Tuesday, February 27, 2007 by Ospite.
2 notations

This is post number 100. Not bad considering there are 52 weeks in a year and I've been blogging here for just over that.

But something is happening in the Trattoria. We've been attempting to put our fingers on it, but can't quite seem to nail it down.

The managers have constantly been nagging us to get off the clock as soon as possible, sending people home who cost them too much to have on the floor/line, and in general complaining that it's so slow that labor costs are killing them.

Now, we're here to make money, so getting a shift cut short is ridiculous, especially when customers are barely creeping through the door.

Thursday I decided to go back to my roots and switch shifts with one of the hosts. At this point in time, I wanted to get out early, hang out with the wife, and see a friend play a nearby coffeehouse. He gladly obliged and was hoping to make more money on the floor than at the podium.

To everyone's surprise, we were packed that night. The rush started early and wouldn't let up. Normally you'd applaud and be happy for the waiters. This was not the case. Due to the management's bizarre frame of mind, they had seriously inderstaffed the entire restaurant. All afternoon, they kept only one chef on, meaning he had to both prep the kitchen for dinner as well as cook anything that was ordered during his shift; thus requiring him to be two places at one time. Naturally he chose to cook for immediate patrons as opposed to prepping for future ones.

So short handed in the kitchen, in the Pit (dish), and on the floor, we were all screwed.

The one manager present ended up washing dishes for 45 minutes while he waited for 1 of 2 dishboys scheduled. Only one showed. I called servers in early to man the floor. The chef's were pulling more than their own weight. The service was slow, sloppy, and pathetic. Ticket times went through the roof, dishes were shabby. Waiters were exausted from trying to pick up too much slack. This always effects the customers' interpretations of how the restaurant is run. For once, those who complained incessantly...were right.

Friday too, was rough. Saturday wasn't quite as bad, but Sunday and Monday again became loathsome. What is happening to a management that I once looked up to?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 by Ospite.
11 notations

According to my wife, I'm a huge geek. This is not new information. Between classical music, being the only vocal performance major to voluntarily take astronomy and physics in college, smoking a pipe, using Mac computers long before they were "cool," and being completely obsessed with anything written by J.R.R. Tolkien, there have been clear signs that I have a summer home in Geekdom.

Right before the third Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movie came out, a theater near us did a trilogy showing. Films one and two extended editions and a special previewing of the third. We purchased tickets two months in advance and slept in a van in the parking lot so we'd have perfect seats. This started a tradition.

Once a year, we throw a Trilogy Extravaganza. Large amounts of food, several devoted friends, and 11.36 hours of film. We've done several now, so this week we wanted something to set it aside from the rest. Authentic Hobbit meals. We gathered our information from the books. Hobbits eat the following meals daily (you know, if Hobbits were real): 1st breakfast, 2nd breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, Supper. True to form, we prepared and consumed the following meals, with many thanks to Ben and the others that aided in the cookery:

1st Breakfast: Chilled vanilla custard served with fresh peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
toast with jam.

2nd Breakfast: Eggs, bacon, sauteed mushrooms,orange slices.

Elevensies: Breakfast sausage links, lembas (basically honey cakes), marinated tomatoes, plain tomatoes, cheeses, pickles, apple slices.

Luncheon: Roast chicken, roast carrots, roast potatoes, blackberry tarts

Afternoon Tea: Baby greens salad with raspberry vinaigrette, scones, tea sandwiches.

Dinner: Rabbit stew, hearty bread, butter.

Supper: Tomato soup, breaded fried mushroom croutons, and apple pie.

Beverages included ales, cider, juices, water, and Ent Draught (pineapple juice, African Rooibos Red Tea, ginger ale, and honey)

It was a very long, very filling, day.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 by Ospite.
3 notations

Our wine reps showed up just before 5pm, Monday, for a wine tasting involving some of our more rare selections. 9 wines in tow and stacks of 6oz plastic cups. They started the opening speech for the waitstaff and opened bottle number one.

We started with the two Pinot Grigio imports. They popped the corks and started around the room. We each snagged about a 2oz pour and listened intently to information 90% of them were going to forget and only 3 of us would actually use. It was when he saw the glazed-over look on our faces that one of your managers strolled over to get us more involved...besides consuming wine.

Several of our waitresses are young and require practice opening the bottles, so they were in charge of the upcoming wines for tasting. It was at this point (the Chardonnay) that the pours lept from 2oz to 4oz. Normally, we only pour 4oz for patrons when doing presentations at tables.

5:30 hit and customers started walking in the door. Many of us were running to and fro waiting and drinking, waiting and drinking. Needless to say, many of them were remarkably relaxed with their tables, almost giddy. One of our youngins (whom I shall now refer to as Cocky Newbie, or Cnoob for short) became all too comfortable chatting with our waitresses and I was afraid he'd start hitting on his tables...

