Aside

You know when you’re a kid, the countdown your parents used when they would tell you to turn the TV off during your favorite song in your favorite Disney movie? The one where they tell you to do something, you pretend not to hear them and then they begin the dooming “3, 2 …1.” Scared of the fate that awaits after one, you dash to do whatever they ask. 

Well, for the first time in 15+ years, I was given a countdown… by a table.

I was in one of my least favorite stations, furthest from the kitchen and was getting triple sat during the time the countdown was given to me. Their dessert was taking a bit of time, I had noticed, and was going to go back and check on it when I ran to get my other three tables their drinks. I was putting in my three orders when a hostess came up to me and said they requested my presence at the table. 

I finished putting in orders and dashed to their table in record time to attend to their dire needs, sure that I was about to change someone’s life.

Turns out I was just ruining it; one of the lovely-aged women at the table awaited me with daggers stabbing from between her wrinkles where I think I saw brown eyes and a sneer on her mouth reserved just for me, the life-ruiner. She spat at me, demanding to know the location of her desserts as if her next few breaths depended on her ice cream intake. 

I smiled at her like I do all tables who act like spoiled five-year-olds, and apologized for the long wait and told her I had seen the kitchen was a little backed up last time I was in there but I would go check on it for her right away.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough for her. Because she retorted with an obvious, “It must be really backed up then!” Well no shit, Sherlock. I just said that. I apologized again and told her I would go check on it right then, which I did have every intention of doing until she let another snarl come out, “Well you have two minutes to go back and check on it for me.” 

I walked away immediately after that statement, pretty sure the shock would show on my face. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but couldn’t believe my table had just given me a time limit to be back at the table. 

My natural reaction kicked in though, and I proceeded to check on my other three tables again even though I needed to be getting their drinks. I also proceeded to pre-bus the table that had just gotten up, making sure to pick up every utensil, napkin and scrap of food, wondering the whole time if she was watching me. I wanted her to be watching me tick away those precious two minutes she had allowed for me. 

As I walked through the kitchen doors, I couldn’t help but wonder what a wonderful blog post this was going to make the next day.

People crack me up. 

Until next time.
TSD

A Little “Oopsies!”

Wednesday night was one of those nights that nothing could possibly go wrong no matter what I said or did. I had timed my Redbull perfectly for maximum efficiency during the rush (and no, I don’t care that it’s sad in any way that I time my energy drinks for the rush) and it gave great results. I was steady, holding down my 7-8 tables with ease. I felt confident, relaxed and happy with my 20% tips. The night couldn’t go any smoother.

Now, I know what thoughts like this are going to provoke, but somehow I still naively fooled myself into thinking it wouldn’t happen to me the same way I convinced myself hookers don’t actually have STDs and drinking really is a healthy form of coping.

I’m meandering along my tables when a couple sitting towards the back of the restaurant give me one of those dainty “excuse me!” fingers that exuberates their anxious and desperate need for a side of ranch or a refill on their water. Like the good slave—I mean server—I am, I hurry to them, worry etched into my brow, “Hi sir, did you need something?”

“Yes, she needs a crown and coke, please.” His tone is tart and to the point, as it’s his very duty to order this lady another drink; I can see she’s incapable of ordering her own drink, seeing as she’s eating and all and has no opinion of her own. I wonder how she was even allowed to choose her own meal. Or maybe they looked online before their arrival and he chose something for her and allowed her the fantasy of pretending she had a choice in what she ordered.. Because clearly, she needed a crown and coke.

I don’t know if it’s the whole story I’ve invented in my head that lets my next comment slip from my lips or if the smoothness of the night has me feeling extra cocky. But I retort without thinking, “Are you trying to get her drunk?”

All two hundred and seventy five pounds of entitlement turn to look at me, his large eyes narrowing at me. “Excuse me?”

I look desperately at the oppressed woman for a chuckle, a grin or maybe even a slap across the face to lighten the mood, but she is too busy scarfing down her pasta. By the time she realizes my pleas of escape out of this awkward situation, she is looking at me quite confused, “What?”

I blurt out a quick apology, something about how I think I’m funny when I’m not and continue onto my next table as if it never happened. I spend the rest of the night kissing their ass, rays of worried paranoia beaming into them in hopes they won’t complain to my manager.

