Wednesday, April 26, 2006 by Ospite.
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April 26th, 2006. Secretary's Day.

This is one of the few days a year that we book large amounts of big parties. As I have stated before, we are not a banquet hall, but when every doctor's office and every law firm decide they want to take their secretaries to lunch at our restaurant, we don't decline. The turnover rate is fabulous. The floor is packed solid. Each table orders the most extravagent meals imaginable. Plenty of wine, antipaste, huge entrées, more wine, dessert in excess, coffee... In short, it's heaven and hell all at once.

I was booked to work early today so as to set up the parties in the book. We had extra wait staff on the floor. It promised to be a long lunch.

The interaction between boss and underlings is a rather humorous interchange.
  • There are the bosses that regularly take out their staff, treating them well as if it was their religion. We like them. They are pleasant, easy to wait on, have no outrageous requests, and tip reasonably, though not with gusto. We have one such lawyer. He comes in with one of his three secretaries once a week. Each woman gets a lunch with us on him once a month. The last week is reserved for his single paralegal.

  • There are those bosses who you can tell do it because they have to. They are the ones who let everyone else order whatever they want, but they're cheap pricks so they order salad for themselves... these are the ones you assume own the business and are therefore directly paying for the meal out of their pocket. They tip poorly, ask ridiculous favors like "Hi...we're in a bit of a rush, can you put our orders in before your other tables'? We want to get out of here ASAP." Obviously they don't want the staff to order anything but the main course. Sound a tad out of line? I heard that request thrice today.

  • Following the verbally abusive moronical 'do it cuz I have to' guy, comes the Masked Boss. He's the one who seems like a great guy, takes the secretary out to lunch with a co-worker who also takes his out to lunch. They let the staff order epic meals, and seem happy to make them happy. Then they wander off to the bar from time to time, have bit of Johnnie Black, and complain about how horrible their staff is (this is why I hang out near the bar on SD):

    "So Kelly asked me for a new chair, something with lumbar support or some sh*t like that. Apparently her back is 'bothering her.' Woman, I'll give you some advice, 'Stop bringing TWINKIES TO WORK!' God, seriously. She can barely walk to the copier, much less bring me paperwork. Next I'll have to pay for f*cking back surgery or something."

    "Well, look at what she's eating! She's a f*cking cow. I can't eat that much food. Man, you gotta fire her and find a hotter one."

    "Speaking of, Sharon. HOT today. Workin her new a glove! MmmMM!"

    "Yeah. She loves the attention. Not that I'm going to tell her to stop dressing like a whore."

    "How much longer do you think we'll have to hang out here before we get a 'business call?'"

    "I say 20-ish minutes."

  • At least these guys are showing, or pretending to show, some gratitude for the people (mostly women) who run their lives and keep it in order. Like that movie Day Without a Mexican, what would happen if suddenly, all the secretaries, administrative assistants, and the 'little people' just up and vanished...
    Monday, April 24, 2006 by Ospite.
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    There are certain consumer products here in the us that we know have significant mark-ups and when we purchase them, the sale price can be rearranged from the sticker price. Cars. Musical Instruments. Some electronics. I was unaware that restaurant food had been added to the list.

    Thursday evening has become our new Saturday night. We've been running outrageous wait times on Thursdays starting around 7pm. Apparently daylight savings time is beneficial in some way. This late setting Sun drives hungry patrons through our doors.

    We've been running an estimated 60-minute wait for a party of 3 or less and it seems as though everyone wants to wait for our seemingly legitimate Italian cuisine. I'm not going to argue with them...the more that wait, the better we do, the more my boss is happy, the more money I make. A well-dressed, very polite couple saunters in, places their name on the list and waits patiently for their turn at our table. They end up passing c. 75 minutes without even venturing to the bar to warm up first. They are sat. Begin Act the Second.

