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.