Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holidays are Hell at a Bar

Another party on a Friday. This one was booked for 20 people so we set up the back of the dining room for 25. The host arrived on time and the rest trickled in over the next hour. While they were arriving I was caring for a party on the other side; a group of 14 after work impromptu drinkers. As with all big groups, none of them could get it together and after returning with the drinks that two of them had ordered, another had decided she needed a drink. Upon returning with that, two more needed drinks. Gotta love running the server.
I was not instructed on how the party in the dining room would be handling the tab, so I asked the host. He got surprisingly agitated and informed me that he would not be paying for everyone to drink. Only what he ordered was to go on his tab. I ended up with 15 separate tabs for the 30 people that showed up. Several people were paying cash. The whole thing was almost more frustrating than the previous party of 80.
At first they stayed at their tables. We added a two more tables when the party reached over 25 people. I had a table of three in another part of the “L” shaped dining room eating dinner and enjoying a few drinks. After a few rounds the members of the party lost all inhibitions and began migrating towards the diners. The whole thing was like a storm. They began in the back and, one that table was messy with plates and empty cups and bottles, they moved to a clean table. The group was so dense that I gave up trying to buss the dirty tables. I could not get through the group without being asked for a drink. When I wasn’t bringing drinks to them, they ignored my presence and refused to budge their fat drunk asses from my path so I could clean the tables.
Eventually, my diners left due to being surrounded by a large group of loud drunks. My party on the bar side evidentially forgot they had a tab with me and began paying cash at the bar. I closed out their tab before they could decide to leave. The tip was minimal but the lessening of my frustration made the trade worth it.
Finally, after several hours of drinking, some of the tabs began to close out. I was left with three hours to go and a group of the most unruly of the party-goers. During the remainder of their time there several friends of the group arrived and sat at a table, shielded by their friends who were standing around the last of the clean tables in the dining room. I brought them their first round which they sucked down like it had been months since they tasted alcohol. As I attempted to get back to them to take an order for a second round, less than 10 minutes after the first, I was blocked by their thirsty friends demanding drinks. My thought process with this was if I could get their drinks quickly, they would let me through to the new comers. When I made it to them they looked at me like it had been an hour since they had seen me.
“We thought you forgot ‘bout us.” Said one woman with a particularly unattractive pout.
“No. I’m sorry. I was getting a round for your friends.”
“Well we’ve needed a round for a long time now. Go get it. Same as before.”
“Ok. I will be right back.”
As I turned to retrieve drinks, they stopped me and changed their order three times. When I finally got to the bar with their order a man from the larger crowd came up to me to order food for the grumpies. This provoked the rest of the large group to order food including my least favorite thing to serve to a group of drunken people, saganaki. After they had all been fed, they closed out and left. I was beyond relief. While cleaning the mess they had left in the dining room I discovered that no tip had been left by anyone paying cash. Should I have been surprised?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Serving the Boys in Blue

Several Fridays ago I experienced the worst of all holiday parties. It was a Christmas party but they refused to call it such (I feel your pain Banquet Manager).
A week before the event I was enjoying an after shift drink and overheard one of the party planners telling my boss about the party. Some people attending thought the cover was too steep, that they should receive more drink tickets, and wondered if the cover included tip for the waitress. A red flag and a loud alarm went off in my head. This was an 80 person party on a Friday night that would close my entire dining room and they were concerned about having to tip the waitress on top of paying the cover?
Finally the fateful night arrived. It was snowing and the bar was almost empty at 5. "At least we know it will be busy later," my bartender says.
At 7:30 the first couple for the party arrives. They want to wait for others before they pay their cover and receive their drink tickets so they paid cash for a drink. No tip. At 8:00 on the dot they asked me if they could start ordering and give the tickets later.
"I'm afraid I need to exchange the tickets with the bar to get the drink. You can get them from my manager. He's at the front register." I replied.
"Can you go get them for me?" The guy asked with a roll of his eyes.
"I'm sorry but no. I'll see if he can come over though." I said and turned to find the man in charge of tickets.
Eventually the couple got their tickets and their drinks,still no tip.
Shortly after 8 the rest of the party started trickling in. The dining room filled up within an hour and left very little room for walking and serving, but I did my best. There were several people who gave me a dollar for every round I brought, whether it was one drink or five, but most gave nothing. After two hours of this, majority of them were nicely buzzed and decided they needed to rearrange the tables.
While taking a drink order from a nontipping group at an unmovable booth, I was bumped by a table being dragged across the floor. When I turned, there was a long table set up behind me. As I weaved through the new floorplan of the room I realized continuing to serve this group was going to be extremely difficult.
Cause and effect. I was quick at retrieving drinks from the bar because I pour them myself. The bar and I have an agreement; I keep my tip out to her and get my own drinks, she only has to worry about her own customers. It's a good system, especially when we're busy. Unfortunately, delivering the drinks was not as quick and easy. Weaving through the dining room meant orders being called out to me at random by people I wasn't looking at. If I wasn't looking at them, I didn't know who to bring the drink to. I did my best, but it all got a bit confusing.
Eventually, some of the group decided to go to the bar for their drinks. The best spot at the bar to stand,they decided, was the server station and the opening to the bar. We had a crowd five deep standing in the very path I needed to walk to get to the bar. There was even people standing slightly behind the bar blocking the entrance. Every time I went in I had to say "Excuse me" to have them mover a quarter of an inch. When I had my drinks and was exiting, again I had to say "Excuse me".
This continued for another three hours. Because of this large crowd, the manager had to come behind the bar and serve only this group. Several of them made comments about how I would not help them, to which I sweetly replied that I was only allowed to get drinks for my tables. In the time it took for one guy to get his drink from my manager, I had taken four rounds out to the tables.
At the end of the night I had made less than $2 per person for six hours of running-my-ass-off service. My coat, hung in the server area (the walkway for employees between the dining room and bar), had been spilled on. Our regular bar customers had left hours before we closed because the party group was "taking over" the place.
Next year, if this group returns, I'm going to suggest setting up a bar on the dining room side, 86 the server, and add a $3 charge per person to the cover as tip. Wishful thinking, I know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Update: Hand That Tips

