Blackie Redux – Part One

Bear with me. A couple of reasons.

Number One, I’m going to do a two-parter based on the new effective star of the blog, Blackie. (Grrrr.)

Number Two, I’ve got about half a martini and two glasses of wine in me.

It all started when I got to work (lunch job, Michael’s) Tuesday and the new boss, Eric, said there were two 9-tops on the books and not much else. I was to get one and Blackie was to get the other. Because servers at Michael’s aren’t allowed to take more than an 8-top by themselves, it was mandatory we share. Therefore, Eric decided the solution was for us to share both of them.

‘Are you okay working with her?’ he asked somewhat conspiratorially. Recall, Eric is new; he likes what I do; I’ve earned his trust as ‘his kind of waiter.’

‘Honestly, I’d rather not,’ I told him. ‘But I don’t care enough to make an issue out of it. It’s fine.’

So here’s the inevitable link to my other dark escapades with Blackie. If you haven’t read them, at least click here or here, for another one, and give a quick scan over a bit of our history.

This day I actually felt much more confident because I had already thoroughly identified what hell I could expect. Also, it promised to be a much more manageable day – only three on the floor and a helpful manager and not much danger of getting overwhelmed with surprise traffic.

The first table was billed as a grudge lunch wherein the host had lost a bet and now his compadres were going to take him to the cleaners (while he took them to Michael’s). We were excited, visions of dinner steaks, appetizer symphonies, and $100 bottles of wine dancing in our heads.

Blackie suggested I do the full dinner spiel (a great sales technique, normally omitted at lunch because of time constraints) because I was so much better at it. I couldn’t disagree. I also liked it because it put me in control of the table. I do not like the manner Blackie uses with her tables. Her other job is at the Claim Jumper . . .

Okay, so a tangent is in order here. I do not disdain Claim Jumper or similar ‘echelon’ restaurants (TGI Friday’s, Chiles, Outback, Coco’s, etc.). Ironically, I actually place Claim Jumper as my favorite restaurant for when I choose that ‘level’ of dining. Their quality is excellent. The service is generally spot-on. The restaurants (locations I’ve visited) are always spotless and well-kept. You get the feeling the hierarchy is working well and doing its job. I love the Claim Jumper. I always suggest it when the wife says, ‘Where do you want to eat?’ Of course, whenever I suggest a solution for a problem the wife can’t figure out herself, I always get shot down. <click-click … ‘PULL!’ Blam!> But that’s another sub-tangent . . .

Anyway, back on tangent . . . I actually regard Claim Jumper as first class. The problem here with the Claim Jumper is that you take the worst prejudices about Claim Jumper and combine them with what you already know about Blackie, and you find the worst stereotypes are true.

Think about a highly-corporate place with a lot of rules and behavior codes and what kind of virulent bacteria could breed in that Petri dish (Blackie). Think further about what that dangerous burgeoning organism (remember: Blackie) would turn into after a dozen years of incubation (as opposed to the usual 6–24 month tenure of Claim Jumper waiters).

Minus the expected gum-popping and cigarette-breath, there you have Blackie. She does not communicate with guests. She dispenses information (no, not even that – she dispenses words) just the same way as she slings a plate of hash: ‘You’re not supposed to understand this, much less enjoy it. Just take it. ‘Cause here it is.’

So to wrap the tangent up, take your worst bigoted preconception of a mid -level chain restaurant waiter, and, even though the restaurant chain itself doesn’t deserve that branding, you have exactly that in this person Blackie.

End tangent. For now . . .

Yes, I was excited to be doing the spiel because I could handle this table which might well be our ‘meal ticket’ (there are just sooo many restaurant/food metaphors out there!). So I made contact with the table. Introduced myself and mentioned my partner Blackie. I pitched the idea of wine (remember, these guys were potentially taking their friend to the cleaners) and cocktails. They were happy to have the wine list at the table because it was a maybe (remember, this is lunch). I sussed it out that pressure was not the correct tack. I thought that common peer pressure, or else inertia (i.e., the body in motion being the idea of having a drink) would eventually prevail.

Of course, just after I leave the table after my spiel for the dinner steaks, etc, Blackie charges at them with her typical tactless hard line about ordering wine. No surprise, we were removing the wine glasses from the table about five seconds later.

So much for my managing this table into a moneymaker.

It came time to take the order. Michael’s requires multiple servers take orders on large parties. Blackie started at position 1. I started at position 9 and worked back.

