Innovation Taken Too Far

I was recently attended an industry association award dinner where I was a sponsor. During the dinner while I was talking to one of my table guests, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a hand going under my elbow heading towards my lap. I looked behind me and saw the waiter reaching for my napkin while it was still on my lap.

I asked what he was doing he said, “I’m taking your napkin to fold it”. I asked “Why? I’m using it and it’s doing its job perfectly”.

Despite my objection he took my napkin folded it and placed it on the table next to my plate.

While I admired his polite determination, I asked him why he did it? He responded very confidently – “Sir I folded the napkin in a certain way depending upon which meal you requested so that I would know which dinner to serve you”.

Again, I admired his honesty and innovation, but suggested that maybe he come up with a different approach other than taking napkins off customer’s laps while they were still using it.

It’s one thing to encourage employees to be innovative in how they deliver service. But there has to be a limit otherwise like the airlines we’ll be seeing more brawls taking place at every table at an event as they are “surprised” when their server is groping around their lap looking for their napkin. While unique, I’m not sure the bride and groom would welcome having those brawls as the highlight of their wedding video.

I gave the waiter my napkin; he folded it and placed on the table next to my plate. I picked it up and placed it back on my lap and he moved to my next guest and took their napkin!

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