If you let your guard down as a server, show a hint of hesitation or vulnerability-that you aren’t in control of the dining situation-you are so easily screwed and easily taken advantage of by that certain type of people who are on the hunt for hand-outs. (Disclaimer: The vast majority of my customers/diners/regulars are awesome people and don’t give us the run-around) There are just some diners that love the little amount of control and power that comes with “ordering” [from] a “server” (around).
Well guess what control freaks? I already know what you’re going to order and that your lunch table wants to split seven checks and I’ll be back every thirty-five seconds while you’re here to refill your diet coke because apparently you are really thirsty and love that sweet bubbly shit. Please forgive me if it’s been forty-five seconds before you see me table-side again, but I am a tad busy with my other thirteen tables. I definitely manage my time well and think in term of “economy of motion” to improve my efficiency to better take care of my people. My actions are all broken down in terms of the seconds needed to complete them. So I might be carrying someone’s wrapped up next day goodies while dropping a check off for the next deuce. I spin and my mind spins brilliantly together to get things done, and it’s a head rush when you’re able to multitask so many things together.
Yet (not so) funny enough, to my disadvantage my memory sucks in almost every aspect of my life except for the ever-revolving list of hundreds of people whose favorite tables, drinks, salad dressings, bottle of wine and meal happens to be stored for swift retrieval on the outer surface of my brain. So I must WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Uh hey Wifey? What did you need me to pick up at the store on my way home? Where’s the store anyway? I think I forgot to transfer my laundry. Did I even put my clothes in there after starting the washer? Shit! Whose birthday is it? Damn it! Yeah, I know. Sorry, whatever. [Who didn’t smoke tons of really good pot as a teenager? Oh, I’m the only one?] Oops! Ok, well…I’m doing just fine now. What was I about to tell you? I seemed to have forgotten.
Oh yeah, so there are these people who feel out witted in very simple, yet hardly noticeable ways that it might just annoy them a bit because they realize that they aren’t totally in control of the situation. Even if I drop off their soda without asking if they would like a diet soda today, they want to TELL ME that they want a diet coke. I know what you want, so let’s cut to the chase because you’re going to want your check 30 minutes from the time you waltz through door, when your lunch isn’t going to be on the table for ten to twenty minutes depending on how busy we are. That leaves you ten minutes at most for me to pack up any leftovers, clear you table, get change for your 100 dollar bill (is that really all you have? Your check is $21.10!) and get back to you all while juggling 15 other tables during lunch.
I really get a kick out of people telling me during our busy lunch rush that they “Really have to get back to work” and I keenly reply that “Everyone here has to go back to work, but I’m still stuck there!” Some laugh, some sneer. But hey, I’d rather my people feel cared for, maybe a little coddled and carried as well. I know what you want and I’m gonna do it without you telling me, silly child. Daddy knows what you want. Oh and when someone isn’t enjoying what they ordered, I might get a little offended. It’s easy for us to take negative feedback personally. Most of our employees have invested years, YEARS!, of their lives in this institution. “Not a problem, I will have that remade for you and out to you as soon as I possibly can. Can I bring you something else while you wait? Can I have a small appetizer made up for you or bring you something more to drink in the mean time? We appreciate your understanding. This glass of wine is on me.” Basically because I know that everything on our menu is awesome, except the lasagna. It tastes good, a veal Bolognese, but it’s greasy and cheesy. It’s not for everyone.
When someone orders our “Homemade Lasagna (meat and cheese)” They most likely envision a pillowy, stacked concoction with red sauce and spinach oozing out of the sides. Nope, not here. We make a large batch with the Bolognese and it’s sliced up and heated in the oven before it’s served more as a long slice, rather than the side-viewed stack. It tastes good to me but just not what people expect. And here’s the thing…I don’t really back down if someone thinks their dinner wasn’t prepared correctly because I know how every dish on our very large menu is prepared, I can describe in detail down to where we source our products from what you might want to or are planning to eat. So please don’t tell me that you don’t see any JUMBO LUMP crabmeat in your pasta when I watched my brother drop a fifth of a pound of it in the cream sauce and plate it on top of the veal cutlets myself. I’m here to take care of you and make sure you ENJOY your time here!