Oddly enough my ass kissing paid off, they never mentioned it or complained again. Mr. Entitled even took pity on me and left me 20%; I guess embarrassing myself was enough to satisfy him that I was miserable.

I thank the serving Gods somewhere that I recovered quickly, kept my cool and didn’t get fired for my word vomit.

TSD

 

Cocktail vs. Dining Room Serving

I have been a cocktail server for quite some time, and always prefer serving in the bar to serving in the dining area. Most people who come into the bar are easier to be personable with; because I’m such a bitch, it always works to my advantage because they enjoy my sassiness. A few drinks in them and they think I’m a genius. Getting paid money to be a bitch is quite an honor, let me tell you.

Last week I had a few tables that I was enjoying some sarcastic banter with. They all started joking amongst one another. I was quite amused (so amused that I was almost convinced I was having fun at work). To top it off, one of my regulars came in and we hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. We got to chatting like girls do. It was turning out to be a good shift.

That afternoon on my way home, I started thinking about why I do so much better in cocktail serving than I do on the floor and here’s the list I came up with.

  1. The guest and I share a passion for beer (and probably drinking in general)!
  2. It’s unpredictable, more fast-paced than the dining room and you meet some of the most entertaining and/or rude people.
  3. I make a lot more money in cocktail serving than I do dining room serving.
  4. Guests have a personality, which allows for a break away from the average table greet.
  5. Guests have a love for shit-talking to every person in sight if they have opposing opinions on sports teams; I don’t even follow sports enough to actually talk shit, but they don’t know that…
  6. It’s one step away from bartending, except I make more money because I don’t have to tip-share.
  7. I’m a team player.
  8. You get to feel entitled to being privileged enough to serve in the cocktail portion of your restaurant, giving you a sense of importance (just kidding, kind of). Who doesn’t love to feel important?

Before I was initiated into the cocktail serving club, though, I remember feeling envious of these senior servers. I would watch them longingly, wondering what they had that I didn’t. They moved from table to table receiving 20% tips, a bombardment of thanks for refilling waters and a line of people waiting to sit in their section as if they were waiting for a celebrity’s autograph. They were running nine table sections like they were born to take orders and woo guests while I was drowning in my four table one. How was that even possible?

I yearned to be those sought after servers exuding confidence, not having to write down an order or worry about table complaints for quite some time before I became one. It took a lot of guest complaints, almost getting fired and fighting with managers to finally learn the balance of just enough confidence, attitude and hospitality to finally become a regular cocktailer.

So, I thought I’d save you guys the growing pains and share with you the qualities a well-groomed cocktail server. If you are a cocktail server and find yourself still struggling at times, this could still help.

  1. Be personable, have a personality and love people.
    I rolled all these things into one because you need to have the ability to connect with people. If you can’t read what people need, how you can connect with them and what you may or may not have in common, you can’t bridge that gap between serving in cocktail and serving in dining. Serving in a bar and behind a bar allows you to connect with people more closely because they’re a little more open and a little more relaxed (usually booze-related). They chose to come sit up here for an experience, give them one. Entertain them. Connect with them. If you don’t have a passion for people, it will show.
  2. A few years of serving under your belt.
    Knowing the in-and-outs of serving are the keys to success in cocktailing. You need to know what to do, how to do it and when is an appropriate time for each action. If you aren’t familiar with serving concepts, you won’t be able to maintain the next required quality.
  3. Confidence is a must.

You’re dealing with drunk, obnoxious, needy, emotional, rowdy, raunchy people all day and night in this portion of the restaurant, you need to be confident enough to maintain your cool in all situations. Whether it is a guest complaint or someone hitting on you uncomfortably, you need to be confident enough in yourself and your ability to handle the situation or else everything falls apart. You’ll forget sides of ranch, to put in orders and to let tables know their food is table taking too long if you let the stress get to you.