We met in the side station to place the order. Turned out, I had the host – who authorized a round of appetizers. But there were also four salads ordered for the table. Naturally, you want the apps to go out before salads, followed by entrees. So we placed the order that way. However, at Michael’s this particular appetizer symphony is not that quick to prepare. Another factor to consider before you read what follows: some guests acknowledged they wouldn’t have any of the shrimp appetizer on order.

After about 10 minutes, I fired the salads for the table. By now, I’m expecting the appetizer symphony to be ready or nearly ready. Further, I know the salads might take a 4-5 minutes (in a normal world not, but at lunch when the pantry guys are doing multiple jobs, it can easily take this long), so this will allow the shrimp appetizer to be delivered and perhaps consumed (it’s only about a piece per person, after all).

Well, the shrimp app is just about ready to go out. But the salads are now ready. Blackie, ever ‘helpful,’ is standing by the pantry, ready to grab the salads (shrimp app comes up on the front line). She asks me if she should take the salads, since they are ready, or wait till the appetizer is served and removed? I weigh it all . . . and tell her . . .

Go! Serve the salads!

After all, some of the guests are not having shrimp. Next, these people are at lunch, so time is always a factor. Next, eating a single shrimp (for those six eating them) doesn’t take more than a minute or so. Next, some have ordered dessert in advance as well. And, remember, we’re still at lunch.

Now, I have not gotten the idea that these folks are in a hurry. But I can tell they are at lunch. They are going back to work. So I am using fuzzy logic, just as I mentioned here (fuzzy logic part towards end of post).

A good waiter knows how to properly time courses. A better waiter knows how to judge when guests don’t give a shit and are silently placing a premium on continuous, expedited service. Admittedly, it’s mostly a lunch thing, but that’s what I’m working at here. Same with Blackie. For the last 5 years.

So I make the judgment that it will be okay if those having salads are eating them, and those eating shrimp appetizers are eating them, and those eating both combine the experience.

I have other tables of course, so since Blackie has implicitly agreed to deliver the salads that were practically right in her hands when we had our exchange, I took care of some other business.

I finish my business and double check on our 9-top and see them happily eating their shrimp appetizer. Wait, what happened to the salads?

Despite her asking me what I wanted her to do – as she was right there about to do it – and my telling her to do just that, she had somehow not done it.

Blackie strikes again!

Okay, okay, don’t get too worked up. The timing still worked out fine. It was just classic Blackie.

So as a team we deliver the entrees. I have positions 1-3. Position 2 has a small New York steak. Oops!

He says he ordered the New York sandwich. Naturally, staff immediately goes into emergency mode to prepare a NY Sandwich for him.

Meanwhile, Blackie explains he ordered the ‘small New York’ and she repeated it to him and he said yes, she was right . . .

Well, she was wrong.

Yet more meanwhile, Position 1 has a question about why she didn’t get prime rib instead of the Rib Eye like she asked for . . .

Again, Blackie explains that she told her just what she was ordering.

Maybe Blackie should explain more to her guests rather than her managers and fellow waiters?

(This is Part One. Part Two is Right Here.)

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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.

What Makes A Real Pro

I mentioned before how WordPress.com offers various statistical data on your blog. One of the features is a listing of the most popular search terms readers use to reach the blog. Previously this led to an interesting question about how to handle the hurried diner.

Well, another search has piqued my interest.

‘What is the one specific detail that signifies a real pro waiter?’

Naturally, I figure, why answer a question in ten words when it could be answered in 1000?
Or 3000?

The Details That Signify A Real Pro Waiter:

I’ll start with honorable mention.

