The Double

Managers and corporations like to call it a “split shift,” but waiters always call them doubles. You work lunch, then later, dinner. It’s no fun for a waiter to work that much. We’re sort of like sprinters: we gear for our race, give it our all, and then rest and relax with a cold drink and rehash how everything went down.

A double screws that all up. Instead of notching down after lunch, you immediately start thinking about dinner a short time away. When you start dinner shift, your energy is nowhere close to what it should be. If you’re lucky, you’ve grabbed a bite, put your feet up, and relaxed a bit. If you’re really lucky, you’ve even gotten an hour’s nap. But you’re still not the same as a fresh-for-his-shift waiter.

We work them because we need to. We need the money. There are only seven dinners in a week. You’re not going to work all of them. If you work as many as possible, and there’s still not enough money, you can:

  1. Move to another restaurant, hoping the money is better.
  2. There is no #2 because you cannot create more nights in the week.

Therefore, the double. You add lunch shifts. If you are a dinner server and you work lunch shifts, you will not make it unless you understand in advance that you will not make as much money at lunch for even harder work. Sorry, that’s the nature of it. These are two different animals here, and you can’t make a donkey buck like a bronco.

However, even at reduced rates, it can still be a pretty good deal working lunches. Consider how much you still make per hour, compared to many, many people in the ‘real’ world.

Take a four hour lunch. You walk with $40, which is not stellar, but probably pretty common. I’d bet Chile’s or Denny’s servers make that or more at lunch, typically. So, in California, minimum wage is $8 an hour. The easy math is you’re making $18 an hour for this. (And don’t forget that a lot of waiters don’t declare all their tips, so $10 of that is mostly ‘take home pay.’ For those of you in ‘real jobs,’ what would you be making per hour if your take home pay was $18 an hour? I’d guess $20-22.)

That’s good money. Take that logic up several notches for working the dinner shift, especially in an expensive restaurant.

So I’m rambling a little about Doubles and pay . . .

What happened today was $126 at lunch and $150 at dinner. That’s a poor night for Friday, but then, it’s Halloween, one of the worst nights of the year for restaurants. We felt lucky to do that well.

I noticed a disturbing trend during the night. I kept hearing: “We’re going out tonight to hide from the Trick or Treater’s.”

Although it’s good for restaurant business, it represents a breakdown in the fabric of society and family. This is a subject you will be subjected to later in the blog, no doubt, because it runs through the core of restaurants and holidays (always a point of contention among servers).

I don’t like to see ruined a great thing like kids canvassing their local neighborhoods, meeting the homeowners who live amongst them, and getting a sackful of candy that they will remember spilling on the floor when they get home for the rest of their lives. These social events are what makes a society. Yet I perceive Halloween is drying up. It’s a lot like Major League Baseball. All of us who remember it as a big thing from our childhood are still into it, but as adults, in adult ways. We don’t buy 10-cent baseball cards or put posters on our bedroom walls. We get together with our same-age (middle-aged) friends and get drunk in a sports bar. We bet at the sports book in Vegas. But the kids today aren’t doing the kid things regarding baseball.

Likewise, Halloween. The adults are still having their Halloween parties like nobody’s business. I saw more adults dressed up in Carney’s Corner bar than I would likely have seen coming to my door tonight (had I been home and not working – another problem). A diner I talked to tonight about this said it’s becoming much more common for kids to do organized functions, such as church or school gatherings, than to hit the streets as we did. Parents are worried about safety.

Well, I won’t digress into that subject . . . for now.

Instead, let’s leave it at a $286 day, where I had a nice time with my people, and now I’m home enjoying a beer. I guess that’s life for most everybody.

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One thought on “The Double

  1. SkippyMom Mon, March 16, 2009 / 5:08 am

    I just found your blog {thanks Mike!} and have been reading it from the present back.

    I usually wouldn’t comment {even being a former waitress for 13 years} but I have to disagree with the “tag” you placed on this.

    Your opinion about Halloween seems based on one diner’s observation and adults costumed who showed up at Carney’s – but you labelled it “societal breakdown” because kids no longer trick or treat – either you don’t have children or you don’t live in the right neighborhood {one which has a lot of kids}. My oldest is 22 and my youngest is 11 – and they have all done the traditional trick or treating and this year will be our last year {for the 11 year old}, although we will still give out candy – Yay!

    I know this is a weird post to pick to comment on, but not everything is as cut and dried as you sometimes present it and I don’t think because you didn’t have trick or treaters or your customer related to you that all the kids go to church or school related functions dictates a label of societal breakdown. Just seemed a little harsh.

    Still, just my opinion and I do like you blog 🙂

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