    The waiter approaches, runs the evening spiel and takes orders for two waters while the couple decides on an antipasta. (for those not well-versed in ITACuisine 101, that's code for appetizer). He brings water and house bread, which they begin digging into immediately. We predict bargain shoppers at this 2top. The waiter stops by again.

    "Have we settled on anything to begin with?"
    "Actually, we've decided to attack the main course right away."
    "Splendid, sir."
    "But I have a question. This dish here, the chicken with the mushrooms and artichokes, etc...well, I'd like that, but can you give it to me for the price of the penne?"
    "I'm sorry, but we cannot substitue pricing."
    "Well, it's not much...just drop about $5 from the price. I'll take it for the price of the penne."
    "The menu is set. I am not allowed to alter it."
    "Hmm...not even if you rang it in as the penne but told the kitchen to cook up the chicken instead?"

    Clearly enjoying his humorous guests, he replies with a smile, "First of all, I don't have the power to haggle our dinner prices. You would have to talk to the owner, and seeing that he set them himself, I doubt you'll get much give out of him. Second, sir, we have a 60 minute wait on dinner tonight, do you really think the kitchen cares about a non-ticketed alteration 'on the fly' on a short-staffed, busy Thursday night?"

    "Well said. Give us just a couple minutes."

    The couple passed me on their way out the restaurant. I couldn't help but laugh to myself thinking about the 90 minute ordeal that got them only bread and water. I strolled over to talk to their waiter.

    "Well, at least it gave you a little entertainment for the evening."
    "You kidding? They left me a $5 tip on bread and water!"
    Sunday, April 23, 2006 by Ospite.
    1 notations

    Greetings one and all. I offer my apologies for the once-a-week posting behavior. Fear not. I am alive...though sick. Fever, and other ailments have pounded my body for the past couple of days. For those of you afraid of getting sick this time of year, take a serious look at: Airborne. One day into my whater-it-was cold thing, I crawled to my car and purchased some.

    I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much, but I was proven wrong...and gladly so. First, let's start with the taste...basically like watered-down Tang. Doesn't taste bad. Next, the effects. Rathr dramatic. Drop the thing in water, let it dissolve then pound the drink full of "seven Herbal Extracts, Antioxidants, Electrolytes, and Amino Acids, offers maximum vitamin and herbal support for hours! Plus it has natural ginger component which helps fight nausea." Getting hit with 1,670% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C will clear out your system. Here's a list of ingredients for the original flavor:

    AIRBORNE Original: ingredients.
    Supplement Facts: Serv size 1 tablet. Servings, 10. Amount per serving: Calories 5, Total Fat 0g, Sodium 230mg (10% DV*), Total Carb 0g, Sugars 0g, Protein 0g. Vitamin A (Palmitate) 5,000 I.U. (100% DV*), Vitamin C 1,000mg (1,670% DV*), Vitamin E (Acetate) 30 I.U. (100% DV*), Riboflavin 2.8mg (170% DV*), Magnesium (Oxide & Sulfate) 40mg (10% DV*), Zinc (Sulfate) 8mg (55% DV*), Selenium (Amino Acid Chelate) 15mcg (20% DV*), Manganese (Gluconate) 3mg (150% DV*), Potassium 75mg (2% DV*), Proprietary Blend of Maltodextrin, Lonicera, Forsythia, Schizonepeta, Ginger, Chinese Vitex, Isatis Root, Echinacea 350mg (DV**), Amino Acids (Glutamine as L-Glutamine, Lysine as L-Lysine HCl) 50mg (DV**).
    *Daily Value.

    Other Ingredients: Citric Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sorbitol, Potassium Bicarbonate, Natural & Artificial Orange Flavor, Mineral Oil, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium.

    Thanks for keeping up and see you all again on Monday.
    Sunday, April 16, 2006 by Ospite.
    7 notations

    It has been a remarkably slow week at the trattoria. I'm talking painfully slow. Cutting-waiters-from-the-floor-before-they-get-their-first-table slow. Not only has the slowness hurt our waiters, but the tips that have been accompanying the slothful patrons setting up camp in our restaurants have been horrid.

