Thursday, June 29, 2006 by Ospite.
1 notations

"How can you not have that?! You're a Italian restaurant for God's sake!"

It's been a long day hearing those words over and over. Everyone assumes that when they walk in the door of a restaurant we have some kind of psychic ability to know exactly what they want and clearly understand it must be had, lest the world end. Well today has been a day that has shattered their faith structure concerning restaurants. Part of me just wanted to close the doors and walk away. But, I don't own the place, so I have to refrain from kicking out a dining room full of people.

Contrary to popular belief, we do not conjure up the ingredients for our food. Many of those ingredients are imported from Italy and we receive daily shipments or large deliveries every-other day. Today was a day the truck was to arrive.

For those of you who have been hiding in a cave for the past few days, the East Coast is getting bombarded with rain. It's washing away roads, practically sinking towns where they rest, and causing general mayhem. One such town is a central distribution hub for certain ingredients in our trattoria. When feet of water hinder the driving experience, we don't get our deliveries.

AnnoyedGuy: How is it possible you don't have that?
Me: Well, sir, we were scheduled to get a delivery today of certain goods, but seeing that the town from which it was supposed to arrive is currently under water and in a state of emergency, you will have to simply make a different dinner choice. At least you didn't have to canoe to our restaurant this evening.

The sheepish look on his face meant that I had effectively put him in his place without actually disturbing his dining experience. Now to ring up the order and go do the same with the next table...
Monday, June 26, 2006 by Ospite.
10 notations

Cops aren't the only ones who use it. Waiters do too. There are certain assumptions made about a table long before the waiter greets them. They read you like a potential boss would, as soon as you walk in the door for an interview. Clothes, hair, attractive features, conversation styles, body language, and skin color.

Now, I am a firm believer that, for the most part, the attitude with which you approach a table is the attitude that will be returned to you. Waiting tables, or anything in the service industry, is a constant sales opportunity. Sales involves reading the customer, learning their needs first, then their wants, and then convincing them they need just a little more than they need, and the cost is justified.

There is still the initial part of meeting the customer's needs. Most people can see when they're being played and will get defensive. A good salesman helps the customer get the best thing for them. A happy customer or client is an instant advertisement, and the best kind, a testimonial.

So why is it that most waiters see certain tables and immediately approach them with bad attitudes? Stereotypes. Sadly, most stereotypes stem from some sort of truth. Based on my experiences and those of my colleagues, I have decided recently to approach the possibly poor tipping tables with confidance, poise, and congeniality. I am pleased to announce that among non-caucasian customers and non-American customers, I have proved that a little kindness goes a long way...at least in my restaurant.

My study over the past month has displayed an increase in the aforementioned ethnic groups tips based solely on my behavior. It goes to show that things like this are completely unacceptable:

  • A waiter is sat a 3top in his section. They are clearly of Indian heritage and are speaking Hindi upon listening in. This waiter, having issues with Indian and Asian customers, approaches the table saying, "So does anyone here not drink alcohol or consider themselves a vegetarian?" The male gives the waiter the most ferocious look I've ever seen. The tip ends up 4%. With an introduction like that and service along the same suit, how could he expect anything more?
  • Tuesday, June 20, 2006 by Ospite.
    3 notations

    Next time you're sitting in a restaurant, pay attention to the people around you...how they order, what they order, how they eat, and how much of it. The degrees of variation are as numerous as the people who eat.

    It's a Thursday night, marginally busy, but not stressed. One of our several 6top reservations arrive. A family out for a meal together: father, mother, two preteens, and the grandparents. All are nicely dressed, classy, but not showing off. I take them to my favorite table in the restaurant.

    They have a seat and the waiter has gone about the presentatin/drink orders, etcetera, when the mother wanders my way and takes me by the arm.

    "Excuse me. I was wondering if you might have a list of your nutritional information. My daughter is anorexic and it's better for her to see the caloric content of the meals."

    "I'll see what I can find out for you ma'am."

    Now, anyone that is worried about diets or calories or what's in their food...you can't go out to eat if you're picky. There's a reason it tastes so good. One of the other waiters and I decided to figure out how healthy it was to eat at our trattoria. We came to the shocking discovery that should you gorge yourself on an appetizer, a salad, an entreƩ, a dessert, and one glass of wine, you could consume up to 5000 calories in one sitting. 2.5 times the daily recommended caloric intake for an average human being. In one meal. At that moment I suddenly lost all desire to eat anything from our menu.

    How on earth is that feasable? Butter and extra virgin olive oil are the primary culprits. So when this woman wanted to know how healthy our meals are, it took all the will power in the world not to tell her that her daughter would be shocked to see the results.

    When you go out to eat, expect to put into your body, far more fat and calories than you would if you were cooking. Either than, or expect to pay premium price for an extra healthy meal.

