"All That And A FREE Bag of Chips…"

April 25, 2011

We had a large group (20 people, on two tables of 10) the other night, and their servers did an admirable job of taking care of all their demands.  And they were demanding, rearranging every dish on the menu with more substitutions than a hockey game.

When it came time for entrees to be served (we were all shocked they actually ordered some, and didn’t make a meal out of salads and appetizers) the server at one of the tables made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting to order the Veal Chop for one particularly pretentious woman (we had already nicknamed her “Divalicious”);  and of course it was ordered Medium Well.  You got it: 15 minute fire time, at a minimum, to get her another one.  She has refused to accept my server’s apology and her offer of anything else on the menu.  She is now in full-on Righteous Indignation Mode, and basking in the attention she is getting from her table-mates.  She waves her server away, refusing to even speak to her.  So, my number is called, and I had to go over and try to make things right.

I apologized profusely for her server’s honest mistake, and gave her the bad news about how long her Chop would take.  Miss Thang rolls her eyes, big time, and asks to see the menu.  She orders the Trout.  I thank her for her “patience”, tell her it will be on the house, and we get it out and on the table in under 3 minutes.  I go back after a bit, apologize again, and make sure she is happy with her dish.  She is wolfing it down and nods her approval, without even looking up.   She is nowhere near the last person eating when the table is cleared, and her plate is literally licked clean.

When it comes time for the bill (separate checks, of course) my waitress comes over and says that the woman is now refusing to pay for her one drink (which she nursed for the entire 90 minutes they were at the table after sending back her first choice because it “wasn’t pretty enough”) AND she’s refusing to pay the service charge, saying “The Manager said it was on him…”  So, a free entreé wasn’t enough?  Whatever.  I comp out the rest of her check, and my server is just laughing because this woman is being such a ridiculous caricature.

So, as they are leaving, Chef and I are at the podium chatting; and as the group is heading out the door,  I start doing my “Thank yous and Good Nights” to the rest of the party who, truthfully, weren’t all that much trouble after we got past the ordering phase.  Miss Thang stops by, and I was so irritated with her I didn’t even make eye contact.  She reaches into the dish of Jolly Ranchers we have at the podium, and starts fishing through them, searching for the Sour Cherry ones that were apparently the only ones “pretty” enough for her.  She drops one, two, three, four, five of them into her knockoff Louis Vitton bag.  She finally notices me standing there and looks up.  I look her dead in the eyes and say “Haven’t you had enough free stuff for one night?”  Chef bursts out laughing so hard he almost choked.  I spin on my heels and leave her standing there, in mid jaw-drop.

At what point in their lives do these women suddenly become such self-absorbed pains in the ass?  You know that quite possibly they were once very sweet little girls, with pigtails and all that crap.  So, do they just wake up one morning and say to themselves, “Okay.  Time to start acting like a bitch”?  Or is it a long apprenticeship, watching Mom and aunts and sisters put on the Bitch Coat and wear it?  “Don’t worry baby, some day you’ll get to be a bitch too…”  Reality shows on MTV and E Network serve as their training videos; and then they test out their skills on Dad and probably their teachers.  Building on these minor successes, they soon become the full-fledged real deal; and now no one is safe, from cab drivers to store clerks to the counter guy at BK.  Well, check that shit at the door, girlfriend.  I ain’t playin’…


"For Once In My Lifetime…"

April 17, 2011

An entry in the “For Once, Everything Goes According To The Plan” category: we close at 10pm on Sunday nights (one half hour earlier), and tonight we got no 9:50 table of two star-crossed lovers that wanted to order one $8 appetizer and gaze into each others eyes for two and a half hours, until I wanted to stab them in said eyes with a salad fork. We got no solitary, scary dude sitting at the bar, staring at the TV until Sports Center was over. Our last table sat at 8:15pm, the bar emptied out at 10pm when the NBA game ended; and I beat the kitchen out the back door for the first time in over 3 months. George Peppard would’ve been proud..

"I love it when a plan falls together..."