I spoke with one of the managers and they gave me permission to be as rude as I feel I need to be to this guy. Unfortunately, I am not a confrontational person so I have been brainstorming ways to get it to stop passively. The girls at work have agreed to get in on the plan.
I am friendly with a few of the regulars, and one of them came up with the idea that we should just let him think we are dating. Comments have been made in front of the problem customer and after one day there are no more obscene gestures or touching. Let's hope this lasts.
I know it may not be the most mature way to handle the situation, but atleast no one is getting yelled at or made to feel uncomfortable. Other customers don't need to see me get lippy with the guy.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Slapping the Hand that Tips

Yesterday was terribly slow. I made one third of my normal Friday amount. I was lucky enough to have a few tables of very nice, very well tipping families. Today it's bartending til 6 and serving til 2am. A part of me hopes it will be busy, but I am working with the manager that doesn't help out at all and is oblivious to what is going on (see my post on falling during a shift).
I am trying a new approach on fighting fatigue during my long shifts. It worked beautifully yesterday. Instead of hitting the coffee pot like a fiend all day I drank water. I also stayed away from the fried food we serve and opted for peanut butter and cashews most of the day. My energy level was high and I was able to sleep well, unlike when I use coffee to stay awake.
Other than staying awake I have another issue to deal with. There is a regular at the Sports Bar that has been making little comments and making gestures (some very obscene) at me since I started there. It has recently crossed a line. Yesterday when I took a break and left the bar the customer told another customer I had left to "take care of business" because I don't have a boyfriend. When I heard this I was shocked. On another occasion this same customer passed behind me and grabbed me by the waist, holding on to me. I was so shocked at the touch I didn't say anything at the time.
Saturdays this customer and I are alone in the bar for about 45 minutes before anyone else shows up. I know I have to do something today, but I have to be very careful. He is a customer and very friendly with the owners. Why can't some guys just take a hint? He's in his 50's, married and has children. I have heard that the other girls at work have had similar problems with him but they solved it by fighting with him. I don't want to go that route.

Friday, November 28, 2008

No holiday for the server

Sports Bar is closed on Thanksgiving so I had the day off yesterday. Lucky me, that translates into two 15 hour doubles over the next 48. Actually, 39 hours.
I have a problem saying no. A few weeks ago the Saturday night server asked if I would work for her this weekend. I knew that the Saturday bartending shifts were close to being mine, but I said yes anyway. Why did I do that? I don't want to work two doubles in a row,let alone a Saturday karaoke night. I said yes because I feel guilty if I say no. In the restaurant industry we get no paid holidays or vacation days and only having 3 servers makes the shifts hard to cover. I have this strange idea that if I don't have plans, I should be working. Great for making money, but not so good for my health sometimes, and certainly not for my social life.
Some people call this a good work ethic; being on time, covering shifts, not calling in sick. I call it a problem. The root of the problem I do not know. One thing I do know is I need to start saying no to picking up shifts. I already work 7 shifts a week, 6 days. Its reasonable not to want to work extras after all that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Check it out!

I hope you all have checked out Banquet Manager's blog. If not, today is a good day to start! (I am a guest blogger)
All of the blogs I have listed on my page I read as often as possible. I thoroughly enjoy their posts. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sunday Fun

It seems as though everything will work out. One of the night servers wants my day shifts so we just need to hire a part timer for her Monday and Tuesday nights.
This week has been rough on me between work and school. I worked on Sunday last weekend and am working Saturday this weekend so it will be a 7 day week for me.
Sunday I encountered a common problem in the sports bar industry. There was a Bears game on and I had several tables seated to watch it. One table consisted of two guys,one of which asked for a draft which we have on special, the other for water. I gave them a menu as they said they would order later. After 5 glasses of water for the one and 2 drafts for the other I asked if they would be ordering anything off the menu. They said no. I regretfully informed the water guy that he would have to order something, anything, as my manager would not allow me to continue to serve him only water. I suggested a soda, a bottle of water, a draft, or simply an appetizer. He raised a huge stink and could not understand why a business would insist that he pay for a $2.00 item while sitting there for 3 hours.
Water guy had no money apparently, and his friend said to order something and he would cover it. Water guy proceeded to order 6 drafts. The two guys were by far the most difficult customers I had during the game. When one was down to a few gulps of his beer I would stop by and offer another. Every time I was told "Maybe in a minute." I continued to care for my other tables and was flagged down minutes later by the guys looking for another beer. They would then have to wait for me to finish with the table I was serving at the moment and get the draft from the bar. Annoying as it was, I was still a good little server and never even rolled my eyes. I was, of course, rewared for this at the end of the game with a $2 tip for 4 hours of work on a $24 tab.
After the game my bartender left and I took over the bar. I was blessed with a table of 8 celebrating a birthday an hour before close. One of the women at the table asked what stouts we had. After listing the 3 we carry she informed me that those were not stouts. OK....she then asked about wheat beers and selected one from the list. Of course we were out of the one she wanted, but no one had informed me of this. I sold her something else and went back to tend bar.
At the bar I had two men from out of the country. Their initial order was easy, two drafts. After that they began asking what the strongest American beer on tap was, what bottled beer we had, and where each was bottled. As I'm tryingto answer their questions,a table walks in for dinner. My kitchen is closing in 5 minutes so I let them know they will need to place their order soon. While taking their drink order they want to know what beer we have from the South Pacific. What?
Sundays are usually an adventure. I'm wondering if Saturdays are going to be similar...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I feel like I'm on a swing...

