Our first meal of vacation was, of course, at an airport: Perry’s on Terminal 1 at SFO.
Back in the days when I was constantly job shopping for a better waiter gig, I would always laugh at the ads on Craig’s List or in the papers, looking for waiters at the airport. What self-respecting professional would ever want to work at the airport?
But sitting here by myself (we opted for two separate tables for our party of 3, rather than wait any longer for a three-top) and watching the crew at Perry’s run around, I can’t help but think it wouldn’t be such a bad gig after all.
Captive audience: Never a slow day at the airport. Only days that aren’t quite as busy as others; and we were in Perry’s, not the cheapest game in town, by a long shot. Even though it’s on the terminal concourse, there are still penny tiles on the floor, wainscoting on the walls, the servers are wearing white shirts and ties. And, even thought the selection may not be as extensive, with the “airport mark-up” it’s in about the same price range as the freestanding versions. We ordered a club sandwich, a burger, and a bowl of clam chowder. My wife had a cocktail, I had two drinks, and it was $81. With 20 or so people waiting in line for one of the 30 or so tables, plus a dozen barstools, the numbers are definitely working in the server’s favor. Even with all the Euros, the cheap-ass business travelers, and families of four getting ready to blow their wad in Disneyland, you are still going to make bank. The sheer numbers will insure it.
Easy up-sells on the booze: Every table I heard order a cocktail was asked if they wanted a single or a double. Of course we want doubles! We are about to get on a plane, put our lives in the hands of a pilot who is most likely NOT Captain Sully Sullivan. If you don’t count the warm Miller Lite on the plane, this could very well be my last civilized cocktail beverage. That, and the little electronic pour-controls on the bottles at most airports are only going to yield you, at best, an ounce and a half. So, hell yeah, Double that puppy up!
Never gonna see them again: Unless they wear coveralls, a pilot’s cap, or stewardess (I know, I know, but I’m old school) uniform, you are never going to see them again, ever. So that amazingly cranky bitch? Gone. The lady with the incredibly bratty kids? Gone. Leave-un, on a jet plane. Don’t think that they’ll be back uh-gain…
No frills service: Table maintenance? Fuhgeddabahdit. Most of the people are within earshot of their gate, killing time. When it’s called, it’s “Check please!” Up they jump, their half eaten burgers and the backwash in their beer glass still on the table. Gotta go!
Serve them in order of departure time: Let’s face it, nearly everybody at the airport is in a hurry. Whether it’s in a hurry to get to their gate, their plane, meet their party, or maybe just out to minimize the amount of time they are actually in an airport, they are all on the run. So when they ask you at airport restaurants, how much time you have, it may seem they are being courteous and understanding of your situation. Not really; they just want to determine where your burger will be in the queue. If you tell them you have 45 minutes, as I did, guess how long you will be there? They will move you to the back of the line, in favor of the all the people with experience enough not to commit to a set time frame. When asked how much time he had, I heard the guy next to me say, “Never enough…”
And the kicker: The built in excuse. Burger’s overdone? Drink’s weak? Fries cold? Whadya want pal? You’re in the friggin’ airport!