Monday, July 27, 2009

Good Days

I had an unusually nice day at work today. I picked up the lunch shift so some of the employees could go to a training class I did not need to attend. I watched the bar and the restaurant for about two hours before the bartender returned from the class. It wasn't too busy for me to be alone, and Manager J was there. I truly enjoy working with him; never is there a time I feel overwhelmed when he is there.

There was a personal issue for the bartender when she returned so I ended up watching the bar a bit longer than planned. No problem for me as I made some additional money because of it.

In addition, my last table of the day was one of my favorite customers. When I first met him, he was a bit irritating as he ordered his beer "High Lite" and lectured me when I gave him the wrong kind. He usually comes in with his wife for lunch once a week now. After serving him for over a year I have grown to adore him and look forward to them coming in. They are the regulars who can order something wrong but still have it come out right because I know what they meant to order. They are also the only people I know who tip a waitress better than a bartender.

Today he came in with his extended family. They had a family reunion over the weekend and were having one more meal together before everyone returned home. It was a larger group (over 10), but so easy to care for. Everyone took turns ordering and no one spoke over another. It was a pleasure waiting on them.
Days like today remind me why I have stuck with this industry as long as I have.

Found on Facebook

I have been discovered on Facebook by several customers. I really don't feel good about this. I did not, of course, accept their friend requests and have since taken my picture off. But I do wonder how these customers got my last name.

I have to say that this puts me in a strange and uncomfortable position. I am supposed to be friendly and sociable. I am supposed to be approachable and nice. How far does that go though? Do I need to accept these people in to my personal life as well? Do I need to read updates on Facebook about them going to the Bar tonight or their vacations? Censor myself so they never read a word about how I feel concerning my job? (Because of this last one, I had to decline a request from someone I really am friends with because he is Facebook-friends with one of my managers.) I don't write about work there like I do here, but I don't need customers reading updates like "I don't feel like working today" or "not in the mood to wait tables today", etc. We all have those days.

I began using Facebook to keep in contact with friends that have moved away and family that lives out of state. These are the only "friends" I have. I post things about my job and personal life that I don't feel appropriate for customers to know. If I wanted them to know I would tell them. What's next, someone finding this blog? That would be a disaster. Of course I could avoid all the drama and simply censor myself in most aspects of my life, but I think that would be ridiculous.

Has anyone else been found online by a customer?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spray-on Tattoos

I love people who seat themselves in an empty section or the outdoor patio, after walking right by the “Please wait to be seated” sign. I always drop menus by when I see them and take a drink order, but sometimes it takes a few minutes for me to see them sitting there.

Today I had a lady seat herself on the patio at a dirty table; the only dirty table. When I saw her I brought two menus. Since she was on the phone I walked away to take care of my other tables. When someone joined her I went back to get a drink order. Upon bringing their drinks the following conversation ensued…

Man (to me):”We’re ready to order.” Turns to woman “Are you ready to order?”
Woman: “I’m not sure. What’s pizza bread?”
Me: “It’s French bread baked in the pizza oven with sauce and cheese.”
Woman: “Oh. It has sauce? I don’t know. Go ahead and order I can decide later.”
Man: “There’s Sauce on the pizza burger?”
Me: “Yes, everything that is listed in the menu is on the burger. We can leave something off if you want.”
Man: “I don’t know what burger I want. I know I want a burger, but which one?”

After me standing there for almost two minutes in awkward silence, they finally ordered; pizza bread and a pizza burger.

At the same time I had this table, I had another who asked to be seated at a table. As soon as I placed the menus down they asked to move to a booth. As I reached the booth I was going to seat them at, they asked to sit on the patio. Upon taking their drink order one of the men proceeded to ask me if my tattoos were “spray on”. I looked at him and paused before answering “Yes” with a silly grin to show I was joking. I walked inside as his question of “How much did they cost?” was drowned out by an airplane going overhead. He thought I was serious. Later he asked again how much my spray on tattoos cost me. I told him I didn’t know and that mine were real. He gave me a shocked look and reached out to touch one of my tattoos. I pulled away quickly so he was not able to make contact. He continued to point, however, and asked if one after another were real. I replied “Yes, they are all real” to each question. I don't know anyone over the age of 10 who has a temporary tattoo. I'm a little old for that. How old do these people think I am?

