Monday, July 12, 2010

It's That Time of the Year Again..

With the summer heat comes summer thirst and of course non-stop refills. Clothes come off and air conditioning goes on, unfortunately with that comes endless complaints that it's too cold in the restaurant.

I swear, if one more person looks up at me from their table, hands rubbing their biceps in a mock shivering pose saying "Ohhh it's COLD in here!" I'm going to snap. For real.

In my place we have decent a/c, just a regular size central air (nothing too crazy). It gets the dining room to a comfortable (even too warm some say) 74 degrees farenheit. Still about 3 or four times during the night you'll have the "too cold" performance, complete with shuddering and shivering as if it's strange that we have the air on. Sometimes they continue to do so after their husband has fetched a sweater from the car for them, just for effect.

Let's ignore the fact that 74 degrees is a perfectly acceptable temperature to keep the room at (I know some places set their thermostat in the mid 60s). It's SUMMER people, if the a/c weren't on it would be 90 degrees in the dining room!! What do you do when you go to movies in the summer? Say it with me folks, you "Bring-a-sweatshirt!" very good, well done.

So why is it then, people waltz into a restarant wearing nothing but short shorts and a tank top, then get upset with ME that the air conditioning is on.. get real!

Lets move on to the already mentioned non-stop refills. I don't mind getting refills for people, being consistent with refills is a great way to increase your tip; BUT when I drop an initial drink order to a table and as I'm taking the order I hear that annoying straw on ice sucking sound, (meaning someone's downed their soda in less than 60 seconds) I get a little annoyed. I know you probably spent the day in the sun and are dehydrated, but don't run me! If I'm getting you your 4th refill before your entree has come (and this is no an exaggeration) slow the fuck down. I honestly don't mind if you ask me for a pitcher if you know you will be drinking that fast. Acknowledge the fact that you have a thirst problem and I'll help you out in a way that works for both of us. If I get a little busy I can't always be watching your glass. It's obnoxious to drink that quickly in a restaurant and if you are that dehydrated maybe you should have had a few glasses of water before you left the house, or picked up a big bottle at a convenience store before you sit down to dinner.

The kicker of this, of course, is that many of the insane refill people do NOT tip accordingly. The tip really should be a little over 20% if you need that much extra attention. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about people who even drink a total of 3 sodas or Iced Teas throughout the meal. I'm talking about when the numbers get to be 5+ for a 45 minute sitting. It's taking my time away from my other tables, and possibly effecting my tips on my other tables.

So in retrospect, the most important thing to remember about dining out in the summer, (or going anywhere indoors for that matter) is BRING A SWEATER!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Serving Saved My Life!!

No, you definitely did not read that wrong. To most, it's a dead end job, or a means to an end, a way to pay the bills while you're getting to where you REALLY want to be.

For me however, it changed my life and continues to do so on a daily basis.

I was painfully shy when I was younger and would never imagine talking to random people on a daily basis for work, let alone actually being good at it! I'm not exactly sure why I even chose a job like waiting tables if I was so shy, doesn't seem like a good fit. All I know is that I needed money, and I heard that servers can make a killing, so there I was.

Serving taught me a LOT about human behavior. The fussy people, the ignorant, the demanding, the arrogant pricks, you have to talk to them ALL on a daily basis.

My family can be put into the "fussies" category. I'm sure I would have turned out just like them had I not been saved. They're always unhappy in some way, shape or form when they sit down in a restaurant. It actually starts before they sit down.

The table they're sat at is always "under a vent" or the music is too loud, or they'd rather have a table not in the middle of the dining room, it could actually be one of a number of stock complaints in their repertoire.

They also do the very annoying "I will have a drink, but serve it with my meal" bullshit, then turn into a bobblehead doll if it's not dropped within seconds of the food delivery.

They will be in the process of still eating their appetizer, while looking around and lamenting to each other that the entrees have not been delivered yet!

It honestly seems like they go out just to nitpick service! The grande finale is when the bill comes (tip time!) and they make excuses as to why they should tip the server less. "Well, she forgot my water and I had to remind her" or even worse "I told him I was cold and I can feel the vent is still on!". Totally ridiculous excuses just to save a few dollars. The worst part about it is that I work in the field! I get beyond embarrassed and always used to leave a $20 under my plate to make up for hopefully some of the idiocy. (I say "used"to because I barely talk to these people anymore, but that's for another blog)

Serving has taught me patience and also to enjoy myself. One thing I could never understand about people in a dining setting is when they complain that the food is taking too long. Don't get me wrong, there are circumstances where the food takes an extraordinarily long amount of time to get there and even I'm wondering what the heck is going on. However, the majority of complaints are voiced to me at the 20 minute mark. That's a significant amount of time, sure, but if you enjoyed your company and were having a good time you wouldn't even notice!

