Currently, I'm working FOH in a busy restaurant with a small service staff. We had about 7 full time servers and the servers really own the floor. Management is helpful but the pooled house selects servers as the top of the food chain.

 

My question / concern is with staff morale. This past Saturday night, management seemed to be on a warpath with the waitstaff. Forgive my bias, but I don't think we do a bad job. We were nominated best new restaurant in the NE b James Beard last year, and have a whole wall of numerous accolades that praise our service and restaurant. The problem I had was disciplining waitstaff prior to service. Any thoughts on this?

 

It's my thinking that discipline matters should be saved for the end of the night. What resulted on Saturday night was a non-cohesive, non-fluid waitstaff that barked at each other and became "order takers" rather than servers. I hated Saturday night. I tried to pull my team together right after the meeting and explain to them that we were going to go out there and do what we do best, which is make money and provide amazing service.  My efforts proved futile.

 

Management took 2 waitstaff into the office pre-shift and disciplined them for different reasons. Then at our pre-meal meeting, several issues were brought up. As waitstaff also brought up a few issues, management turned them around and blamed us. We entered the night feeling bad about ourselves - how do you snap a staff out of this funk when it's coming from the top? Staff morale was so poor.

 

I need some advice. I always think of things in terms of if I had my own place. I would never "slam" the waitstaff minutes before I wanted them to go on the floor and sell and dazzle guests for me. I'm having a hard time understanding why they did this? Any thoughts, comments, concerns, stories, etc would be helpful. Thanks.

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Tags: discipline, management, morale, waitstaff

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Comment by Susan Grandgeorge on June 8, 2011 at 5:45am
I am an owner... I agree with you, no slam should occur prior to the shift. I would appreciate your comments on ways to boost morale on a regular basis....when it isn't brought on by a management slam.  Thanks.

Non-Operator
Comment by Paul Paz on June 5, 2011 at 12:44pm

Brandon...

I've got to agree with you and Steven... timing is everything.

Rather than double up on the individual disciplinary actions on two servers plus adding the group spanking at the shift meeting... spread it out. "Good new.. bad news" is also a positive approach. I have found at times that, while some owners are smart financial investors, they are not necessarily good restaurant managers. Giuseppe is is also correct (to put in another way(, "As in theater, we are only as good as our last performance."

As it is with most troubling restaurant conflicts during the shift, hopefully this will pass and fresh resolutions will follow.

"Break a leg"!

Paul

WaitersWorld

Comment by Brandon M. Roderick on June 5, 2011 at 12:19am

I guess the issue I have is "civilized manner," Giuseppe. Numerous waitstaff have expressed how management discipline feels very belittling and "they treat us like children". For instance, a new policy (or rather a newly defined policy) of dropping dessert menus on every table rather than verbally offering the menu was established. But, instead of giving some time for us to adjust to this, we were reprimanded the day after when certain servers didn't do as instructed! Serving is part muscle-memory and it takes a while to incorporate something new into your table side demeanor and acting.

 

It just seems like management has this idea that we're all children, when in fact many of us are life-long restaurant professionals. Is it that we're disposable that makes this kind of treatment ok? Setting the Table (not sure if you've read it) would disagree. Hospitality starts at home.

Comment by Giuseppe De Carlo on June 2, 2011 at 6:49am
Hi Brandon, What is a waiter from the top of the food chain? If managment is upset regarding the staff, there must have been something wrong, James beard coments make no differance, if you wait prior to service to discipline the waiters, it is too late and waiters are disciplined, and all problems should be removed prior to service in a civilised manner, it is to late at the end of the night, managment took two staff to the office why? issues were brought pre meals, woe you state the waiters are good, so what is the problem, Managment is in turmoil (do they know what they arte doing,) there is no control, I would suggest that you speak to managment and find out what is that they require in regard to service and all the waiters listen and see if they make sense, because what you are writing does not. I am traying to be constructive and honest im my opinion because to desifer your explanation is a little difficult.Giuseppe
Comment by Steven Groves on May 31, 2011 at 2:22pm
First thought - timing is everything; this kind of conversation might better have been left to another time where it would not have impacted performance and guest experience.  Second, leading by example; if somethings messed up, no one person or group of people can be solely to blame.  Spread it around with a Zig Ziglar Sandwich (Good news, bad, good) approach and no one person / group feels the sting and everyone can work together.

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