The Decline of Service Standards

This week, I’m starting a new thing here at RagingServer, the weekly feature article. I’m going to have a new one every week, so keep reading. They’re going to be up every Tuesday morning.


The Decline of Service Standards


Service standards in recent years have declined in restaurants. Servers think they can get away with doing the bare minimum and still make their money, then they complain and whine when they come home with next to nothing. These servers are usually some of the worst that the industry has to offer, and they account for at least 75% of us. You see them mostly in chain restaurants (i.e. T.G.I. Fridays, O’Charleys, Applebees, etc.) and diner style restaurants (i.e. Denny’s, Waffle House, Steak and Shake, etc.) You won’t see them as often in a fine dining setting, but believe me, they’re there.

The servers I’m talking about are the ones who stand around during a busy shift. They’re the ones who don’t help out their co-workers carry out food, they don’t help keep ice bins filled, they don’t do anything other than stand around talking to other lazy co-workers. They’re the servers who come to your table when you sit down and say “What do you want to drink?” instead of “How are you all doing tonight?” They don’t care about you, their customers, they only care about making their money. They think that money is deserved without doing any work.


12 thoughts on “The Decline of Service Standards

  1. Great ranticle!
    All too often have I heard a customer complain that the service industry is going down the crapper, in both retail and restaurants. Unfortunately the finger of blame is always (from the consumers’ point of view) thrust towards the wrong people, the servers/salesclerks, et al. The root of this downfall lies in the pit of management and corporate greed. To squeeze those extra pennies from the locations, training is kept to a minimum and just about anyone gets given a job.
    For those who work full-time in customer service, this lack of caring and inefficiency makes us look bad, although all we’re doing is doing the job our useless coworker, in addition to our own job.

    At the very least the restaurant industry has a rewards program for good workers in the form of tips. In retail, it typically doesn’t matter how amazing or amazingly useless you are, everyone gets paid the same. The only thing that matters is how many years you’ve devoted the industry. (which goes to say that hiring new, young, people is cheaper for the companies…)

    Looking forward to the next one!

  2. I see your first article was on the same subject I wrote you about. You just described everything we went through at TGI’s. BTW, I did get my money back….. I think the guy got fired. The manager said something about “talking to JoeBob about an ‘opportunity to improve again’ so it must not have been his first complaint. I guess I just expect too much because I always gave 110% and got the big tips!

  3. Hey Ribeye!
    That was an excellent article. As the only trainer at my restaurant I try to tell these new people that you can be a server anywhere but here we are different. That we need to take it up a notch and make us stand out from the “chain restaurants”. We use carts instead of trays for busing and serving tables. I NEVER use a tray to buss a table while I train them, but once they are on the floor what do I see them doing? Fillng a tray up so frelling high I could scream. I try to teach them to treat the customer like they are a guest in their home. And let me tell you most of them I wouldn’t want to go to their home if the way I see them serve a table is the way they would treat me. I’m a “lifer” and I am proud of it casue i DO make good money. They ask me how much I make a week and they get all excited then I tell them don’t expect that much. They look at me puzzled and I tell them I’m good at what I do, alot better than you. And they think I’m uppity. I don’t care becasue it’s true.I haven’t trained anyone that I would say is an excellent server they are just “plain”. I have to let them out on the floor because we need the “body”. That’s just the way it is. Also here’s a topic for you. Co-worker’s who CONSTANTLY “call off ” work when you are “on call” for that day and how it SUCKS! I have never missed a day of work at my restaurant, and never have been late. And I HATE it when they come back to work with their ultra lame story of why they couldn’t make it in to work for 3 frelling hours! Here’s the lastest excuse .. girl was soooo stuffed up becasue she has a mold problem in the basement. CLARITIN anyone?
    Thanks Ribeye I know i jabbered! PEACE

  4. Ribeye I agree. It’s down to the employers/owners. In a race to maximise profits they are prepared to cut training to a point were it becomes pointless. Wages are cut/kept low so that people aren’t attracted into the business or are willing to stay in it. Service is an art and a skill and should be viewed as such. If the same effort was put into training bar and wait staff that is put into chefs the quality of service would increase to levels not thought possible. Great waiters can make a business, bad waiters will kill it dead. FACT! The position has been devalued over the years and will continue to do so unless the owners reverse their current short term thinking. Saying that it doesn’t half make me look good when I’m surrounded by idiots…….Good post, more like this please……

  5. Since you brought up a the issue of “lifers”, it reminded me of a question I have regarding them. Perhaps you or others would be willing to give insight?