I notice that the majority of tables that complain like this aren't even talking to each other. Last I checked, eating out is a social thing. If you don't like to socialize with the person you're sitting across from, why did you go out with them in the first place?

Serving has also grounded me and shown me how ridiculous people look when they blow things out of proportion. I mean seriously, people look downright silly when they make a big stink if something isn't cooked properly. I'm not saying that you shouldn't say something, by all means please tell me so I can fix it. I'm talking about the people who make a big dramatic scene because their burger is a little underdone, or act disgusted and tell me their soup is "ice cold" when it's warm instead of hot. Or the absolute worst, when they argue if I tell them they can't use more than one coupon per table, now you look like you're cheap AND an asshole!

Restaurants are a great place to observe humans in their most pure form, when they're feeding. Whether you're working at one or just dining at one you can witness some incredible behavior flaws. If you're anything like me though, you're too busy enjoying yourself when you're out to even pay attention! :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

This is NOT a Taste Test!

I think there may be a bit of confusion in the straight-world about what ordering food actually is so I would like to attempt to correct that right now.

When you order something off of a menu at a restaurant, it is not free for the restaurant to make. It costs the owners of the place money to prep it, prepare it and serve it to you. Sounds like an easy concept, right?

Perhaps then someone can tell me why on numerous occasions if an order is made correctly, but just doesn't suit someone's taste, they throw a hissy fit to have it taken off of the bill! If something on the menu looks like something you *might* like, please be willing to risk the fact that you also might not, and you will DEFINITELY be paying for it either way.

I'm sorry, this is not some sort of food tasting or taste test for you. You can't have the chef whip up anything on the menu for you and refuse to pay for it. It just doesn't work that way. We can get you a small sample of a wine by the glass or draft beer without question, it's a sip.

We cannot however, prepare an entire salmon entree, have you take a bite, decide you don't care for it and take it off of the bill. Someone's got to pay for it!

Don't get me wrong, if something just isn't tasting right or if the dish isn't up to it's true form, of course we will take it off the bill for you, that's our mistake. I am just getting so tired of people making us run in circles because they're picky!

And for fuck's sake never ever EVER take it out on the server for not taking the offending item off of your check! I can guarantee that your server has spoken with the manager or owner about the situation and is only doing what they were told to do by their boss, how dare you dock their pay for doing a good job!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday, Sunday

A lot of servers hate working Sundays, but it's honestly my favorite shift!

Yes, I know it's amateur hour, I know the tips in general are usually lower, and the customers are a bit more uptight, but I usually enjoy myself more on these shifts than all the others.

Would you like to know the secret? It's because all the pain in the ass whiners on staff always refuse to work Sundays so you're usually left with all of the best people on staff.

The excuses vary with "family", "football", and of course the very lame "I like to go out Saturdays so I'm always hungover Sundays! I can't work!"... guess what? us too, we just suck it up :)

USUALLY any pain in the ass GM likes to spend Sundays with family so right there you lose about 70% of the stress that comes from working with them. Also, everyone is tired, hungover, or a blend of the two and somehow that makes the staff band together and help each other out a lot more... we're all in the same boat.

As I said before, the customers are notoriously bad on Sundays, that's true everywhere. It doesn't matter if your place serves a brunch menu or just the norm, the people are all the same for the most part (brunch people act slightly more entitled, it might have something to do with the mimosas--give cheap people ANYTHING with champagne in it and watch their attitude change). Sometimes it seems as if it's their first time out... ever. This just makes it all that much more fun, what's better than live comedy?

What server doesn't love to send another server over to their biggest pain in the ass table to drop something off so they can experience the hate themselves? Few things are more rewarding in the restaurant business than when the other server comes back to the wait station exclaiming, "Wow, you're right... she IS a bitch!!" Then you all have a good laugh at her expense and discuss it over drinks later on. So even the bad isn't all that bad when you're surrounded by the right people.

The best part of course is that Sunday crowds die early to get ready for the work week ahead so very rarely is it a late night, in fact most restaurants close an hour or two earlier Sunday nights.

In one place I worked Sundays were like the best kept secret around there. Everyone refused to work them, those of us who did had fun and banked. Then we all got to sleep in the next morning while everyone else worked the VERY slow Monday lunch shift, and they all thought they got the hook up!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Self-Entitled Regulars!!

A good staff is the heart and soul of any great restaurant. We keep the place flowing smoothly, keep the blood pumping. That being said, a great group of regulars can be the muscle of a great restaurant and have a lot of influence on the success or failure of a business.

We rely on regulars to keep steady money coming in, and we take great care of regulars (and they take great care of us in return). It's an extremely functional relationship and sounds pretty simple, of course it's not. You can't have the yin without the yang, you can't have feast without famine and you certainly cannot have good regular customers without bad ones.

