Sunday, September 24, 2006 by Ospite.
9 notations

We've coined it as the "nationwide spinach recall" on the floor. We're not supposed to mention "Escherichia coli" or "e. coli" or "kidney failure."

Patron Situation 1:
"You guys aren't serving any spinach are you?"
"Yeah, we figure that the chances are pretty slim of getting an infected batch."
Hey, you've got to have just a little fun with them. She turned a little white.
"I'm kidding. We knew before it hit the media and we haven't had spinach inhouse since before you saw it on CNN. Fear not, we're spinach free."
"Thank God."

Apparently people think that we prefer lawsuits to keeping our customers safe.

Patron Situation 2:
"Ok...so I don't want any spinach anywhere near my food."
"Don't worry sir, there's none in the restaurant at all."
"Ok...so they won't have any raw spinach near what I order?"
"No sir. We've thrown all the spinach out. There's none anywhere."
"Ok...good. I don't want to hear about spinach near my food."
"As far as I know sir, there isn't spinach within a quarter mile of where you're sitting."
"Really? That close? Maybe you should make all my food well-done."
"Absolutely."

Because I hear that e.coli travels by word of mouth...

Patron Situation 3:
"I'm sorry to inform you that in that salad, we'll have to substitute romaine or bib lettuce instead of the spinach."
"Oh God. I hadn't thought of that. Well, at least you're on top of things. Has this whole debacle caused problems for you?"
"Well, it effected far more dishes than I'd immediately thought, but most customers have been very gracious and understanding."
"That's good. I take it you got rid of all the spinach you had in the restaurant?"
"We certainly did. We immediately removed all presence of the dark green leafy terror."
She laughs...then pauses.
"Wait, did you compost it? Please tell me you composted it. If you didn't I'll feel ill all night. I'd hate to think of pounds and pounds just wasting away in your dumpster."
"Sure madam. We..uh..we composted everything."
"Thank God."

Really we had it incinerated, but I simply can't have an ill patron at my table...nor one that finds us (and therefore me) to be lacking environmental savvy.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 by Ospite.
6 notations

She was late again. I like this particular waitress but she has this thing with being on time...she just can't seem to be. So I was left to open solo yet again. This means I have to fully prepare everything alone. Coffees, fresh brewed iced tea, lemons for water, full table and floor check and all the other assorted little things that go into prepping a restaurant for guests. On top of the that, we'd had a delivery so there were many boxes to be unpacked and sorted, etc.

So when the first guests arrived I was putting the finishing touches on my uniform. When the second table arrived, I was just getting drinks for table 1. When the 3rd table arrived, I still hadn't yet taken 2's order yet. 4 and 5 showed and I was trying to run food to 1 and 2. Luckily 3 was a table of, well not regulars, but close. They'd eaten with us on several occasions. They saw I was singlehandedly running the floor as the guests swept in surprisingly early, and were gracious enough to not take the wait personally. They finally received their food and all was well.

I ran checks and desserts all over creation, finally settling back with table 3 who had let me know to take my time. When a customer tells me to take my time because they are not in a hurry, I will take them seriously. These are dangerous words to utter to a waiter, expect him to follow through. They expected me to take them seriously and we chatted nicely as I bussed some of their dishes. I had her plate on my left arm, his plate in my left hand, a smaller side plate on that, and several utensils on there as well. I reached with my right to pick up her salad plate (which see insisted on eating slowly throughout her meal). We serve said plates chilled and it had 'sweated' considerably. The dear woman decided that I needed to also carry her coffee spoon on the plate in my left hand, so she placed it there. This changed my balance and caused the fork to slip which shifted the sideplate. I countered it with a balancing act keeping the sideplates from landing in her face...in doing so, I altered the grip with my right hand. The now wet plate launched from my hand, striking her glass sending diet coke (with lime) across her place setting and onto her lap.

I put the dinnerware down on a nearby table, helped her clean the table (not her lap, that's her husband's job) and appologized profusely. She was good-natured about it.

