I spend a lot of time in restaurants and fast food locations since, well, I don’t cook (I could blame it on being busy or a working woman but there’s really only one truth and that is it). I’ve noticed a disturbing service trend over the past few years that is supposed to create some kind of positive experience. I don’t get it. Here’s a recent example:
I went into a national steakhouse chain. The hostess looked up and smiled, and guided us with great competence to our table. It was loud, there were peanut shells on the floor, but other than having a strong desire to sweep I was enjoying the environment. Then our waiter walked up with spiked hair and a dirty apron. He kneeled down and said “Hi, I’m Jimmy. How are you guys doing?” “We’re doing fine.” I responded. I really just wanted food because I was starving. “So, what can I get you to drink?” he asked with great enthusiasm while pointing at his friend across the restaurant and sharing some unspoken joke. “I’ll have iced tea.” “No problem!” Jimmy answered with great energy. My husband ordered his drink, and again, Jimmy had no problem with the order. He brought us hot bread which I thanked him for profusely, at which point he responded “no problem guys!” That’s when I started to lose it. The “no problem” had merged with the less popular “guys” moniker and I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t say anything but I seethed with great vigor. Then I came home to write this…
I waited tables for three years at two different restaurants, so I know of what I speak. I made great tips, because I created a great experience. However, I never dropped down to one knee, called my customers “you guys” or responded “no problem” when they asked for something.
Here are my tips for anyone waiting tables:
1. If you’re going to drop down on one knee, explain. Maybe it’s just because I’m short and find it condescending, and I’m sure the intent is to help with hearing, but I’m 48 years old and really don’t need someone “coming down to my level” to take my order. It intrudes on my space, and I actually find it a bit condescending. I like looking up at a waiter, it makes my face appear thinner to him or her.
2. Treat customers with verbal respect, not familiarity. Don’t call customers “you guys” or anything else familiar. A customer is not your buddy, or your colleague, or the dude you hang out with after work. A customer is the reason you have a job, and you should show them respect. They are paying to be in your place of business, and they might just leave you a nice tip. They will not be sending you a tweet later or asking how your shift went on Facebook.
3. Follow Chick-fil-A’s lead with “my pleasure.” Chick-fil-A has differentiated themselves from fast food with great attitudes, good training, and two simple words – “my pleasure.” This denotes they are thrilled to serve their customers, and understand that they exist because customers pay for their food. “No problem” insinuates the customer was a problem in the first place. It says to me that “Yea, I was awesome, I brought your food and it wasn’t a really big problem or anything.” I’m not a problem. I’m your customer. I’m the reason you get paid to bring me my food.
So, next time you’re in a restaurant, count the times your waiter says “no problem.” Then talk to a manager and hand them a business card with two words on the back – “My pleasure.” Let them know that at Chick-fil-A you’re a pleasure. At this particular restaurant you’re not a problem. Which would you rather be?