Because I had a connection to the Dead Animal Steakhouse (my future wife was a well liked server) I successfully transitioned from general manger of a clothing store to server. I'm not going to pretend it was a seamless change. The menu at the Dead Animal Steakhouse is complicated and I always felt that the training process was convoluted and disingenuous. My first few days were terrible. I actually spilled hot soup on a young kid. Ultimately, it wasn't my fault (which is why I didn't lose my job) but that didn't stop me from tearing up after the shift. It was intense and I felt awful. Over time, I got the hang of things and it wasn't long before I was being asked to train new servers.
I quickly learned that training a new server, or new hire as they were called, was a colossally flawed process for several reasons. The problems in the system are varied and plentiful. The first is compensation. People wait tables for the money, pure and simple. Trainers are not compensated when they trained new hires. Once upon a time, trainers would receive a higher wage per hour and any meal they wanted off the menu. This could include twenty dollars steaks and entrees. Over the thirteen years the restaurant had been open, these benefits were gradually whittled away to the point that trainers basically did one of the hardest jobs in the restaurant without compensation. As a matter of fact, it often cost the trainer money in the form of lost tips. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a more experienced server will make more money off a table when compared to a new hire. Part of the training process asks the trainer to allow the new hire to wait on his or her tables. In some cases, these first attempts don’t go well.
I’ll never forget one particular new hire I trained named Ellen. By this point I worked at the restaurant five or six days a week and made a decent living waiting tables while I went to school. As I walked in the door to start my shift, I figured it was just another Friday night. Then I was introduced to Ellen. Ellen was a pretty college student about three years younger than I was with very little (if any) serving experience. The manager of the restaurant told me I would be training Ellen and to “show her the ropes” about the restaurant. Mind you, this was not a choice on my part. This was just what I was expected to do that evening. I immediately knew that, no matter how good Ellen might be at the job, I was going to take at least a 15% to 20% cut in my earnings for the night when compared to what I could have made by myself. In a four hour shift, Ellen manage to spill a twenty three ounce beer on a customer, ring in the wrong food on the wrong table repeatedly, and generally disappoint all of her customers in every possible facet of the dining experience. Needless to say, her tips were less than 10% of her sales. Remember, this was money coming out of my pocket.
When I had to train someone like Ellen it drove me crazy. It was a waste of both of our times which brings me to my next point. The training process really begins with the hiring process. The Steakhouse was near a shopping mall and several colleges/universities. As a result, we would receive, literally, thirty applications a week during the peak seasons. However, it always felt like we were understaffed. Why? Because there are only so many attractive women in the world.
Hiring people is not an easy job. However, I don’t think it’s beyond someone with average intelligence. It’s not impossible to hire quality people. You don't need a doctorate to fill a restaurant with people of good character and work ethic.
Hiring does, however, require you take the entire process seriously, make good judgments about the people you are interviewing, communicate your needs to the potential employee, and think with your big head. Hiring new employees also requires that the management team be interested in filling the restaurant with the best people for the job. This was not the utmost priority at the Steakhouse. On busy nights we would have between twenty to twenty-five servers working the “floor plan”. Most nights, 85% of the staff (that the public would see) would be female, young, and attractive. The management team of the Steak House hired women who were pretty and didn’t typically hire men. As I mentioned, I only got the job because I was well connected. Simply put, the management team hired young women who they hoped to flirt with. That was really the most important quality a potential new hire could have.
Availability, previous experience, and personality didn’t really mean much. The bottom line revolved around looks. One particular manager of the restaurant would spend entire shifts standing at the host stand in the front of the restaurant so he could “supervise” the hosts and server. “Supervising” included every imaginable type of flirting, grab assing, and sexually suggestive conversations. Mind you, many of the women in the restaurant were in their early twenties. This manager was easily 35. It was the worst kept secret in the restaurant that he had had affairs with several of the female staff over the years. Did I mention he was married with 2 children?
To make matters worse, it always seemed like many of the new hires would blatantly lie on their application and never get called on it. For example, several new hires clearly had not worked in a restaurant before getting hired at the Steakhouse. It was painfully obvious when they greeted their first table in training. Unfortunately, if the girl was attractive enough, it didn’t matter. Many of the new hires also had awful availability. Over the years, hundreds of new hires would come to the restaurant from local colleges. On the surface this was fine. However, when the less desirable shifts had to be filled, like Christmas and New Years Eve, these same new hire college students would go back to their hometown. This obviously left the restaurant understaffed during some of its most busy periods. Again, the attractive servers were never held accountable.
