DennisBeaverOctober 06, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

One job in all of North America has the highest turnover and lowest employee satisfaction rate based on government and industry surveys, and we have all met at least one such unhappy person. So, what’s that job?

If you guessed, “waiter or waitress,” you’re right, with “some restaurant servers going in and out of the front door almost as often as customers,” as the author of one study wrote.

“With a turnover rate over 75 percent, it’s clear that something is wrong in the hiring process,” maintains business consultant and author, Bob Phibbs, who is also known as The Retail Doctor.

‘Employers treat servers as if they are disposable’

“Several elements are responsible.  Employee attitude is one factor, where servers feel the job is a step down and hate what they are doing.  Others initially believe that it’s an easy job but do not get the point that good service will produce better tips. So, when what they thought would be easy money doesn’t appear, they leave.

“Of course, there is nothing easy at all about being a server, as truly professional, career waiters in the finest restaurants know. They understand that customers reward good, attentive service — and will return with family and friends.

“The real fault lies with employers who make poor hiring decisions and often treat servers as if they are disposable, failing to provide adequate training. So the new employee doesn’t really know what to do, what the food tastes like, makes poor tips, gets frustrated, is fired or quits, and the employer repeats the same behavior,” Phibbs points out.

Do you want to spend time with this person?

“When guests are seated, and John approaches the table, and says, ‘Hi, I’m John and will be taking care of you today,’ a really good waiter will be thinking, ‘I’m John, your salesman, here to sell you some great food and help you have a nice time at our restaurant. Everyone wins; the more I sell you on both the food and the experience, the happier my boss will be and the more I will make.’

“Often hiring decisions are based on asking if they can work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, which are terrible criteria! Don’t hire someone just because they can work a schedule! You want a person who is engaging, who tries to win you over, who you would enjoy spending time with.

“Your number one question should be: ‘Can you tell me a time you went out of your way for a customer or a previous job?

“Especially in fine-dining or family-run restaurants, servers with expressive, outgoing personalities will turn work into fun. You want people who can involve themselves with your customers, who are not afraid of talking with them and aren’t caught up in the robot-like qualities of the job.”

‘Small talk isn’t small’

“After you interview the applicant, ask yourself, ‘Have I enjoyed talking with this person?’”

“Be it a waiter or any employee who has direct contact with your customers, this is a unique position that isn’t just about job duties, but how they represent your business, how they sell your products to customers who are there and ready to buy. You should be looking for outgoing people — perhaps she was a cheerleader, or in drama club, has a passion for the world, likes to go out with friends, to the beach, camping, the movies.

“That’s why small talk isn’t small at all!

“During that interview, you absolutely need to know those aspects of their personality which are best suited to what your business needs. So, a restaurant owner wants someone very much in the world, and if their hobbies or interests keep them from the world — things you typically do alone, such as reading, video games, gardening — this tells you they are likely not a good fit.

‘Discipline matters’

A frequent complaint lawyers have about business owner clients is that they tolerate poor employees far too long. Of course, it’s simply human nature to want to be liked by your employees. However, as Phibbs notes, that attitude can be dangerous to the health of any business, especially a restaurant.

“If your kid reached up to a boiling pot of hot water, you would immediately say no! But we often lose that when we become business owners. Especially in the restaurant world, you cannot afford tardiness or no-shows. You’ve got to let the staff know that if anyone is late three times, they are gone! Write up everything and document all discipline.

“When it comes to running a successful business, discipline always matters. But never forget the importance of recognition for excellence on the job,” Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor concluded. His website is:

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.