Tuesday, January 31, 2006 by Ospite.
1 notations

The line went out the door. The wait quote was 30 minutes for a 2-4top, and 60 minutes for anything larger. We had two parties of 12 and a birthday crew with reservations for 8. Anyone who know restaurants is familiar with the fact that a party larger than six can be a nightmare for running the floor. Multiple tables have to be pushed together killing someone's section, particularly because parties spend twice as long in a restaurant as average diners. A restaurant makes its money when table turnover rate is speedy. The other night was a particularly bad night to have parties on the floor. At 7pm, it was announced I had to stop seating tables...our dishwasher had broken.

Our three most experienced wait staff came over hurredly.

1. B - "Listen, we have to turn people away! There are no dishes, we can't serve food!"
2. S - "Seriously, stop seating...the restaurant is crashing."
3. L - "I think we're going to have to close."

Rob, the gen. manager skampers over: "OK, we can't shut down because I WILL NOT shut down my restaurant. These people still need to be sat...Figure something out."

Lovely. Granted, I know that these situations are exactly why I was hired, but I figured I wouldn't be tossed into such a predicament within my first week. Somehow I was supposed appease a crowd of 45 people, keep them from leaving, maintain order, and make sure the trattoria was not going to lose money. Alright, maybe I took that last one upon myself.

Then the service manager Tina sidled up, leaned over and stated: "Our biggest investor is coming in on Thursday. We can't lose ANY money tonight."

At least my food-service instincts were honed in good time.

A well dressed gentleman and his wife wandered in, fighting their way to the front.
"How long is the wait for two?"
"I'm sorry sir, but we're looking at about 40 minutes."
"That's ridiculous!"
"Normally I would agree with you, sir. But tonight I beg to differ...our dishwasher broke. So our bus staff is washing dishes, and our wait staff/host staff, such as myself, is bussing tables. Everything has slowed to a crawl. BUT, I would still like to seat you in due time should you stay with us this evening."

A smile crept over his face and he suppressed a laugh. "I accept. Thank you for your honesty."

Each party was informed in turn as to the present situation and I was pleased to see only 10% leave. Our regulars were happy to stick it out. The managers and I proceeded to wander the floor and appease the already-sat customers. This of course required a few comped desserts and several raucous songs in Italian. Finally things settled out and we found our groove again, sans the crash. I have to admit, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Thursday, January 26, 2006 by Ospite.
0 notations

This City lends itself to Windy, bitter nights that prompt passers by into our trattoria for a warm inviting atmosphere of Italian cuisine. The average patrons are middle-aged couples or families with an annual income of $40k - $80k. I'm working the door this evening, happy that I am inside rather than out and keeping my distance from the door itself. 7:30pm, a couple walks in, clearly several social circles above the rest of our clientele. I note the Porsche keys that he slips into his overcoat pocket.

They give me a look that says, 'We are above the witty small talk you are trained to use on customers." I've worked country clubs, elite ones, I know how to treat Money. So I simply greet, grab menus, and walk them to a rather secluded 2top booth. I ran through the specials, the wines, and the suggested appetizer as they ignore me. For the duration of my small routine speech, the lady was fumbling with her ridiculously large fur coat trying to find the best place to put it. I asked if she wanted me to hang it up within site or the host station, but she glared at me as if I asked to steal her firstborn. She refused to lay it down next to her and that was obviously my fault. I returned to my post.

Forty-five seconds later, the woman blew past me almost running for the door, with a poor attempt at donning her fur mid-stride. The husband walked up to me:

"Um...we can't...she won't...there are no... I'm sorry. Our plans have...changed. Goodnight."
"Is there anything I can do to help? Perhaps find another table?"

He looks over at his wife who is cycling through about 4 shades of red. She was unable to put on her coat she was so upset. Clutching Prada bag and fur, she stormed out the door his keys in hand.

"No. Have a good evening." he replied.

I walked over to the now-vacant booth. There was a ten-dollar bill lying in front of the gentleman's seat.

I flashed back briefly to the country club. Doctors, lawyers, brokers, business owners, CEOs, old money, family money. The two groups of people I enjoyed while working the locker room there were the specialist doctors and the guys who built businesses from the ground up. These were people who understood being the little guy, people who had to work for what they had. These were the guys who understood tipping the way it should be done, not the tight-fisted jerks with the trophy wives. Picking up the Ten Spot, I couldn't help but think that she was using him as a trophy husband and I felt sorry for him.

Passing Clara, I handed her the ten bucks. She looked quite confused.

"This is for the table you didn't get a chance to serve."

Returning to my post again, I was suddenly very grateful for the loving wife I had at home waiting for my return. The following came to mind: "Get married before you get rich. Don't let the riches buy you a wife."
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 by Ospite.
1 notations

I was recently hired by an Italian restaurant to reorganize the hosting staff. As I sat filling out paperwork with my general manager, Rob, I began to understand why I was there.

A typical Wednesday evening, the floor was bustling with patrons hoping for their slightly better-than-average Italian food fix. Despite the rather inhospitable weather outside, there was a regular groove in which the wait staff found themselves engulfed.

A 3top of 50-60 year old women wander through the door, sauntering to the hostess station where three rather young hostesses are congregating, deeply involved in their private conversation. The 3top stands, patiently covering their annoyance with a conversation of their own. Rob leans to me and says, "Let's see how long it takes the girls to notice they have people to seat." observing his watch. The girls proceed to ignore the patrons, making the dining room as hospitable as the aforementioned weather. Woman In Hat states loudly, "If they are simply that busy, perhaps we should get a drink at the bar." They wander to the bar and not a single hostess looked up.

Rob stands to get the attention of Hostess A and makes a head gesture towards the three at the bar. H:A simply looks confused. "Ooooh, someone came in!" says Hostess B and prances off to the bar asking the women if they would like to sit for a meal or prefer to stay at the bar. Of course a table and a meal is what they wanted so they follow H:B drinks in hand to a table...that is occupied. All four females return to the hostess station.

H:B - "Why don't you ladies have a seat at the bar again and I will find a table for you with an available server."

Woman With Big Black Coat, with heavy sarcasm - "Oh yes, we did enjoy the bar ever so much."

H:B then spent about 4 minutes preparing a table that had been set for four. She took away all four place settings only to immediately return with three place settings and three menus. Wandering back to the bar, she retrieved the 3top and escorted them to the table. H:B did not tell the the specials, nor tell them a waiter would be with them shortly. Simply, "Have a good meal." The hostess conversation resumed immediately back at the station.

Rob - "And THAT is why we need you to help us with the Host Staff."

At your service, Ospite

I am not in the restaurant business, I am in the people business. I use every opportunity to people watch, because to me, even the most mundane is fascinating.

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