Hooray for meeting goals! I have officially been offered the position of bartender on Saturdays at the Bar. I, of course, accepted. The manager that spoke with me yesterday about it agreed that I can cut down on my serving shifts during the week so I have more time for school and am not working 7 shifts each week. Today I spoke to another of the three managers and told him the same thing; I wanted to give up my Monday through Wednesday lunch shifts. This manager was less agreeable. He told me that just because they wanted me to work Saturdays didn't mean they wanted to lose me during the week. After I made a few good points about the number of shifts I pick up per month already, the number of shifts the night girls want to take off, and how working less during the week opens me up to be more "on call", he agreed to ask the third manager about it. I also made it clear that I could still work all 7 shifts until the end of the year, giving them over a month to find a new girl and allow me to train her to perfection.
Part of me thought I should wait a bit before bringing the issue up to the most high strung of the managers, but being honest and up front has worked so far with them so I decided to continue down that path. I hope I haven't screwed myself.
If they're smart they will see that this is a good move all around. Hiring a fourth server means having a fourth person to pick up shifts. As it is it's difficult to get anything covered because one of the other two girls either already worked that day or is at school or with kids. Out of the three of us there is one mother and two full time students. It can't hurt to have another server. Also, when I was part time at the Bar, when I first started, I rarely said no to covering a shift. I wasn't working alot, needed the money, and had the time. Getting me back to that place can only help them out.
So the waiting continues. Two steps forward, one step back.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In the Running

One of the servers at the Bar had a death in the family this week. I offered to work for her on Saturday night, but she really needed Sunday for the wake. She spoke to the manager on duty about it and he approached me about the shift. I had plans Sunday, but after telling him this I felt bad. This girl lost a family member. How selfish am I? I can reschedule my plans, so I did.
As a result, my boss has promised me next Saturday's bartending shift, the head bartender has announced that she will back me for permanently covering the shift, and several regulars have made it clear to management they are very excited I will be bartending.
I think I'm getting closer.
On another note...I would love to be writing more but business has been so slow nothing is going on! I guess the economy is keeping out the odd ducks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Help me Up

Ironically, yesterday the bartender that works Saturday afternoon, and has been at the Bar for 10 years, quit. A shift is open. I have to fight for this, but seniority is not on my side. I feel that I have earned the opprotunity to take a bartending shift through a year of hard work and going above and beyond for the Bar.
Every morning I arrive at work 20 minutes early. I finish the sidework that has been left by the night server and turn on the heat. Then I go to the office and print the specials for the day if they were not done the night before. I am the only employee that picks up this task. The others wait for the manager to do it when he gets there. Waiting for the manager means that the specials are being inserted into the menus while customers are there. By doing it before we open I am able to complete the task before any customers arrive.
After doing the specials I move on to the bar. I take the fruit out of the cooler or cut fruit as needed, turn on the bar TVs and speakers, pull the covers off the liquor, fill the sinks, and prepare the bar rags. By this time a customer has arrived and is sitting at the bar. I serve the customer(s) until the bartender arrives. She is always 15 to 30 minutes late for work. When she does arrive I receive no compensation for taking care of her first customers. During the next 3 hours I watch as the bar fills up and the bartender gets busy while I care for the 5 to 7 tables I will get for the day.
When I have been allowed to cover bartending shifts I always receive positive comments from the customers. They say I am fast and attentive. They also compair me to the other bartenders. The comparisons I am uncomfortable with because they usually say things about the faults of the other bartenders. It is also frustrating to hear that I am great at a job that I can not have.
So today and over the next few days I will be fighting for this shift. It is more than just being able to bartend. It is that I feel I have earned the opprotunity.
A little more than that, I have been trying to figure out a way that I can work less days and make the same amount of money. Being that I live in an apartment with no roommate I can't afford a cut in pay, but my full time work schedule is overloading me. I do not want to compromise school, just to work less days. If I got this bartending shift I could afford to work 3 days a week instead of 5 and have more freedom in choosing classes.
Wish me luck and I'd love to hear any advice anyone has!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Server vs Bartender

I made the mistake of accepting fill-in bartending shifts at the Sports Bar. Why is this a mistake you ask? True, bartenders make two to three times as much as servers per shift. Their tips average higher per tab and they usually get tips immediately when people pay by cash per round. This was a mistake because it made me realize just how much waitresses get screwed.
The first bartending shift I covered at the Sports Bar was spur of the moment. My bartender came into work feeling dizzy. She made it through lunch but it was clear she needed to leave. After my tables had cleared out she was approved to go and I took over the bar as well as continuing to take the few tables that walked in. Most of them ended up sitting at the high top tables in the bar area where I could keep an eye on them. When they initially sat I came from behind the bar and approached their tables. Upon greeting them I politely told them that there was no server and that I was bartending but would be more than happy to get them anything they needed. After delivering their drinks I went back behind the bar and continued to serve the customers seated there. After several minutes a man from one of the tables walked up to the bar and asked me if there was a server. Uh…no. I thought we had covered that already. He proceeded to ask me for two menus. I collected two menus from the other side of the bar and turned to give them to the man but he had returned to his table. Sighing, I walked out to the table to deliver the menus.
Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mind multitasking and doing the job of both waitress and bartender. It keeps me busy and the tips are usually phenomenal when people see that you are doing both. What I don’t like is the attitude that some people have regarding the service industry. The Sports Bar is a very low key and laid back place. While I pride myself on giving great service to customers I, in my disillusioned way, expect to be treated with respect by the customer as well. He had already walked up to the bar, what is the harm in waiting to take the menus back with him?
Now I am allowed to cover bartending shifts when no one else wants them or the Sunday bartender asks for the day off. We have had an agreement for the past 8 months that if she asks I will say yes. It is the only shift that is “mine” to pick up. Being that I work 6 shifts there a week and go to school in the evenings I am not available for the others that may open up for the night (on the off chance that the other bartenders don’t want to pick it up). This week the Sunday bartender injured herself and needed the weekend off. Since it was a game day, another bartender snatched up the shift before I could say anything. I worked all the slow summer Sundays and the bye week and my reward is having seniority pulled on me and losing out on a $500 plus shift.
Seniority should only count to a certain point. I understand the concept, but being that the turnover is low among the bartenders no one has the change to move up the seniority ladder. I will always be the last for opportunity even though I am the lowest tipped employee there due to my regular shifts being lunches.
My mother did teach me that life is not fair but that’s not going to stop me from saying that the Sunday situation was not. Being that most places make an employee work up to the position of bartender I am better off where I’m at than starting over somewhere new. In the meantime my frustration will continue until I am kindly thrown a bone by one of the superior bartenders.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I can count on it

