Thursday, May 17, 2007 by Ospite.

I've always been on a kick about smokers being able to take breaks when no one else can, that's the only addiction that you can bring to the workplace and not be reprimanded. Several of us have considered taking up the habit just so we can walk off the floor more regularly without a care in the world, getting other people to watch our tables.

It was a particularly slow lunch shift when Candice and Page decided it was time for their nicotine fix. Each had two tables. Candice a 2top and a 3top, Page with a deuce and an 11top. Neither of them decided to tell anyone where they went, and just walked outside. The problem is that our weather has been stellar recently and it's been lending itself to long smoke breaks. In this case, a 17 minute smoke break.

Unless the pacing of your tables allows for absolutely no conversation, beverage refills, check closing, or anything else a customer can dig up, 8 minutes is the most you should go without checking on a table, whether or not you're actually speaking to them. Beyond that, the patrons seem to want to see you around...that is, unless you're in a fine dining establishment, which ours is not.

Again, in the case of Candice and Page, this was a lunch shift which means most of the diners are on a tight schedule and it's our job to aid that, not hinder it. That faster you can get a good lunch out and turn the table, the better your tip will be (save for long business meetings, but those are easy to read).

So I walked out of the kitchen and noticed the gentleman from Candice's deuce standing, cash in hand, next ot his booth with a scowl on his face. There wasn't even a check on his table yet. It was obvious he wanted to get out and fast.

I was right next to the door of the kitchen, clearly off the floor and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find the head of Page's 11top which a worried look on his face.

"Hi. Um. We're kind of in a hurry and I can't find our waitress anywhere."
"How can I help you?"
"We need about 6 to-go boxes and the check."
"No problem, I speed things up for you."
"Thanks, I appreciate that a lot." ...he then handed me a $5 bill.

I ran, grabbed to-go boxes, and tried to hunt down Page and Candice. Normally I wouldn't help the people who are actually slacking's their tip, not mine, but we share responsibilities when we're weeded. And the $5 helped my motivation.

Our head chef went over to Lonnie, the service manager and said, "Hey, what's with the slackers in the back smoking away and ignoring tables?"

Lonnie immediately got their butts in gear, after which she came to me. "So what's going on on the floor." I gave her the scoop and the girls got a talking to. They also were put on silverware duty for the afternoon.

Page shot me an evil look.

"Why'd you tell on us?! That was mean."
"First, Lonnie asked me what was going on. Second, what is this? 3rd grade? If a manager at my job, my superior asks me something, I'm going to give a straight answer. And those customers are pissed."

For the next two days, I had to endure the whining and annoyed glances from the Duo, but sometimes it's funny how in customer service, the customer comes first. Weird.


Blogger Calitri said...

I can't believe you actually expect them to do their job. That's just ludicrous. You must be some kind of slave driver or responsible employee or something. You deserved ever last evil eye you got from those nicotine addicted little twits.

Obviously, I'm just kidding. Though I have often thought about taking up smoking at work just to go outside. But really, with my current office job, I can go outside, i.e. trips to the liquor store, whenever I feel the need. I'm still trying to see which makes the work day go faster, a good Mexican beer with a lime or a full-bodied American lager.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea, i deal with a lot of that crap. the restaurant i work at - a darden peice of work - they only let servers smoke when the back door is open, for "safety reasons." either way, when the backdoor is open, it's a mad rush for servers to go outside. sometimes the servers are decent about it- "my tables are all happy i'm going to go smoke" but this one server had this particular habit of dumping all his tables on you if you were in his section and disappearing in a puff of, well, smoke. the one day he said to me "34 needs a dr pepper i'll be outback!" and i said right back "well why can't YOU get them the dr pepper?" he looked all sad puppy eyes at me and finally said "i *guess* i could get it real quick...' uh... YEA! it's not my resonsibility to wait on your table, jerk.

normally the smokers say right back "well you can come outside too, you don't have to smoke!" ... true enough, but it's easier for me to take those 5 minutes and get all my tables super happy than to risk things going in to the shit while my back is turned .. i still go out when i can, but i'm not going to risk a good tip because a guy wanted tabasco and couldn't find me to ask until after he finished his dinner.

not to mention you end up reaking like smoke even if you're just outside for a minute or two. nooo thanks.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not to mention the constant whining -"Uh when ar ethey going to open the backdooooooorrrrr i neeed a cigereeettttttteeeee"

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God forbid the CUSTOMER comes first in a customer service job. Forgive me for being harsh, but I think there are many waitre/waitress bloggers out there who sometimes forget that.


