Disclaimer: I am not using the term waiter in any derogatory manner. I respect every profession and waiting tables happens to be one of them.
Some part of my role is client facing and yesterday I got a really bad remark. I was told that I was incapable and hence I was responsible for the inefficiency and delay in the project. But more than being hurt, I was really surprised. As the mild shock settled, I just retrospected over how had I had worked for the past several months to keep everything on track. To say the least, the variables which were responsible to keep everything on track were just beyond my control. I really felt like a waiter, here is how:
The core key responsible areas for waiting tables are as below:
- Take orders from the customers, smile and transfer that order to the production floor.
- Deliver order to the customers, serve them.
- Clear the tables , clear the bill , smile.
Waiter is like the Single Point of Contact SPOC for a restaurant. He is no manager. He has 0 authority but almost 100% accountability . When I say almost 100% accountability, that means perceived accountability. This accountability is perceived by the customers who make him/her responsible for the bad experience they have at the restaurant. I will cover more about perceived accountability at the end of this article.
When I say 0 authority he really doesn’t have a direct control over the other human resources in the restaurant. For instance:
a. He doesn’t have any control on the production floor, he can’t prioritize any order neither he can push the chefs to work faster for an order.
b. He has no control over the cleaning staff who maintain basic hygiene , he can give them a signal to do something but he can’t fire them.
c. He has no control over the quality of the food served and also the corresponding prices.
All of the above means that he has little or no control over : Time, price/cost and Quality because he has 0 authority over all the resources.
But he is somehow accountable for all of the above just because he is customer/client facing. If the order is delayed for some reason, he is reprimanded by the customer. If there is no basic hygiene (plates, glasses, table cloth,washroom, washbasin) he will get the stink eye. If the quality of the food is not up-to the taste of the customer, he will get the first remark. In some big establishments it is the maitre d’hotel or head waiter who might face all the brunt. But that position might be marginally better than waiters position.
Now more on perceived accountability: Customers perceive that their whole dining experience is somehow controlled by the waiter. If they have a bad experience , it is the waiter who they held responsible. This fact is corroborated by the following fact: If there is a good experience, waiter gets all the tip, and not all the chefs and managers and cleaning staff. So perceived accountability for a waiter is like a double edge sword.
But in my world, projects are more intricate than the food served on table. There is big scope for things to go really bad. It is not one instance of serving the food but a very long timeline where good stuff is not often remembered and not even praised and rewarded but when things get derailed I take the whole brunt of perceived accountability. 🙂