that’s not always the case. I’ve watched dining rooms for two or three hours during a meal and seen what can best be described as watching the Hindenburg go down, but in a restaurant. We have all seen some version of this scene. As we are walked to our table, the stares of desperately hungry diners due to long ticket times are clearly evident; the large group in the back is the cause of the cocktail staff running around like chickens. You are sat at your table, and the waiter buzzes by saying something like “I’ll be right back”, while the rest of your group sits unaware of the approaching storm.
In the days of table captains or the seemingly extinct Matre’D, this situation would have been addressed immediately or prevented altogether. Those days being behind us now, we have to evaluate the best place for the manager to be during a shift. When a well trained “expo” can coordinate the food exiting the kitchen, where should the manager be? I have seen them sitting at the bar, sitting at a table of friends, or even watching TV, but I don’t see enough of them visiting tables, and that could be where we begin.