"Night Sweats In Broad Daylight…"

April 4, 2011

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been contemplating making yet another career change, or if it was the spicy BBQ pork sammy for lunch today, but I have just woken from the Mother of All Waiter Nightmares.  Those of you that have had them will know what I’m talking about when I say they come from out of nowhere.  I know I’m still in the restaurant business and, granted, I have some waiters at work who ARE nightmares; but I haven’t worked a shift as a waiter in almost five years.  Waiter Nightmares?  After five years?

I’ve written about Waiter Nightmares before (click and read), and about how I had learned a kind of “Directed Dreaming” technique, ala “Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Warriors”; so I can usually pretty much just sit back and enjoy the comic relief that comes with the absolute futility in most Waiter Nightmares, somehow knowing that this stuff could never really happen. But today’s was scarily different.

This one started at Chops in Atlanta, except that it wasn’t Chops.  In my dream I knew it was Chops, but the dining room had absolutely no resemblance.  Some of the waiters were guys that I worked with at Chops, as was the Manager, and the room was that kind of Boys Club Steak Housey kind of place with button-tuck booths, men in suits, cocktails clinking, etc.  I am back to work there, and it’s my first night back.  I don’t think I’d gone through any re-training, I think they just threw me out there.  I do remember being strangely happy to be back to work there.  Most therapists at this point would say, “Maybe you should look at that…”

I had just arrived at work, and was saying hello to some of “the guys”.  Everyone is shaking my hand and welcoming me back when The Manager tells me I’m working solo (Chops was team service with a partner, although I had some living Nightmare nights there when somebody no-showed and I DID work solo) but I will have a smaller station, over by the bar.  No prob, it’s my first night back and I’m feeling pretty bulletproof.

So, I’ve got my waiter jacket on, and my little metal badge with a number on it; I’ve got my notepad, my Cross Pens, corkscrew, crumber and all that crap.  I’m feeling good, cocky, ready to take some tables.  I had found my station in the gigantic restaurant (they’re usually gigantic in my nightmares), four deuces and one four top all in a neat little cluster near the end of this horseshoe shaped bar, and it all seems pretty manageable; after all, I’ve worked here before and know the drill.   Then I notice that the Host is walking away from seating a single diner at one of my tables, a professional looking woman in a business suit with briefcase.  I know what you’re thinking:  what kind of useless Shoe Clerk am I, to be having a Waiter Nightmare over a SINGLE!!??

Anyway, I greet madame, and get her a cocktail, a Manhattan or something I think.  She orders:  Spinach Salad to be followed by an 8oz. Filet, medium.  I don’t remeber ordering the salad, but after a couple of minutes I notice it’s on the table and, yikes, she’s almost done with it and I haven’t fired her steak yet.

I’m mildly panicked about the fire time on her Filet but, hey, it’s Chops.  They have about a billion 8oz. filets in the broiler at any one time on busy nights, and maybe I can use my one “New Guy Get Out Of Jail Free Card” to get them to rob another table so Milady won’t have too long of a wait.  But first I have to get to the POS and fire her order before I can go throw myself on the mercy (Ha!) of the Sous Chef.  And, as they say in the Circus, this is where the fun begins…

My cockiness and confidence is beginning to waver a little as I realize I don’t know where the POS is.  I walk out of the bar, into another gigantic dining room that is almost completely empty, and over against one wall is a POS touchscreen about the size of a 52″ plasma TV.  I make my way over to it and, of course, it’s a system I’ve never seen or used before.  I manage to log in, find a screen that looks like a table map, and double tap the icon for my single diner’s table (#63).  But instead of neat rows of buttons, or screens that have actual menu items, the screen looks more like a website; one of those really hard to read websites that was designed by some genius who thought red letters on a black background would be a good idea.  Almost all of the screen is taken up by pictures and advertisements for cars and other stuff.  Way down at the bottom are lines of uber-tiny type, hyperlinks to click on for menu stuff; but the type is the REALLY tiny stuff you get at the bottom of a company’s website where they put stuff like “Privacy Notice.  Site Map.  Contact Us.  Careers.”  And it’s a touchscreen, so every time I try to double tap a tiny link I get the wrong one, and some other gigantic window opens with more pictures and ads.

