Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lazy Waiter Technique

The lazy waiter is the best waiter! I can't remember where I first heard that but it's stuck with me and that's how I start off many of my training sessions - It's often greeted with glee from those who'll actually suffer from this mantra and with confusion by those who'll live up to it!

The whole idea behind the lazy waiter technique is quite simple and you could apply it to most jobs - it's based on the theory that you don't walk past things that need doing and that you leave behind clues of what you've done - in this way you use as little shoe leather as possible (and waiters walk a long way!) and you don't repeat yourself or end up like one of those people who run around looking frazzled and busy yet end up doing nothing (next time you go to a restaurant watch - there's usually one who covers miles without actually achieving anything).

Obvious examples of this are, if you're walking empty handed through the dining room pick things up, if a table needs straightening, staighten it, a napkin needs picking up, pick it up, if you're opening a bottle of wine at a table take the breathing space to look around at other tables, see what needs doing and re- prioritize your next few minutes etc...if you don't do it now you or someone else will have to do it later.

This may seem like a very simple mantra and it is, but there are many more subtle things that are linked to the lazy waiter technique and that you as the diner may not be aware of.

The lazy waiter doesn't like surprises so she/he is prepared, all the 'sidework' is done, the floor plan is set and there will be as few hicups as possible to throw a spanner in the works during the actual service (this will give her/him more time to deal with the less controllable aspects of the game - one of which of course is the custome!).

The lazy waiter is part of a team of lazy waiters and without having to say very much to each other they can communicate everything that is going on on the floor because they have a pre-rehearsed system. At each stage of your meal your waiter is leaving clues at your table to remind her/himself and everyone else who is taking care of you where you're at in your meal. An upturned glass might indicate that you have ordered tap water or that a cocktail is on it's way, bread at your table might mean that you have ordered your meal and are waiting for your apetizer, certain silverware will show that your main course has been 'fired' or that you've ordered dessert, salt off the table indicates another stage in the meal etc..

Think of your meal as a play, your waiter is the stage-manager, setting up and controling each act. The final curtain for the best lazy waiter is to have been so efficient at meeting your needs that when you get up to leave the only evidence of your presence is a glass, a napkin and the check (with a nice fat tip hopefully) - that way the customer has been taken care of, the table can be 'bussed' and 'turned' as quickly as possible and it's time to stage the next performance.

Of course you never really appreciate the art and skill of the lazy waiter until it's not there - because it's only then that things start to fall apart. That's when you start to think that maybe the place you're eating in is either too lazy to teach the technique, doesn't get it or simply doesn't care - initially by the way I wanted to blame it on the person not the business, but of course, as we all know, the magic is in the attitude and training which starts at the top.

Got any lazy waiter techniques or seen any evidence of it - let me know!

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