How Food Runners Ruined the Restaurant Industry

I'm using an image of Waffle House because it's the last time I remember receiving incredible food service (that is not a joke).
I’m using an image of Waffle House because it’s the last time I remember receiving incredible food service (that is not a joke).

As a child, I had the fortunate pleasure of attending both expensive restaurants and family-friendly neighborhood favorites, and I vividly remember an impressive, attentive service staff that were dedicated to creating an unforgettable experience. Because of my broad range of data, I can safely say that the service had nothing to do with the price point and everything to do with the times. And though I still treat myself to high-end restaurants in cities across the map, the service is still sub-par in comparison to my past. So what gives? Is it nostalgia? Is it the product of an ADD generation? Have people just become less interested in one another? Though many might suggest it’s all of those factors combined, I have an alternative theory. The advent of food runners has ruined the restaurant industry.

Each and every time a waiter arrives at a customer’s table, the building blocks of a back-and-forth begin, and some sort of bond is established. The math is simple. The less a waiter sees you, the less invested he or she becomes in creating a memorable experience. In the past, it was the waiter who brought the food to the table. And though I cannot remember whether it was the waiter who also filled the drinks, my guess is yes. By also removing that variable, my original point is re-emphasized.

The other issue with food runners is that it’s not their responsibility to fix any issues with the food once it’s brought to the table. You want ketchup or hot sauce? Is your burger too rare? That’s the waiter’s territory, and if you ask a food runner to fix the issue, he or she might feel infringed upon. Once the food is placed on the table by the food runner, why not wait for the waiter? Well . . . because the food is hot, and the waiter is not always available within the first five minutes of the food arriving. Setups often breed the worst results, and this setup sinks the chain of niceties. If everyone feels infringed upon, the beloved back-and-forth of my childhood cannot survive.

Food runners serve a purpose. The tables are likely turned faster, and the waiters are available for a higher volume of customers. But that comes at a cost. Loyalty is of exceptionally high value, and no matter how strong your product, there’s someone stronger, and a customer will always value an overall experience first.

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