Now I’m really starting to freak because I know that spinach salad has been cleared and my single is sitting there, tapping her fingers, waiting for that Filet, and wondering where the hell her idiot waiter has gotten to.  In my panic state, and willing to try anything I can think of to navigate this behemoth screen, I decide that there’s not enough light in the room to see it properly, so I take it down off the wall and carry it over to another corner where some sconces are beaming spotlights down on the carpet, creating circles of light in the murky room.  Strangely, there are no wires; and, strangely, this doesn’t even factor into my thinking as I pick up this unusually light, strangely wireless, and utterly useless Piece Of Shit.  Under the glow of the spotlights on the other side of the room the screen is no more readable than it had been on the wall.  And I still haven’t fired her steak.  And, even with the panic really starting to set in, I’m thinking, “Shit, all these steaks are ala carte.  I didn’t ask her about sides!”  I figure I’ll deal with that after I get this DAMN STEAK FIRED!

Still tapping at links, still getting the wrong screens, I try turning the screen around, rotating it, thinking if I can get a closer look at these damn tiny hyperlinks, I would actually be able to read them.  I’m trying to hold it out in front of me, like some massive artist’s sketch pad, and the screen is rotating with the movements, like on my wife’s Droid; so every time I turn it to make the links closer, the screen changes and they move back to where they were before.  Now I’m totally sweating, full blown dread is setting, yet all Mr. Sensitve To The Needs Of Others here, can think about is “I wonder if someone else needs to use this terminal…”  This turns out to be an non-issue, as I look back across the room to see that the screen I have taken down has been replaced by an even LARGER one, about the size of a small billboard, a veritable  JumboTron of a POS.  In my panic I’m willing to try just about anything to get this one stupid, stinking steak fired, and I consider going over to the giant screen, thinking the type must surely be larger on that one, right?  Just as I’m putting my screen down I see the link for “Fire” at the bottom and hit it.  I set the screen down on the floor, and start sprinting back to my station.

As I approach my tables, I am mildly relieved to see that no one else has been seated in my section during my adventure in the Gigantic Room with the Gigantic POS Screen.  The only catch is that my station is now somehow outside, and it’s starting to rain.  Guests at other tables are being moved inside by their waiters, but my single is standing up and looking around.  She starts picking up all her stuff, briefcase, purse, and is grabbing the silverware and napkin off the table and walking off toward the inside area.  I catch her and relieve her of her burdens, and tell her I will usher her into one of my “Inside Tables”.  I don’t know why or how I knew I actually had inside tables, but I did.  Except I don’t know the table numbers, so I don’t know if I’m seating her at one of my tables or someone else’s.  It doesn’t seem to matter, and I’ve still got to get to the kitchen to tell them to hurry that 8oz. Filet which, despite my being out of my station for what seemed like an eternity, has not arrived.  And shit!  What about those side dishes?  I forgot to ask her.

I get my single diner situated at an inside table in a dining room that is now a gigantic white event tent, like they set up at wine auctions.  I know I still have to get to the kitchen, but I can’t stop myself from helping the Manager.  He’s trying desperately to get tables set up for all the people coming in from the rain.  The tables are all 72″ banquet rounds, with one flipped upside down on top of another, so I take my place on one side of the two tables to help him flip the inverted one off.  I’m waiting for him to flip the legs up and lock them into place when I notice a stack of 6 B&B plates sitting on table we are about to flip over.  The Manager has not seen the plates, has locked the legs on his side into place and flips the unusually light table off the other one, sending the stack of B&B’s flying.  Oddly, they all stay together in one stack and fly out onto a road that is outside an open flap of this massive circus tent of a dining room.  I’m waiting for the sickening crash of shattering china, but instead hear a metallic clang; and I realize the plates must have been sitting inside of one of those metal plate covers.  Huh.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Anyway, I still need to get to the kitchen, get that Filet on the fly, and then get back to my section where I still didn’t know what the fuck the table numbers are.  Shit!  And I need to ask her about those sides!  I contemplate just ordering her a baked potato.  I mean everybody likes those, right?  But that would entail a return to the JumboTron POS again.  It’s at this point I see a guy that I used to work with about 10 years ago at another restaurant, who is apparently now working here.  Nothing about this strikes me as the least bit strange, and I stop him to say hi; but he doesn’t know me from Adam.  He does know enough to remind me I’m covering his lunch shift tomorrow, though.   Even though I haven’t been back to check on my one and only guest, I somehow know with all certainty that 8oz. Filet is NOT on the table yet, and I am a total loser.  This is when I wake up to my cell phone buzzing on the nightstand and thank God for text messages!

