There are just so many ways that service can go wrong. Bad service can be created by a bad attitude. Sometimes is the result of inattention. It can be the by-product of a lack of knowledge or a lack of attention. It could be inaccuracy. Or simply bad timing.
There are so many variables.
Ultimately when we receive bad service it is our initial reaction to blame the server. That is, we blame the messenger. But sometimes we must look a bit deeper. Sometimes we should blame the manager.
On several recent dining occasions that has been just the case. Despite having a good-natured, friendly and intelligent server, decisions that were made by management have led to my wife and I being the victims of bad service.
There are a number of ways that management, through it's decisions, can negatively impact service.
The first and most often made blunder is under-staffing. Either on the floor or in the kitchen. Simply put, the manager staffs too few people to deal with the level of business. Usually in an effort to save labor or sometimes due to an under-estimation of expected business, the scheduling manager staffs lightly. This can lead to major problems when more guests show up than expected.
Under-staffing in the kitchen leads to high ticket times because there are not enough people to execute the number of orders being placed. This leads to longer table turns and an increased wait for guests at the door. Under-staffing in the kitchen results in mistakes on orders as personnel are rushed to produce orders and don't take the time to be accurate. It also makes for slippage in presentation as the mindset shifts from get it right to get it done.
On the floor, under-staffing is more obvious. Servers have too many tables to cover which also translates into missed opportunities. When a server has too many tables he or she will be absent for longer periods. Orders take longer to be placed and filled. Drinks go dry. Plates stack up and in the end, the guest is waiting for the waiter instead of the other way around.
Cutting corners can also lead to bad service. There are many ways to cut corners from cutting back on supplies to trying to save on energy bills. In the end, cutting corners is often hurting your business. A very successful restaurant company I used to work for used the mantra, "prepare to be busy." If you don't you are planning for failure.
For example, if a manager orders lightly on food supplies, then the result generally leads to a guest being disappointed when the item is ordered but out of stock, or "86'd." This disappointment is greater than getting an order wrong. When a guest orders something and is told that the restaurant no longer has that item, the negative effect on the guest experience outweighs the financial savings the restaurant might have made.
A great example is boiled crawfish. When in season, people plan their dining around them. When a restaurant runs out two hours before closing, the excuse "We were so busy, we sold out" is more offensive than it is comforting to a guest. He or she feels like the restaurant let them down. Next time he or she will likely go somewhere else.
I have also seen restaurants attempt to cut back by closing sections of tables on slower shifts. In one place I know, the management routinely closes a small section off to one side. They keep the air and the lights off and do not assign a server. Which is fine if it is slow, but when the restaurant gets busy, they seat these tables in order to avoid a wait. The result is seven tables, all seated at once ,in a hot room with no single server responsible for their care. It is a disaster. As a guest, I would rather have stayed home.
Further examples of cutting back can be seen in details of service. When coffee spoons are served with iced tea; when extra lemons are brought on a saucer instead of on a side plate; when salads that are normally served on chilled plates are served on warm plates it is usually the lack of proper supplies that lead to these substitutions.
The only other possible explanation is poor employee education or a lack of attention to detail. Two more signs of bad management.
When I see these things happening it is difficult for me to forgive, because these situations are all completely preventable. A great manager I once worked for said that management is about avoiding fires. Preventing them rather than putting them out. With that in mind, it is hard to excuse these mistakes. Bad service is easy enough to find without the management fostering it.
If a server makes a mistake, I am willing to forgive and forget. It is what it is. But when management is at fault, I'd prefer to spend my money elsewhere.