More Banquet Griping

I shouldn’t complain, I guess. I made $92 on the lunch shift today at Michael’s. There are people out of work. There are people afraid for their jobs. There are a lot of waiters who don’t make that on their best shift, day or night.

On the other hand, complaining is always a relative thing. Working a banquet of 46 today, I heard the speaker addressing a group of investment brokers (general term, since I don’t really know what they all did), complaining that the recent TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program – read: Federal Bailout) was not a bailout of Wall Street Fat Cats as it was being characterized. He knew many wealthy people who had lost 60-65% of their net worth in this crisis – and that was real, and they’re not getting it back. So where’s the ‘Bail Out’ there?

So let’s say his friends were worth ‘only’ $1 million. Now they’re down to $350k. Ouch.

But he was serious; his audience nodded their heads sympathetically; no one raised a voice to protest.

So I can be serious too about hating banquet serving.

Nutshell: Michael’s does a robust banquet business, both lunch and dinner, in large rooms separated from the dining floor. There’s an automatic 20% gratuity added. But after paying the banquet manager, the bartender, and the restaurant, 13 of those 20 percentage points go to the servers. I griped about that and other things before.

Today highlighted another ugly aspect of banquet serving at Michael’s. There is a disparity between the size and quality of lunch banquets and dinner banquets. The ethic for our system is that you leave the room fully set up. In other words, after the banquet is over, you break down, clean up, then reset for the next party.

The problem is that lunches are often little deals of 10, 20, 30. Dinners are the Big Boys: 100, 150. Also, lunches get about $50 a head, featuring $3 iced teas for beverages. Dinners run $80, with expensive bottled wine and cocktails being purchased.

These are the extremes, but what happens is us lunch guys come in and work a small party and make $70. Then our brutal reset is 100 (there’s no money for bussers in banquets, because the banquet manager and the ‘House’ get their cuts of the tip, so the servers do it all themselves). The reset can involve, as it did today, polishing 100 crystal wine glasses, culling and polishing 100 sets of knives, spoons, and forks (double forks because we set two), polishing 100 water glasses, folding 100 napkins, reconfiguring 12 tables to accommodate 100 people in a prescribed manner, and finally setting all those tables with all that stuff. Oh yeah, I forgot that I lugged 12 chairs two-at-a-time from the storage shed across the street. That’s just the reset. The work of handling the party you had that day is a given.

Moving along, the dinner crew comes in to an impeccable banquet room, serves their party of 100, make $200 per person. And then their reset is for 40 people.

It’s out of whack. I don’t mind about the money. As I said elsewhere in the blog, lunch and dinner are two different animals. But the ridiculous amount of extra work lunch banquet servers do setting up for dinner servers really gets on my nerves. There’s no reason the banquet manager, for all the money she makes off these parties, can’t *manage* a solution where some dinner servers come in an hour early and defray some of this labor for us.

‘Nuff said.

Well, almost. I didn’t get out till 4 p.m. Usually, working the floor, it’s about 2:45, and without having broken a sweat. And often making more money. Uggghh!

But then again, I’m home now. I’m richer. And the Lakers are on tonight. Hey, everybody works, right? Why not me?

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One thought on “More Banquet Griping

  1. MikeTheWaiterDotCom Wed, November 19, 2008 / 11:15 am

    Well, my friend, you hit the nail on the head. Since the beginning of time, there has always been a dichotomy not just between the front of the house and the kitchen, but also between lunch and dinner shifts. The lunch shift works harder and makes less not only in the dining room, but also the bar. You know what the best position in the restaurant is? It’s being a part time day manager (answer the phones, eat a nice meal for free, and check out the sports channel) and then picking up a couple of creme de la creme shifts at night.

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