"Are you going anywhere immediately after this ma'am?"
"Thank God, no. Can you imagine the looks I'd get with coke on my crotch?"

Luckily I was on my way to box her lasagna and retrieve their check. The husband waited around as his wife walked outside, clearly embarrassed. I had her lunch comped and brought him the food wrapped and also the check.

"Sir, I've taken her meal right off the bill. I am very sorry about the mess."
"Oh, her jeans will be fine. Besides, the look on her face totally made my day."

He handed me the bill with cash, said "It's all yours." and joined his wife outside. The tip was 25% of what the original bill would have been including her meal.

The moral of the story is, don't disrupt the waiter's carefully practiced arm-carrying technique. Oh, and be kind when they occasionally screw up, especially if you had a hand in it.
Thursday, September 14, 2006 by Ospite.
3 notations

Still the slow streak. It's been hard maintaining any kind of will to wait without a groove. I find myself getting careless.

The 9top birthday party asked if they could bring in their own cake. Not an issue for us at all, until I went to light the candles. I borrowed a fellow waiter's lighter which is notoriously flamer-thrower like. This little tidbit, I had forgotten and clicked the lighter. The flame swept across the two candles, lighting both, and then igniting the frosting on the far side. The frosting lit several inches requiring me to shake the cake out.

Today wasn't much different. During our lunch "rush" I rang up a check and ran the card through. As the Customer Copy and the Merchant Copy printed out, I separated the customer copy with the itemized check. Ripping off the Merchant Copy, I circled "Merchant Copy" and put and "X" next to the signature line, and proceeded to sign my own name, place it in the book and deliver it to the table.

"Um...this is already signed."
"I'm sorry?"
"Is this my check? The part I'm supposed to sign is already signed."
I couldn't help but chuckle.
"My apologies. I kind of zoned out and signed it myself. Let me tear that up and print you a new one."
They too laughed. The tip was 20%.

This has been a week where the flow has been steadily slow, the tips average, but I have yet to have a table this week that I haven't enjoyed waiting on. At least the pathetic pace hasn't been entirely miserable.
Monday, September 11, 2006 by Ospite.
6 notations

Regular groove for a weekend night. I'm up front training the new wave of hosts and we're on a wait. They walk through the door, a young relatively alternative couple. He had tattoos from hands to shoulders, black hair spiked a bit save for the bangs which were pushed down...very emo. Black tshirt and jeans. The girl was similarly clad with multiple facial piercings.

This is normally the kind of couple that waiters can't stand getting. Cheap and slow.

Surprisingly, they were extremely congenial, polite, considerate. They were pleasant about the wait time and didn't give us a hassle when we blew the quote time a bit. I took them back to their table and due to their kindness, checked up on them from time to time.

They stuck around a little bit, but nothing beyond a normally long dinner. When the waitress stopped by to take the check she asked if they needed change, got the "you're all set, thanks for everything" reply. She walked back to the kitchen, opened the book to double check the amount left. She turned white.

"Did they stiff you?"

She held up a 200% tip.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006 by Ospite.
15 notations

Lunch "rush," c. 12:15pm.

2top is escorted to my table. I approach carefully, recognizing the lunch meeting type. Two guys who want somewhere to discuss business but away from the office. This usually connotes much inter-office gossip and bashing of fellow employees.

"Gentlemen, good afternoon. Have you been here before?"
"Of course."
"Splendid. Let me skip the spiels and head straight to drink orders."
"Iced tea." "Club soda with lime."
"I'll return post-haste with those as well as bread."
They simply stared at me. Maybe they weren't prepared for the use of 'post-haste' from a waiter.

I retrieved the appropriate drinks and then orders and then ran their food. As soon as their plates hit the table, it was as if I ceased to exist. Now normally for lunch-meeting types, they ignore you the whole time. But these two were chatty until their food arrived...the change was quite dramatic. When checking up on them, I was literally ignored.

