Overstaffing and idling

Notorious for poor service quality in our hotels and restaurants, Sri Lanka can also be classified under the countries with the most over-staffed retail and service establishments. More often than not you can spot waiters idling around, chatting with each other, and a waiter-to-customer or sales assistant-to-customer ratio of 3 to 1 or worse. I spotted a classic example today of THREE staff employed at a simple tiny juice bar at VoC cafe in Colombo 5, serving no more than one or two customers at any given time and often idling with no customers. On this occasion one was idling, one was operating the blender and the other was, well, looking like he was trying to be helpful. Together they formed a not-so-lean mean juice dispensing machine.


Contrast this to a cafe in a place like Thailand – I’ve been to many in Bangkok where the cashier, barista, server, and table cleaner are all one and the same person. An efficient, alert and hard working single staffer. And I didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes in a queue for a cuppa. That’s productivity for you. More output for the same, or less, input.

We in Sri Lanka are quick to say that our public service is overstaffed and bloated. Many of our private establishments aren’t any better.


2 thoughts on “Overstaffing and idling

  1. I agree with what you say Anushka. Three weeks ago we were at a fast food outlet which had seven staffers (including the cashier), talking among themselves and delaying our order for a set menu! That too with us it was just one more customer in the restaurant.

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