by Kris Mason
If a frog is dropped into boiling water, it will immediately react to its condition and jump back out. If a frog is placed in water and the water is brought to a boil, it will never perceive the change of its conditions and stay there until it is dead. I’m not sure what future serial killer came up with this first; but I am totally on board with the findings and how it pertains to how we stumble around the planet.
I think that the current state of customer service in general and hospitality specifically is similar to the experience of the previously mentioned frog. Service and hospitality have deteriorated for so long that we seem complacent to sit in the pot and cook to death. I feel that it is time to take the mindset of the first frog, and jump out before we all perish.
I don’t know where the relationship between the customer and the service provider diminished. It has become so adversarial. Customers feel as if they are being taken advantage of, and won’t hesitate to complain about how they feel they are being treated; while the provider feels like there is nothing they can do to keep everyone happy, and their customers just want something for nothing.
Working as a waiter for over thirty years I’ve seen some of the co-workers my age become jaded and the new batch of twenty somethings start out quite cynical. Today, some of them take no responsibility for what they do or how they treat their guests; they are defensive, combative, argumentative and condescending.
When their tip is less than generous, the customer is cheap or can’t afford to go out. A growing number of waiters today are too comfortable complaining about making $2.00 an hour and completely ignore the fact that with tips, they earn $20.00 or better (depending on where they work).
The industry is caught in a downward spiral where each party’s bad behavior perpetuates the other’s worse behavior. If you are a jerk to your table, it gives them the power to be rude the next time they go out to eat. If they show up and are rude to you, you feel justified to continue being a jerk to your tables.
There are some restaurateurs who think that they have solved the problem. The growing trend is to eliminate tipping. The industry leaders of this movement want to then raise their rates (to equal what your check would have been if you had left a tip) so they can distribute your money amongst the cooks and managers who have been seemingly underpaid in the past.
In all the variations of the new socialist restaurant model, servers are reduced to a minimum wage position. The last time I made minimum wage was before I started working in restaurants. As soon as anyone goes from earning over $20.00 an hour to just making minimum wage, that person is gone.
We have all experienced customer service at the minimum wage level. If you have visited a drive though at a fast food restaurant or stopped at a convenience store or shopped at a mall, you will catch a glimpse of the lack luster future of dining out.
"Now. If you come with me, this will be
The water is boiling and I want out; but I’m not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m not interested in leaving restaurants. I like the hospitality industry. I enjoy making someone’s night. I was always drawn to creating an experience that made people feel special. I learned early that by controlling my own actions I could influence the generosity of the people I waited on.
I now nominate myself to be the official Voice of Customer Service as well as the new Ambassador of Hospitality. I will now take my thirty years of accumulated experiences and apply them to saving the experience known as Dining Out. Although I’m self appointed, I would like to be joined by any waiter who isn’t interested in seeing their job disappear. I will keep sharing my service philosophies publicly and look for anyone who is willing to join me in this industry saving crusade.
I’m like Jerry Maguire, standing in the middle of the office cubicles, shouting out, “Who’s coming with me!?” The only way to keep my wages high, the way I like them, and not be replaced by the minimum wage (or worse, by a self-serve, touch screen) then we as waiters have to change our side of the relationship so that we can change the way a person walks into a restaurant and treats us.
I am no longer interested in who started the bad behavior. I’m more interested in drawing the line in the sand and changing the bad behavior moving forward. I will do this alone if I have to; but I would much rather be part of a movement of people who want to keep their wages intact. When somebody brings up the idea of running a restaurant without a wait-staff, I want the loudest voice to be the customers who are not interested in seeing another customer service industry filled with disconnected, disgruntled minimum wage earners.
Then let this movement begin. “Now. If you come with me, this will be the moment of something new and fun and inspiring in this GOD FORSAKEN business.” (That’s a Jerry Maguire quote, if you’re keeping score at home.) If you are truly coming with me, then let’s announce our intention and asks our brothers and sisters of this great and noble profession to proudly do the same. Stand up and proclaim, “We’re upping our standards! Up yours!”