It was so egregious that I do not recall a single women ever being fired from the restaurant for any reason. There was one occasion where a particularly attractive female server was caught, dead to rights, complaining about her table by that same table. In the restaurant business this is a cardinal sin. The server was scolded by management but never lost a shift or suffered a financial penalty. A similar situation occurred to a male server about a year later and, you guessed it, he was fired on the spot.
Beyond the blatant hiring issues, the parent corporation that ran the Steak House had unbelievable expectation of their trainers and trainees. They distribute huge (85 page) manuals called “Dead Animal Steakhouse Operating Standards Workbook for Servers” to their new hires. Some of the more experienced staff, including myself, were asked to participate in a “certified training course” taught, and I use that phrase very loosely, by a corporate representative. The course lasted about ten hours, for which we were paid minimum wage. The course consisted of a painstaking review of the “certified trainer” manual. Both the new hire and trainer manual together weighed in at about 110 total pages. This is an outrageous number when you consider that I didn’t have that much training material to read when I became a public school teacher.
I feel I need to make a point about the economics of training new servers and the certified trainer program the Steakhouse corporation forced upon us. Most Americans would agree that making money is a good thing and the very reason we take jobs. If money, greed, and the hopes of a better life didn’t inherently motivate us, why would we take jobs at all? Adam Smith was among the first to write a book about this. The “invisible hand” of greed pushes us to take jobs and consequently improve our lot in live. Money is an incentive to work. We take this type of thinking very seriously in America. How many of you love what you do for a living? How many of you would rather be sitting on a beach as opposed to a cubicle performing data entry? Well, I am an American, a capitalist, and I believe in all of these ideas. Waiting tables, in my twenties, was an efficient use of my time because the benefits (money) far outweighed the costs (time, driving to the restaurant, absorbing customer abuse, etc). As I flipped through the certified training material provide to me by this corporate "teacher", I knew it was flawed in the most fundamental ways.
First of all, I wasn’t getting paid to become a certified trainer. As I just mentioned, we are all driven by greed. Being recognized as a certified trainer and, therefore, one of the best servers in the restaurant can only motivate me to a point. If you really think I’m one of the best servers in the restaurant, offer me an incentive like money, free food, better shifts, better sections, etc. This basic economic concept was not taken into consideration when the certified training materials were devised. This corporate teacher was asking us, the future certified trainers of the restaurant, to work twice as hard for the same money. Where is my motivation in that?
The packet of material trainers were expected to become familiar with was some of the greatest corporate propaganda I’ve ever seen. The certified trainer manual began with a mission statement that corporate expected us to take to heart. Many of the words in the mission statement were CAPITALIZED FOR EMPHASIS. The statement asserted that the Steakhouse was the fastest growing casual themed restaurant in America (which was a blatant lie) and that the Steakhouse TEAM needed to be the WELL TRAINED to provide great GUEST SERVICE. It talked about the company’s philosophy and how Steakhouse certified trainers were leaders and that our management team EXPECTED us to “set the tone” in the restaurant. Who knew a soulless corporation was capable of philosophic thought? I learned from this manual that a certified trainer holds everyone in the restaurant to the highest possible standards for food quality, customer service, and becomes the ultimate “TEAM PLAYER”. We were assured that the trainers were the future of the company and congratulated for the honor.
Not to belittle the point but there was no extra compensation for these responsibilities. Reading over this mission statement, I immediately wondered what the management’s job description was if the trainers were expected to hold the restaurant to the highest possible standards. What did the management do? The law of supply says that producers will bring more goods to the market if they are going to get a higher price for them. Makes sense right? If Apple thinks it can make a lot of money with its newest device (iMac, iPhone, iPad, whatever) it will produce millions of said devices and try to sell them to us, the consumers in the marketplace. On the other hand, Apple will stop production of anything that doesn’t make a profit. The wonderful thing about economics is that this same idea works in the same exactly way in the Steakhouse training program. If I, as a certified trainer, see an opportunity to make more money by offering more of my time to the restaurant, the law of supply says I will provide more hours to work. If I do not see that profit motive, I’m staying at home with my wife and kids. I do not have a degree in Economics or businesses. The corporate “think tank” who proposed this training program had both. Didn’t corporate see this?