    How do “lifers” plan for retirement? Are you offered retirement plans at your job? Do you plan to still be doing this when you’re 50, 60, 70 years old? If you don’t plan to do this job at that age, what are your plans for moving to another job (or another sector of the restuarant industry) and what is your time frame for moving from serving to another sector so that you have enough time to work 20+ years to receive retirement?


    (Nice job (**clap, clap, clap!!**) on the article, although, I have to say I feel like I need my fix of Ribeye Rant! LOL)

  6. I’d say you did a remarkable job, and made many valid points. You may be too involved in the business to completely let go of the rants.

    Besides, your unique writing style lends itself to a combination of both rants and an unbiased, journalistic piece…more of an editorial, I think. With your interesting take on so many things, I can totally envision you as a column writer.

    Whatever, I really like it.


    – Dennis

  7. I was at a very elegant restaurant once and had a couple of lifers who were the waiters at my table. Such wonderful gentlemen they were! I could tell that they were proud to be waiters, took pride in their work and were professional in every respect.

    Wonderful rant/article Ribeye. The lack of professionalism is everywhere. I used to moonlight at a mall and this year the manager begged me to help them at Christmas. She has trouble getting good seasonal workers.

  8. That was a really well-written article. I think you may have a future in ‘consulting’. I would imagine that there’s a large number of chain restaurants that would pay good money to have you come in and talk to their manangement, and/or administrative staff to tell them how to do things better.

    Most of them will ignore you, but hey, you’d be paid very highly, by the hour!

    Seriously – Restaurant management consultant. It could be lucrative, and it could also be fun.

  9. RIBEYE!!! I work in FINE dining and I can attest to this. The lazy ones (and I have had the displeasure of working with a few) are fired quickly. People who abuse substances are gone very quickly as well. Fired. You have to be hard-working and bend over backward with extreme hospitality and a wide smile on your face.

    When I hire new servers/bartender assistants (we have a “bar tender” and the other person(s) at the bar assist, they get a cut of the tips, but their sole job is to mix drinks, open beers and pour wine and shots), I do not look for people who worked in casual chains and here’s why:

    1. They tend to be used to the “system.” They don’t understand you work for the owners, not the GM who in turn works for regional who in turn reports to corporate.

    2. They tend to be lazy. Period.

    3. They tend to be drunks and in fine dining, there is no time/tolerance for drinking.

    4. THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF HIGH END GUESTS. They average Chili’s guest drives an Accord, has a 9 and 13 year old with them and works 9-5. My average guest works when he feels like showing up, because he is the boss, drives an Audi on Thursdays, a Porche on Saturdays and has the nanny watching the little ones. Costumer one goes to the bathroom to wipe the todler’s ass. My costumers want/need me to wipe their ass. … Chains don’t teach CONVERSATION, HOSPITALITY or how to deal with people with bank accounts so large they could order China as a take-out. (as opposed to Chinese, if anyone didn’t get the joke!)

    5. Chain-servers tend to not always show up for their shift; we don’t have 39 other people to cover for you.

    6. You have to know a lot about food and wine. Chains don’t do this

    7. You have work 7, 12 or 16 hour shifts, depending on the day – and most chain servers are not able/willing to do this, mostly because they are in school or they need a drink by hour 3.

    So what do I look for???

    1. Of course, people who worked in other fine dinning establishments, however turn-over is lower in FD, so there isn’t a glut of people applying for the job

    2. People who worked in costumer-service oriented, fast paced jobs: i.e. casinos (me!), lower-management high end retail, ubber-high end supermarkets (food + costumer service), hotels, wine bars, country clubs, and places like yours Ribeye…

    3. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, people who have NEVER WORKED IN RESTAURANTS, but have the intellect, work-ethic and food/wine knowledge already built-in.

    That’s not to say if you do work in a chain I will not call you back, however, you need more than a list of chains on your resume and cover letter.

  10. I agree with your article 100%. While I also agree with the reasons that restaurant service has taken a nosedive, I would like to add one excuse that I hear frequently and it really gets under my skin – the old “I’m not really a server. I’m a ____.”. No one would ever say that at another job. We had a girl who used to say that every time she screwed up, which was quite often. She happened to be an actress in her spare time and finally one of my co-workers said, “Well, since you are an actress, why don’t you start acting like a server.?”

  11. If you lower your expectations enough you’ll seldom be disappointed.

    Most the meals I take out are at low price establishments, your $6-12 per entree kind of place, and even the best servers there typically suck at the job. Of course I give them a standard 15-20% because I know that’s their only income but we really need to just get away from tipping for minimal performance. Just build a living wage into the meal price and be done with it. I don’t tip any extra for “good” service anyway. All service should be good, so I’d be giving extra for what I should be getting in the first place.

    Then again, I don’t understand the customers you describe. You know, the ones who see running staff around as some kind of entertainment.

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