The Rules of Serving: Rule Ten

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Serving

The long awaited rule ten

Rule Ten: Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy

Every restaurant has at least one server who is chronically pessimistic.  They come in for every shift expecting the worse.  Even when they are proven wrong they find a reason to complain.  If the ceiling started raining hundred dollar bills, they would complain about having to pay taxes on it.  When there are a large number of reservations on the books, they complain about having a bad section.  These are the people who can see a rainbow and still be complaining about the rain that just ended.

Oddly enough, these people are far more accurate about their predictions than anyone else in the restaurant.  They predict that they are going to make less money than they should and their attitude helps it to occur.  I am not saying that having a positive attitude going into a shift will guarantee that you will make all the money you want.  A positive attitude will not make the restaurant busy or cause guests to come pouring through the door.  A negative attitude will almost certainly mean that you will make less money from the guests that do arrive.

Even when the pessimistic server is correct, they are still a drag on the staff.  The pessimist is far less fun to work with.  They start to drag everyone else on the shift down.  These negative predictions about the evening often influence their opinions about the guests that do come in.  They determine in advance that a certain guest won’t tip well or won’t order the items they want to sell.  This reduces their desire to deliver top notch service and earn the tip they want.  They would often rather prove their pessimism right than put in the work to make better tips.

The real threat is if the pessimist is wrong.  Their attitude leads to them not properly preparing for a busy shift.  They are caught off guard when the rush hits and they have failed to adequately stock the items they need.  They are not mentally prepared and up to speed when the rush occurs.  After they start off behind in this way, they use it as a reason to prove their pessimism.  The poor tips they received are presented as evidence that they were correct about their guests.  They fail to acknowledge that their pessimism robbed them of the energy to prepare for the shift and provide top notch service.  When the guests’ tips reflect this, they blame lays with the guest and not their attitude.

The key to providing exceptional service is to set realistic expectations.  Most evenings you cannot predict whether or not the restaurant will be busy.  This is the nature of the restaurant industry.  Unrealistic optimism is not the healthy balance either.  The key is to be realistic.  Enter every shift knowing that you are prepared for whatever happens.  Determine that you will focus on giving exceptional service to every table that arrives.  Whether you wait on one guest or one hundred, they will receive the best service you can give them.  Know that they will tip accordingly.  If they do not, understand that it is not an accurate prediction of what the next table will do any more than a great tip would mean the next table will leave you just as much.

One of the very few things you can control in the restaurant industry is your attitude.  Being realistic as you enter a shift will leave you in the best position possible to leave with the most money you can.  Pessimism can rob you of this ability.  A bad attitude virtually guarantees that you will make less money than you could have.  Be optimistic when you can, be realistic when you can’t, but never be pessimistic.  You restaurant and your bank account cannot afford the luxury of pessimism. 

Check out the other Rules of Serving

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