Business Process Rule #1: Put Down Your Phone

This morning I came across something that made me stop what I was doing and think: is the service at your favorite restaurant getting slower, and if it is, is it because of cell phones?

would you rather listen?

More to the point, talking business process, does the reason matter, or is this merely an issue that needs to be fixed, no matter the reason, no matter the cost?

This article is what got me going. is a too-whiny-to-be-taken-seriously blog by and I suppose for waitstaff, but the story I read this morning made some sense—at least until I got to the comments.

The point of the story was that a restaurant noticed their server speed had decreased dramatically. Or more accurately it was that people were complaining that service speed was declining and management at the restaurant needed to figure out why. At the end of it all the conclusion drawn was—mostly—that people on their cell phones were messing with cadence.

I’ve written many times about how bad our overuse of mobile devices are for our real lives. A surprising number of people actually text during sex, for example; I challenge you to describe circumstances under which that could be OK. So I agree with the conclusions, and if you’re a restaurant dealing with a broken business process, I invite you to contact me here.

But almost noone commenting on the article had anything to say about slowing service; it was a wasteland of cranky people talking about the two sides of whether “the customer is always right”.

Regardless of what side of the “I don’t have to live at your speed and I tip well so YOU’RE the problem” issue you fall on (and let’s acknowledge that the problem can reasonably be seen from either side, OK?), the point of the story was supposed to be people COMPLAINING that service is slow. And the restaurant discovered that customer behavior is what’s making it slow. Assuming that’s true—and it seems to be—there’s a disconnect; customers are distracted and then when things slow down they complain about speed?

Go ahead: ask for a different table. Send things back, within reason. Use your phone if that’s what you want to do, and if you do the restaurant has to accept that they turn over the table slower (or try what I experienced here, which simply assured I’d never return).

After you become civil, recognize a couple of things:

First, if restaurants really are getting slower (I don’t find that to be true and I eat out a lot, by the way), then our world has changed and we can either accept that change or do something about it.

Second: I am, simply, correct: put down your cell phone. Whether or not you plan to contribute to the spate of bad reviews breaking review sites, there are lines you aren’t supposed to cross. I hate the very use of the phrase “supposed to”, by the way and I’m not being a Luddite or saying anything curmudgeonly; by all means use that Smartphone to get more information when you need more information and certainly be glad you have it so that people can reach you way more easily than they could “back in the day”. But when you’re with another person, be with that person.

And that’s a customer service issue, and a key tenet to business process; real contact matters. And speaking of restaurants, discontinuing take-out because you can’t figure out a civil way to say “no more bread, sir” is not the way to handle business process or customer service, either.

But you knew all this … right? Of course you did; you read it on your phone.

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