    The phone rings...light at the end of the tunnel. A party of 16 is in town for a conference and would enjoy dining with us Saturday afternoon. Normally this size is out of the question. We are a restaurant, not a catering facility. I gaze across the empty tables and lose myself in the pleading eyes of my meager staff. I gladly take the party, hoping to lighten the mood. ETA: 1pm.

    1pm finds us twiddling our thumbs...they are nowhere to be found. rings.

    "Hi, this is Baxter pary of 16. We'll be about 15 minutes late."
    "Not a problem, thank you for the heads up." rings.

    "Hi, this is Baxter party of 16. We're going to be anoter 15 minutes behind schedule."
    "Alright, thank you for the update."

    I cut all but 3 of my waiters off the floor. Dre is in dire need of money right now. Let's just say she "owed" the government money on her taxes this year. She begged to take the party and stay on after her shift for them. I granted her request and so she sits patiently awaiting their arrival. rings.

    "Hi, Baxter again. We're going to be there in 15 minutes. Don't worry, we're coming, we're just down the road."
    "Thank you. I would hate to have to give away your table."
    "Oh, please don't do that...We all want to sit together."

    2:15pm. They arrive. Finally, they come pouring through our doors. 9 of them. I show them to their table, where I am informed the rest will be shortly behind. Sure enough, 18 more people walk through the door!

    "Hey there! We've got 18 people."
    "Are you with Baxter?"
    "Yup! Can you arrange the tables so we can sit together? Great."

    Dre is almost overjoyed to the point of fainting. We spend c. 8 minutes arranging, setting up and getting menus, place-settings, etc. for the now very large party. They are visible at the door getting a little jittery. Hunger, I hope.

    "I'm all set for you."
    "Great, we're starving."

    They walk to the tables, greet their friends already sat at the 9top, then sit down. They don't even look at the menus before they launch into a large debate about what type of food the party would prefer. Not which dishes, but whether or not they'd prefer Italian cuisine, or RED LOBSTER...

    "Excuse me, we're going to go elsewhere." They leave in a mad rush. I had reached my limit of patience with this party...Baxter.. That name is scripted now on my black-list.

    The initial 9 stayed for three hours, not a single one ordering more than an entrée, or even alcohol. Dre was not happy. Nor was their rudeness received well on her part. I wished for a time machine to go back, take the phone call again, and laugh in Baxter's ear.

    When the bill was rung up, Dre came over to me and tossed me the head's credit card. "Rev. ____ _ Baxter."

    "That bastard is a 'reverend.' I HATE church people! They think they rule the world, want everything for nothing, want comp-ed meals, free iced tea, and will probably tip like they were raised in the back hills of West Virginia!!"

    "I have to admit, I grew up in the church, still go to church, and I have never understood the mentality of most church groups that go to restaurants. They are the worst customers and give Christians an atrocious reputation. Their behavior makes me sick."

    "No kidding. And of all weeks!! Seriously people, catch some salvation spirit here. Jesus died to show you real love. He died! At least have the decency to tip 20% if you're going to go around flaunting that you speak on his behalf!"

    Dre is the antithesis of churchgoing folk. And I agree with her 100%. For some reason, most of the church people I have run into in either service or sales want someting for nothing. They feel that because they are saving the world's souls, they are above paying for meals, or standard services that every normal red-blooded human being of every sect of society must deal with. Christians are NOT EXEMPT. Do I get this from Muslims? No. Hindus? No. Atheists? No. Christians? Yes. I will never understand why.

    Please realize that I am a church-going man and I find such public displays of religious stupidity morally reprehensible. People out there, if you are going to preach to the world that you have the answers to a lost and wayward society, don't put a wedge of hostility between you and it by acting like we owe you something.