  1. Know the menu, the drinks and the food.
    As you make connections with people, they will begin to trust you more. This means they will trust your recommendations. Don’t look like an idiot and know something about the food and drinks you serve. You give them a recommendation they like, they’ll come back for more. Trust will develop a friendship, developing regulars, developing bigger tips.
  2. Adaptability
    While you’ll meet a number of interesting characters, you have to prepare for all sorts of weirdos. Last week, I had an older woman invite me to stay with her in Seattle because we were bonding over how beautiful the city is. Normally, I’d feel uncomfortable over an offer from a middle-aged woman to stay with her. But with an adept understanding of women’s need to bond in lonely situations (she was out of town for her son’s soccer game, and he was off practicing) and a quick measurement of the amount of alcohol she consumed, I felt okay with the situation. Knowing how to deal with different walks of life and bond with them regardless of personal judgments is important to your success in cocktail serving.
  3. Keep up!
    Working in cocktail is more fast-paced than working in dining due to the open seating policy, so you could have no tables to 8 tables in six seconds; you have to be ready! The key is to keep your confidence up, be prepared for a rush at all times and rely on your team. There is going to be situations you can’t control; this is where your adaptability and confidence come into play. Cocktail is all about the appearance of control you give to your guests and how you maintain those relationships with each table. Keep your tables informed, keep them happy with your wit and charm and then let those tips come in no matter the mistakes. It doesn’t matter how many tables you have, as a cocktail server it’s your job to keep your cool.
  4. Be a team player.
    There is going to be times you can’t “save face” or keep it together. You can’t get all your refills, make connections and put in orders in a timely manner. If you can’t do this at times, chances are you partners in crime can’t either. Be one of those people that search the entire bar, not just your station. Because it is more fast-paced, cocktail areas will always need more attention than the dining area. A good team in the bar makes for a better bar experience altogether; and a sense of synergy amongst the team makes for an easier work environment, happier tables (happiness is contagious), and more money in your pocket. Our business is a team based one, treat it like that and you’ll thrive.

The great thing about all these facts, as I’m sure all you experienced in the business know, is this is the mentality that should be used throughout the restaurant. It can be applied in any position, BOH or FOH. It’s convenient that these philosophies can be applied anywhere, but extremely important in the bar because it’s more demanding and less forgiving.

Plus, don’t you want to be a part of the cool cocktail servers club?
It’s exclusive.
You’ll be really cool if you do these things.

TSD

Haitus Over

A week ago, a co-worker I hardly talk to admitted to Facebook stalking me and found my serving blog. She told me she couldn’t stop reading it and that I cracked her up. She said a lot of the things I said were true, and again, that she couldn’t stop laughing.

It made me feel nostalgic for the days I would use my blog as my venting tool and teacher for myself and others. So I decided it’s time to start again.

I’ve been neglecting this blog quite frequently as of late due to some changes in my life, and I wanted to apologize to my faithful readers. I know there are probably only 60-70 of you, and you probably just miss the bit of entertainment in your life…

But thanks for your patience. And I hope I can gain all you readers back with my “inspirational” posts again.

TSD

Big Tips & Large Parties

So over the last couple months, I have been taking quite a few parties. Like any typical night, I usually share it with someone (corporate rules) or give them the rest of my section so I can focus on the party myself.

I’m finding that people have a lot of different ways of doing things, but a lot of them are inefficient. So no worries, the doctor is here with a list of things to help you make a little more money.

  • Find the “focal point”

I’m sure you’ve heard this multiple times in training, and it turns out those goons who wrote the training manuals aren’t robots after all. There is always the organizer of the event that is in charge of setting the lunch/dinner party up, rely on them to make any major decisions the group is unsure about. If no one is held responsible, you’ll be the blame later when they have to pay for something “they didn’t order” (someone said, “Yeah, we’ll get that” without consulting everyone else).

This is the person you’ll keep informed and that will keep you informed. Since they are probably the organizer of the event, they will have more information than the rest. If it’s a party of kids, make sure to communicate with parents about what the kids can and can’t have. If it’s a luncheon, communicate about your splitting checks procedure or if the company is paying for it. People like to be kept informed because they like to feel as if they are in control. The more you leave them in control, the bigger tip you get because you were so accommodating.

  • Ask for help

Unless you’ve got an extra pair of hands in your apron, you’re going to need help carrying out the twenty waters and bar drinks they just ordered. Tables aren’t going to understand why you’re taking 20 minutes to deliver they’re watered down bar drinks because you were too stubborn to ask for help. They just want to be drunk and hydrate.

