Like most corporations these days, our restaurant has those damned surveys printed on the receipt. They aggravate me because they're skewed against us--who's more likely to call in, somebody pissed off or somebody happy? Not to mention, with our particular surveys, people rate us on a 1 to 10 scale. However, 1-9 counts for zero! So if we have nine respondents rate us at a 9 and one rate us as a 10, we have a -8 rating. It's perfection or nothing.
Lately, the managers have been all up in arms about our "server attentiveness" score. You'd think this would be based on how quickly people get refills, extra napkins, etc. But the managers have decided that the best way to raise this particular score is to rag on everyone if they see them stand still for more then fifteen seconds where a customer can see them--regardless of how busy or slow it is. Now, obviously if it's busy nobody should be standing around. But if there are three tables in the joint? Please.
Unfortunately, they got "confirmation" of this fact the other day. One of the comments entered by a guest was that their waitress was more interested in "holding up the bar" than serving them. Nevermind the fact that there are several legitimate reasons someone could be waiting at the bar--waiting for change from the bartender or to go server, waiting on a drink that was incorrectly made, needing to ask the bartender a question about alcohol. And even if that particular server was spending all their time standing at the bar doing nothing, I would say that merited a conversation with that particular server--not a general lambasting of the staff about "guest perception".
But no, they grumped at everybody, sometimes individually. One of my coworkers asked, "Why are you telling me separately? Was it me?" The manager said "No, but we know who it is, and we all need to pay attention to guest perception." Right away, I take that to mean that they actually don't know who it is--I speak manager. It's designed to make employees paranoid, to make them feel that management has eyes everywhere. Now, could they have found out which employee waited on these particular people? Probably, but not without calling the corporate office and waiting for them to dig out the data, which for a benign complaint they wouldn't waste the time to do.
This has spawned a whole obnoxious trend of carping on servers about things:
"Don't stand at that counter rolling silverware, customers can only see the back of you standing there and that creates a negative guest perception."
"Two of you need to move to a different table to eat your post-shift meal, there are five people sitting here and that creates a negative guest perception."
"Why are you standing at the bar? Negative guest perception, people!" (Response? "I'm waiting on change for a hundred dollar bill." "Oh.")
"Don't talk so loud in the kitchen, you're creating negative guest perception!"
"Silverware needs to have the naked end pointing towards the chair, the other way isn't welcoming and we need to work on our guest perception." (Seriously?)
Is guest perception important? Absolutely. The problem is that if somebody wants to find something negative, they're going to. Maybe the hostess isn't smiling, or they heard a manager screaming in the kitchen about the cost of cheddar cheese. Perhaps the carpet by their table has a large stain because a Pepsi was spilled there earlier that day. Etc. etc. etc. If there was a question that asked "what is your overall impression of this restaurant", I might understand. But I don't understand how somebody could rate their personal server's attentiveness poorly because off-shift employees are eating together, or because somebody else is at the bar. There are ways to address server attentiveness, and that's by hiring quality people all the way around and noticing when individuals are slacking off/falling behind--not by making your servers feel like they have to pace circles around the restaurant when there's nothing to do.