Sorry, But I’m In A Bad Mood

    I take pride that I’m able to distance myself from my real life problems when I walk in the door of the restaurant. Not only is it respectful to your fellow workers and your customers, it’s good business. As we always say, ‘This is how we get paid!’ You’re not going to get good tips walking around with a sullen face and sour attitude.

    But yes, I am a human being. Although I am able to effectively put on a pleasant demeanor and exercise extreme patience, things do get on my nerves.

    I’m not in a bad mood today – hey, I’m off! – but that won’t stop me from starting a new feature in the Waiternotes Blog: Sorry, But I’m In A Bad Mood – Things That Get Under My Skin.

  • Guests who can’t wait to request things even as you’re doing it. I first noticed this irritating behavior at the Fish House, a place where we used large oval trays (the kind you have place on a stand in the dining room) to deliver everything. It was a large restaurant, so to save steps, you’d use your tray almost like a personal side station, loading plates, drinks, silverware, anything you were going to need for your tables that trip into your station. I couldn’t count how many times delivering coffee I would set down the cup and saucer with one hand, the teaspoon with the other, and a guest would blurt, ‘Can I have cream and sugar?’
    I’d think, ‘Hey, my tail doesn’t have an opposable thumb! I’ve got it right here.’ And I reach back to the tray to retrieve them.

    Same with ketchup and fries. It’s just right here, dude. Calm down.

    Similarly, ‘We’re ready to order now,’ as I’m standing before the table with my order pad and pen in hand.

    Opening wine for guests with full cocktails in front of them: ‘You can just open that now. We’ll finish our cocktails first.’

    On initial visit to the table: ‘Maybe you can take our cocktail order?’ Why do you think I’m here? Is there any restaurant that doesn’t take cocktail orders first?

    Parallel to this is the guest who rushes the order-taking process, inquiring about their choices at every opportunity before you have a chance to present them as you would anyway. ‘I’ll have a green salad. What kind of dressings do you have?’ It’s a good thing you asked. Otherwise we would have served it dry. This is the same person to whom I’ll respond, ‘Ranch, Blue Cheese, or Vinaigrette.’ ‘Do you have 1000 Island?’  Sheesh.

  • The First Table Is Never Good Enough. I’ve learned that on my Bad Mood days, no matter where I seat a guest, they won’t like the table I’ve chosen. Table for two by the window – ‘Can we have a booth?’ A nice, spacious booth – ‘Do you have a smaller table?’ On the patio – ‘Do you have something inside?’ In the heart of the dining room – ‘Is there something quieter, away from the bustle?’
    My current dinner house, Carney’s, has a narrow floor plan. All tables are against a wall – none floating in the middle of the floor. Amazingly, we always get this request: ‘Can we sit somewhere away from the traffic?’ Dude, the whole place is an aisle way! There’s nowhere that people don’t constantly pass your table.
  • Do You Have House Wine? The pro answer is, ‘We do not designate one wine as House Wine. We have several selections though.’ Unfortunately, on my Bad Mood days I’m more likely than not to respond, ‘The Smoking Loon is the least expensive, if that’s what you mean.’
    When I’m in a better frame of mind it’s fun to list off the wines in this situation, complete with descriptions, and watch the guest squirm trying to decipher which one is the cheapest without asking which one is the cheapest. ‘The Ste. Michele is dry with hints of apple. The La Crema has a touch of butter and pear. The Clos La Chance is oaky with some nutmeg on the bouquet.’ The eyes go glassy as she tries to picture which name she remembers seeing on the bottom shelf in the supermarket . . .

    My favorite though is when the guest just says, ‘I really can’t tell the difference, so it doesn’t matter to me.’ Thank you! That’s when I say, ‘You might as well have the Ste. Michele. It’s the least expensive, but it’s a very nice glass of wine, crisp and dry. If you don’t like it, I’ll take it back and get you something else, no charge.’

    Just be comfortable in your own skin, people. I’ll try to make you feel good for it.

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3 thoughts on “Sorry, But I’m In A Bad Mood

  1. MikeTheWaiterDotCom Tue, November 25, 2008 / 3:49 pm

    I like your tendency to leave your problems at the front door. After all, they’ll still be there for you to pick up on the way home.
    As far as things that bug you…let me share things that bug me:
    A) People who don’t like the table you chose for them. After I offer a second table, and they say no, I just say sit wherever you like .. and of course they slip a couple notches on my priority list…. 🙂
    B) People who ask for lemon, straws and sugar for their water… Geeze, you cheapskate, we do sell lemonade!
    C) Can I have more water? When the glass is nearly full.
    D) I don’t like this (anything)! If I know it is good and is properly prepared, I just say “well, you’ll know not to order it next time!” We used to do half price martinis on Fridays and we’d get the lookie loos come in and try everything, a taste of this “OOOOh, i don’t like that…..” cripes… the drings are already half price and now you want all the comped drinks??? not in my section! Just don’t order it next time. Now pay me.
    E) and the one that sets me off is the ole “Do you know who I am?” “nope and i don’t much care”… yikes am I being cynical?
    peace, mw

  2. waiternotes Tue, November 25, 2008 / 4:39 pm

    The I Don’t Like It Thing gets me too. It’s infantilism, like a baby clenching its lips, closing its eyes, and shaking its head to the spoonful of food. Grow up!

    I’ve never gotten the Do You Know Who I Am? thing much. The variation around here (at least in my restaurants) is: ‘I know [name of owner].’

    Good for you. So do I. She’s my boss. And if she caught me giving away free stuff, she’d fire me.

  3. foodserviceninja Mon, March 9, 2009 / 6:24 pm

    I blame bankrupt Steak N Ale for the current situation of the guest whines and free things start happening. I once worked in the location in Dallas closest to their HQ so we have corp weanies in having dinner meetings all the time.

    My GM told this story in training to explain the S & A philosophy on guest satisfaction. Once in Houston a large wedding rehearsal dinner went horribly wrong. The party involved a lot of out of town guests that S & A paid their flights back into town, put them up in a nice hotel plus covered all the their expenses over a weekend.

    SO they blew tens of thousands of bucks to fix 200 or 300 guest impressions. I believe the overall cost was 20 or 50 grand. When they could have just given everyone a gift card for a free dinner.

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