I once got in a confrontation with a middle-aged woman who, I later learned, claimed to have worked as an Italian chef in Baltimore for 25 years (she envisioned her egglpant parm) and the eggplant parmesan we served her did not in any manner resemble how she had witnessed it in the past. In fact, she claims, it was not the way that eggplant parmesan is to be prepared in the traditional, Italian style at all, period! It was mushy and thinly sliced and probably smelled bad (to her) even. Need I mention…I think she is in insurance sales now.
I beg your pardon Miss, I just want to let you know that we’ve been making the eggplant the same way since the first location of our small privately owned restaurant group was opened like 25 years ago lady and everyone but you loves it. Oh and she didn’t even order it, her daughter did! Anyways, I described in full detail to this “experienced Italian chef” how we cut, lightly batter and flash fry our extremely fresh, daily sliced eggplant before topping it with house made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese before finishing it in a baking dish in the oven. And that’s how it has always been made.
I’m not lying to you lady, I have no reason to. What am I gonna get out of this confrontation? You’re already pissed, even as I walked over to the table I could tell on your face that you were picturing crimson-tipped ivory devil horns sprouting through my brown curls. No one is trying to poison you or your daughter. I am not evil! We want you to eat here and to eat here often, so what the fuck is your problem? I’m not an MVA (DMV) employee, your health insurance policy representative or a pushy police officer. I’m the good guy. I bring you food and drink! I’m smiley and charming! (?). So what does this lady do after I offer to have another eggplant parm made for her daughter then offered her a menu to review after she turned that down? I chat with my brother’s business partner, let’s call him Craig, about having an unpleasable diner. It was especially strange because we had never seen her and I know everyone who regularly walks through our front door. So after all of this, (wait for it)
…this menopausal bitch gets up from her table in a half-empty dining room while I am speaking to Craig and walks directly up to our front counter to my brother of all people, and funny enough he was standing there watching me handle the situation in our front dining room just fine by myself minutes before, and tells him that I am “an indignant prick” and should be fired immediately because I was rude and not receptive to her needs. Ha ha ha. Go fuck yourself right in the toosh lady! I’m not getting fired. In my brother’s own words, “I’m sorry dear, but I would be happy to make you something else to eat, whatever you want. But I’m not firing him. He’s my little brother and he’s really good at what he does and he’s not going anywhere.” So she sits back down after he defuses the situation, I void the eggplant from their check and drop it off. They give me no tip at all, nothing, only to return the following night for dinner.
This oh so charming woman, whose image has been permanently seared into my memory along with the other usual suspects happens to have walked in the restaurant and was sitting in my section. Shit…really?!?! I basically wanted to punch her in her Leno-sized chin as soon as I spy her mug across the dining room. I’m certain she requested me, and so what does she do? Orders eggplant parmesan, claims it is delicious and leaves an appropriate tip. Seriously? What’s wrong with some people? She may have just wanted to announce her arrival. I might be a bit of an indignant prick though, I’ll admit it. I know it doesn’t sound good but I took it as a small compliment and my servers thought it was awesome. She hit the nail on the head. But I’m only such because I am confident in this consumer-vs-service provider situation that is usually perceived to be controlled by the consumer that I call my job. I regretfully report that the customer is not always right.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Write It All Down, You Indignant Prick
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I have been working in the restaurant industry in the Baltimore-Washington area since my early teenage years and remain a lifer 17 years later, still making my living by feeding the public. I have literally done it all, except ownership which is my only next step, in the restaurant world. From washing dishes in a barbeque restaurant to slinging drinks and managing Corporate Coffee, managing, training for and opening 10 stores for uber-successful Chicago-based sandwich shops in the Washington D.C. area. I now work for my brother, and am happier and make more money than I did working for others, and I'm a Server/Manager.