As restaurant experiences go, this one was pretty awful.
It was a Sunday afternoon. Five of the six Franks family members were in attendance at a less-than-half-full joint that we’ve been to several times. The food and the service is – most of the time – above average.
Except for this time, it wasn’t.
The food took forever. Our water glasses ran dry. The order wasn’t accurate in multiple different ways. Both the check and our change involved a painfully long wait. By the time all was said and done, we’d invested an inordinate amount of time and a mountain of frustration in what was supposed to be a relaxing family meal.
Now, I get that I don’t fully get the restaurant industry. While one of my lifetime regrets is that I never worked as a waiter in college (true fact about yours truly), I know that I don’t really know what it takes to manage multiple meals at multiple tables for multiple personalities. I understand that as a water or waitress, you’re the mediator between an impatient party and an understaffed kitchen.
So I’m not knocking our waitress as much as I am making an observation, and that is that we weren’t observed. There were moments – almost comical now that I think about it – that she stopped by the table on one side of us, stopped by the table on the other side of us, stopped by the table across the way from us – and totally skipped us. It was if we had a Harry Potter-style cloak of invisibility wrapped around our five-top and we were not to be approached, because she didn’t even know we were there. We are not throat-clearers or ice-rattlers or straw-slurpers. We don’t go through acrobatics to get attention. But we did hope for a little attention.
As I go into another workday – fresh from the restaurant experience and still turning it over in my head – I can’t help but wonder how many times we drape our church guests with a cloak of invisibility. I’m not talking about situations where you inappropriately spotlight and embarrass people, but rather those times when we know they’re there, we just choose not to do anything to serve them.
In his book The Experience, Bruce Loeffler reminds us that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.
“…what is the biggest insult you can give to another person? Answer: to ignore them. If I call you a name or insult your intelligence, I am still treating you as a person. However, if I totally ignore you, I am treating you as an object or a nonentity. If I am indifferent toward you, you mean nothing to me. Indifference has some very close cousins – apathy, ambivalence, and complacence are just as offensive. There’s really no greater insult to customers than to ignore them.”
This weekend, how will you remove the cloak of invisibility from your guests?