The manual also outlined the “characteristics of Adult Learners”. On its surface, the inclusion of this information makes sense. We, as certified trainers, would be working with adults so it stands to reason that identifying the best way to teach them is useful. As with most ideas at the corporate level, the execution left something to be desired. According to the manual, adults learn best when they are not threatened. The manual also points out that communicating with the “learner” in a language they understand facilitates the learning process. The adult learner will also be more successful if tasks are broken down into small steps so they are not self-conscious about the new learning situation. So, to review, as long as I remember to not pull a knife/gun on my trainee and speak English while giving them very simple tasks, I’m all set! The problem, again, is that the Steak House corporate offices forgot that “Adult Learners” in this situation only have one characteristic: they want to make money. The incentive for working is money and profit motive. It’s as simple as that. Adults don’t go to work to learn. As a public school teacher who has spent hundreds of hours thinking about educational pedagogy and safe learning environments, these corporate characteristics of “Adult Learners” was more than insulting, they were simply wrong. This corporate list of characteristics might work in a high school but it was immediately clear to me that in the real world, where people lose their house if they don’t pay their bills, people want to make money and keep their job.
By page four of this training manual I had learned a great deal about the corporation that ran the Steakhouse: they were completely out of touch with the reality of their employees. Corporate had created a fantasy world where simple economics don’t matter. In this corporate world, people worked for the love of the company and the growth of the chain. This was manifested in this certified training manual. In the real world, most of the Steakhouse employees were college students looking make money to pay bills, go shopping, fund a killer spring break, or buy beer.
The next few pages of the manual detailed reasonable qualities that we, as certified trainers, needed to have. We were expected to be on time, have a positive attitude, and generally be serious about the job. Then came the predictable corporate uniform demands: pressed, well fitting shirts and pants, brown belt, brown socks darker than the “team member’s” pants, polished brown shoes, nametag “neatly” pinned above the pocket of the shirt, a clean, pressed server apron, etc, etc. A full page of uniform specifications later, the manual moved on how to actual train another person in the fantasy world of the corporate Steakhouse.
Training was broken down into five sessions (or shifts) to take place on different days with a six shift that would serve as “remediation” (their words) for trainees who “weren’t getting it”. Total, this was expected to last about 25 to 30 hours and new hires would be paid minimum wage for their time. Each session began with a “homeroom” where the certified trainer and the “learner” discuss the “classroom topics” for the shift. If I can digress for a moment, this is something that always drove me crazy about working in a corporate setting. The meanings of words that you thought you knew suddenly changed.
Words have an effect on people. How many times have you thought less of a person for using harsh language or not being particularly well spoken? You may not have meant to, but you did subconsciously. The same is true of these words in this corporate manual. How ridiculous is it, honestly, to call new hires “learners”? How equally ridiculous is it to call your training session a “classroom” and “homeroom”? I suppose the purpose of this vocabulary is to suggest that a teacher/student relationship exists between the trainers and new hires. However, throwing these words around in this manner is ineffective and cheapens the training process. The incentive structure that has been created in public schools is significant and far ranging. The reason the student/teacher relationship works in a public school is because failure brings painful ramifications. Failure in our public school system statistically lead to less financial and social opportunities later in life. This is made very clear to the children of this country at a very young age. On top of this, students can’t leave school until there are 16 years old. They either do what they are told or life gets miserable.
In the corporate setting, the same mechanics or incentive structures are not in place. I can’t call a new hire’s parents if they don’t take the training process seriously. I can’t really give them a bad grade. People work (at least in this country) of their own free will. I suppose I, as a trainer, could go to management and get a particularly terrible new hire fired, but that borders on evil and economically speaking, I have no financial incentive to be evil. The Steakhouse did not provide any financial incentives to their certified trainers, so what motivation do I really have to get someone fired who doesn’t take this ridiculous training program seriously. Additionally, if the trainee was a pretty girl, there was no way the management would fire her even if she was god awful. From day one, new hires looked at this training material and immediately saw how out of touch corporate was with reality. Vocabulary is part of this general aloofness. By association, I became part of the insanity. It was very difficult to take the certified training program seriously.
The first training day (session) was titled “Being Part of the Steakhouse Team” and the certified trainer manual included detailed, down to the minute, directions on how to manage the shift. The manual also included resources to keep handy and suggested scripts to read to your “learner” during “homeroom”. For those of you familiar with teaching, you could compare this section of the trainer manual to a lesson plan that a teacher just finishing graduate school would write. The expectations were naive, to say the least, and the objectives were hopelessly out of touch with reality.
