Saturday, July 22, 2006 by Ospite.

We are booked solid and I take 5 seconds to gaze across the dining battlefield.

I actually prefer a smaller section where I can attend to the guests' every whims, making witty conversation, and make sure the dining experience is flawless. I come off as the people-pleaser type, but really, underlying it all, I'm a manipulative goal-setter who looks at each table as a personal conquest. The goal is to make them more happy than they've ever been at a restaurant, which in turn makes them give me the most money possible. It's a win/win. They're happy, I'm happy. Until I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

At a certain point, there's a level of being terse that's required in order to spend only the bare minimum of time at each table so you can tend to the others just long enough to cover what's required and hurry off to do the next.

I have 3 minutes before the steak comes up at table 30 for the man who's been a waiter's bane all night. Before I retrieve it, I have to check on a nearby table who recently received their main course...the quality check.

"How is everything?" What I want to hear is 'Fabulous.'

"Um, well, my pasta is cold." The exact opposite of fabulous. I'm taking heavy fire, being flanked.

"Would you like my to have it reheated?" Trying to push back the onslaught.

"No, no. It's ok. I'll order something else. May I see a menu to refresh the choices in my head?" The fire is too heavy, my line is pushed back. The steak for 30 is up. I've lost the high ground.

This is when I declare it too busy for anyone's good. When I approach a table and pray I need to spend only 5 seconds there. Anything longer breaks my groove. That's not a groove really, that's simply hysteria...running on adrenaline.

After getting him a new menu, a new main course, getting 30's steak, going back and checking on the new main dish, going back and checking on the steak, running an assorted 15 beverages all over creation and stopping back at my first table of the evening, I find the man of the man/woman couple glaring at me. I had forgotten their tiramisu. Wait for it. The most clich├ęd pissed-off diner's line:

"How hard is your job?"
I paused, turned and gazed across my battlefield again, men wounded and crying out for their mothers. The enemy setting up camp in our domain. I turned back to the livid man with a huge smile across my face. I laughed. No reply, I laughed all the way to the kitchen to retrieve the dreaded tiramisu, all the way back, and was still chuckling as I placed the dessert on the table. As I placed it in front of his wife, I looked at him, still smiling and asked,

"Do you want to take over for me? Those two kids need chocolate milk. That guy's going to need a perfect manhattan straight up and no cherry in two minutes. Do you know the specials for tonight? because I got sat again. Don't worry, it's only a 5top that looks angry they had to wait 40 minutes for a seat. That guy's about to wave for their check. There will be two pesto dishes and a grilled halibut up for that 3top in about 30 seconds, but don't you dare forget to bring more bread with that, or your tip will drop by 5%. There's a 4top reservation due in 5 minutes right here next to you. Oh, and don't forget to please everybody all the time. How hard is your job?"

Yes. I cracked.
No. I didn't comp a thing.
Yes. He stiffed my tip on his pathetic $38 check.
No. I don't care about losing his business.
Yes. It felt fabulous.
Yes. I had regained the high ground.


Anonymous Trish said...

atta boy! As a former Dairy Queen drive-thru worker, i think my favorite comment of all time has been "what is this? Remedial Dairy Queen?" ... because my coworker had dared to read back the moo-moo wearing toothless hag her order and ask if it was correct.

I've also had a guy come in, give me serious attitude as i tried to figure out what it was he wanted to order (i asked him 3 questions. What he wanted, what he wanted on it, did he want it as a value meal.) and then throw the sandwhich at me on his way out the door because "it wasn't even what he f'ing ordered." Coward didn't even stick around long enough for me to whip it back at his face. I swear he just wanted to -ruin my day-

love the blog, btw.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Suz said...

Sweet! It's that one rare moment when you let yourself snap, to hell with the consequence! My dream moment is one exactly like that, except it ends with "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."

New to the blog (courtesy of waiterrant) and am hooked. I hope you had a giant cocktail after that shift!

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Cube Warrior said...

Awesome. Just awesome. I worked 5.5 years in a call center and WISH I could've cracked more than the couple of times I did... just like that. That idiot will realize the world goes on, and a frickin dinner isn't the end of it. I've been reading a while and come back almost daily for new posts; keep up the writing! And hang in there. :)

8:16 AM  
Blogger KristieD said...

it feels good to crack sometimes. at least i think so. as long as we dont do it too often. But every now and then you just have to let it out. And i think its worth losing the tip. ;)

8:28 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Yay for YOU!

I left the business a year or so ago due to a progressive hearing loss. A former employer, who knows what kind of server I am, approached me and asked me to come work for them full time. After a test shift, I agreed to give it a shot with mongo hearing aids in each ear. For the most part, it goes quite well - until we are so packed the background noise drowns out everything and the customer I'm trying to wait on doesn't know how to move their lips when they speak.

Last Friday night, I had asked this man three times to repeat himself as he murmured and looked everywhere but at me. He is a regular, and I've never had that problem before. After the third time, he looks at me (finally) and makes a motion like he was turning up his hearing aid. I dropped my pen and ticket into my pocket and popped them out to show him.

You shoulda seen his face! He started stammering that he was just kidding...and I told him I wasn't kidding. Put them back in, he spoke clearly, he got his meal, and I got the biggest tip ever from him.

Even if he hadn't tipped me, I'm tellin' you, that felt GOOD. Made my night, in fact. The tip was just a bonus after that!

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that takes balls. Granted, I wish I could do that too to customers who think they deserve everything and are too high and mighty to realize that waiting is such a challenging job -- moreso than sitting at a computer or something all day long. I'm sure it felt awesome to tell off that customer -- I wish I could get away with that but in a corporate franchise, my ass would get whipped. Great blog! Keep it up, I love reading your interesting, well-written stories.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

I applaud you, I wish I had that kind of courage!

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick not-really-related question from a new reader:

You wrote "his pathetic $38 check". I've seen similar comments on Waiter Rant and a couple of the other waiter-type sites. I understand that there's a certain minimum amount of work to wait on anyone, regardless of how much they spend. I understand that you (and the restaurant) would rather have a bigger check than a smaller one.

Turning up your nose at someone spending $38 instead of $100+ is a great way to kill sympathy. Not all of us drink wine; not all of us need dessert. We're not there to enter the "largest check ever" contest. At the same time, we're not trying to be cheap -- it's just that our purpose in going to your restaurant is eating what we want that you serve. We're not worried about impressing you.

Show contempt if you like when all I really want is a bowl of soup: guess who'll show contempt for you?

7:38 AM  
Blogger Ospite said...

It's not how much they spend on food. It's the attitude they display while doing so. If someone comes in and tries to get away with everything because getting free stuff makes them feel the bigger man, then they've come to the wrong place. Sending back food after having already eaten it and then demanding it be taken off the bill, etc. This $38-guy had that was simply too much for me to mention in the flurry of the rest of the post.

Come into my restaurant and spend $20 for all I care...just be pleasant while doing it.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KICKASS! You rock!

7:22 PM  
Anonymous HostessJo said...

I snapped this weekend on the turd of all bus boys. we were packed, an hours wait at the door, I tell this kid to get the desert tray and he had the nerve to say "isnt that the waitress' job?" ON THE FLOOR, in front of a hundred people...I simply stated to the troll that I was the hostess yet I had serviced every one of his tables while he was "busy" chatting with the dishwasher, so shut up and do as your told." LOL, it felt great, but even better yet was when I caught the same jerk with his hands in a waitress's book AFTER the check had been paid. some foks need to be told. Kudos!

7:59 AM  

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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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