One thing I always liked about waiting tables was the randomness, the aspect of daily change. You saw different people every day, you were an anonymous server. I don't have that at my current job. I can see almost exactly how today will play out. During the lunch shift I will see the same people; the guy who has one Honeyweiss and then water, the guy that always orders wings and never requires me to even check back, the two ladies with iced teas that always order a dinner special for lunch and then sit for 2 hours talking. After 4 there will be the usual after work guys, the MDG 64 in a bucket to keep it cold, two Coors bottles at a time because he drinks so fast, and the couple that will drink a pitcher, then order their dinner and another pitcher. At night I will have some dinner tables and my group of 25 at 10:30. When they leave I will have nothing for the remainder of the night and will probably get off work at last call.
There is no change, no anonymous serving. I miss this. It becomes tedious and boring when there is no change in the daily schedule. Maybe if I started working somewhere else I would miss the structure and reliability of the Bar, but today I miss randomness and change.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Work, Less Pay

Business has slowed so dramatically at Sports Bar that I am left wondering if I will be able to afford my apartment, let alone things like food. I'm sure the story is the same everywhere, but I am seriously thinking about seeking employment elsewhere.
Monday I made a whopping $11 on the lunch shift. Because business is so bad the bosses have been cutting hours. The SA doesn't work Mondays anymore and as soon as lunch hours are over I am free to go. This works well for me as I have more time for homework and am freed from tipping anyone out.
Tuesday the SA didn't show up for work or call. Wednesday was the same story. I fear we have lost Ramon. This doesn't really present a problem with the bussing of tables as I am perfectly capable of doing this myself. The problem appears in the other duties our SA performs. The bar isn't being stocked, the floors are unswept, the dishes unwashed, and bustubs overflowing. I'm not sure that they will be filling the position since it is so slow. My job description is about to expand.
Yesterday morning was an indication of things to come. When I arrived at work I had to take all the chairs down from the table, roll silverware, set up the bar (my bartender was late), and not only put the specials in the menus, but actually type them out on the office computer. After an hour the place was finally set up (45 minutes after we opened).
I had more tables than I had Monday or Tuesday, but they came in one at a time. I would receive one table and, upon cashing them out, would receive another. I ended up staying at work until 5 and making less than $10 an hour,including my hourly. Beyond frustrated, I apologized to my bartender for being so crabby.
Today,in an attempt to make the day go better, I will be taking my own bustubs to the back of the house and washing my own dishes. It's not right that my cook would have to do this, I might as well help out. Besides, with business the way it is it will atleast provide something to keep me busy. The bartender working today has been complaining that she is getting sick so I will offer to send her home and complete her shift. If I have to stay past the lunch hours I atleast want to be doing more than caring for one table at a time!
I'm heading in early today so I can finish setting up by the time we open. It's going to be a long day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No Waitress Necessary

Friday was fairly slow at Sports Bar. The economy is killing business and good tips. A new trend I have noticed is business guys tipping less than 10%. This happened with several tables this week. I could spot them when they sat because they made jokes about the stock market crash asking what our "crash specials" were and then ordering the cheapest thing they could from the bar and the most expensive menu items.
Being as slow as it was, by 8 pm I was starting to get tired. Knowing I had 6 hours left I made some coffee and drank a few cups quickly to get a quick energy boost. Then it happened; something that I would try to keep from bothering me for the rest of the night, but would still sting when I woke up in the morning.

I look at the clock with dread. It's only 8:30 and Sports Bar is dead. So much for Friday night.
"This is one sucky Friday night." I say to my bartender. She looks up from her cell phone and laughs.
"Yeah,so much for making good money tonight."
She turns away to help some thirsty customers and Red Shirt Guy walks up behind me. Red Shirt Guy is friends with one of our beloved regulars. A sweet guy who stays for many hours on Fridays, I have often given TJ a ride home from the bar so he can leave his car. We always go through a drive through and he buys me dinner before I drop him off. He is one of the few bar regulars that, when sitting at a table, allows me to serve him, waits for me rather than going directly to the bar, and tips me the same as the bartenders. Tonight TJ and Red Shirt Guy are sitting at a small table right next to the bar and are going to the bartender for service. This doesn't bother me since it is a table the bar regulars usually spill over to and I rarely serve anyone that sits there. Their choice, not mine, but I have accepted it.
"Tell Stacy there are no paper towels in the men's room." Red Shirt says.
"Why tell Stacy?" I turn to him confused. She can't change the towels in the men's room.
"Because I don't know who else to tell."
"Oh. Well you just told me." I replied amused by the guy.
"Well tell her for me so she can take care of it. She's the bartender."
"She can't take care of that, but I'll tell someone." I'm less amused.
"Just tell her. She's the bartender. She's the most important person here. F**k the cooks and the managers. They don't do anything." Red Shirt says with the tone of an ass.
"What about the server?" I ask with a little smile, hoping to turn the conversation around.
Red Shirt looks at me with something resembling agitation. "People can serve themselves. You don't need a server."
"OK. Well that's nice." I say as I turn to find my SA to refill the paper towels in the men's room.
About an hour later I am talking to the bartender and standing in my usual spot next to the opening for the bar. Red Shirt walks up and pushes past me to get behind the bar. He stands next to Stacy with a menu in his hand.
"I wanted to order food but I guess I have to talk to the waitress." He says with not so much as a glance my direction.
I am amazed at this guy. What the hell is his problem? He places his order with the bar and goes back to the table. I want to tell TJ what an ass his friend is, that he's being rude...but I don't. It eats at me for the rest of the night. My manager asks me what's wrong at one point. When I tell him his only response is not to let jerks like that get to me. I know this. I know it's silly, but there are so many reasons why it does bother me.
The economy stinks right now. Tips are down in general, customers are coming in less. My wallet is taking a hard hit. It's more than that though. There is a bar nearby that cut all their servers. They only run bartenders and let the customers go to the bar to get their own drinks and order food. This scares me. What if Sports Bar does the same thing or decides that they don't need a server on the slower lunch shifts? Good for my bartenders, terrible for me.
Another reason Red Shirt's comments bothered me so much is because of the dynamic of the bar. The bartenders serve the same amount to half the customers a server does. They make two to three times the money. The bartenders at Sports Bar have little to no "sidework" at the end of the night. The put the fruit back in the cooler and the spill mats by the sink for the barback to clean. A server is in charge of the silverware, replacing the specials in the menu, the specials board at the door, the salad station, setting the tables, and refilling condiments among other things.
To hear from someone, even a complete ass, that my job is unnecessary is hurtful. I already get the short end of the stick and to hear someone say what I already know so many bar patrons think sucks. It just sucks.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Goodbye World Series

