When It’s Everybody’s Job, It’s Usually Nobody’s Job

Recently my family went to one of our favorite “special occasion” restaurants because the food, atmosphere, and service are always enjoyable.

It was around 7 PM on a Friday night, and with no reservations, we expected to wait. However, by the time I had parked the car after dropping them off, they were seated and waiting for me.

This particular restaurant employees a team wait-staff method: after being seated by the hostess, no less than 4 staff served us over the course of the evening. Taking our drink order, delivering the menus, reciting the special of the night, refilling drinks, delivering our food, checking on us while we were eating, boxing up leftovers, delivering dessert, and the final bill – a different face almost every time.

The problem was, it didn’t work that night.

For the first time ever at this particular restaurant, we had a service fail:

  • seated about five minutes before anyone stopped by
  • waited almost ten minutes before our order was taken
  • drink refills were slow
  • the biggest fail of all – my meal was delivered by itself, and it was 7 minutes (timed) before the next thing happened

After waiting (awkwardly), my wife and daughter encouraged me to begin eating – but I did not. Instead, a waiter delivered a new meal to me, along with the rest of the table, and said something silly like “Congratulations, you’re the 100th person tonight and you get a free meal to take home.” At which point he collected my original meal, boxed it up and brought it back.

From that point on, service was “spot on.” Drinks were about half gone before refills were brought. The wait staff checked at least three times during the meal to see if everything was okay. The bill was delivered and returned promptly.

What happened? I’m not sure, but I think the front of house manager came by just as my meal was being delivered, and when he returned a few minutes later, it was still there – all by itself.

At that point, he “owned” the problem, and set in motion the corrective actions. My takeaway from this:

When it’s everybody’s job, it’s usually nobody’s job

Think about your organization. Do you have teams that have specific responsibilities but not individual accountability? Does Fred bypass something that needs attention because he knows Mary will take care of it?

The team may be responsible, but it’s the individual that owns the solution.

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