The best thing about lunch shifts is that they are short and rarely do people sit for longer than an hour.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Serving Differences at the Bar

When I wrote my most recent post on a 20% tip not being enough, I anticipated some would disagree with my view. I think this is a good opportunity to discuss the difference between serving dinner and serving cocktails. Please keep in mind, this is only my opinion based on my place of employment. I understand that all restaurants are different and what is appropriate at my restaurant may or may not be at yours.

Serving Dinner entails bringing several rounds of drinks, which may or may not be alcoholic, to a group of people whose main purpose at the restaurant is to eat. These diners may or may not drink enough to feel the effects of any alcohol. If they do, they typically will remain calm and maintain decent behavior for a public setting. There are two reasons for this; alcohol has less of an effect on a person’s system when food is involved, and they are most likely with people who have not had as much to drink as they have and do not want to be seen behaving poorly, i.e. embarrass themselves or their partner.

At the end of the night, after dealing with complaints, multiple refills on sodas or coffees, and a nice game of “run the server”, a 15-20% tip is left (on average) to the server. After the table has been cleaned, another group is sat and the server begins again.

Serving Cocktails means running drinks to a table that may order an appetizer to share among a group of 4 or more people, or may not order food at all. Over the course of the night, these customers will become increasingly rude without knowing it. They will drink faster, requiring the server to monitor their intake lest they be over-served. As everyone in the group is drinking, no one is worried about acting like a fool since all their friends are also behaving poorly. Grabbing the waitress to ask for a drink, to see her uniform, looking down her shirt openly, commenting on her body, and asking for one item at a time five times in a row, is all common behavior. Also not uncommon is throwing up on the washroom floor and using half a roll of toilet paper to cover it up. When this happens in the ladies washroom, a female server must do the preliminary clean-up.

At the end of this very eventful night, after trying to walk out on the check before realizing the server is holding your credit card, a table may ask to close out. The standard question from the server will be something like “Would you like me to charge the card I am holding?” Answers to this question range from “Sure, go ahead” to “NO!!” to “That’s why I gave you the card, right?” with a nice sarcastic tone and roll of the eyes. For all her work, the server is typically left a 25-40% tip depending on service and if the house bought a round. By this time, it is past last call and time for clean up.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Party and The Beer Thief

Last night Laura and I worked an open bar party of 30. Since no gratuity was collected (thanks again manager T), we decided to share the party and rotate the tables. Stacy (bartender) was busy, as always, chatting with her customers so I got all my own drinks and many for Laura on the open bar tab. This is normal procedure for Stacy and me so I thought nothing of it.
Open bar lasted from 7 to 9 and was fairly tame, save for one older woman who was drinking her chardonnay like it was water from the fountain of youth. As a favor to the regular who's mother was hosting the party, I did a last call for the open bar. This is not normal practice for open bar. As a thank you, the mother came up to me as I was speaking with some of her guests to yell at me that the open bar was not over.

I calmly looked at her and said, "The open bar ends at 9, in 10 minutes."

After arguing with me for a few minutes, I directed her to Manager J to work something out. They decided on running a tab for any drinks that her guests wanted.

During the party, Laura and I were still taking tables. I was filling a tray to take out to a larger group when one of Stacy's regulars took a draft beer off the tray while I was getting another drink. Just took the drink right off the tray! When I returned I asked him if he had taken the beer but he wouldn't answer me, just gave me a drunken grin. The guy standing next to him told me he had. When I went to take it back, I was told he had already taken a drink out of it. Really? What the hell. I looked at the thief, some guy who had won the lottery several years back and was quite rich, and told him he had better finish the drink since he wanted it so bad. Now I can think of several other reactions I could have given; taken the beer and dumped it out, added it to his tab, or demanded he give me cash for it immediately. Later, when I told Stacy about this she said she puts up with him because he tips her well. Well, he isn't tipping me.

The group stayed in their private room until 10 and then the remaining members (about 15) moved to the bar for some shots. After a round of those, the party was down to 7 people. The tab was closed at 11 and the host designated an equal tip for Laura, myself, and the bartender. I am grateful for my tip, but am a bit jealous of Stacy. On top of the tip from the party, for whom she worked a total of one hour for, she also received $50 from the millionaire.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When is 20% not enough?