3:14 PM  
Blogger 6th Floor blog said...

There are jobs where it's less of a big deal when smokers work 30+ minutes less than everyone else in a day, but I don't think waiting tables is one of them.

It could be worse, you could be pooling tips ;-) Then you'd feel the need to pick up their slack, and their bad behavior would be reinforced.

3:27 PM  
Blogger tazzie said...

The owner at this placed I've worked at off an on for years got so tired of it he put a camera on the "offical smoking spot" to see who was slacking off.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Arhyarion said...

Babies. I could face some serious flames for this, but who cares. I totally think tobacco products should be made illegal. It's an addictive and unhealthy habit and should not be allowed anywhere.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I used to take 'non smoke breaks' at one of the restaurant I worked.
Usually I'd go to the cafe next door and grab a cappucino (to go) but sometimes I'd just chill in the back. I would let people know - "uh I'm going to NOT back in a few!"

10:04 PM  
Blogger me said...

you could make smokers go on LESS breaks, that way they'll at least cut back.

although their hands might be shaking and eyes bloodshot.

but that's what you get for being a smoker!

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work at a family owned BBQ restaurant and I smoke. I don't think my smoking hurts my tips/customer service at all. In fact, I think that my smoke breaks with my co-workers (which are taken during general slow times or when we have few tables that are taken care of at the moment; i.e. will not need anything for about 4 minutes) helps the camaraderie of the staff and allows those who smoke to do what they have to do ("have a fix," whatever you want to call it) and provide more relaxed service. It goes without saying that staff bonding (in whatever form) and relaxed employees are huge factors in the environment of a restaurant. These aren't excuses, but honestly, what is the difference between going into the bathroom to drop a deuce, going off to look for a manager, being held up in the station preparing a "molten chocolate cake sundae," mixing a bunch of drinks because the bartender is slammed, taking an order for an ADD-afflicted 12-top outside of your section and having a cigarette? All take up the same amount of time, all keep you out of sight distance of your tables. Just sayin'.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous non-smoker who needs breaks too said...

[Anonymous (12:43) said smoke breaks allow for more relaxed service]

Gee, is that just because without the cigarettes you addicts get cranky jittery?

6:58 AM  
Anonymous ogsrvr said...

to the anon poster re: other things that take you out of your table's eyesight-

it's when you have to do that shit (get a chocolate cake, find a manager, whatever) AND you've had the smoke break that puts you in the shit and pisses customers off.

do i really care about the people who can manage their tables and grab 5 minutes for a smoke break? Nope. but when people -cant- serve their tables and provide "100% guest delight" and they start asking me for favors.. that's when i take offense.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Manuel said...

Smoking rules! It makes you look cool, how cool was Jimmy Dean? Eh? I take a couple of smoke breaks a shift. I plan them well and no one suffers, not my fellow workers and cetinaly not my customers, never! You have to be considerate and remember why you are there. If my non-smoking waiters want to take five during shift thats cool with me and i cover them to do so. Team is as team does.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

The solution to a problem is not to make it illegal. We shouldn't be looking to government to fix every problem. Tobacco should not be made *illegal* because that's how North Korea would solve the "problem" of an unhealthy habit. People can make their own choices in our country.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Manuel said...

Smoking is bad for you and makes you smell all pooy.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i´m a smoker and technically we´re not allowed to take smoke breaks. most of the time i don´t unless we´re really slow and i start to get jittery, or it´s the end of a ridiculously long night. but i can go 6-8 hours with a cigarette.

and you people need to quit looking down on smokers and judging us...EVERYONE has addictions and bad habits. smoking´s a more obvious one that everybody has an opinion of, but when it comes down to it, it´s all the same thing. respect my right to do what i want with my body, and i´ll respect yours.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read someplace that a typical smoker's breaks add up to equal a few weeks of vacation every year.

I work in health care, specifically a level one trauma center, and I know more than a few nurses who think nothing of leaving critical patients unattended while they smoke. A smoking ban will be implemented on our entire campus this summer. I can't wait for it.

On a brighter side, the $10,000 I invested in Philip Morris stock ten years ago is now worth $75,000, plus $25,000 worth of Kraft Foods stock they recently spun off, and it pays a generous dividend. Keep smoking, suckers.

6:53 PM  

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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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