There was a sobering article on CNBC’s website yesterday entitled, “Olive Garden Promises Small and Cheaper Plates.” According to the article, Olive Garden is planning significant changes to their menu to combat its declining sales. It seems upscale fast food options like Chipotle and Panera has eaten into the casual dining chains profits but they are not alone. Other casual dining chains are also being affected by their lower cost competition. On the surface, the Olive Garden’s approach to reduce menu prices seems logical. But is price the only reason diners are choosing the fast food concepts? And, even if it were, there is one significant cost Olive Garden diners incur which aren’t duplicated at fast food restaurants; a tip. However, there is also a significant benefit to the casual dining experience that the fast food model can’t compete with; service. And that’s a restaurant like Olive Gardens ace in the hole. After all, service and not cost is at the core of why people choose to have a dining experience in the first place. If it weren’t, wouldn’t guests just cook at home? So what can casual dining restaurants do to improve service and improve their dining experience? Quite simply, help their waiters to help them. The problem is there is a huge disconnect between management and their service staff in the restaurant business. All too often, servers are treated like expendable outside contractors and not valued employees. Perhaps that stems from the fact that most of a server’s income is provided by someone other than the company work for. But this logic is a big mistake. After all, servers are the face of the restaurant and the primary determinate of the guest’s dining experience. The better a server does the better the restaurant does and isn’t that what every manager and owner wants? So why not work as a two-sides team and provide servers with all the tools and support they need to provide the best possible guest expertise? Successful companies like Google and Marriott have realized this an provide their employees with all sorts of befits to keep them happy and more productive. Whether it’s providing servers with benefits like paid vacations, health insurance, raises and/or helpful tools like the Waiter Wallet the better the work environment will become, the better servers will perform and the happier and more successful everyone will become.