  1. Anticipatory Service.
    1. Waiter shows up with something before the guest can ask for it: drink refills/reorders, a new napkin, having the check in hand as the guest is asking for it, etc.
    2. This is nice, ’cause it makes the waiter look like she’s on top of things. It can humble the guest if he’s inclined to be critical of the speed of service. But at the same time, it can be little more than a parlor trick, akin a bartender tossing bottles and such – lots of flash, little substance.
  2. Mad Product Knowledge.
    1. Your waiter unleashes a torrent of descriptors of the daily specials, down to preparation details and the components of the homemade sauces. She is similarly fluent on any menu item you’d care to ask about. She knows the ingredients in every cocktail. She can name 20 different single malt scotches, including their specific producing region.
    2. There’s a good chance this person took 7 years to get her college degree – or else she’s still ‘working’ on it, just taking a couple years off to find out where her head is at. She is taking so long not because she’s unintelligent. Rather, she’s very smart, and she’s applied those wiles to her job. She just likes waiting tables better than the idea of getting a ‘Real Job,’ working 9 to 5 (or more realistically 9 to 7), and taking the effective cut in hourly pay.
    3. Again, this can effectively be a bit of a parlor trick, albeit a useful one for the guest. But it comes to bear mainly on the selection part of the dining experience. What do you order? After that question is answered, there’s so much that product knowledge does not affect.
  3. Mad Wine Knowledge.
    1. See above. But it’s even less important than general product knowledge. I’m convinced that the large majority of wine drinkers don’t want to hear: what they’re tasting/smelling, where their wine was made, what it was made from, how it was fermented and bottled, nor what the winemaker did to make his millions before he got into the wine business.
    2. What wine drinkers want most is to hear why the wine they’ve chosen is good. And almost any waiter can be coached to say: ‘That’s our biggest seller,’ or ‘It’s very smooth, isn’t it?’ or ‘Yeah, not many people are smart enough to pick that off our list.’
  4. Great Personality.
    1. Sure, as a guest you’re dining with you dinner companions. But you’re also dining with your waiter. If he has a fun personality, it adds to the experience. Who wants a grim sourpuss who mumbles, doesn’t make eye contact, won’t laugh at your stupid jokes? That kind of waiter demeanor becomes a negative focal point of the meal. Instead of enjoying yourself, you’re thinking about your various objections to the waiter.
    2. On the other hand, when the waiter can ‘join’ the group in a fun but not-overbearing way, he adds to the enjoyment. The waiter can provide needed punctuation to the social context. He can tactfully (and thankfully!) interrupt someone going on too long. He can save a boring, punchline-less story with a good aside that gets the teller out from under it. He can amplify what is already a good story.
    3. Alas, a lot of waiters rely on their good personality to the exclusion of developing the necessary chops to master the other aspects of the job. Like a beautiful girl who never cultivates a viable career skill because she’s always lived rich and famous lifestyles being treated to vacations, expensive cars, and carte blanche shopping sprees by her well-heeled boyfriends, these waiters are giving million-dollar smiles when paying attention to their ten-dollar Timex is what’s needed.

[… drum roll here …]

And now, the top attribute of a real pro waiter . . .

  1. Control.
    1. Okay, there are a lot of bad connotations to that word, control. But this is the common and dominant trait of all great waiters. Go ahead and conjure again the memories of waiters with the previous four traits, the great experiences you’ve had dining with each one . . . Well, when I was a basketball player and someone made a lucky shot, we always used to congratulate him with the line, ‘Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.’
    2. So let’s break off the Top Five list and discuss why Control is the signature trait of the great waiter.

Control, control, wherefore art thou?

Control is most obviously (obvious for waiters, if you’re one and you’re reading) exhibited by ‘having control of your table.’ It’s been the main directive of every employee manual and greenhorn training lecture since the year BC 0001, when the staff was briefed and pumped up before that epic party of thirteen (though Judas left before his entrée was delivered – he said he had to go meet a man about some silver – then gave Jesus the Hollywood kiss, ‘. . . wish I could stay longer . . .’).*

*Supposedly, when the check came, the rest of the guys tossed in one silver denarius each. It was heard amongst more than one, ‘Hey, it better be enough. This is three days pay for me. Unfortunately for the waiter, who was working in the one of the best restaurants in town, that really wasn’t enough for an average meal – never mind the volume of quality wine these guys were accustomed to drinking. When all the denari were collected, and the other guys left (remember Judas didn’t pay for his appetizer, nor his Sour Apple martini), Paul was left to settle, and, yes, it was short. He made up the difference himself and tossed in a couple denari for the waiter, who had of course suffered through one of the most tense and ulcerous quarterly sales meetings in history (then or now). After all, Paul reasoned, even if things with the firm were horrible, it wasn’t the waiter’s fault, and he did a good job.)

That guy did a good job, apparently, because things seemed okay when the guests left. And I guess I’m wrong for digressing into his situation because that was a strange and exceptional night in what was probably an average good restaurant.

In a normal restaurant, where the fate of life, love, war, and religion for the next 2000 years is not hinging on prompt pouring of the wine, control matters a lot less. Not that any of us is happy that server Sextus was good at his job when Judas told him, ‘I’m gonna kiss the main man. Pour him first. He’s my boy!’

But back to modern times, it matters a great deal when the guest can see he/she’s in good hands. The waiter is the Captain of the ship, the Pilot of the aircraft. Even when all hell is breaking loose, the waiter’s calm makes the difference between mutiny and a smooth experience.

There are so many ways the waiter can maintain control. There is a jackass, loose-cannon guest in a party of four, and the waiter accepts his broadsides, doesn’t back down from them, and in fact triumphs over them with stainless steel witticisms – this makes the entire party, including the jackass, feel comfortable and accept they are going to have a great meal. It really is coasting from there.

