Sunday, November 06, 2005

So smile for a while and let's be jolly love shouldn't be so melancholy

Come along and share the good times while we can. I never Promised you a Rose Garden, The Suicide Machines Done by many artists, I know, but especially good when sang by punks rather than country-western singers!

People suck...what more do you want? We have this little tiny 18 year old chick who has started waiting tables with us. She has been at our restaurant for almost a year now and has worked as hostess, food runner, and even busser. She has applied herself, worked many positions in the restaurant, and tonight made quite a good night for herself waiting tables on her first Saturday night. She deserved to have a great Saturday, and she was practically dancing out of happiness, but had one observation to make right away. People suck. The general public really has no idea how demanding that they are. Extra cheese, half of the meal spicy...the other mild... seperate checks (with 12 people!)... sit at a table for an hour after you have paid out to chat with the friends that you hadn't seen in months or whatever... split meals... too rich...under/over cooked...Does it matter? We all have needs, and if you are paying $25 for a steak and salad, you have a right to voice your concern, but damn! At some point you have to have some trust in your waiter and establishment. Why would we charge $25 for a steak and expect you to tip me a significant amount if we didn't think that you would be anything other than ecstatic? If you don't trust us, go on over to Ruby Tuesday's and have their steak. Our little chick in today's story expereinced much of these things tonight. We were very busy, and I had huge numbers, made great cash, but also wore myself pretty thin. Nothing major to report from tonight, but to catch you up on my week, we had some new people training here. The four training were our little hostess/busser/food-runner (who did great), the beach bum, the skanky chick, and the old dude. I have already told you about the little girl, so onto the beach bum. 21 years old, been working at Applebees for a while. Ready to "get out of the low-end chains." Good for you, buddy. Welcome, the water is warm, the break is a perfect right-hand roll about 150m out, ride all the way till you get to the pier. Try and tube it of you can. The skanky chick is also about 21, but looks totally garish when you see her in "Civvies" but is otherwise normal wait-staff looking when you see her waiting on you. Her boyfriend works the grill at another neighbor restaurant, but felt she would make better money at our place. She seems pretty prepared for the work, and holds promise. The old dude. 40, but never worked in a restaurant in his life. He had the perfect attitude in the interviews, talked endlessly about his patience, his desire to try something new (he had been a DJ for some years) and his "love" of food. Well he worked about half a shift with a chick that I will call Teresa, a Southern belle now defamed, but still a belle (think Blanche DuBois) through and through. She is OK, a little bit what you would think, but otherwise OK. At some point in their FIRST night, he realized just how much organization was needed, how much energy was appropriate, and how non-stop the business was. At one point, I shared a very large party with Teresa and old dude. It was very disorganized (as far as we were concerend, the people couldn't have cared less!) and with the two of us experienced people, the folks were totally hooked up and happy as can be. Well after apps, saldas and meals were down, the dude looked totally panicked. He turned to Teresa and said "Look, I don't want to waste any of your time, or any more of my time. I don't think that I can do this!! I am leaving, OK?" What does Teresa do? Laughs her haughty southern laugh, and tells him "baby, you are doing great! Don't worry about a thing, you're doing fantastic!" His job on the first training shift is to follow. Observe. Watch. See the proccess of greeting the guest. Watch the server suggestively sell things. Watch the pro do their job. DO NOTHING OTHER THAN WATCH. He couldn't handle that, and after their little exchange, he walked straight out the door, much to everyones amazement and amusement!! We are still laughing at him and entertaining ourselves over it today... Just what did he expect? We all wonder. We also wonder if it will change his attitude in tipping a server or bartender. He made it through 40+ years in life and had no clue/none/zero clue what went on in a restaurant. Was the action too much for him?? There is tons, to be sure. The average person would be shocked to see the kitchen during a rush for 5 minutes, let alone 60 seconds. Would they ever come back? To watch the kitchen for five minutes would stun nearly everyone who has never worked outside the business. Do you want to see? Check it out if you dare....

One of your tables is waiting for their salads, and another has complained that their steak is under-cooked. There is a healthy line of pink (not red) in their filet mignon, and the customer complains that the steak was still moo-ing. Your other table is having the glasses left behind by the last guest being bussed right now.