Cnoob walked over to Kimberli as she stood at the micro. No human should ever be that close of a talker. He also looked like he'd spent the past 8 hours baking in the Sun. Clearly wine is not his typical poison.

It made me consider the level of alcohol in all of our systems. Not everyone had full tastings from each bottle. But worst case scenario:

9 bottles, 1 hour. An average of 3 or 4oz per pour. Somewhere between 27 and 36oz of wine.

I couldn't remember the last time I sat down and drank the equivalent of 1.5 bottles of wine in an hour by myself. Thank God most of us are heavyweights.
Sunday, February 04, 2007 by Ospite.
7 notations

I wasn't scheduled for Saturday night, and I've no idea why. Saturday is Money Day for people in the restaurant business. One third of my week's income is received on that day, so to not be schedule is brutal. The beauty of working as a waiter is that shifts are given up or picked up on a whim.

I worked through a mundane, slow Saturday lunch and was desperate to get something for the evening rush. Even if I had to bus tables. Something had to be done.

If you pay attention in the world, you can learn a lot. Say you're working security, don't worry about the punks rampaging about, keep your eye on the 20-something loner with the floating eyes...the eyes that are constantly examining, ever wary, assuming someone is always watching. It's him you have to worry about, because he's afraid of being watched for a reason. This is the person who gathers all the information in while scanning the room...people's positions, attitudes, attire, hair, and watchfulness. The one who knows what they can get away with when. I approached the host podium with those eyes.

I needed to find the roster for Saturday's dinner. Small talk. Works with the hostess everytime...new shirt, new shoes, what'd you do last night. I skimmed the roster while we chatted and found Dre on the list with a 3pm in time. Fabulous.

Dre works only one or two nights a week now, lives 15 minutes away with her husband and son, and can often be persuaded that she doesn't want to work. Her number is in my cell phone. It was 2:35 and I had to move fast.

I abruptly ended the 'conversation' up front and fled to dry-storage where I new I had good signal on my mobile and wouldn't be found using it.

"Dre, it's me. You don't really want to work do you?"
"Well, I was just getting ready to leave now, rather annoyed that I had to go out in the cold. Let me call you back within 5?"

She called in 2.5 minutes with wonderful news. Her shift, in my favorite section, now belonged to me.

Saturday ran normal as Saturdays go. I was on a roll with great timing, a solid groove, and not a single tip under 22%. I had a huge smile on my face until the Trio was seated at table 60. Three girls in their 20s. Jet black dyed hair, excessive tanning almost to a glow, make-up that took 3 years to apply, ample cleavage. These are the kind of girls that naturally assume they can squeak by in life based on hotness alone. This is a trait I have never enjoyed in anyone.

I did the typical spiel and never let my eyes linger too long. The moment they see you checking them out (or not checking them out, but rather looking anywhere but eye contact) they think they've got you. They tossed their hair, pursed their lips, made longer-than-normal 'thinking moans,' and acted flirty with each other. I flicked the switch on my back that changed me from ManMode to WaiterMode. (i.e. sarcastic, dry, and never giving an inch)

"Can I get this without the chicken in it?"


"Good. So it's cheaper then, right?"

"No, I'm sorry, it's not. The meal has a set price that I am unable to alter."

"Mmmm...come on. It's not that big a deal. Since I'm not getting the most expensive ingredient, it should be cheaper."

"While that is actually logical, it's not the case. You see, we have a computer system in which all our menu items are entered. It automatically tallies the items for your meal, and the pre-programmed price setting. It can't be altered."

"Well, that sucks." - over accentuating the "s's" and shooting me puppy dog eyes. This is a look that has simply made me laugh since I was in 6th grade. I caught on early that it's only a manipulation tool and became hardened to it, much to my benefit.

"That it does."

I ring the order in and return with their waters when they decide to persuade me to buy them drinks. It was one of the girls' 21st birthday... sure it was.

"I'm not allowed to buy drinks for patrons. Restuarant policy." - there is no such policy...not one that's not personal anyway.

They became rambunctious at their table, as if they had already consumed much alcohol. My other tables were clearly annoyed. I turned to approach them, right as the girl closest to me shifted her arm, accidently knocking a side-plate to the ground. Normally they'll hit, crack in a couple places, and bounce a bit. Something special happened with this one. It hit the floor with the explosivity of a 4th of July firework. The shards launched in every direction, sliding to a stop some 30 feet away. It was impressive.

Seeing the 12 shades of embarrassed red on her face and stifling my uproarious laughter, I donned the stern face and said, "Seriously ladies, are we not adults here?"

They shut up for the rest of the meal, paid in full, tipped well, and even apologized on their way out the door. Sooner or later, they have to realize not everyone buys the act.

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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