Cleaning Out The Refrigerator IV – New Manager At Michael’s

Shortly after my blow-up in December, Mickey put in her resignation, then worked her last shift in the first week of January. Aside from the story recounted earlier, I had one other bone of contention with her: her penchant for over-staffing. So I wasn’t that sad to see her go. At the same time, there is some anxiety because you never know what you’re gonna end up with as a replacement. At least Mickey was a known quantity.

The immediate result was that the General Manager took over the lunch shift for about a month while we all waited for Mickey’s replacement to finish his training elsewhere in the country. Like a lot of GM’s, he’s the aloof sort who’s hard to get a read on. Other stretches when he has run lunch (and of course, the front desk) for a week or two, I’ve gotten the shaft or I’ve gotten styled-out big time. Variously, I’ve thought he didn’t like me; he did like me; he didn’t give enough of a shit to bother with being even-handed; or he didn’t really know what he was doing.

I now think it’s mostly the latter two. This run, for about a month, I got a better feel for him. I discovered he really liked working the lunch. It turns out he’s normally overworked, but the lunch shift gives him a mere 10 hour day compared to 12-14 for his night shift. He also said the rhythm of the clock when he works days allows him to get a full night’s sleep. He was pretty happy.

And so were us waiters. He was not afraid to staff appropriately. Meaning not over-staffing. And if it got suddenly busier than expected, he rolled up his sleeves and took care of biz. Our covers went from 10 per server to 13. The math there is pretty easy. We made $65 a shift at 10 covers per, now we were making $85.

Finally, three weeks ago brought the new day manager, Eric. So far he seems to be a great guy, a server-oriented manager. By that, I mean, when he’s not busy with his primary duties seating guests, running the desk, opening wine, and doing table checks, he shifts into service mode. He grabs dirty plates, he hits the line and runs food, etc. It’s quite nice. We’ll see how long it lasts – and I won’t blame him when/if he stops busting his hump quite so much.

(Michael’s managers are just plain overworked. If they could just do 10 hour days five a week, instead of 12’s for six days a week, everybody would be a lot happier. But because they don’t, I understand fatigue and the power of inertia. Hey, they might not be busting ass clearing tables and such, but they’re busting ass doing 15 other things.)

I was also lucky enough the first week with Eric at the helm to turn in a superior shift (a $350 blockbuster I mentioned in another post). It got busy. I had a full section all day, with a six-top, a couple of fours, and an all-day four-top that lasted 3 hours amassing a $500 check. Included in this mix were a couple of Prime Guests. I handled everything flawlessly.

The other waiters apparently had some problems however. I learned that he corralled them at the end of the shift for a meeting wherein he gave them some gentle ‘focus points.’ I was not invited to this fun meeting. The next day, Eric said to me, ‘You really did a great job yesterday. Thanks!’

Okay. This is what I’m talking about. As long as I can keep up the quality and competence, I should be able to enjoy some slight preferential treatment. If that sounds selfish or conceited, well, I’m sorry. But I’m being honest. And I believe all waiters hope to achieve such slightly-preferential treatment . . . Well, maybe it’s more accurate that good waiters hope for that; bad waiters just hope to get even treatment. Either way, each is hoping for a slight upgrade over what he deserves. This has been addressed exceedingly well on a Red Lobster blog. Please click through for an entertaining and enlightening read about the evils of politically correct corporate restaurants and their fear of what should be a meritocracy.

Since then, I’ve truly been killing it at Michael’s. Just yesterday I had walked with $288. Maybe it’s luck of the draw – or more likely just patience on my part, as I’ve been hanging around for close to six years – but almost every break is going my way.

Yesterday, for example, I was the closer. It was a 3-floor. But server A wasn’t feeling well and was cut earlier than normal. Server B was working her other job in downtown L.A., so she was also cut a bit earlier than normal. Add to that, that the busser was on vacation, and his replacement was doing a double – so they made him cut out at 1:30 so he wouldn’t incur overtime. This left me alone on the floor by 2 p.m. and I still had a full station at that point. And then it got busy.

Tables kept coming. Mercifully, they dribbled in rather than flooded in at once. But it was tough. A 5-top insisted on ordering everything on my first visit to the table: bottled water, appetizers, salads/soups/entrées/desserts. As I was just a bit behind, this first greeting happened as I had my hands full with a tray and a couple of plates hidden behind my back. I couldn’t write all this garbage down. So I just concentrated and memorized the entire freaking order.

I ran four tables from 2-4:30, when they finally started to fall away and not be replaced. Like my first big day with Eric as manager, I managed to hit everything perfectly. No voids needed. No complaints. No fires to put out.

Of course, with no busser and no waiters around to lean on for key moments of teamwork, I got a lot of help from the manager and bartender. No apologies, and no embarrassment. The job had to get done, and I basically orchestrated it getting done properly.

In the end, Eric was again appreciative of how I managed to handle the volume with no problems at all, and nothing but happy guests. I tipped the bartender double her usual, gave the manager double the usual thank you’s, and left with nearly 300 bucks for a lunch shift.

So, this kind of thing has led to my getting luckily positioned in a very good place with the new manager. Combined with a small surge in business, the immediate future at my lunch gig is looking very good (upgraded from at best just ‘solid’) for the first time.

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