The Cubs and the Sox are both out of the world series. While I am thankful that this means no more nights staying late and waiting for the crowds my managers are sure will come (but never do), I am going to miss the money that it promised.
Friday night there was a Sox playoff game and the Sports Bar was packed! There was not an empty seat in the place. The day bartender stayed after her shift to help me run food, drinks, and check on tables. I even had people sitting on the patio and it was roughly 50 degrees outside. Probably more on that later. This and last week have been hectic for me as I moved into a new apartment, have three tests in school, and two papers to write. I barely have time to do the homework let alone for any pleasurable activities, including this blog. I plan on taking some time after class tonight to sit on my ass and enjoy the cable I have for the first time in three years.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Just a short rant I need to get out.
Working at a sports bar during the playoffs really sucks. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that both Chicago teams made it to the playoffs, but my work schedule is now screwed.
Two weeks ago I made a doctors appointment for tomorrow afternoon. This is not normally a problem as I leave work at 3. Now there is a Sox playoff game at 1:20 tommorow afternoon and I have to reschedule the appointment. Since I don't know what the playoff schedule is for next week I can't reschedule until I do, but the office has a two week wait for appointments. Looks like no doctor for me until the playoffs are over.
I also have an unimaginable amount of homework, am moving on Saturday, and have been asked to work that night since there is another playoff game then. Being that Sports Bar has a total of three servers I can't get anyone to cover my shift or come in early so I can keep my appointment or not have to work Saturday.
With both the Sox and the Cubs in the playoffs I stand to make good money over the next month. This is a good thing as this is the time of year business starts to drop off. I am thankful for that, but today, I hate baseball.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pick up artists

I have seen many posts on this issue, but what the hell. Here’s my two cents.
Hitting on the waitress.
I’ll start off with my theory on why this is so common.
I have been in the industry and out on the town enough to have observed many instances of guys hitting on the waitress, but not on, say a group of single women sitting at the table next to them. Why is this? I believe it’s because the waitress seems “available” simply by the nature of her job. She is friendly and keeps coming back to talk to you. She offers something many men are looking for; the desire to please. Most forget that this is her job. My brother says that guys hit on the waitress or bartender because that's "just what you do" when you go out with the guys.
I have the odd “luck” of getting hit on by guys frequenting the bar. They are not sitting at tables and therefore are not tipping me. Since they are customers of the bartender that cuts down on my obligation to be…”available”. Some may say that is a bad attitude to have, but I am there to make money. It’s not that I am unfriendly, simply that the conversations are awkward and forced. Also, they have been drinking at the bar for some time before approaching me so the combination of tipsy or buzzed patron and tired sober waitress does not make for good conversation. Also, and most importantly, I strongly feel that it is a bad idea to get involved with customers.
That being said, here are two examples of the guy you do not want to be at the bar.

A few years ago I worked at a bar whose main customer base was 20-something college students and corporate types. To place a drink order for a table the server had to stand at the server station at one end of the bar and wait for a bartender to come over. The server station was set up with a stack of trays, garnishes for drinks, straws, and coasters. It was obviously not the place to sit if you were a customer. It was located at the narrow end of the bar so there was no customer seating directly next to it.
There was a guy named Tim that would come in on the nights I worked and stand next to the server station at the bar so he could talk to me while I waited for drinks. This was distracting and intrusive. He probably thought he was being smooth or something by standing where he knew I would have to talk to him. Problem was I would often come across as rude because I was trying to work. I would interrupt the one sided conversation to order my drinks from the bar and when they were ready I would take them out. At first I would apologize and excuse myself, but eventually it got old and I would half ignore him. I figured he would understand that I was there working. Guess not because this continued for weeks. He asked me out a few times until I finally told him I had a boyfriend and pointed to one of the largest doormen employed at the place. I tried to reject him nicely but some people just don’t get it.