The first day of training began with a twenty minute discussion (twenty minutes!) about EXTREME PERFORMANCE. To corporate, this sounded better than calling what you expect of people "expectations". The trainer was to educate the “learner” about EXTREME PERFORMANCE and how the new hire should strive to achieve this extremeness every day. Teamwork was also a major talking point during session one’s “homeroom”. I always thought extreme meant “on the fringe” or “carrying things too far”. I never would associate extreme with a restaurant unless it was a wholly negative connotation. This is just another example of how corporate minds work. If it’s not good service, it has to be great. If it’s not great service, it has to be excellent. If it’s not excellent service, it has to be… extreme?
After homeroom, session one included the predictable walk around the restaurant, introduction to staff, typical kitchen procedures, and a general frequently asked questions session. The manual insisted we inform our learner “what teamwork looks like in the dish room”. The rest of session one included a logical “shadowing” session with hosts and kitchen staff. “Shadowing” refers to the passive process in which the new hire follows the more experience staff members in an attempt to learn things through visual osmosis. Session one ended with some “high stakes testing”. The “learner” was given thirty minutes, strictly timed, to create fictional orders in the restaurant’s computerized ordering software. Then the new hire would then spend fifty minutes with the trainer, being interrogated about the Steakhouse menu. The “learner is encouraged to take notes”. At no point, in session one, was the new hire to associate with a guest, let alone take an order.
Day two of training or “The Ins & Outs of Steakhouse Service”, began with a thirty minute “homeroom” about how to make more money for the restaurant through high speed service. The restaurant had certain time standards that servers must adhere to. For example:
- Within 90 seconds of being sat, the server must “warmly” greet the table.
Example of warm greeting: “Hi! How’s Monday treating you so far? (Wait for response and respond). Welcome to the Dead Animal Steakhouse! Have you dined with us before? (Wait for response - YES). Great! Thanks for coming back to us! Tonight we are featuring the (featured item). Have you had that before? (Wait for response - NO). You should definitely give it a try. I would love to get you something to drink from our bar like a beer, cosmopolitan, or are you a wine drinker? (Wait for response - WINE). We have an excellent wine selection - red or white? I recommend the (recommendation). Would you like me to have our chef start something for you? Some wings or shrimp? (Wait for response - SHRIMP). Great! I’ll see that our chef get started right away on that. Ok, I’m going to be back in just a minute with your wine. In the meantime, take a look at our menu and let me know if you have any questions. My name’s (fake name) and if you need anything at all, I’ll be right over!"
- Three minutes later, whatever drinks were ordered, must be delivered to the table. The order should be taken.
- Five minutes later, appetizers should be delivered.
- The server should check back on the appetizer after two bites by asking “Are your wings prepared exactly to your satisfaction?”.
- Three minutes later the guest’s entree should be rung in.
- Three minutes later the guest’s salad should be brought to the table.
- The server should check back on the salad after two bites by asking “Is your salad prepared exactly to your satisfaction?”.
- The server should “groom” the table and remove all items not being used.
- 15 minutes after the entree has been ordered, the entree should be delivered to the table. (Eight minutes after salad was delivered).
- The server should check back on the entree after two bites by asking “Is your steak prepared exactly to your satisfaction?”. The dessert order should be taken at this point.
- Five minutes after order, dessert should be delivered to the table.
- The server should check back on the dessert after two bites by asking “Is your dessert prepared exactly to your satisfaction?”. The bill should be delivered at this point.
- When the bill is delivered, take 10 steps away from the table and then look back. If the guest is ready to pay the bill return to the table.
- Two minutes after you receive payment, the paid bill should be back on the table with change (if paid in cash) or a credit card slip with pen ready to sign).
- One minute later, the table should be cleaned and ready for your next guest.
I have provided this level of detail to prove a point: these expectations are totally unreasonable. Most of the time, guests are not looking to be managed in this fashion or eat a three course meal in 40 (!) minutes. They are on their own time table and do not appreciate the constant hovering of their server. Additionally, it is impossible to prepare a well done steak (for example) in 10 minutes. This timetable was not taken seriously. The servers knew it. The cooks knew it. The managers knew it. Even the new hires new it. The corporate offices maintained for the seven years I worked in the Dead Animal Steakhouse that these times were totally reasonable. It goes without saying that these policies were created in isolation with little input from actual servers.
