I recently was at a restaurant with a large group of people. We had reservations for 20, which the restaurant gladly accepted, but seemingly gave no further thought to the implications of that decision.

As a result, one waitress not only serviced our entire party, but was responsible for many other tables as well. We waited an hour to order, had food sitting out on trays waiting to be placed on the table (thus it was cold when it was delivered), salads were missed, and in short, our two and a half hour meal was not a stellar experience.

And at the same time, we could have asked no more of the waitress herself. She was in perpetual motion, hurrying between our table and others, serving food, taking orders and tending to requests. There was not much more one individual could have done; it was the restaurant ownership that dropped the ball, not her.

Think about whether you have structures that even occasionally put your employees in impossible situations. Do you put your employees in predicaments like this waitress without additional support at “crunch times?” Have you failed to coordinate what sales promises with what production can deliver? Do you put your reputation on the line by providing sub-par service just to save a little in wages?

The waitress is the face of the restaurant, but no matter how pleasant her smile and how accommodating she tried to be, the overall experience was a bad one. Your front line can only compensate for so much. Their earnest efforts to do the impossible don’t make good service possible. Don’t expect otherwise.

beth triplett

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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