More recently…these both happened on Friday nights at Sports Bar. My bartender and I have an agreement that I fill my own drink orders and do not have to tip her out at the end of the night.
It’s been a busy night but is just starting to wind down. I’m behind the bar filling a drink order for one of my remaining tables when a guy at the bar started calling my name.
I look up to see what he wants.
“When you have a minute I want to talk to you.”
“OK,” I say a little apprehensively.” You can talk to me while I get these drinks.”
“When you have a minute I have a question for you.”
Is this guy hard of hearing or just dumb?
“OK, well I have a minute now while I make these drinks. What do you want to ask me?”
“I want to ask about your tattoos.” He says as he leans across the bar and reaches for my arm.
I take a step so I’m out of reach.” What about them?”
He leans even further and grabs my arm. With his other hand he starts rubbing the tattoo on my upper arm. I step back and pull my arm from his grasp.
“What’s your question?”
He asks where I got them and what they mean. I sigh and give him the scripted answer I give everyone specifically designed to discourage further questions. As I grab the drinks I have finished making he asks me to come back when I have a minute.
I tell him when I have time and make a mental note to look busy for the rest of the night. I still have 3 hours to go. A while later I am serving a table of regulars on the patio and see the Bar Guy sitting with them. I know he’s not friends with any of the people at my table so I pull aside one Daniel, one of the regulars.
“Did he just wander out here?” I ask.
“Yup. Don’t know why but he’s staring at you. He’s kinda creepy.” Daniel says as he glances over at Bar Guy.
Daniel returns to the table and I ask if anyone needs anything.
“I need you to talk to me when you have a minute.”
Will this guy ever quit?
“OK, but I am busy right now. Maybe when I have a minute I’ll find you.”
I walk inside to the POS. As I’m entering the order Bar Guy comes in and walks up to me.
“Listen, I just want to talk to you for a minute. Why won’t you talk to me?”
“I’m sorry, but you do understand that I am at work right? My table just ordered something so I have to go get it now.” I look him in the eye as I speak, wait several seconds, then walk away.
With an hour to go until close I start closing side work. Since the kitchen is closed I start with the specials board. I am kneeling on the floor by the board when I see someone walk up next to me. Bar Guy.
“Hey, looks like you have a minute now.”
“I guess.”
“Listen, I am just trying to talk to you, get to know you. Maybe ask you out. Do you want to get dinner sometime? You’re really pretty.”
I put down the marker I am using, prop myself up with one hand and lean back slightly to look up at him.
“OK, to be honest with you, I work here full time and I go to school full time. I barely have time for myself let alone to date. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not interested.” I pick up the marker and continue to write the weekend’s specials on the board.
“Hey, I understand but I’m just asking for dinner, maybe coffee. Not too much of your time. You can’t be too busy for that.”
“I appreciate the complements and the offer, but really I’m not interested.” I say without looking at him.
“I’m just saying, I’m a man, you’re a woman. You have needs. I get that and I can help you.”
At this I stand up and walk away. “Thanks but no thanks. I’m not interested.” I say as I walk away.
He goes back to the bar and stares at me for the rest of the night. He asks the bartender to call him a cab and calls my name again. I ask him to hang on a minute and go outside to check on my table. I hang out and talk to them for a while trying to kill time and waiting for his cab to get there. When I see it pull up I go inside and tell the bartender. I slip into the kitchen before he can say anything else.

I am not going to give any advice about the proper way to pick up your waitress of bartender. It’s almost always not a good idea and I am biased. I am not a fan. I know some people consider it “part of the job” but there is a line. Just be careful not to cross it. I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Training Day

At the beginning of summer, management hired two new girls to replace the one they fired. I was excited because this meant I would have two people to possibly cover shifts. Maybe I could really take that vacation I had been wanting.

Both girls seemed nice and were eager to get on the floor on their own. Being a small place, Sports Bar doesn’t require weeks of training. The length of time you train depends solely on your trainer’s opinion on how you’re doing.

The first server to be hired worked one shift on her own. The next morning she called and quit. The second server, we’ll call her Elle because I honestly can’t remember her name, made it through training.

Elle’s first day of training was a Friday night. Because we were short staffed I went from working Monday through Friday lunches to an added Tuesday, Friday, and every other Thursday closing shift. This week I had worked Thursday so I was on my third double of the week.

Elle came in at 2 to fill out an application. After learning of her extensive experience at popular bars in the city they hired her on the spot.

Elle was told to come back at 7 that evening but she comes in at 6:30. I am beginning the transition from cocktailing for the after work crowd to dinner with families and couples. I am bouncing from the dining room to the bar and out to the patio. When I see Elle I smile and tell her to hang out by the bar and I’ll be over to show her around as soon as I have a second. By 7:15 I have given her the tour and warned her that things get crazy on Friday nights. “Just stick by me and watch what I’m doing. Since you have experience all you need to learn is the computers and the customers. Most of them are regulars on the bar side. You’ll get to know them. The dinner crowd can get hectic.”

She agrees to stick by me but after about 45 minutes I lose her to a conversation at one of my tables.

I have 5 tables on the patio, 6 in the dining room (including a party of 7), and 5 cocktail tables remain in the bar area. I have no time to try and steal Elle away from the table until I go out to the patio again.

I finally grab her attention and tell her again to just stick by me. By 9 she starts to help me. I have her getting drinks and running food to tables to become familiar with the table numbers and menu items. I am tripping over and running into her at every turn. I can’t work like this!

“Elle, why don’t you play around on the computer for a while. Get to know the mod screens and let mw know if you have any questions.”

Free, I make it through the rest of dinner without a problem. When one of my last tables closes out and I look around, Elle is nowhere to be found. I finally locate her talking to customers at the bar. I cut her and tell her to come back tomorrow to finish training.

The next night Elle beats me to work. There are 5 softball teams sitting at tables so we have to jump right in. After all the customers are settled and have their food our first dinner table walks in.

“Do you want to try taking that table?”

“Yes!” Elle replies with such enthusiasm I am filled with hope that her performance will be good and her training will end tonight.

Elle takes about a third of the tables that walk in for dinner, roughly 4 tables. I take the rest and keep an eye on her from a distance while she serves. She seems awkward and stiff at the tables. I’m not seeing even echoes of the experience she says she has, but maybe it’s just because the setting is unfamiliar. When tables leave I walk by and scoop up the tips left on the tables. I am keeping her tips separate from my own so I can give her a portion before she leaves. When she notices me taking the tips she approaches me.

“Am I supposed to be giving you the tips I make?”

“Uh, yeah. I’ll give you some at the end of the night but since you’re still in training you don’t make tips.”

“Well that doesn’t seem fair!” She says with more attitude than I was prepared for.

I can feel my blood pressure rise. I can’t believe the path this conversation is about to take.

What doesn’t seem fair?” I ask with a little edge of my own.

Where did this girl work? I have never worked at a place that allowed you to keep tips when you were in training. Getting anything at the end of the night was lucky and meant you had a nice trainer. Who is this girl?

“Nothing. I just…I’m doing all the work and you’re taking my money?” She stares at me hard. Her face full of disbelief and anger.

“When you’re in training you don’t make tips. Since you are using my server number I have to claim taxes on all your sales. Plus you are making minimum wage while I am making my regular hourly. You don’t make tips on training.”

