‘Is everything OK with your meal?’
How many times have you been out to dinner with friends, family or a partner and been asked by the person serving you, “is everything OK with your meal?” We’re willing to bet you’ve lost count of the times that has happened; it’s almost common practice these days. Okay, but here’s the thing, how many of the times you’ve been asked have you thought the person asking you couldn’t actually care less if you are enjoying your meal or not, and are just looking for you to give them the obligatory ‘fine’ answer so they can get on with the other things they have to do?
More often than not when you sit back and watch you can see the waiter/waitress ask everyone else in the restaurant exactly the same question in exactly the same way. A well-known chicken restaurant has even devised a process for asking this question, as they come over to the table and take the chicken stick away once they’ve asked it! Seriously if you haven’t seen any of this stuff before, just check it out next time you’re in a restaurant it’s fascinating.
Many restaurants instead instruct their staff to ask customers ‘if everything’s OK with their meal’ and quite naturally many staff simply ask the question because that’s what they have been told to do. The problem is most waiters/ waitresses don’t know WHY they are asking the question, so it just becomes part of the process or script without any thought for the customer on the receiving end. The staff are rarely taught how to engage in a conversation with the customer, how important it is to be interested in what their response to the question is and what sort of non- verbal signals they should be looking out for.
We wonder what response you’d get if you stopped the next person in a restaurant who said ‘is everything OK with your meal’ and asked them why they were asking you that question. We’d be genuinely surprised if any of them, without missing a beat would say: ‘I really wanted to know how you guys were enjoying your evening or if there was anything else I could do for you’. In our experience, after the initial shock that you didn’t just reply with ‘fine’, they are far more likely to tell you they have to ask every customer that question – it’s just part of their job!
What we’re getting at is how you do something and your motivation for doing it makes all the difference. If the person asking you in the restaurant genuinely cared about how your meal was, they’d ask the question in a very different way and would certainly be interested in your reply. Funnily enough when this has happened to us, and believe us it’s not common, we have always left a bigger tip!
All well and good you say but how is this relevant to leadership? Well think about the one to ones or performance reviews you hold with the people you lead. Are you really interested in what they have to say? Or are you undertaking them because it’s part of the process or something you have to do because your boss / HR tells you it is? When someone says they need a word with you, are you completely focused on them or is your mind drifting to what else you have on your to-do list or the meeting you are due to attend. By doing these activities because you have to, and by not focusing on the individual, however consciously or unconsciously you are telling your people how important they are to you, or should we say how unimportant they are!
Happy restaurant service reviewing!!
Until the next time
Martin & Elizabeth