"Sunday, Bloody Sunday…"

January 26, 2011

Well, hello.  It’s been a while; how’ve y’all been?  Me?  Oh, fine, just fine.  Why yes, I have been working a lot…

After coming to the realization (duh!) that I make my own schedule, and that I really need to take two entire days off each week, my work routine has settled down a bit.  I still have split days off as the restaurant is closed on Mondays, and the other manager has a commitment that makes Tuesdays off impossible for me; but I’ve kind of gotten used to it.  It’s almost like a 3-day weekend every week, if you don’t count the 10 hours of work right smack in the middle of it.  Such a rude interruption…

Really, though, the only aspect of my job that I even mildly dislike is the schedule;  and that only because it involves working Sundays.  No, not the dreaded brunch as I would have opened an artery long ago if Sunday Brunch were required.  Just like Jeff Golblum’s line in Jurassic Park, that “life finds a way…”, brunch also finds a way, every week, to suck.  We are open for brunch and dinner on Sundays, the only day we open the doors during daylight hours; but my “keyholder” manager is there on Sunday mornings, and God bless her for it.   That, and HBO On Demand are the only things that make working on Sundays tolerable, barely.   I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the bosses at my two previous jobs for giving me almost four years of Sunday-free work schedules.  As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

Sundays, and the people who dine out on the 7th Day, are a different breed of cat altogether.  You see people out to dinner on Sunday nights that you never, ever see any other night of the week.  They say in the Bible that God rested on the 7th day, and the leper colony we get in each Sunday is your proof.  My theory is that all the people who dine on Sunday nights crawled out of the primordial ooze when God took His one day off because He, too, just couldn’t deal.  God was at home, in His sweats and wife-beater with His feet up and Sports Center on the tube when these people snuck their way into the evolutionary cycle.

And just to add salt to the gaping wound of working Sunday nights, and simultaneously drive a dagger into the heart of our check average, we offer a three-course “supper” for $20.  This is just to make sure that we not only get the weirdos, but also the cheap weirdos.  We have people who ask if they can split the $20 meal.  Really?  Look, if you don’t have enough money to eat out, just stay home…

Last Sunday night was a classic.  Knowing the check average is always down, and often cover counts as well, I was sympathetic to my staff’s need to make a little coin even on Sundays; so I went with a lean crew.  Three waiters, one bartender, one food runner, one hostess and I did over 120 people; and all of them came in at once.  The parties of 8 and 9 started coming in around 7:15, so we were all sufficiently lulled into complacency by then.  And they kept coming through the door, like extras from The Walking Dead.  We have an alarm system that makes a “beep-beep” in the back kitchen when the front door opens and, as I am back there madly buffing glassware and silver to keep us afloat, it was going off to the beat of Funkytown.  Let me take you down, beep-buh-beep, to Funkytown, beep-buh-beep… as more and more piled in.