“Whatever.” She says as she slams the money from her pocket on the counter. I turn around and grab food that has come up in the window. I don’t have time for this.

When I come back from delivering the food the money is gone. An hour later she asks if she can go home and hands me a wad of cash. I count out some money and hand it back to her. I let her go home but tell her to call on Monday to get her schedule.

She never calls. I’m a little relieved though. She didn’t seem like she had any experience in a restaurant.

Guess I’ll have to keep working all those doubles and not take a vacation.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Feta

I’ve been at work for an hour and a half and my first table is walking out the door; a pair of guys clad in casual dress office apparel straight out of the GAP catalogue. Upon taking their drink order I was surprised that one ordered a draft. As they walked past the front register where my manager was standing I overheard them ask “Do we pay here? We just left it on the table.”

“On the table’s fine guys. Thanks.” My manager says barely glancing up from the paperwork in front of him. He always decides to do paperwork on the counter next to the register instead of on the office. I’d better go get the money off the table I think. I seriously dislike when people just leave cash on the table.

I walked out on the patio to collect. My busboy, SA from here on, Ramon, was already cleaning the table. Under the mustard I spotted the check and cash. I picked up $21 and walked inside. Pulling the check to the top of the pile I stopped dead in my tracks.

Total: $22.18

Cash in hand: $21

Shit. My first table of the day and they didn’t even leave enough to cover the bill. I turned around and walked back outside. I searched the patio, table, condiment caddy, and even surveyed the area around the patio hoping some of the cash had drifted off in the wind. There was barely a breeze and no rouge bills to be found.

I walked back in and handed the check and cash to my manager. “They didn’t leave enough to cover the bill. They shorted me.”

He studied the check, counted the cash, and then studied the check again. I had new tables being seated and work to do. “If you could take the soda off the bill then what they left would be enough. Can you do that? It was my first table of the day and I don’t care about the tip, I just don’t want to have to pay the difference.”

Thankfully he felt bad and agreed.

Shortly after the mathematically inhibited GAP guys left, I figured I could easily make up the lost tip on a table of regulars just finishing their meal. For the first time in 3 months we had the woman’s favorite soup. I approached the table.

“Can I get anything else for you this afternoon?”

“No. That soup is so wonderful. You should make it every week” stated the woman. I was hoping she’d say that.

“It is wonderful. Would you like to take some home with you? They don’t make it very often and I’m not sure when we’ll have it next.”

“Oh, what a wonderful idea! If you can do a quart I’ll take that.” Her eyes glowing. She reminded me of my dog when I had a treat in my hand.

“We don’t usually sell soup by the quart but I’m sure we can do that. I’ll be right back.”

I hustled into the back and told my head cook, Hector, I needed a quart of soup. He found a container to put it in and told me to charge for 7 cups of soup. After packing the soup nicely for her I talked my boss into letting me charge her a bit less.

I brought out her soup and ran the husband’s card for the tab. $54 up from $46. I know I gave them good service so I was anticipating the tip would reflect that.

$7 like always. So much for that.

Around the time I usually leave, 3, a table sat in the bar area. A table of regulars that usually sit at the bar. The problem with bar regulars sitting at tables is they will place orders with the bartenders directly if their waitress is not there the second they desire something. This means that whatever they end up tipping their waitress must be split with the bar separately from the tip out at the end of the night. Also, waitresses get tipped less than bartenders as a rule. Unfortunate but true. At the Sports Bar I know what the regulars tip the bartenders, especially when they charge. I process all charges for the bartenders and their tips from charge tabs.

The bar regulars order a water, a sprite, an iced tea, and “light vodka and iced tea with lemon.”

As I deliver their drinks I ask if they would like to order.

“Oh, we’ll be here for a while honey. Not yet.”

At least I brought some homework with me this morning.

As I take care of the bar regulars a couple moves from the bar to the patio without letting anyone know. I decided to let them come in and get their own drinks from the bar. I’ve served them before and they have never tipped me. I notice they are leaving the bartender $2 a round. At least she’s making some money off them.

The bar regulars close out with me at 4:30 and leave half the tip they would have left the bar. At 4:33, two ladies walk in dressed in skirt suit combos and carrying those super corporate leather trapper keepers, unzipped with papers peeking out at every angle. They walk up to the bar with cell phones in hand and looking so very important.

“What can I get for you ladies this afternoon?” Jen asks.

“We need menus. Menus.”

When Jen returns with the menus they have new demands.

“I want a chardonnay on the rocks. You know how to do that?”

“Yes, I think so.” Jen replies with a little bite in her voice.

“I want black cherry vodka and iced tea with a lime. Not a lemon, a lime.”

“Sure thing ladies.”

When they receive their drinks they seat themselves at a table.

Great. I stall greeting them.

After a few minutes they walk out to the patio. Their drinks are almost empty so I decide to go out back and have a cigarette, of course. As I smoke I wonder what I did to piss off the restaurant gods today. I take a long, deep last drag of my smoke before snuffing it out and walking dejectedly back inside.

Walking outside with my best fake smile I greet the ladies and ask if they are ready to order. They are, of course, not ready.

Before ordering they both spend 20 minutes talking importantly on their cell phones. Their eventually order? One Greek salad. At least I don’t have to wait for the kitchen to make anything. I take time to make a nice looking salad and even throw on a little extra feta and Greek olives. I deliver the salad and another iced tea cocktail. Now they need another wine on the rocks.

“Jen, what did that lady have in her chardonnay? Lemons?”

“Nothing. The other had lime in hers.”

“Well she has something now.” Wonder where she got the lemon wedges.

As I deliver the wine I notice they are large slices of lemon. The bar cuts their lemons in tiny triangles. She must have helped herself to lemons from my drink station. Lovely.

“Can I have some more feta? There was only, like, two pieces in this salad.”
“Sure.” There was definitely more than two pieces in the salad. I made it myself. I should know.

I ring in $1.00 misc food on her tab and bring out the feta.