    Baxter left. Dre walked away with an 11% tip. I rest my case.
    Thursday, April 06, 2006 by Ospite.
    2 notations

    You never know who's going to walk through the door on a weekday. We always have the PowerLunchers who require the ultimate in speedy performance. We also have the women who dedicate their afternoons to annoying my wait staff for hours on end. We have the people who assume we can make room and time for business lunches of 15 or more and serve them promptly enough to get out in time for their 2pm meetings. My favorites are usually the college students who are blowing off an afternoon class.

    Late lunch shift the other day. I have only three servers on the floor and I'm in charge of the floor for several hours. Two early-20-something goth girls walk in. I can tell they're going to be fun from the moment the door swings open. They have two more people in tow.

    Me. "We have 4 today?"
    Girl 1: "We have 79."
    M: "79...hmm. You could sit outside, but I can't guarantee a waitress will get to you."

    We have no outdoor seating area.

    Girl 2: "You have a wonderful coif."
    G1: "She would know, she's in beauty school. And your tie is fabulous, by the way."
    G2: "She would know, she's a designer."
    M: "Thank you. I bought this tie in Florence."
    G1: "Oooooh. So you travel."
    M: "Yes, quite a bit."
    G2: "Do only Italians work here?"
    M: "No, anyone can work here."
    G1: "Are you Italian?"
    M: "Not remotely."
    G2: "What are you?"
    M: "I'm of British and Czech heritage."
    G1: "hmm...Do you have a girlfriend?"
    M: "I have a wife."
    G1: "..Are you looking for a couple of things on the side?"
    M: "No thanks. I appreciate the offer though."
    Wednesday, April 05, 2006 by Ospite.
    1 notations

    I'm not yet sure how I feel about the "regulars." I mean, repeated patronage is one thing, but when it's at the point when we know exactly what to ring up before ever taking the order (but you can never do that, you must always take the bloody order)...come on people, get a little bit of a life. Perhaps I view it differently because it's my place of employ, and not a "hang out spot." I look to make money here.

    Some regulars are wonderful. We have several pro hockey players who come in at certain intervals with team members. We greatly enjoy their presence because, for one, they eat like horses. Extra meat, extra pasta, large desserts. On top of a large bill, they are fabulous tippers. One of our not-so-coordinated waitresses once spilled a glass of water completely on one of them...they still left her a 23% tip. Their average tip is 28%; I've seen them leave 50%.

    Now, there are others who are the exact opposite. They come in frequently and somehow feel that they run the place simply because they spend large amounts of money. I want to tell them to open their own restaurant if they want to run one so badly. It is this type of regular for whom I have no patience. It was one of these who was in on Saturday,

    Saturday...the day we make our highest wage. The day that usually finds us with a 2hour walk-in wait time. I have never taken the pains to learn this guy's name, and I hope to never learn it. So for the sake of reference, we shall call him Grey, for his startlingly bright grey hair can be seen bobbing on his skull from the far side of the floor. Grey saunters in with his slightly rotund wife, walks up to me and says,

    "I want that table...right there..second from the left. I always have that table and I will sit nowhere else. If they've just been sat, ask them to move. If they've already ordered, then I'll wait for the table."

    Every visit is the same. He acts as if we've never heard this all before. Once I flat-out asked him:

    "What is so special about that table, sir?"
    "Nothing. It's my table."

    Maybe there's microfilm in it and he needs to check up on it from time to time. Whatever he's not sharing is clearly of the utmost importance.

    Saturday, "his" table had been sat, and the two top at it had not yet ordered, but there was no way I was going to ask them to move after having waited 50 minutes to eat. Not to mention, Grey is too pompous to make a reservation...naturally we would have that table free for him no questions asked.

    "Sir, I'm sorry, but you will have to be added to my list, and sat promptly but in order or arrival."
    "Fine...just make sure we get that table. Got it?"

    He humphed off to the bar, his wife, rolling through the crowd. Part of me wants to hold that table open for an hour and seat him right next to it.