Also on day two the trainer was to required during “homeroom” “teach” the “learner” about suggestive selling and “upsells”. Corporate wanted servers to sell add-ons to meals like sautéed mushrooms or onions, salads, larger steaks, etc. The principal behind this, from a corporate perspective, is simple. The higher the customer’s check, the more money the restaurant makes. The corporation also pointed out to the new hires that these small increases in your customer’s check would pay off big time for the server because their tip would be higher. Higher guest checks equal higher profits and tips. Was this really the case?
To me the answer was an unequivocal no. From a personal perspective, upselling was very stressful. I don’t like asking people to spend money they aren’t prepared to spend. A few servers I knew would often joke about how, if they caught the customer off guard, they could "trick" the table into spending more money on an appetizer. How? By directly asking a table if they wanted something they didn’t already order, you (the server) are forcing the table to say no. Most people hate to say no (or something negative) to people who are handling their food. So, by asking questions like this, you are banking that a percentage of people won’t be able to say no to you because it’s not in their character to do so. You are forcing people into an uncomfortable position. Is this really the best way to treat your customers? With this in mind, questions like “How about an appetizer to start off with” after the table has already ordered their meal borders on evil in my opinion. You are preying on your customer’s weaknesses.
From an economic perspective, the server’s incentive for upselling (or as I contend, being evil) was not aligned with the corporation’s incentive to encourage such behavior. If a server upsells a salad to a table for $3.00, the corporation has seen an additional $3.00 of revenue. Let say that additional $3.00 salad raise the customers check from $10.00 to $13.00. A fairly standard 15% tip on a ten dollar bill would be $1.15. A 15% tip on a thirteen dollar bill would be $1.95. Is that 80 cents worth the trouble? At the Steak House, serving a salad to a guest required the waiter to actually make the salad his or her self. Depending on the availability of the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other ingredients, this could take several minutes. On a busy night, finding the ingredients for salads could be extremely stressful and require the server to actually prepare (chop) the ingredients themselves. Even if the ingredients were prepared this still required the server to work harder than they would normally have had to work for that particular order. This also assumes the server is going to see that additional 80 cents from the guest. The guest might round down the bill in their minds to an even $10 and leave the $1.15 tip. At any rate, the upselling incentives for the corporation and server are not aligned and the corporate clearly makes the better of the arrangement.
At the end of day two, the new hires had still not interacted with a guest.
Day three focused on alcohol. Specifically, how to sell it. Wine, beer, mixed drinks, frozen drinks, glass sizes, toddys, and other various bar vernacular. The server went through the bar and the drink menus with the new hire. What the server was not to discuss with the trainee was how to card or ID a guest buying an alcoholic beverage. This was too important, so the training went, to be handled by a server. This was a manager's responsibility. As I have detailed before, the management at the Steakhouse were more interested in reproduction as opposed to education. Consequently, the servers were on their own when it came to alcohol. The results were predictable. Every server had their own policy. Some people carded anyone who look 30 or younger. Others, myself included, carded everyone. I once carded a 63 year old man. Why? Because the stakes were too high.
At least once per year, the local police department would conduct a sting operation in our restaurant. You never knew when it was coming. They would “convince” a minor (a 20 year old or younger) to illegally order an alcoholic beverage. When I say “convince” what I really mean is coerce. The 20 year old was typically someone who was busted for a petty crime like shoplifting. As punishment, the judge would give the shoplifter “community service”. In this case, that meant willfully committing another illegal act in the name of the law. The coerced minor would illegally order a drink. If the server/bartender carded the minor, they passed. If not, the cops would come running in, arrest the server/bartender (handcuffs and all), throw them in the back of a waiting police car, issue a ticket to the restaurant and server/bartender, and report the whole thing to the local media. Right in the middle of a dinner shift. Imagine you are just sitting down to a meal and the cops arrest your server. I’m not exaggerating. The cops really got off on this. To review, the police encouraged an illegal act. There was no illegal act taking place before the police coerce a minor into illegally ordering a drink. The police manufactured the crime and profited from the enormous fine it carried and the media attention it received. The police were “getting tough on underage drinking and the people who allow it.”. Two of my friends were arrested, thrown in jail, and forced to pay a gigantic fine. The restaurant immediately fired them. They never worked as a server again. No local restaurant would hire them after that type of exposure.
This is why I carded everyone who drank at my tables. 99.9% of the time, my guests were not police. That .01% was enough. I wasn’t going to jail for some stranger's martini. This inevitably led to a lot of pissed off 45 year olds who didn’t have their ID on them. I felt bad, but not bad enough to take the chance.