In the midst of all this fun and good times, my bartender decided now would be a grand time to cut his hand, taking me off the floor and him out of a very busy bar while I triaged his wound.  I found our sparsely stocked First Aid Kit, (and someone please tell me why it is that restaurant First Aid Kits are either stocked to the hilt with eye cups, defibrillators, and enough stuff to treat the victims of the Haiti earthquake, or they have just three band-aids and some dull scissors?) and got his hand wrapped; but the bleeding just wouldn’t stop and the kitchen had run out of latex gloves.  Perfect.  Now wouldn’t this be an excellent time for the Health Department to stop in?  I got on my cell, called in a “Stunt Bartender” who, thankfully, was both nearby and willing to come in: go figure.  She arrived about 20 minutes later and jumped into the fray.

I had just barely hung up the phone when my hostess, who was still doing restroom checks despite being drafted into service running food and bussing tables, informed me that the toilet in the Men’s Room had backed up.  Dealing with the shitty situation in the bathroom brought new meaning to the term “Manager’s Log”.

As I was pushing the mop bucket from the restroom back into the scullery, I noticed that there was no one on the Sautee Station in the kitchen.  The sous-chef informed me that he’d had to send one of the cooks home because he had been caught drinking the cooking wine in the back, and was drunk.  Perfect.  He told me this as I was helping one of my weeded servers process the nine separate checks from a party of really snotty Nelly Queens who had decided they needed to leave, now.  All I needed was a good, old-fashioned computer crash to really make my night complete.

So then, another server comes up to tell me that the four-top on 72 wants to “speak to The Manager.”  All restaurant mangers know that these are words that are generally never followed by anything good; and a big Shit Sandwich is most likely coming your way.  As a manager, I like to remain in the background, offering support to the staff.  I am like an Offensive Lineman in the NFL.  The only time my number is called out over the PA system is when something bad has happened; but instead of “Holding, number 72, offense…” and the touchdown is called back, it’s “Overcooked Veal Chop, table 72…”

The tidal wave of business is beginning to withdraw from the beach, and the crew is starting to pick through the rubble, straightening out the beach chairs and umbrellas; so I cinch up my tie, shoot my cuffs, and head on over to 72.  The gent at Position 3 who, as I was seating them, had made an off-color joke about the “diverse” crew and the “war zone” of the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant, had appointed himself spokesperson. They are four very old, very Jewish people.  Oy.

“Lizzen, I just vant to tell you some-zing, here…”

Okay, here we go.  Open wide for the Shitburger, and make it a double.

“Our soiver, fen-tehs-tic!  And the Duck, to die for.  We loved it all.  Job vell done…”

I was speechless, as an ear-to-ear, decidedly non-shit eating grin had commandeered my face.  A perfectly mashugana end to Sunday, Bloody Sunday…

"That Really Takes The Cake…"

June 30, 2010

Last Saturday was one of our best friend’s birthday, and we were invited along to celebrate at one of our new favorite restaurants.  I already have a general unease dining out on a Saturday night; plus we had a cake to commemorate the auspicious occasion of her 2nd, 30th birthday, and a nice bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir.  So, corkage and a cake plating fee which means, essentially, little or no alcohol sales and no dessert sales on our table of six.  It wasn’t a conscious conspiracy but we had become a Waiter’s Nightmare before we even walked in.  Fortunately, we got our favorite server at the restaurant; and, like a pro should, she didn’t bat an eye at either concession.

The alcohol sales part didn’t concern me much.  I knew the personalities at the table; and I knew there would be at least some cocktail sales, if not a bottle of white to go with the apps.  So our server wouldn’t be completely shut out.  It was the cake that I was just a tad uncomfortable with, and it wasn’t simply because it would negate any possible dessert sales for the server.  Desserts at this place were only $6, so how much could they really be out in sales?  But, bringing in a cake, or flowers, or an engagement ring, and leaving the item with the host or manager at the front door to be presented later on is much more of a leap of faith than most people realize.

