Why does service suck at some restaurants?

In an unidentified city in Southwestern US, I’m back in a familiar haunt. Now it seemed unfamiliar. A server who suggested one customer should “arrive home safe”, whatever that means, and accompanied that with some weird chuckle. He spotted my Dayrunner and wisecracked that he hadn’t seen one of those in a long time.

The owner ambles through the restaurant. He doesn’t recognize me, and makes no eye contact with any customer, though I’ve asked one of the other servers if he is around. She makes no attempt to let him know he’s been asked after. But at least she is there to help out when the offending serve brings me the wrong wines, drops them and ignores me when I try to inform him of his error.

She apologizes. He observes the whole thing and says nothing. The owner ambles past again.

Why does service suck at some restaurants? Because the owners don’t care enough. They’re too busy counting their stacks of money (though that’s rare enough), or trying to get through the day before the dishwasher is taken away by the INS or something blows up and they simply hope they can get out the door before tee time.

I expect that, at some point, it catches up with them. But the damage has been done. Customers figure that service is non-existent in America. Some servers learn to be rude or even hateful to (or at least about) their customers. Worst of all, the other servers see that good service and attitude doesn’t really matter enough to the management and owners to take action.

Before long, nobody cares. Bad service and bad attitude, like theft, is a cancer.