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.