  • Put in a large order of 8 or more in separately

Tables are not going to understand why it’s taking forty-five minutes to bang out an order. If 10 people ordered burgers, chances are they probably aren’t going to be able to make all 10 of those burgers at once because there are only so many spaces on the grill and so many people to make all those burgers. Staggering the order allows some of the food to arrive, and then the rest shows up shortly after you’ve run the first half. 

People don’t want you to explain the kitchen setup to them, they just want their food. I can’t say other people won’t ever be upset that their food took a little longer than the rest, but they will assume their food is en route. This in turn leads to guest satisfaction rather than a whole table pissed off at you.

  • Don’t be a table hog!

Look, we’re not questioning your serving capabilities here. But if you volunteered to take the party, chances are you’re taking part of someone else’s tables and the party is going to require most of your attention. Don’t be that greedy douchebag who hogs another server’s section and take the party in hopes that you’re going to make more money. Overall, you’re going to be less attentive which makes for less of a tip. On top of that, now you’re that guy who hogs tables.

I’m going to Las Vegas again tonight, be prepared for more service stories.
May great tips be with you!
TSD

Fired? What?

Oh, late post Fridays.

Most of you readers are probably working hard to get some shit done tonight. Friday and Saturday are our money making nights, I know. I don’t know if I’m just getting tired of the industry or the long hours but I have a story to share with everyone today.

I got fired for the very first time today.

I’ve “officially” worked in four restaurants/bars. I recently acquired a job back in February of this year that I’ve been a regular at for a few years. The general manager who hired me was a bartender I had wooed with big tips and frequented for about two years. Over time, like any other regular, we became friends and chit chatted for a long while.

A couple years passed before I eventually became a regular/bartender at said establishment. It is located in midtown, the heart of where I wanted to be. I’ve craved a job in midtown for the few years I’ve been old enough to work there. I love the atmosphere, the people and the energy that is surrounded by it.

When I got the job, I was beyond excited. I was only granted a couple of shifts, but didn’t really feel upset. I was excited to have a job in the midtown area, period. Let alone at my favorite bar.

So a couple months went by and I still loved it. I love people (I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes according to this blog) and midtown brought on an array of interesting people. From bad to good, I met them all. We’ll call them characters, but they’re really just some of the best and worst people I’ve ever met.

It had recently come about that a couple of our employees had been let go and (of course) we needed some extra shifts covered. Of course, I jumped on this opportunity. I quit my one of my jobs (I have recently had three jobs) just to jump on it. Extra money is never something to complain about.

I covered a couple of needed shifts feeling on fire about it. I took my “main” job down to just a couple days. This was my chance to “get in.”

And then I got fired.

The reason is still kind of fuzzy. I work my ass off to make money and I know I do a good job. I have a multiple jobs because I love a full agenda.

But I’m still flabbergasted, readers.

What do I do?

Etiquette Lesson: Servers Tipping Other Servers

Nothing pisses me off more than receiving service that is intentionally careless. Those “co-workers” don’t just exist in my place of establishment, they exist everywhere. These people in the service industry truly make me want to set faces on fire (I’m still seeing a counselor about this one). 

Last week’s story is a prime example of people I believe to be “co-workers.” Getting a bunch of free food and then tipping less than 10% is beyond unacceptable in our industry. 

So here’s my belief system that might help you guide you in your near-future of tipping.

Bad service is bad service, but we are in the industry. I expect to tip well to every server, simply because I believe in tipping karma. 

You know you’ve been there: problems with the significant other bleeding into your work life, end of the night rush that just won’t go away, the 80-questions about the motherfucking-menu guest, etc. You’ve been to that point where you could just care less how much the table leaves you or if they complain, you just don’t want to be there anymore. 

Imagine when that table tips you well, how it makes you feel. That table understood that you’re human and the bad attitude and shitty service are really because there’s something greater going on. And if you ever see that person again, you bet they’re going to treat you a lot differently.

You’re giving that same honor to another table when you tip them through bad service.

I will say that if you return to this establishment and the awful service continues, discontinue visiting and tipping well after that. Because then you’re only encouraging bad behavior. 

I know that there are going to be strong oppositions to what I’ve said, and I don’t fucking care. We’re all only human. Don’t encourage the bad behavior, but certainly don’t act like you’re one to treat every guest perfectly.

That’s it for this week, kids.

TSD