    We can expect at least one repremand per meal from him and this night was no different. The veal was apparently "made of rubber" and the chef had not been informed of the trasformation and should clearly be shot. But that was not all. He was in rare form. As I passed he hailed me much like he would a fellow Nazi. He points to the table next to him:

    "Excuse me. Their food was not served promtly. It took far too long to come out."
    "I'm sorry. Are these friends of yours?"
    I glance at the nearby table and the 3top seated there is trying to hide behind wine glasses and napkins. They very clearly want nothing to do with this complaining regular.
    "Did they say something to you about it?"
    "No. I think they're too afraid to. But it quite obviously took their food forever to come from the kitchen. And it was probably cold."
    "Thank you for bringing it to my attention."

    He shot them a look as if to say "You owe me one." I walked away to finish what I was on my way to do and returned to the 3top. Grey had just exited towing his wife behind. To the 3top:

    Me: "How is everything?"
    Head of 3top: "Actually, everything's been delicious and the service exemplary."
    Wife of 3top: "Who was that man? One of the managers?"
    Me: "No ma'am. He's a regular here."
    Wife: "Not even and employee?!"
    Me: "No ma'am. Another diner, such as yourself."
    Head: "Well, he certainly is an ass. I cannot believe he had tha gall to complain about our service...something which had nothing at all to do with him."
    Me: "I've come to expect it from him."
    Wife: "Well, everything was great and we will definitely be back soon."
    Me: "Splendid. I hope you have a pleasant evening."

    As the 3top left, they caught my attention and the gentleman came over.
    "Thanks for everything tonight. I appreciate you fielding all the complaints from appalling customers."
    "Why thank you sir. It is nice to be appreciated."
    He shook my hand...with a $5 bill. It's nice when appreciation can buy a pint at the pub.
    Sunday, April 02, 2006 by Ospite.
    0 notations

    I'm watching a live clip of Hendrix...sitting here sipping a 15 year tawny, wearing my vintage 1940s hat, thinking over a 12 hour work day. Apparently this is how I unwind.

    "This is Sunday, man...our day of rest! Why are all these people here?"

    Mal was right. One of our other bussers was out of commission for the night, so Mal was clearing tables alone. Alone on a Sunday when we had a surprisingly long wait at the front door. Of course every single customer was in a Sunday Driver mood and all of them were setting up camp at their tables. There's nothing more frustrating than not being able turn over tables. The line kept growing.

    The floor was mine for the night. I brought them in, I strategically sat the floor, I watched the line and called the shots. And to be honest, I wish I could have called in sick today. There are times when the responsibility is great, and others when you wish you could lean on someone else for awhile. It was ecstatic to see Tony walk in so I was no longer bound to the front door when there were customers present. I threw him the book, and retreated to the back.

    A nice espresso and a tiramisu got me back on my feet. I ran to the line, checked my kitchen staff, lapped the floor a couple times, talked to several mildly disgruntled customers, and then wandered back up to the front once they were happy. As I approached the podium I saw money change hands between a customer and Tony as the former exited.

    Let's back up just a bit for a profile. Tony is young, conservative, and a bit of a ladies least he thinks he is. He likes to make side comments about some of our staff, but he's very tactful about them and he never says these things in front of the ladies. He also believes himself to be very suave.

    So when I walked up front and saw the money change hands and the look the customer gave him, I couldn't help but chuckle a little bit. I sidled up to see the look on his face. He appeared shocked.

    "I think I just got hit on." he says staring blankly at the door.
    "Yeah?" I reply grinning ear to ear.
    "What was the tip for?"
    "That guy just tipped me for 'being cute.'"
    "Part of me is flattered, the other part is a little scared. Do I attract guys? I like women. Not men."
    "Well, you don't attract me, but then again, I'm married to a woman."
    "Hm. Should I tell him I'm straight if he comes in again?"

    It's funny how time stands still in the middle of a fierce onslaught customers just so we can laugh.

    Sitting back and sipping the port, my wife asleep in the next room, I still chuckle at the look on his face. Elvis is on my screen singing "Heartbreak Hotel."

    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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