By the end of day three, the new hire was expected to take an appetizer and drink order from a table.
Day four focused on guest service. The new hires were presented with a “guest service” manual and asked to memorize it. The manual presented examples of how to handle specific guest interactions. There was an entire page on answering the phone. When a server answered the phone, they were required to say:
“Hi and thank you for calling the Dead Animal Steakhouse, home of the (insert seasonal menu item here)! My name is (fake name here). How many I be of service to you today?".
If the phone “by some disastrous occurrence” rang more than three times, we were expected to answer it with an apology “Hi! I’m sorry for letting the phone ring so long. Thank you for calling the Dead Animal Steakhouse...”.
The manual provided specific guidelines for addressing angry customers. It was a three part plan: Acknowledge, Apologize, and Act. If a guest was unhappy, for any reason, we were expected to follow those three steps. No matter how unreasonable the request or in the wrong the guest was, we were to Acknowledge the “problem, Apologize for it, and Act to correct it. At least once a shift, every server would be obligated to “Act” on a ridiculous concern from a guest and bring it to a manager. Most of the time, the manager bought the complainer a free appetizer or dessert. I have witnessed literally tens of thousands of dollars of food given away to complaining guest. Some (probably 25%) was legitimate. The overwhelming majority consisted of ticky tacky complaints brought by people who knew they could get free food out of a corporate manager. They knew exactly what they were doing.
Speaking of free food, the manual also went into great detail about birthdays at the Dead Animal Steakhouse. Birthdays were a big deal to corporate. They were of the belief that the free piece of chocolate cake provided by the restaurant to the birthday guest would keep them coming back. Repeat business is the lifeblood of any restaurant. All the guest (or a member of their party) had to do was mention it was their birthday. The manual detailed how a birthday celebration was to be choreographed. A free piece of cake was to be provided to the birthday boy/girl/man/woman. A lit candle was to be on the cake. A large stuffed animal puppet would be brought to the table and a stupid song would be sung.
“Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday with a great big cheer! HEY!!!!!!! It’s your birthday a very special birthday. Happy Happy Birthday is HERE!! YAHOOO!!!”.
The large puppet should be “worked” by the server so as to look as though it is singing the song as well. To this day, I see that God forsaken puppet in my nightmares. At the end of the song, the birthday boy/girl/man/woman was asked to “kiss the puppet!”. I don’t know if people really came back to the Steakhouse for chocolate cake. What I do know is that, in my estimation, at least 50% of the “birthdays” at the Steakhouse weren’t really birthdays at all. We never carded anyone who said it was their birthday (corporate policy). What I do know is that thousands of dollars of free cake was given out every year by the Dead Animal Steakhouse. There was no way of knowing who was out for a good time on their birthday and who wanted something for free. The only satisfaction I get when I think about all the dishonest people who pretended it was their birthday is that, in my seven years, that puppet was never laundered once.
At the end of day four, the new hire was expected to take an entire order from drinks to entree and deliver the food within the accepted time frame.
Day five was the final day of training. The new hire was expected to run their own one table section. The training wheels were off. It was sink or swim time. At the end of the shift, the new hire was required to wait on the general manager of the store. At least, that was the theory.
The reality of this entire five day process is that it never went that way. If a new hire was any good at all they were taking their own tables by the third day. Five days of training for an experienced server who happened to be new to the Dead Animal Steakhouse is insulting and unnecessary. Additionally, I can count on one hand the number of times the general manager of the store was waited on by a new hire. Most of the managers I worked with had no idea how competent the servers on their staff actually were. The best intentions of the corporate manual and policies collapsed under its own weight. The restaurant business is brutally unrealistic. People want their food the second they order it. Servers want to make 30% tips on every table. Cooks never think they make mistakes. Managers don’t want to manage, they want the store to run itself. Most of the time it does. The vast majority of servers are highly efficient people who are driven by the profit incentive. The faster they do their job, the faster you get your food. The faster you get your food, the more money they make. The corporation that ran the Dead Animal Steakhouse never seemed to understand basic economics. We were successful in spite of corporate policies, not because of them. Every single server I trained was successful because they were properly motivated. It had nothing to do with me, five days of training, or micromanaged corporate policies.
The Today Show - On Wednesday, March 22nd, I will be on The Today Show somewhere between 9:00 – 9:30 AM. We’ll be discussing how you can get good service in a restaurant,...