As a manager, I was confident that I could handle any and all special arrangements needed for such items; it was what happened to said items after they left my sight that always worried me.  If you had a hidden camera, and followed your cake into the dessert station and/or walk-in box at many restaurants, you would probably see things like a Pastry Chef or Sous Chef pimping on your cake (even if it was the most beautiful cake ever made by the hands of man, they didn’t make it; and so ridiculing it is required); you may see it taken out of the box, and stored near buckets of cooling Lobster Stock, or some other pungent product, allowing your Red Velvet beauty to fully absorb the garlic, onions, or fish smell in the walk-in.  You may see a dishwasher or busboy removing a frosting rosette or chocolate cigarette, and smoothing over the evidence with their fingers.  And, as it goes from host to manager to Chef to Pastry Chef to walk-in, the potential for someone dropping or losing it, and effectively taking a dump all over your special occasion, is huge.

We arrived, they took the cake, and we watched as it disappeared behind the kitchen doors.  We thought nothing more of it until dessert time arrived and, as our server was putting dessert menus down, I reminded her we had a cake.  Well, not so much reminded, as obviously no one had told her word one about it.  It had gone from our hands to the fridge without anyone opening the box or even mentioning it any further.

After being informed by us that we had brought the cake in, our server went off to investigate.   I watched as she disappeared into the kitchen and came back out a few moments later, beckoning to the Chef.  Chef disappears into the back kitchen, and soon after returns to the hot line.  I can see him gesturing wildly and ranting on and on about something, getting the full attention of everyone on the kitchen staff.  They are all shaking their heads and looking very worried as the Chef goes off on them.   Next, the Chef summons the floor manager and our server for a serious-looking discussion.  They look like a pitcher, catcher and third baseman deciding how to pitch around a bases loaded, one-out situation; and discussing all the possibilities for disaster.  They are talking, arms folded, glancing furtively over at our table, then back to each other.  I can see our server shaking her head, Chef shaking his head; and the manager with that “I’m about to eat a big Shit Sandwich” look on his face.  Now what can be going on here?

The manager sheepishly approaches our table and, kneeling down next to the hostess for our group, asks “Uh, excuse me, but was that cake untouched when you brought it in?”

Up until that moment it never occurred to us that telling them the birthday girl had taken a two-fingered dip out of the cake earlier in the day might have been a good idea.  They hadn’t opened the box until it was time to present it to us;  and I can only imagine the terror our server must have felt when she opened it and found it looking like Homer Simpson had gotten to it first.


We explained our guest of honor’s pre-dipping to the manager, and his head drops in a silent prayer of thanks, looking like a guy who was already strapped into the electric chair, rubber thingy between his teeth, and the guard’s finger on the button as the phone from the Governor’s office rings.

They presented the cake, having nicely shaved off the finger-craters and smoothed them over with the cream cheese frosting.  The lesson here:  Always check, as you just never know when someone might want to have their cake and eat it too…

"A Rule To Be Guided By, Not Vice-Versa…"

May 11, 2010

We in the hospitality business are told from an early age that the first rule of our business is “The customer is always right…” Well, we all know that this is just so much bullshit. How could someone who just walked in the door, or even those whom we see with some frequency, possibly know more about what we do and how we should do it than us?  Just because they are paying for their dinner doesn’t mean they can arbitrarily dictate operations and procedures.  This rule should actually be: “The customer should always get to think they are right…”

Allow me to clarify with an example:

At one place I was managing, we had a large party due to arrive that was on a strict schedule.  They were scheduled to arrive at 7:15 and needed to be out by 9:30.  They had called and requested their first course, a hot dish, be “on the table” at precisely 7:15. Does their server fire the first course at 7:10 in anticipation of their arrival?  Well, of course not; first of all, even if they are all on a bus, and arrive at precisely the time agreed upon, getting all members of any large group into the restaurant and seated is like herding cats.  By the time they arrive, enter, check coats, figure out who should sit where, order drinks and hit the bathroom, they are going to burn up a good 15 minutes.  If we allowed our guests to literally dictate how and when we do things, we would be putting those hot apps on the table at 7:15 (as per their request), then removing and returning them to the kitchen at 7:20, to be re-fired/re-heated because they are stone cold.  Better to wait until we see “the whites of their eyes”, and then time and fire their meal at a pace we know from experience will work best.

