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“… your table isn’t quite ready”

Has the furlough fiesta created a service vacuum across the hospitality industry? We have waited months to finally enjoy a pie and a pint….now it sometimes feels like we have to wait an eternity to get served! Yes, it’s a ‘first world’ problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

Where have all the waiting staff gone? Are they still on furlough or have they found a new profession? Have some of them travelled back home to see family and found that the grass back home is actually quite a bit greener than it was when they left, so they are staying put? The furlough fiesta runs until September, the initial clamour for a table in a pub or restaurant might ‘fade’ over time, so therefore its not a surprise that some hospitality business owners are being ‘cautious’ and watchful of costs….the largest of which – is the staff. So, maybe they will keep staff off on furlough for longer, help to manage their cost base…..but at a potentially greater cost – service.

I have witnessed queues to be seated, delays in receiving the menus, and heaven forbid if you miss the opportunity to order the drink when the menu’s arrive…’s like missing your landing slot at Stansted…. around the Essex countryside you go, until a slot opens up some fifteen minutes later. The pressure on the waiting staff is such that tables aren’t cleared, empty tables aren’t cleaned and therefore can’t be offered for re-occupancy. It all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy….the most valuable asset in the business, potentially becomes the behemoth that could destroy the business.

I’ve seen it, I’ve witnessed it and I’ve heard examples of it….waiting on tables in the world of ‘social distancing’, is a tough ask, the hours are long and the pay isn’t great.



Little wonder that our customer service experience isn’t what is once was. The staff don’t seem to have the time to converse, enquire how your day has been, recommend their favourite dish, and most importantly – treat you as a valued customer.

Where’s the business owner I hear you ask? Well, they might be in the kitchen because they haven’t got a chef, they might be on the phone to a supplier because they have run out of key ingredients as they didn’t want to ‘over order’, or they might be juggling some of the many other balls that invariably come with ‘running a business’, from bank cashflows to staff rotas. I guess what I’m saying is…its very tough out there, and I know that customers will have varying degrees of tolerance levels, but our rekindled excitement and enthusiasm to ‘dine out’ has built a pressure on staff across the hospitality sector, which coupled with the furlough fiesta and naturally more cost conscious business owners, has created the ‘perfect storm’. When will we see a return to ‘normal’? Not before the furlough fiesta ends, and not until business owners accept that their most ‘valuable asset’, must be treated as such.

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Steve is a regular contributor to B2B publications, see some of his recent articles for insights into current business news, leadership and much more...