I know she’ll be unhappy about the charge, but I am positive I am not getting a tip from them before I leave and I won’t be here when she gets her check.

When my relief waitress arrives I give her a heads up on the charge. She giggles and says she can’t wait to give them their check and claim ignorance.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tipping Tips

1) If you are sitting at a table and paying cash,tip the waitress when she brings your drinks. I am amazed at the number of people who sit at tables and then don't tip per round. After bringing them upwards of 4 rounds totaling $15 or more they leave a few dollars on the table.
2) A good tip is 20%, not 10%
3) Pay attention to your server. If they take a long time getting your drink,maybe they are busy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Text Message Breakup

I know they say good help is hard to find. The last few months that has proven true at my bar.
The Sports Bar is a small beer and shot place with a separate dining area for lunch and dinner patrons as well as the late night underage crowd. The bar area has seating as well. All together the dining room consists of 21 tables ranging from 2 to 6 tops. The bar area has 10 tables, and when the weather is nice there is a patio with 8 tables. There are no sections, no rotated seating, and no hostess. On any given shift there is only one server working the floor. This is one of the reasons I applied for a job at the Bar.
I had been working at a place that had no less than 3 servers working at a time. Most nights we were fighting over tables. There were sections that were unfair and assigned (some sections had over 10 tables, including a "party table" seating 20, while some had 5 tables consisting of only 2 and 4 tops) and customers were asked to seat themselves. There were nights when one server would have no tables and another would be in the weeds with their entire section full.
Most servers are coming from places with sections and multiple servers. In fact, I have never been to another place with only one server working the entire floor unless someone called in sick or quit. It can be difficult and overwhelming at first, but when you count your take home at the end of the night you realize it is totally worth it. I have made one third of my rent on a lunch shift, and my entire rent in 2 weekend shifts. I love this aspect of my job.
At the beginning of the summer we fired the only other server the Sports Bar had (yes, there were only two servers). One of the bartenders picked up two of the shifts while we looked for a replacement. We hired 2 new girls about 3 weeks later. I trained both of them on the second half of doubles and their first nights with me were Friday night, our busiest night by far. After training both girls a few times, the first worked her first shift and called to quit the next morning. The second never showed up after training (there is a story on this but I will tell it later). We were able to hire another girl who worked all summer until she went back to school.
After she left we hired two more girls, both part time. One is OK, Katie, the other...
In the middle of the lunch shift I received a text asking if I could work Katie's shift that night. I told her I was sorry I couldn't but gave her the number or the other server and a bartender that sometimes covers serving shifts. As the lunch crowd began to thin out I received another text from Katie. "I hate 2 do this but i can't get no one and its 2 much stress have them mail my check i quit" I replied telling her to call the boss. She sent me another text saying she was not going to call. Great. Now I was left with the unpleasant task of telling the boss that the server that was supposed to be there in 4 hours was not coming in ever again.
Who quits their job by texting a coworker?
I ended up staying at work past the point of making it to class.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Less than 10%

~If you are looking at the menu and your server says "I'll give you a few minutes" don't get up to find them the minute you decide what you want. We know you want to order, we are just taking care of our other customers while you decide. Approaching me to place your order while I am with another table can give the impression that I am neglecting you and offering poor service.
~There is a reason for the large "Please Wait to be Seated" sign at the front of the restaurant. Please do not walk by me as I ask you how many in your party (with menus in hand) to seat yourself or seat yourself on the patio or around a corner (especially when the restaurant is empty). If you do and you don't receive immediate service please do not give me attitude.

Today started off OK despite the fact that my restaurant was recovering from a weekend of flooding. My bartender was late, as always, so I set up the bar for her before setting up my dining room. The bar usually gets a few customers before I even have one table. After serving several customers at the bar she finally shows up. Shortly after, I get my first table. I was quite busy for a Monday lunch shift and was pleased that I was going home with more than $20 in my pocket.
At 3 I was getting ready to leave when a couple walked in the door. They spent a minute looking at the special boards so I finished making the pot of coffee I had started. When I looked up again they were nowhere in sight. As I was about to look in the dining room the man came up to the front and took two to-go menus from the holder. I followed him back to the table they had seated themselves at. I greeted them and asked if they would be placing an order for carry-out. They both looked at me like I was crazy. The man told me that they would be dining there. I offered to get them a dine-in menu and asked if I could get them something to drink. They said that they would need a while to decide. I gave them several minutes and then checked back with them. They were ready."We'll have two beers and two french onion soups." OK, ordering "beer" at bar...can you be a bit more specific? After listing all the domestic and import beers we have they choose a common import. *Pet peeve number 2- asking me to list all the beers we have, saying you don't know if you want import or domestic and then ordering a Bud or Miller. Most people know what beers they like. Just ask me if we have it.* They stayed for 2 hours and spent $25. The man paid with a $50 and left me $2. Although irritated I didn't give them bad service. As if that weren't irritating enough, by the time the couple left I had been sat 2 more tables, one of which were regular bad tippers. That's the business I guess.

Rainy Day at Work

Friday night at work I was extremely busy. I was walking quickly from tables to the bar and back. It was wet outside and inevitably water was streaked all over the floor. Sometime around 10pm I was delivering a bottle of beer to a table of men and slipped on some water. I landed gracefully in a sitting position with my legs curved slightly. My knee took the weight of the fall. The men at my table all freaked out asking if I was OK. I found out later they all had daughters. I assured them I was and cracked a joke to break the tension. Some of the beer had splashed on the guy sitting closest to where I fell. As I was apologising to him, my manager came over and asked if I spilled beer on the guy. He said it wasn't that bad and that he was fine. The rest of the table told my manager I had slipped but he didn't seem to care about that. He apologized for me spilling beer on the guy and told me to bring another one to him on the house. His reaction to mewas very cold and not the least concerned. I was a bit surprised at this. Not only did he not care that I could have been hurt on the job at his place of business, but he reacted like I was clumsy for spilling on the customer (which was a minimal spill at most). I wish my other manager would come back to Friday nights.