Often though, we have to bend or even break our own rules in order to be accommodating.  Last night we went out for a bite before a movie.  We had followed procedure by making a reservation, even noting when it was made that we had to be out at a specific time in order to make the show.  My daughter and I arrived five minutes early.  The hostess at this recently-opened place, greeted us.  I told her we were to be three, gave her the name on our reservation, and told her that my wife was still in transit from work; I even told her I knew what my wife wanted as a pre-dinner cocktail, and intended to have it waiting for her at the table when she arrived.  The hostess pulled up three menus and a wine list, placed them on her podium and waited.  At first I thought she was preparing the menus for someone else who would take us in, so as not to leave her phone and the door unattended.  We stood there awkwardly for a few seconds until I realized she was not waiting for help to seat us, but that Little Girlfriend at the door had been “trained”.  I told her we would go ahead to the table and get started.  But, “Oh no,” she said,  “We wait until all parties are complete before seating here.”  Huh?

Being someone who seats a dining room for a living, I can certainly understand the logic of the intention. A partially seated table is a huge hassle for a server, requiring them to start the table with the first guests, then re-approach when the party is fully assembled.  This can result in a longer-than-anticipated turn time for the table in question, and a longer wait for reservations to come later in the evening.    A full room, with lots of parties waiting for tables to turn, almost necessitates not seating an incomplete table.  But I was looking at a mostly empty restaurant at 6pm, with no one else waiting to sit besides us, and I knew that any of the servers on the floor would have more than enough time accommodate us; plus, I was pre-armed with a drink order for my wife and we intended to order our appetizers while we waited.  Because we had to be out by a certain time, the onus would be on us to order and move the meal along quickly; yet she was unbending.  Rather than think any of this through and, in complete disregard of our notes about our time constraints, she was going to go by “The Rules” and make us wait.

This hospitality faux-paux was really not her fault, as she was fairly young, somewhat inexperienced, and had obviously been trained by Management to do just what she was doing; but by making this rule an absolute, they were requiring her to remain steadfast in defense of the policy without empowering here to be hospitable and accommodating even if it went against “The Rules”.  In doing so, the policy makers not only cost themselves some sales dollars, but also any hope of good will with us.  They had broken another basic rule by making a really poor first impression.

We stood at the podium uncomfortably for a few moments, as I stewed and fumed in silence.  Realizing finally that she truly intended to make us stand there until our “third” arrived, I told the hostess that we were going to go somewhere else, as this was amongst the stupidest thing I had ever heard of, refusing to seat us in an empty dining room just because we had one person missing.  Her response?  Not “Would you like something while you are waiting?” or “Would you like to have a seat at the bar?”, but a rather curt, “Well, have a nice evening…”

With this type of inflexibility,  I sincerely hope that this new place stays as popular and busy as its ownership and management must think it is by imposing such requirements on their guests,  as I will certainly not be returning any time soon no matter how good the menu offerings may be.  My daughter and I went next door to another spot, and were seated immediately, without any prerequisites.  My wife arrived soon after, we had a lovely meal, and made it to our movie in plenty of time.

Part of our jobs, as hosts, waiters, bartenders, Maitre D’s, and managers, is to give our guests the impression that we are catering to their every whim, while still doing what we know will make their experience better, even when it makes our job more difficult.  If we just couch things in the proper verbiage, and use a little bit of psychological shepherding, we can make them think we are jumping through their requested hoops, while still skipping along to our own beat.  But sometimes we need to be willing to accommodate our guests’ requests, even if doing so breaks our own Rules Of Engagement.  To this end, the 1st Rule of the Hospitality Business should be “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it…”

"Gotta Get a T.O., Baby…"

April 8, 2010

Way too much going on mentally, personally, and work-ally (word…) to allow my limited amount of full functioning brain cells to conceive of a full-on post this week.  But stand by, it’s just a “20”, not a full Time Out.  SNMT will be back real soon with posts about vacation, dining, and the stupid-fun, hectic world of restaurants, food, and wine…plus some Big News!  Stay tuned, Sportsfans!!