Stop Blaming your Staff


                ‘He looks terrified!’  As a well-groomed young man wandered from table to table with plates of food, the look of fear on his face intensified with each shake of the head from diners. ‘Not ours, or ours’. The section head – distinguishable from a hippie only by his air of passing interest in these proceedings – put him out of his misery and located the owners of said food.

We got off to a bad start. On entering the restaurant, another well groomed young man looked up, saw us, looked away. We hung around, he looked over again, looked away furtively and walked away. A manager (possibly) approached, invited us to sit down on couches to wait. He returned promptly enough, and we were seated.

Section head took our order – no notepad, no I-Pad, no tablet of any kind, just I’ll remember type of ordering style, which is probably why we were twice approached with the wrong order. This was when the frightened young men appeared again. Noticeable because they were the only two staff in the large restaurant who could be said to be dressed appropriately for serving food – all other staff were indistinguishable from guests- they wandered aimlessly and nervously with plates and trays of food, getting it wrong over and over again. The section head would appear every now and then to bail out their battered sense of self.

Eventually the correct food arrived to us having been offered to several others first (which probably explained the long delay). Dropped to the table by the manager (we later discovered) no knives, forks or napkins; she walked away and disappeared. I helped myself from the sideboard.

The food was delicious and would have tasted better if an ulcer hadn’t started forming in our stomachs from the stress of watching easily the most appallingly badly managed restaurant space in quite some time. The final straw came on ordering some water. Frightened waiter no. 2 (tall, thin, pale and withering under the strain) spoke not one single word of English, not one! We showed him the water glass, no dice; we showed him the action of pouring water, no dice; eventually we questioned him about his native language – result! It was a language in which yours truly has a passing fluency. Ordered water and the bill in his native language ( last time used by me in his native country) and took our leave. Friend spotted the manager who had earlier disappeared and very politely outlined our experiences. ‘ Oh dear, that’s a pity, we are having terrible staff problems – they are interns from a local college ( not a catering college), terribly sorry and all that’.

And for the fourth time in 6 weeks, the service in an Irish restaurant/ five-star hotel was so bad that severe indigestion was all that was gained.

Stop blaming staff for this. There were plenty of staff in this restaurant, too many by the look of it, they wandered around with no sense of actually knowing what hospitality service skills look like. Not one of them seemed to be actively engaged in noticing customers ongoing needs. Not one of them looked like they gave a toss whether we came or went. You could put a sizeable bet on that not one of them had been given even the most basic training in hospitality service skills.

Whose fault is this? The owners, the management. Not the staff. When did restaurant, hotel, and café owners stop training their staff, stop requiring their staff to dress neatly, cleanly, appropriately? Why do badly run restaurants consistently blame staff? What they don’t seem to realise is that if they trained their staff ( chances are that they don’t know how) properly, they would need fewer, not more. We so badly wanted to hug these two traumatised young men. There are times when one could completely despair for the future of our industry.