    Sandra didn't know this. Sandra came in one afternoon, waiting for her husband to get out of work. She spent about an hour in the bar getting loosened up and extra chatty. I learned where she went to school, who her highschool sweetheart was, where she currently works and why her boss is a prick. I also learned this was her husband's and her first night without the kids in over three months.

    "WAIT to have kids for the love of God."

    This of course after she found out I was married and wanted to hear my life story.

    Finally her husband arrived and I gave them a specail table out of the way, knowing it was an exceptional night for them. I gave their waitress a heads up as to Sandra's extra-talkative special needs and sent her on her way. Though my information in no way prepped her for the conversation I overheard while taking care of another table.

    Sandra: "So everything looks amazing here. But I'm so on a diet right now. Goota keeps the calories down! Um..do you have anything on the menu without calories? I mean something with like none in it? that would be great.
    Waitress: explodes with laughter... "Sure. If you're ok with icewater or unsweetened iced tea for your meal."

    Silence.

    W: "Oh my god...you're serious. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be sarcastic, i thought you were kidding."
    S: (now chuckling) "Oh it's no bother. I suppose it was an absurd question. Tell you what, just get me some salad. OH! and a steak. Yeah. Steak. Nothing else. Wait, no...another Cosmo."
    Wednesday, June 14, 2006 by Ospite.
    2 notations

    Weeknights, our dining room shuts down around 10pm, though we always have the random 9:45 walk-ins. Technically we can't really refuse them service, since we're open, though I always want to make excuses and kick them out. The kitchen goes down to two chefs and most of the secondary staff has left...not to mention we'll close with 3 or 4 waiters.

    9:30pm, he walks in. Late 30s, reasonably well dressed, khakis, loafers, and an olive drab button-down. Something seemed a little off though and I couldn't quite place it. He carried in a red rose and a brown paper bag.

    With an awkward smile, he told his waitress that we was waiting for his...brother. Who waits for their brother with a crimson rose and an unmarked bag? Nonetheless, I'm not one to judge. Minutes tick by and still no brother. After about 15, he hails his waitress and explains the scenario.

    "OK... so I'm actually waiting for my boyfriend. He was supposed to be here before me, but he's running behind. I'm sorry I didn't tell the truth. I'm nervous. I want to propose to him tonight. Can you help me?"

    He pulled the contents of the bag out and placed them on the table at his boyfriend's place-setting: several pictures of men without their shirts, and a copy of Playgirl. He then pulled out a gold wedding band and handed it to the waitress.

    She was now the nervous one.

    "How do I assist a gay proposal? This is way over my head. Any proposal for that matter. But now I'm nervous! He left the 'how' of the proposal up to me!" peering at the wedding band like it was the One Ring.

    As they were scheming in the back, I was running through assorted Will & Grace episodes in my head. I landed on the one haunting me. Will was waiting for his date, who was late.

    Jack: "Will, have you forgotten how to speak our language? 'Running late' means you're being stood up..."

    Sure enough, 10pm came along and our friend was calling frantically on his cell phone to no avail. The boyfriend was not responding. at 10:10 he could not wait any longer, was passed nervous and bordering on furious. Almost shaking, he requested the ring be returned to him, put it in his pocket, and stormed out the door.

    The waitress had his drinks comped and wandered back into the kitchen to inform the "pastry chef" that her wondrous plans for a proposal cake were no longer needed.

    "I had finally found my purpose in life! I had a big presentation prepared! Why'd he have to go and do that?"

    "Wow, I think perhaps his loss is a tad worse than yours."

    As I walked to my car, I found him still sitting in his, waiting for his long lost bofriend. Part of me had a touch of sadness for him, the other wonders what kind of "marriage" is based on a copy of Playgirl.
    Tuesday, June 13, 2006 by Ospite.
    1 notations

    I'm not the largest soccer fan really, but there's something about the Wolrd Cup that gets to me. Every four years, the best players for the world's most-played sport get together and prove their worth on the grass. Often, decades of political angst go into these matches and billions of people tune in.

    Call me old fashioned, but I don't have cable TV. I grew up with rabbit ears donning the top of the television set, so all we got was local. So, I'm also not a real big TV programming nut. But now there's the World Cup and I find myself without ESPN.

    Taking place in Germany this year, the WC is broadcast live their local time. "Well, that's normal." you say...and you'd be right. But it poses a problem for me, that I can't just tune in during the middle of the day on my TV. It also means that I'm not likely to knock on the door to a pub at 8:55am so I can watch a match. I have one other alternative: go to work.

    Like every good bar, we have two TVs in ours, both with ESPN and ESPN2 and I simply couldn't miss the USA vs CZE match yesterday. I strolled in about 6 minutes before the match, grabbed the remote and found ESPN2 just as the German soccer kids were leading the pros out onto the field. Excitement welled up as I turned up the volume, hearing the fans cheering in the background. I would give anything to be there right now. The restaurant is dead, so I turn up the volume still more.

