Nowhere is this more than in the restaurant business. This is probably why so many actors and wannabe actors gravitate to it; that, and the chicks. Much like in the theater, we come in every day and ready ourselves for our performance. We drag ourselves in, no matter how hung over or tired, put on our clean starched black and whites, smile and hit the floor. We put on a lavish production for our audience; and much like the theater, there is a “backstage” aspect to restaurants that the guest does not see, nor should they ever. Most will never see what goes on behind closed Kitchen doors, or in the little corner wait-station where we congregate; and exactly what is everyone doing in that little room behind the door at the end of the bar? Poker game? Live, Nude Girls? Free coke? (It is a requirement of mine that all bars have such a door that leads to the storage room, wine cellar, whatever. Just a place to get away for a moment if the need arises.)
A real pro will spend time with you at your table even if things are falling apart everywhere else. He will never let on exactly how busy he is. You will never know that the POS system has crashed; or that two line cooks are out in back fighting when they should be starting your main course; or that the back waiter for your table is in the middle of the worst personal crisis of her life (again) and is a complete blubbering mess. He will never display his discomfort at getting “tractor-beamed” in by you. He will stand politely at your table, answering inane question after inane question all the while searching his brain for any polite excuse to get away so he can pick up the credit card for the cranky guy on the next table.
We will never let the guest know the true reasons for problems that may be affecting our performance. You will never know that we have such bad indigestion from the taco truck burrito we ate on the way to work (or in that little room behind the bar) and have a world-class case of gas. All pros know never to fart in their own station. When I was a waiter, if you saw me walking through another waiter’s station, casually looking around as if for a lost earring or pair of glasses, I was really “crop dusting” before returning to my own sweet smelling tables.
The real key to keeping this show on the road is to never let the point of crisis reach the guest. One time, my wife, daughter and three friends were trying out a new place here in town. We had gotten through our mediocre appetizers and had been waiting for our main courses for quite a long time, even for a new operation. Our server had disappeared. (Note: Hiding out because you are afraid of getting a little crap from a party that has been waiting for their food for a long time is unacceptable. Cowboy up, apologize, find the manager and get it handled. Don’t be a pussy by ignoring the situation and hoping everything will be okay.) So finally a manager comes sheepishly to our table to apologize. He says our mains are taking so long because one of the cooks has cut himself pretty severely and there is “ a lot of blood back there…” So exactly how much blood did you get in our food, pal? This is something I did not need to hear. Why not just tell me how many times my steak had been dropped on the floor before you served it to me.
We will always take care of you and your walk-in party of 8, even if we are so deep in the shit we can’t see straight. Having an open table and refusing or even hesitating to seat someone just screams: “We are so inept, we don’t know how to anticipate business and properly staff our restaurant.” I experienced this very thing once and the host told me that she couldn’t seat us in an entirely empty section of the restaurant because the waiter for that section hadn’t shown up for work. Well, that’s all well and good but telling the guest is definitely not.