Let’s face it, we’ve all been there: Nice restaurant, Nice music, Pretty good atmosphere, Good food (once it arrives) But overall, the service sucks.

Maddening isn’t it?

From an owners and operators stand-point, we’ve tried everything: more money, more training, motivational speeches, incentives, loads of appreciation and love, heartfelt 1-to-1 chats, and promotions to try and improve guest services in our restaurants. Unfortunately, despite our best  attempts, guest services at many restaurants in town still struggle, despite these best intentions.

Have we finally given up? Are restaurant operators waving the white surrender flag?Maybe.

In recent weeks, we've seen more of these UFO paging devices ("Wireless Service Calling System") that allow diners to press a button and soon thereafter, service staff appears at your table. These devices simply act as a more subtle, less intrusive front desk bell that you may have come across at 3am in the morning at a seedy Motel 6. While the front desk bell is audibly effective and often rude, these new devices vibrate silently on a staff’s wrist alerting them to seek out the guest in need.

Yet, if your ideals of good service include service staff that can see and anticipate guests’ needs, these pagers are the beacons of poorly trained, inefficient, unaware, and passionless staff.

In Danny Meyer’ Hospitality Bible, “Setting the Table,” he describes “Hospitality as the foundation of any philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. Hospitality is present when something happens for you.”

Thus, when a guest at a full-service restaurant has to page the staff hanging out in the pantry updating their Facebook profiles with a picture of their early afternoon Frappuccino in order to place an order for a dish, something is wrong.

Now, this is not to say all of these devices are poor. They come in very handy in speakeasies (where staff are not expected to intrude and only be available when deliberately called) and private dining rooms. They also come in handy for counter-service restaurants when you’re ‘paged’ by one of these UFO devices and then expected to return to the pay-counter to pick up your previously ordered food dishes.

But for full-service restaurants (and where this particular device was spotted), is this the beginning of the end? Are restaurant operators using these devices knowing that they would not be considered “good service” but going ahead with them anyway? Have all efforts of finding alert, anticipatory, responsible, fast-moving and service oriented staff disappeared? Is the white flag now hanging from the entry door in many restaurants?

Please Press the UFO Paging Device to check on Your Food. Press 2x for Your Bill. Press 3x to Admit Defeat.