    It turns out that the good old boys from America choked when they hit the field. Their playing was sloppy, uncoordinated, and sophomoric. Naturally my zeal for the sport rose from my lips as the match went on, forgetting there could be customers around the corner.

    "Come on boys, your performance is pathetic! You're letting me down!"

    A short, balding man in a suit walked around the corner on his way to the bathroom just then.

    With a thick sarcasm, "I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?"

    "Oh, hey there. I'm only allowed to yell at work while the World Cup is on."

    "Screaming at customers is unacceptable?"

    "Tends to be."

    "Well, I think I'm the only one in here, so enjoy all the yelling you want."

    "Thank you, I certainly shall."

    When the Czechs ended up stomping us 3 - 0, I followed through...
    Thursday, June 08, 2006 by Ospite.
    1 notations

    A reasonably busy night but I find myself puttering around the trattoria front to back of the house. Nothing major is going on, a couple of parties and a reasonably full floor, but there's no sense of urgency. As I wander towards the front door, a woman walks in. Early 30s, medium build, white skirt, black tank (stylish, not casual), and a black jacket... and unbelievably large breasts making her cleavage start much higher than you'd expect. The outfit she's wearing in no way attemps to cover them, nor does it act as if they aren't there. On the contrary, "the girls" are on full display tonight.

    She approaches my hostess and asks to be sat with the "well dressed man who arrived in a Mercedes convertable." The hostess looks at me and then at the woman.

    Hostess: "I don't have any gentlemen sat alone waiting for anyone."
    Large Breasted Woman: "Are you sure? Because I'm a little late, and he should certainly be here."
    Me: "You're more than welcome to do a lap around the restaurant and see if he's here."
    LBW: "Well, I've never met him before. I don't know what he looks like."
    M: "Ok, well, I'll wander around. If I see a man alone, I'll ask for whom he's waiting and see if her name matches yours."
    LBW: "OK. Thanks."

    I do the lap around and find no such well dressed single male.

    M: "Ma'am, I didn't see him. Would you like to have a seat and wait for him?"
    LBW: "No, I'd prefer to meet him at the door. If I sit down it'll seem like a date. I don't want to give the wrong impression. He's a lawyer and this is strictly business."

    All of me was screaming, "Really? Then you should have worn a shirt." but I kept my mouth shut.

    Sure enough, a Mercedes convertable drives up at far too great a speed. Out hops a mid-30s male in a particularly fabulous charcoal suit, white shirt and remarkably shiny shoes. I gauge the outfit at c. $1800. This does not take into account the $45 he spent baking his skin in a lightbulb tube, pretending he's been in the Bahamas. He saunters in with the biggest swagger I've seen in the past year. Striding directly towards the Woman on Display, puts his hand on the small of her back, and kisses her on the cheek. Not that "Hi, it's pleasant to see you again" but that slimy "I'm trying to be more suave than I am, check me out, I'm amazing" kiss on the cheek. She turned to him startled. Now I understand why she did not want to give the wrong impression. She may not know what he looks like, but he obviously has a reputation.

    I seat them toward the back so they may have a bit of privacy, but still in a place where I can keep my eye on them throughout the meal. He pulled papers out and laid them across the table and she was signing things left and right. As the meal progressed, he was less and less subtle about staring at her cleavage and soon began touching her hand, arm, and shoulder to get her attention or for emphasis. Smooth. It was the "let's see how comfortable you are with me touching you" routine. Her response, she took off her jacket and leaned forward. It was such a display that two waiters and three tables became momentarily distracted, pausing mid-stride, and mid-bite. So much for the professional appearance. But hey, it worked for Charlotte York, who am I to argue?
    Saturday, June 03, 2006 by Ospite.
    1 notations

    So far, this May and into June have been a bit bizarre. We have not yet found the restaurant's rhythm. I blame the weather, as always. Hot, to cold and rain, to humid, and back again.

    Memorial Day was our rush. After that, we have run slow almost every night. Half of the waiters hate it because the turnover is slower, less tip frequency, etc. The other half are the ones who know how to milk a table for tips, taking advantage of a little more time spent at each table. While they don't appreciate the slowness, they know how to not sit idley around complaining.

    Kerrie is one such waitress. We were remarkably slow Wednesday afternoon. Kerrie had two tables, the first of which having a mother and two sons (c. 3 and 5 years old), the latter having several middle aged men. I walked by only to hear the following conversation:

    Kerrie: Anything to drink?
    Customer: Beer
    K: Do you have ID?
    C: My mother has it.
    K: Well, you're a little short for me to believe you, but what kind do you want?
    C: Bud
    K: I'll see what I can do for you.

    The customer, was the five year old boy. During the conversation, his mother wrote "apple juice" on a small piece of paper.

    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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