See if you can spot the difference:
- The waiter brings our drinks to the table. In his haste to move around the table, a beer slides off of his tray and spills all over Pat's leather coat. Later, serving the first course, as he is putting soup in front of one of our daughters, he is already turning away to go to the next table, spilling soup everywhere. Towards the end of our evening we hear some colorful language from the coffee station. In a moment of inattention, he has reached under the spigot of coffee while filling his carafe and burned his hand. Badly.
- At an upscale bistro in Saskatoon, our waiter Mike breezes by on his way to a table nearer the front. As he goes by, he casts back over his shoulder, "Is everything OK?" In response to Pat's question about whether he really wants to know, he calls back, "I'll take that as a 'Yes'," all the time still moving. Turns out everything wasn't OK.
- Tony stops to to ask if the food is alright. First he asks me, and waits for an answer. Then he asks Pat, and again waits for an answer. He smiles, turns to me and says, "If she is happy, you are happy and if you are happy, then I am happy."
So, what's the difference. Simply being there, doing what you are doing at this moment, not the next!
Now I realize that being a waiter is tough. Sometimes you get slammed. Sometimes the kitchen lets you down, especially if they are in the weeds too. But there is a simple lesson here. Stay focused on the one thing you are doing right now. If half your mind, and body, is on to the next customer, or the next order, or the next table, then accidents happen. If you are so rushed that you can't stop for an answer, then you are also too rushed to have a satisfied customer. Food gets ruined, things get ruined, and sometimes injuries occur. At the very least, you go home feeling exhausted and likely counting smaller tips than you deserve for all of the work you put in.
As my mom used to quip, "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." If you stay focused, then fewer things happen that take more time to fix. And that includes losing customer loyalty, without which few restaurants can survive.
By the way, the first waiter later told us he had been at the job for twenty years. If in one night at one table he did so much damage, I would hate to see the tally after that long a career.