Worked Michael’s for lunch and I had to wait on the Big Guys.
It was the founder of the chain, the regional VP (in charge of the entire West Coast) and a regional supervisor. Again, that’s the Founder. The guy who created the very first Michael’s from scratch those decades ago, and who continued to build it into a nationwide brand.
I’m 47 years old. I’m not jaded. I try not to be. I’m professional, and I’m experienced. And . . . yeah, I’m old. I don’t get over-excited about dealing with important people. I’ve served captains of industry, mobsters, and movie stars, and I know how to keep my heart-rate down and do a good job.
But I’d be lying if I said the adrenaline doesn’t pump when you get these people (celebrities, important businessmen, corporate honchos) in your station. And I don’t believe anyone else when they claim they they’re not affected when they wait on the Big Guy.
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If nothing else, it gets my competitive juices flowing. I know how to do this job. I’m good at it. And I can be as charming as necessary. Let me at ’em!
At the same time, a seasoned server has also become accustomed to running things his/her own way. Michael’s has canned verbal scripts for waiters that it sends out to all its restaurants. Every server is expected to learn the new pitch, word-for-word. Most do not – and quite deliberately. We have the idea that we are doing an extremely good job for the restaurant (have been for years) and that we know the new data, and can deliver it if the situation arises, but there’s no reason to change the direction of a charging bull.
This puts me in a funky position waiting on corporate honchos, because I don’t really do everything by the book. It’s been so long, I have a hard time remembering what the book is. And now these guys who wrote that book will be evaluating me.
They might be evaluating me. Most of the time, honchos couldn’t care less about the meal they are having in one of their own restaurants (as long as it’s made well and things go smoothly). They are talking business. They’ll give you a polite and sincere hello, and call you by name initially, but that’s usually the last eye contact you’ll get until you give them the check to sign (and maybe not even then).
That’s why it’s silly to get too worked up about serving the Big Guys – they’re not even paying attention to you.
But sometimes they are, at least to some degree. This meal was not really about the service, thank goodness, but the Big Guys did order every course: appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert, and coffee beverages. This was pretty rare. I think they really were checking things out. At the same time, they were deep into their conversation whole meal.
The beginning went well for me. I told them about a special sea bass, and two of them were actually surprised. Which in turn surprised me. Michael’s is very corporate. We do not do specials designed by our in-house chef; specials are passed along through corporate channels. There also was some discussion about a new salmon we are using for lunch only. The Regional VP was bragging about what an improvement it was on the salmon salad, and I was able to chime in with an affirmation. One guy ordered the sea bass.
The most perilous part, for me, of an uneventful meal was when I had to pitch the entire dessert tray. These guys definitely knew everything on it, but I was required to do the full verbalization. They listened intently, but at the same time, I knew they couldn’t care less about my verbalization. So I did what any good waiter would do. I read my table and ripped through the presentation, so as to save them the time and pain. They ordered three desserts, a coffee and a cappuccino.
Everything was just fine in the end, and I got a $30 tip on what would have been a $144 check. My best table of the day. I ended up walking with $110 on the day.