I thought I'd have more to post about my second day of doubles, but I don't. Saturday was karaoke, but that didn't start until 10. I tended bar from 11 am until 6, and then waited tables until close. Between 6 and 10 I had 2 tables. Thrilling.

At around 9 a table came in and sat at a high top near the bar. I served them drinks and some appetizers. Shortly after the food was gone a few left and the remaining 4 men went out to the patio. One of the three had a tab with the bar, but asked to keep it open. I figured this meant that he would be sitting at the bar majority of the night. I was wrong. He remained sitting at a table, ordering rounds for his friends, and then closed out his tab at the bar before he left. He tipped the bartender 20% and me nothing. Very nice.

His friends spent the evening flirting with me. Since it was not busy I chatted with them, even spoke to them about school and my degree. I try and keep it superficial with customers, but the older man told me that he was a Sociology major so I figured we'd have something to talk about. Boy was I off my game that night. The Soc major began telling me that my degree is a waste of time and money. That I would be better off continuing to waitress all my life. This last remark was accompanied with a snort and a loud laugh, like he had made a great point with his remark. They were happy with their service and kept telling me how fast I was in getting their drinks. They even tried to order me off the "special menu". I laughed at this remark, in the way we do when humoring someone. I rarely do this. My usual reaction is a deadpan "No" while I continue to wait for their real order. The reason I have stopped humoring people? Because it gets me nowhere. I don't make more in tips when I humor them, nor are they nicer or more fun to wait on. If anything, they become more obnoxious after. I actually get a better reaction from people when I don't humor them, but that is for another post.

I should have remembered myself. These "gentlemen" ended up staying for a total of 5 hours and running up a tab of about $75. After running the credit card of the Soc major I sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender since we were both bored. Soc major came in and handed me the book with the cc slip in it and walked off to the washrooms. Upon opening the book I realized his card was still there and the slip was blank save his signature. I waited for him to emerge from the washroom and then brought him the book. I handed him his card and said "I need you to fill out the tip and totals for me." He said OK and I walked off. When they left I picked up the book to find that I had been given a $15 tip.

Not sure if everyone agrees with me here, but for bringing drinks to a table for 5 hours, that's not really a good tip. After a certain point, you need to add to that 20%.

***EDIT*** I realize I perhaps worded this last bit improperly. My meaning in this instance is simply that for the amount of running for this table, the being hit on and lectured, and the comments from the men saying that I was "so fast" in bringing their drinks, I would have expected more than 20%. It is my experience (and understanding) that a 20% tip is given for average service; good service. According to these men, my service was above this level and their expectations.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rehersal Dinner

I have tried to write this out nicely so it is a quality piece of writing, but I have found that my brain is on vacation at the moment. Sorry in advance.

I really enjoyed working this party! It has been a long time since I could honestly say I had fun working a party. Usually they are nothing but a pain.
The whole dining room was reserved for the party. We had it all set hours in advance, but continued to seat people there for dinner, letting them know we had a party coming in and offering to seat them somewhere else if they wanted a more leisurely dining experience. Everything went fine; no issues, no complaints. Kinda boring for story-telling purposes.

During the day, management made the mistake of leaving the booking slip out where I could see it. It was because of this I learned how much gratuity would be collected for the party. I had already agreed with the other server that I would take the party alone so I could leave when it was over as I was working her shift the next night (making my Saturday a double, as well as that Friday). I knew I would be working by butt off for it, but the gratuity from that party, minus the busboy's cut, would make up for the slowing economy.

This party was a 70 person rehearsal dinner. All attending were very nice and actually respectful of the busboys and myself. I was able to get everyone their drinks quickly, received many compliments, and was even pouring my own drinks from the bar since the bartender was feeling exceptionally talkative that day (not that I care).

I stayed after the open bar ended to continue caring for the almost 45 people who had remained. They were already drunk, but began doing shots. Their rounds were roughly $60, yet they were not tipping. After 2 more hours of this and no tips, their numbers were down to a point where I could leave. I told manager T I was ready to leave and we began cashing me out. As he handed me the gratuity from the party, he told me that he would give the busboy and the bar their tip-out from the party. I reminded him that I got all my own drinks for the party, thinking that the bartender should not get tipped-out on what she did not do. He replied that he was only going to give her $10. I am not pleased and here is why:

Gratuity paid by the party: $280
Gratuity I received: $140

So the busboy's gratuity from the party is about 50%? I helped him set up the room and bring out the buffet. He did not help me prebus the tables, bring out drinks, refills, etc.

