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So, Whose Job is it Anyway?

What’s wrong with this picture? This is a plate and a glass half-filled with juice. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Except that it’s been sitting in the passage of the hotel we spent some time at in the Drakensburg this past weekend.

Why is this a problem you ask? It is common practice for guests to leave their dirty room service dishes outside their rooms, isn’t it? A side note-these are not OUR dishes. We walked past these dishes – about 10 times in two days.
And that’s why it’s a problem.

During my observations of this unfortunate dinnerware, I saw several housekeepers cleaning rooms close by, even saw someone vacuuming the carpet around the dishes.

Eventually, I could stand it no longer and asked a waitron who was responsible for collecting the used dishes from room service. “The food and beverage department is responsible” was the answer I was given. “Housekeeping is supposed to call us when they find dishes”. When I highlighted that these specific dishes had been there for TWO days, someone was immediately dispatched to collect the offending crockery. Obviously, their system had failed. Surely a guest should not have to report this kind of problem.

And so, what is the point of my illustration (because there is one)? This dinner plate gives a peek into the culture of the establishment and an area that needs improvement. While it is obviously important to have clearly defined departments and job functions, there is a collective objective in a facility that hosts local and overseas visitors to ensure the guest experience is paramount and such that it encourages them to come back.

While there may have been many guests who didn’t notice the displaced kitchenware, we did, and it spoke volumes. “It’s not my job”. Nothing wrong with the establishment but definitely something wrong with attitudes and this impacted on our guest experience. (Of course, COVID-19 has placed additional strain on everyone in the hospitality sector and I appreciate that staff shortages can contribute to standards slipping, which is why I waited two days before asking my question.)

Surely it’s everyone’s job to ensure the collective objective is achieved?  Of course it is, BUT let’s not fail into the ASSUME trap. We cannot assume everyone knows or understands the collective objective, nor the role they should play over and above their primary roles like cleaning and vacuuming.

We can learn a lot from my little plate when it comes to food safety.

Food safety is everyone’s responsibility, right? RIGHT! But, just as in this case, you have to spell out expectations.

  • What is our shared objective regarding food safety? What is the big why?
    We must define this and communicate it.
  • How do we make this shared objective happen?
    What part do I play in my MAIN role and then how do I support your role?
  • What are problems or barriers that can prevent us from achieving our shared objectives?
  • What must I do when I see one of these problems, even if it’s not my primary role?
  • How do we react when problems are highlighted by our staff?
    Do we shoot the messenger or tackle the issues as a team?

Food safety IS everyone’s responsibility, but everyone does need to understand the WHY and the HOWs to make it happen. Then we can call each other out.

Oh, and you will probably have to talk about the WHY and HOWs every day, put up posters and reminders, chat about them every day when you walk the floor (the subject for another day). Annual refresher training won’t be enough.

Then we are moving towards a mutual understanding that food safety is everyone’s responsibility. Until then, everyone thinks it’s your job!