Enter the kitchen on one side, the dishwash side. You are immediately 30 degrees hotter than in the dining room, and have an overwhelming stench of grease, heat and activity. The dish area is occupied by an 18 year old busser, literally tossing out pounds of trash bussed off of tables, scraping plates, throwing out stuff noone wanted to drink or eat, racking glasses into their respective wash racks and otherwise making lots of dish type noise, sorting plates, glasses and silverware into appropriate piles. The latino non-english speaking dishwasher begins a rant in Spanish when the ramekin full of aus jus the busser has thrown and missed it's appropriate bus tub splashes on him. There is a server there who also has to check immediately if she is now covered in aus jus, and the busser has to apologize in two languages (a skill acquired pretty quickly.) Then we get to the Micros station, and since it is Saturday, there is a line of servers there two to four deep all night to ring in orders, run credit cards, and print checks. Then the soda staion, again two or three deep. There is a girl who rolls silverware into linen napkins and fills the ice-tub and right now she is pouring ice into the bin, so watch out. Another server is doing the "running sidework" and is rolling a dishwasher rack of glasses stacked eight racks deep of fresh glasses into the place next to the soda fountain and ice bin. You are nearly run over. In the meantime, you collide with another server trying to get out of the way of the food-runner coming through with a large tray for HIS table, so he is trying ultra-hard to get out of the food runners way, ignoring you. You go to the salad station where you grab two caesars, turn to the bread station to get some fresh warm bread. You are immediately informed that there isn't any warm bread, it will be ready in two minutes. There are literally a dozen salads in the salad window, many tickets, many dressings, and RIGHT next to that is the appetizer window, also loaded with soup, appetizer shrimp, all with tickets dangling, begging for someone to run them before they burn under the heat lamps. In the meantime, people are SHOUTING!! "I need this salad without croutons and cheese!" "Will someone run these shrimp, they have been here for too long!" "Can I get a cup of the bisque to sell?!" Move over a couple of feet and there is the manager (tonight, the owner) expediting food. He hired us, and signs our paychecks. He HATES it when we run our own food. He feels like to promote a true team environment, we should NEVER deliver our own food, but should write our tickets in such a way that ANY server should be able to take our food to the table and NOT auction it off a la "Who had the prime rib with mashed potatoes?" We have a SPECIFIC order that we use to write every order, so that when the server without ANY knowledge about my table can come out and deliver the prime rib to the lady, and the filet mignon to the gentleman with out asking who had what. He, at this point is screaming for a food runner. Another server, Frank is yelling at the saute (between salads/apps and the main grill/expediter) that their table had requested that there be no mushrooms in their pasta, and that there were lots of mushrooms in there. The saute is shouting that the other server that ran the food grabbed the wrong order of pasta, and that right now someone was eating a pasta without mushrooms that belonged on Frank's table. "Go complain to Richard (while I slowly remake the pasta without mushrooms again!") The manager/owner gets someone to run the tray of food, points out the "position one" spot and then must track down "Pam" since she has turned in a order that the grill is reluctant to cook since she forgot the temperature to her guests steak salad. In the meantime, 12 servers have crossed paths trying to get to one of these places, to the dish area, the micros spot, the salads, the apps, the saute, the grill the expo line. One of the servers collides heavily with you, and you practically knock wach other over. You have been in the kitchen for 30 seconds, walked 20 feet and have done NOTHING. Your steak that is to be cooked up from medium to mid-well is next. Now you have to handwrite a ticket, tell the grill cook that you have a "cook-up" (common enough, so don't ever worry about it!) and hope not to get screamed at. The grill has cooked a perfect medium, but the know-it-all guest has "schooled" you and told you that a "medium" filet will be hot all the way through and have only a sliver of pink. Rather than offer to sell them your belt for half price, you acquiesce, and deal with the angry grill chef.
I didn't even mention the 15 other side stories inside for each of the other waiters that were overheard. There was Matt, randomly plucking a fry off of a diners dinner, (I mean come on! Ordering a burger and fries in a place like ours invites the possibility that a hungry server will pluck a fresh idaho russet steak cut fry off of your plate!) and here is Traci complaining that that cheap couple left her less than 15% after they ran her to death and she refilled their spawns Dr. Pepper like 25 times! Grace is dancing and singing, arms loaded to the Nth degree to "Blister in the Sun" by The Violent Femmes, which is blasting over the "back of house" muzak while she carries in a table of fours dirty dishes to the dish area. Quite impressive, really. All of this happens in a swath of real estate that is about six feet wide and maybe 30 feet long.
Exit the kitchen on the other side and to see what? Meanwhile, you are sat again at another table with an anxious looking four top, scanning for their server over the horizon, your drinks still aren't prepared for your other table since the bar is totally weeded from all the people on the wait list, and your other table is happily grazing looking suspiciously at you like you are dragging their steak around behind you. This is where you realize that your margarita has been taken by another server that EVERYONE (even the owner calls her "stoner") knows is high as a kite and took your rocks/no salt margarita and mistaken it for her frozen with salt marg.

All of this happens, food is run out of there, you get your fresh food, you pay the check and leave and it happens all over again. And again. And Again.

If I had stayed an infantryman, I am sure that things would get more hectic (these days more than when I was in), but come-on! Where else could I see more action in 30 seconds?!

6-8 hours straight of this, and people wonder why we think that 15% is no longer sufficient!!


At Sun Nov 06, 01:33:00 PM, Blogger Liz said...

People really have no clue do they? I feel your pain.

At Sun Nov 06, 02:09:00 PM, Blogger Desultory Girl said...

Wow! That's exactly why I won't do your job. Requires being patient and on hell of a multi-tasker.

I promised myself after my movie theatre job, when I was 14-16, that I'd no longer work at a place that sells food. I hated smelling like popcorn. Popping it was kind of fun, except I hated the grease and all the butter that got on my clothes. It sucked.

Ya'll don't get enough credit.


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