SERVICE: We're only as good as our last performance

April 29, 2004

Paul Paz is a "career waiter" turned hospitality consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the author of "Service At Its Best: Waiter Waitress Training—A Guide to Becoming a Successful Server" (Prentice-Hall), and operates the hospitality information Web site

There was a group of employees milling around a restaurant's host area, waiting for the lunch rush to kick into gear. Suddenly two children sped through the front doors, then another, another, and then two more followed by a harried woman, who requested a table for six.

One of the waiters witnessing their entry thought he'd be funny and leaned over to the manager and whispered a discreet, but derogatory comment about the woman, the children, and who their father might be.

The assistant manger whispered back to the waiter, "You've never met my wife and children, have you?

Paul C. Paz

Let's seat them in your station so you can get to know them better."

William Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players ... ."

Ever considered the pizza business similarly? That the stage upon which your employees act out the roles required for your business to be profitable? Think about it: Once the front door opens, the curtain is up and the audience is watching your table servers. Same for the counter worker who greets an approaching customer, and the delivery driver who's in the spotlight the second he rings the doorbell.

Sadly, though, too we often forget that and we let our attitudes, opinions and feelings about our jobs, our coworkers—even our customers—be known when we should keep them private.

Last month, while in Las Vegas, I was dining at a high-profile restaurant, where, while waiting for my meal, I noticed my waiter becoming increasingly agitated while working at the POS terminal near my table. He threw menus around, cursed under his breath (unsuccessfully) and delivered a flurry of personal insults and worst wishes about his customers, peers and management. He was clearly unaware he was on stage, and because of this, everyone within 20 feet heard his every word and witnessed his unsettling "performance."

This isn't the first time I've seen this. Often I've observed managers and staff sparring verbally right in front of their customers. Most commonly, I see staff griping about customers or making disrespectful comments about peers and customers while waiting for their drinks in the bar service-well (a behavior I term "bar-bitching") or in side-stands. These employees might think they're "off stage," but unbeknownst to them, they're usually in full view and within earshot of customers. Such performances, unfortunately for the persons involved and the restaurant's owner, are vividly memorable.

My point is simple: Serving customers is just like being in a play, and we're only as good as our last performance.

Author Sean O'Casey made a play on Shakespeare's words when he wrote, "All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed." Is this how well you or your staff is prepared for each day's performance?

Remember that you're on stage and every detail of your deeds and words will be measured when a customer considers another trip to your establishment.

Oh, and by the way ... that young waiter mentioned at the start of this article was—you guessed it—me. It was a life experience that, to this day, still makes me blush with embarrassment!

Question: How are you planning to celebrate National Waiters Day on May 21? E-mail me and let me know.

In the meantime, Make It Fun ... Make It Easy ... Make Some Money!

Read other Paul Paz commentaries ...

* SERVICE: Separation anxiety
* SERVICE: 'Bad-apple' trainers will never bear good fruit
* SERVICE: Super Bowl, Valentine's and Mardi Gras present many promotional opportunities
* SERVICE: Boost beverage sales with these simple table-side tactics.
* SERVICE: Whether the holidays are happy depends on your attitude
* SERVICE: It takes a desire to please the customer to deliver exceptional service
* SERVICE: Schedule flexibility is a benefit -- not an entitlement -- of this industry
* SERVICE: Promote the pizza industry as a career choice
* SERVICE: Cheaters never prosper, especially in restaurants
* SERVICE: Say hello or they'll say goodbye
* SERVICE: Treat coworkers as courteously as customers
* SERVICE: What's There to Smile About?

Topics: Service

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