Oh, and go easy on the frog experiments.
I do Waiter Boot Camps at your restaurant. Contact me to schedule a meeting. 480-600-6973
by Kris Mason
I recently attended back to back weddings; both were a spectacle. Down to the smallest detail, every aspect of these functions would rival the greatest Pinterest posts imaginable. One was at a Reception Center and the other at a Country Club. One was indoors, one was out. One was overflowing with rustic charm, the other was rather formal. Although each ceremony and reception was completely different they both had one glaring thing in common. The service was horrible.
I’m not talking about the wedding ceremony (church service), I’m talking about the table service; or more specifically, the banquet service. It seems hard to believe that with tens of thousands of dollars on the line, the service was… eh… okay. There was nothing catastrophically wrong, just okay. Lackluster. Forgettable. That’s what you get with minimum wage employees in the service industry.
Weddings weren’t always like this. I’ve waited tables for over thirty years and at one point I was even a banquet server. When you wait tables for a long time, you learn to go where the money is and in the 1980’s the money was in banquets. It was the place where the average person could live out their Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fantasy even if only for an evening.
We made so much money because as servers, our tip was included in the contract. At only 10%, the tip, when divided amongst the number of servers working the function, averaged out to be over $15 per hour. Not that great until you figure out that at the time, minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. We ran our butts off, and would do anything to make our guests feel like they were the most important person in the world (whether they were in the wedding or just at the wedding).
Over the course of a few years, the industry got greedy. The large Hotel chains thought that banquet servers earned a disproportionate amount of money when compared to everyone else involved behind the scenes, so they began withholding portions of the contract tip and raised the pay of those people earning less.
When the servers complained, the Hotel gradually raised the tip percentage from 10% to 12% to 15% and in some instances all the way up to 18%. The greed came when the Hotel decided to not pay out the entire tip to the employees. Nobody can say conclusively where the extra money went; but since it didn’t end up going to the employees, a law suit was filed.
"It’s hard to believe that the banquet industry is even a part of the hospitality industry at all."
In the end we won… and lost. We won the right to keep all of the money that was listed in the contract as a Tip. The Hotel chain’s lawyers figured out that if they changed the word from Tip to Service Charge on the contract, the Hotel was entitled to the entire amount and was no longer the property of the wait staff.
When a guest asked about the Service Charge on the contract, they were still told that it was to cover paying the waiters even though it was no longer true. Needless to say, working together as former plaintiffs and defendants wasn’t an ideal situation for everyone. Eventually, at the facility where I worked, we were offered a flat rate of $7 per hour, take it or leave it.
Of course I left it; I was used to making five times as much. When you wait tables for a long time, you learn to go where the money is.
For a while, the Hotels did okay. They were paying more than double the minimum wage; but the staff wasn’t as willing to jump through hoops like we were, mainly because the newly hired staff didn’t have restaurant experience. They had no point of reference as to why they should jump through a hoop in the first place. Today, functions like wedding receptions pay at or near minimum wage… and it shows. It’s hard to believe that the banquet industry is even a part of the hospitality industry at all.
There is a small sector of the restaurant business that is toying with the idea of doing away with tipping altogether. Like Danny Meyer of the famed Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City, he is planning on raising his menu prices almost 30% to pay his cooks and his managers a more competitive wage in the marketplace. His plan must also be doing away with his entire wait staff.
In his restaurants, Meyer intends on paying his waiters $9 per hour with no chance of receiving a tip of any kind. There is no waiter on the planet that will go from earning $20 to $30 per hour to accepting $9. As of January 1, 2016, $9 is the current minimum wage in New York City; and The Governor is working with state officials to raise that to $15 for fast food workers.
How do you expect people to pay menu prices that are 30% higher while receiving the highest quality of service that a minimum wage income can buy? Why put up with the hassle of waiting tables in a full service dinning room for $9 per hour when for $15 you can simply stand there and learn the phrase, “Do you want fries with that?”
When you wait tables for a long time, you learn to go where the money is.
I do Waiter Boot Camps at your restaurant. Contact me to schedule a meeting. 480-600-6973