The bad regulars are the self-entitled ones. They're under the delusion that since they come in at least once a week they keep the place on the map, they feel the business could not survive without them.

A good example of this is from a place I worked at years ago. A couple would come in once a week to dine where they could be seen (on the patio of course) and demand that since we didn't have cream in our establisment that whomever served them run over to the coffee shop on the corner and get them a cup of cream for their coffee. Some servers actually did this for the 20% these people left them. I'm sorry, but if I'm running errands for you, you tip accordingly!

Another couple would come in once a week, look at the floor plan and choose whose section they sat in (they didn't like newbies). They liked everyone to know their names and when you were sat with them you were to come over with their drinks immediately (you were supposed to already know what they drink). They enjoyed tying up a lot of your time by keeping you at the table chit-chatting. They also enjoyed ordering dishes off of the menu, but modifying them to the point where it incredibly slowed down food service as the cooks had to read each and every line: Ceasare salad, no dressing, no parmesan, add chopped tomatoes, add olives, add crumbled bleu cheese, add cucumbers, add a burger patty cooked medium rare etc. etc. (it would go on and on).

If the entrees came out wrong (whether it was your mistake or not) they snapped at you and would make jokes about how they chose the wrong server and should choose differently next time. It was truly obnoxious and I truly loathed them every time I saw them as I smiled and said hello to them by name. At the end of the meal they always presented a discount coupon and tipped a "generous" $5 on a $25 check. Once again yes it's 20%, but you're doing a fuck of a lot more than 20% worth of work on a very inexpensive check.

Fortunately these types of regulars are a rarity and it really depends on where you're working if the management encourages or discourages this kind of behavior. It really seems as if some places bend over backwards to honor outrageous requests, and it just makes these people worse and worse and worse.

I was talking with a bartender friend of mine yesterday who told me a story where a bar regular actually told him to give her her comped drink! I don't care how "regular" you are, you don't ever tell someone to give you your "free" drink.. ever! That's obnoxious!

There are ways to tell if you are loved as a regular, and we definitely let those who are know it. We might not come out and say it (how could you really say it?) but they definitely know.

As I said before, we take great care of regulars and they take great care of us, but take advantage and abuse us and all those smiles you see will be fake!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tip On To-Go!!!!

I cannot even begin to tell you how annoying it is to work for free. Where's the incentive? I might love my job and everything about it, but if I'm not getting paid for it why do it?

This brings me to the issue of to-go orders in restaurants.

*I* am the one who answers the phone.

*I* am the one who takes your order.

*I* am the one who packs it up, comparing the food to the ticket to make sure the order is correct and to include any condiments you might need.

*I* am the one who greets you at the door with a smile and processes your card or takes your cash.

So why do you leave me nothing?!

A $60-$70 order is a bitch to pack up, especially when I have tables, bar guests and other things to take care of. I am not getting paid an hourly wage that I even get to see in a paycheck.

Throw me $5 here or there. It doesn't need to be outrageous or 20%. I understand you're eating at home, I'm not technically "serving" you your food, but I am providing a service, taking care of you, show some respect! ((especially those of you who come in weekly for take out without tipping.. shame on you!))

In all honestly, the non-tipping to-go people wait for their to-go. It doesn't matter to me if you're on your lunch break. It happened a few weeks ago, notorious non-tipping to go people called in an order. They happened to come pick it up when I got slammed, they had to wait until I was caught up. Precious time out of their lunch break was lost, and I cared not.

We take care of those who take care of us, it's that simple.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Last Laugh.

Today was touch and go at the restaurant. The day started out pretty strong for me during the lunch shift, then the whole place completely died at dinner. I honestly didn't mind, this weekend was pretty crazy.

A reservation for an 8-top was being sat in my section in the early evening so I figured I'd make a little money, then get cut and be on my way. If only it were that easy...

The 8-top comes in on time (about the only thing halfway decent they actually did). I did my greet and they do the classic "I'll start with water..." routine. Eight waters later I have the lamest drink order to hit the table that night. This is when it gets interesting, and by "interesting" I mean completely fucking ridiculous.

They had coupons, not *a* coupon, but multiple coupons, and they insisted on using all of them for their dinner. I explained that we only allow one per table. They spiked the ball back at me by insisting that I work something out (split all the checks) because it doesn't say anything about one per table on the coupon (well played, cheap asses).

The meal came and went without event, nothing cold, nothing being sent back. After about an hour of useless conversation, water drinking, and stuffing their faces, they were done eating.

I threw out the old "Did you need anything else?". One woman looked at me and said "no", two men started discussing the idea of sharing a dessert but I was long gone. All I needed was that one person to say, "no" and I was off printing the checks.

The saving grace was that since it was technically an 8-top, gratuity was added, and on our computer system the gratuity is calculated BEFORE the discount. They made a face when this was explained to them but there was nothing they could do. Game, set, match.