Am I being totally unreasonable in being upset about this or am I justified?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Quick Question

I'll post the story later, but right now I would like to know what you think...

How much of the collected gratuity from a party should the server receive? And how much of that should the bus staff and bartender receive?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Weddings and Dildos

Over the next two days, the Sports Bar will be hosting a rehearsal dinner, a dildo party, and karaoke. Lucky me, I will be there for all of the fun as I am working doubles on both days.

All I can hope is that I will be leaving Saturday night having been blessed with good tips given by people who know how to act appropriately in public...OK, I guess I'll settle for good tips. Oh, and that the tone-deaf lady doesn't show up and want to sing the whole Gwen Stefani catalouge.

Still too much to ask for? How about just getting out of there before I fall asleep on the bar despite the karaoke, which almost happened last time I tried to work these two double shifts back to back.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Missing something?

I know that my cook made a slight mistake with your order. He mistakenly told me the marinara was in the dish to the left and the meat sauce was in the dish to the right. I apologize I did not tear into your meal to check for myself. I apologize that I was not able to see through the mound of cheese baked on top of your pasta made to order with "extra, extra" cheese to see my mistake. I am sorry that you were too busy talking to hear me tell you when I delivered the dishes that my cook told me which was which and politely suggest checking before I leave the table. You must have heard me say that I prepared the dishes myself and mixed them up on purpose.

I am deeply sorry that when the mistake was discovered, your meal was replaced in less than 2 minutes. Maybe I did not apologize enough, or you wanted more than the round of drinks the house bought you. It is possible that yelling at me did not bring you enough satisfaction. You are correct; I am an idiot, and I am sure your "retarded friend" could have gotten your order right, unlike myself.
Thank you for your 9% tip. This leaves me only having to pay a small amount in taxes for having the pleasure of waiting on you.

Just a bit of advice from the idiot waitress...don't leave your credit card behind next time you leave the waitress a bad tip. You are lucky as I am not one to act out of spite. Your card will safely be waiting for you Sunday when we reopen after the holiday. I only hope that you needed it for your fourth of July celebrating.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

No words...I need more privacy

I think all managers and restaurant owners should have to work the floor and the bar at least one night each. Maybe we could avoid stupid mistakes and high employee turn-over this way.

I found myself discussing the second-server situation with manager G today.
I found that he doesn't know what T told her about the shifts, so he doesn't know if this is temporary or not. He also brought up that 15 hours is a long day and he'd be tired if he worked that long. "Now you can leave earlier and not be tired since you work Saturdays now."
Uh, thanks. I've been doing the 15 hour Friday, open Saturday thing for over 8 months. Suddenly you're concerned?
"It is a long day, but I like it. I'm not too tired to do my job right." was my response.
My bar has not had a two server shift for over 4 years. Now that business is down and they are having to cut menu prices they suddenly decide that they need to have two servers? I am so confused.
There is also a party of 30 coming in at 3 tomorrow. They are not having Laura come in for this party, only for the dinner hours. Seriously, are my managers living in their own world? They are going to have me handle a party of 30 plus our normal after work groups, and expect me to be just fine alone, yet expect dinner to get too busy for me alone? With the party, tomorrow afternoon proves to be the same as any Friday night dinner shift. I can not stress how ridiculous this is.

I am finding comfort in thinking of my options right now. There are a few restaurants in the area that I could probably get a job at. Some do not serve alcohol. How wonderful it would be to not have to deal with drunk people AND crappy management at the same time.

One another note, and perhaps more interesting, a lady from one of my tables opened the stall door while I was using the bathroom. After saying she was sorry and going into the other stall (while leaving mine wide open, mind you), she proceeded to ask me when the cook was going to make pot pies again as she loves them oh-so-much. She also informed me that they needed more iced tea at her table "when [I] have a moment." Is there anything quite as awkward as bringing iced tea to a woman who has seen you sitting on a toilet with your pants around your calves less than two minutes earlier? I wish we had employee bathrooms.