"How is everything gentlemen?"
....not even a glance in my direction. They just stopped talking as if I walked into a confidential get-together without password clearance. The man seated to my left even yanked his legal pad from the table clumsily. I walked away without opening my mouth, for danger of getting yelled at.

I proceeded to ignore them for a solid 45 minutes. They made no gestures my direction, or eye-contact of any kind, until a plate was pushed to the table edge. I was there in an instant.

"What else may I do for you today sirs?"
"I'll take a coffee. Black." "And more tea for me." ...the latter of which again removed his legal pad and held it under the table.

After the drink drop, I let them be for another 25 minutes. We were now up to roughly 85 minutes of dining time. So much for turnover. When I meandered back to their table, they looked mildly annoyed at my presence.

"I'll leave this here for you. If you want anything else, simply let me know. And take your time." which is code for get out now. From the get-go, I could tell the tip was going to be crap. I can also take a certain amount of being looked down upon, but whatever was going on at their table clearly should have taken place in a locked room with no windows. When I placed the check on the table..they both gave me immediate hateful eyecontact. I held their gazes without changing face from my emotionless, neutral waiter expression. The one on the right mumbled something under his breath which I could not decipher. Nor did I care to ask. I trotted off to another table for a greet.

By the time I had done the lunch speech at the new table and turned around, the 2top of wannabe CIA field agents had left the building. Their tip: $5.00 on a $42.00 check. I'll remember those faces. Part of me wants them again...just so I can comment on the contents of the legal pad before it vanishes under the table.
Sunday, September 03, 2006 by Ospite.
8 notations

We've recently hired a couple hostesses and it's my job to train them. Which I don't mind all that much, except that it means I spend less time on the floor, and more time at the podium.

It was a particularly hectic Thursday evening. The kind that made me wish desperately that I was waiting instead...until a 13top of girls walked in the door. Not women. Not young ladies. Girls. Ages 14-17. Out for a night on the town sans the parents.

The danger of looking at the reservation book is that you have no clue what the party's actually like, simply how many are in it. And I was suddenly very glad I was not serving. Now a reservation of that magnitude is bit abnormal on a Thursday evening so servers hear the number and jump at the chance to wait on a party. That's why we never tell them the age and/or make-up of the party's attendees.

These wannabe 'ladies' start arguing with me about the fact they couldn't sit immediately down at their table.

"Why are we just standing here? Why aren't we sitting down yet?"
"Because, miss, there's currently a party at the table you'll be sitting at. They're taking a little longer than expected."
"There're people sitting at OUR table?!"
"Of course. Reserations allow us to plan ahead for a party, but we can't simply hold tables for hours."

And I walked away. I could tell these were the girls that get their way whenever they want based on acting as pretty and seductive as they can. At that age, any guys in school would bend over backwards for them. Not me. Not here. They had to wait extra. Why? Because they were going to be pricks to my waitress no matter what.

I had the bussers take their time with the partytop so the waitress could milk the other two tables for all they were worth, realizing the 13 girls weren't going to leave anything substantial. We prep the table and seat the princesses of evil.


From the get-go, their waitress walks over to me.

"What is our policy on kid's menus?"
"I'm sorry. What?"
"All of them want to order from the kids menu."
"Not a chance in hell. They want to run around town acting all grown up without mommy and daddy, no going cheap at this place. Tell them 10 and younger only."

As time went on, things only got worse. One of the girls decided to make their table a barnyard. She looked the waitress dead in the eye, exclaimed "Oh s**t." and dumped her glass of Coke on the table.

Later, another one did the same, except she swiped her glass with her hand, as if waving away a fly. If they weren't chastizing the waitress, were intentionally ignoring her when she talked. The nearby patrons were clearly annoyed at their behavior, several of whom mentioned it to me on the way out the door.

"That party of girls had the most horrific behavior I've ever seen in a restaurant. Where are their parents?"
"Believe me. I wish we could have denied that party entrance. But the reservation was taken, and we don't usually have to ask if parents will be present. I will from now on."

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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