I started serving in fine dining restaurants in 1975. It was the Service Industry recognized by federal tax codes as such. About 1980 it became the Hospitality Industry; lose the service and just be hospitable to the guests. Some time after that I got a degree in Food and Beverage Industry Management (1990). The bottom line is all that mattered to the corporate chains like Darden and private houses had to alter their business plan to keep up. No more service. Deliver cardboard tasting fancy named dishes to an undiscerning public hot and fast like they get it at McDonalds and you can turn and burn through the crowds to show massive profits.
I stopped serving for a living when I was told by the owners that I was to rush my tables along before they finished their coffee to make room for a fourth or fifth seating that night. As a server I get a chance to shine and schmooze the party at dessert. My tables usually asked my name again so they could get me the next time they ate there. I believe one of the problems was that I REPORTED more tips than most female servers even made in a night. Bad for the average tax reporting I guess.
I know I stopped eating at Steak and Ale when Pillsbury took over and I received my entree EXACTLY 14 minutes after ordering even if I lingered over appetizers and salad course.
The next time you see 18% gratuity already added to your check, remember that your server is not allowed to pace your meal to your comfort because the house needs to buzz the next pager in line as soon as you put your fork down. You certainly do not want to tip well after being rushed to finish. High volume allows them to force the competition out with artificially low prices. They can always make it up by forcing servers to wait on 65 to 70 covers (people eating) per night. With those numbers, there is no way to give good customer service.
Like the news story said, Darden discontinued the never-ending pasta bowl because guests were staying and enjoying a family dining experience too long cutting into profit margins. They replaced it with - order two entrees at beverage delivery and one comes to the table on a plate/ the other in a take-home-a-sak for the same price as the good dining experience but at less than half the time they could be rushing more customers through.
For those of you that want 5 minute dining on plastic trays, you got in the form of corporate chain restaurants at the expense of true customer service. caveat emptor!
Since I love to cook and have a pretty good view from my dining room, service is the main reason to leave my home.