Is your company trying to be OK? Of course not. But it happens every day in most restaurants in America. It is a pet peeve of mine when a manager comes to my table and asks, “Is everything OK?”

“Everything.” And “OK.”

What’s wrong with this picture? Not much. Only everything.

Let’s take a look at the everything part first.


Big word. Even bigger question.

Is the manager asking if I’m satisfied with the political, economic, and ecological status of humanity? Or maybe the manager thought I was about to burst out crying and was just trying to help? Doubt it.

What about the OK part? By definition, OK means the minimum acceptable level. I doubt seriously if any restaurant aims for the minimum level of customer service. So, when the manager eagerly receives the expected, knee-jerk ‘yes, everything is ok’ answer, the manager can go away pleased. I mean, he “touched” a customer, right? And the customers were ok…Win-win. Nope. Not even close.

I don’t blame the restaurant manager. He was probably trained to ask that question. It might even have been pounded into him to visit every table. 100% table visitation. Asking everyone in the restaurant if everything is OK is like a prime directive in many restaurants.

So, what’s wrong with wanting to “touch” as many customers as possible?

First of all, trying to reach all customers means you can’t listen to any customer. You can only make it a formality, like the greeting of “How are you?” You don’t really expect an answer, except the polite “Fine”.

Visiting every table in most restaurants make it impossible to actually listen to what the customers have to say. This requires managers to stay long enough with the customer to pay attention and ask follow-up questions. Most customers are thrilled when a manager comes over and actually engages with their guests. Most of our guests never have a conversation with a manager and definitely not a manager who actually asks questions and listens. OMG! When managers sincerely engage with customers, they make it personal. You just might have made a casual customer into a loyal customer.

The concept of checking in with customers is good, but the usual way that managers check in often cause the effort to suffer and be harmful. Customers realize quickly that your question was insincere especially when you’re already moving toward the next table as you’re asking the same question again. It is like the owner of a hotel demanding that the hotel manager keep the hotel full. So the hotel manager keeps reducing the price of the room until the hotel is full. Mission accomplished. Never mind that the owner lost money. The hotel is full. YEA! Not. Be careful what you really want.

Here are five rules to follow when asking about your customer’s perceptions of your service:

  • Don’t require 100% table visitation of managers if you want true feedback.
  • Ask specific questions, not general. Look at the table, notice what they are eating or drinking. Be specific. It is much more effective to ask, “How is your pasta primavera?” rather than “How is everything?”
  • Allow time to listen, don’t just go through the motions of asking and move on.
  • Use a superlative that you want to be identified with to the customer. Was your service excellent or fantastic or outrageous? Set your sights high not low. Never OK. Don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid of the answers. Honest constructive feedback is invaluable.
  • The quality of the effort is worth far more than the quantity of effort.

It’s time to say adios to “Is everything OK?”