The kitchen breaks down and there is going to be a long wait for . . . whatever. The pro waiter hits his tables with frank information, with near- and long-term solutions. ‘Things got backed up. I put your order in right away, but it’s going to be a longer wait than normal. Work with us here, we’ll get you some complimentary desserts or drinks.’

The pro waiter acknowledges readily what has gone wrong (but only if the guest knows already – no need to draw attention if no one is bothered). When she arrives for the first greeting five minutes late and the guests seem to have been waiting for her, she says, ‘Sorry to keep you waiting. I’m ready to get your drinks ASAP.’*

*I’m also sorry that this is such a monumental problem for corporate restaurants. Anybody who’s worked corporate knows there’s a 60-90-120 second minimum rule (depending on the patience of individual corporate Mount Sinai Tablet Engravers) for greeting new tables. I think it’s bullshit. Yes, I do understand what is perfect (the rule), but there are exceptions every single shift where that rule cannot be met. When the server is making cappuccinos (or whatever takes a long time) in back and a new table is seated, let’s say the server is even just finishing those cappy’s and then delivers them. Is it even possible to be there to greet the new table in less than 120 seconds? Or what if a waiter is entering the full order for a 6-top in the computer? Come on! It’s not realistic all the time. Instead, restaurant trainers should emphasize . . .
yes, Control. Get communication with your tables and it won’t matter so much that they waited 3.5 minutes to be greeted.

Sometimes I think corporate restaurant honchos are like the boss in the Dilbert comic strip. ‘What’s the shortest possible time before a guest will start to wonder where the server is? Sixty seconds? Then let’s err on the side of caution:
The Rule Is 30 Seconds!’

Are they aware that pouring yourself a cup of coffee at home, including getting the cup and the cream, takes about a minute? What is wrong with these supposed ‘corporate restaurant professionals’? Do they not drink coffee at home? Have they not been in a restaurant where each waiter is serving four or more tables at once and even might be getting that same one-minute coffee for any or all of them at the same time?

Here’s something I’d like to see in corporate management: fuzzy logic. It’s essentially what their best waiters employ every night. Let’s see, five different tasks each designated as Right Away. I can’t fulfill one obligation right away but I can instead work one in the meantime, making the former (and the other three) just a little late, but it will save me time on the whole
as a group.

For instance, my lunch restaurant, Michael’s has strict guidelines about replacing used steak knives (even if used for buttering bread) before each course. Well guess what? With all the other obligations of service at this high-end place, my judgment is that I don’t always have time to handle that steak knife thing. I’m doing things like clearing plates, running some else’s hot food, bringing a check to a diner that’s ready to go, greeting a table within 60 seconds . . . In the hierarchy of these essential service steps, where does replacing a perfectly good and guest-acceptable (albeit butter-‘stained’) steak knife fit in? Practically dead last. But corporate management likes to fall back on terms like ‘non-negotiable’ and ‘spec.’

Mind you, I’ve never gotten busted for the re-knifing thing (or lack thereof) – perhaps they respect my experience, savvy, and grey hair? – but other waiters do get ‘noted.’ So when I train waiters for the day shift at Michael’s I tell them readily, ‘There is what they call ‘spec,’ and there’s what I call ‘getting it done at lunch.’ I will cite my steak knife example, and point out the inconsistencies of ‘spec’ vs. what is sometimes required to Get The Job Done. For another instance, is it necessary to bring the dessert tray to a table that has already indicated it is in a hurry and needs to get going?

Well, at Michael’s, the dessert tray is another ‘spec’ mandatory step of service. Instead of fuzzy logic, some jackass corporate hack, looking to enhance his own promotion potential, advocated mandatory dessert tray presentation as means of possible 0.13% increased dessert sales, over 123 stores that means $31,117 annually . . . Congratulations. Meantime, greenhorn waiters who don’t know any better are wasting 320 seconds presenting the dessert tray while . . . Wait! A new table is going un-greeted and another table is waiting for their check to be dropped!

‘I’m sorry, GM, but I had other those other things to do, I couldn’t offer the dessert tray to that table.’

‘Yes, but in that situation
you should have asked someone for help greeting your new table, and running the check for your departing table, and expediting the re-fire for your other table. That’s part of your job. Even if you have to ask us (management – but don’t actually do it if you ever expect us to regard you as competent). We’re here to help you. ‘

. . . Maybe the restaurant business is just like every business. In each company there are a few people who excel at their jobs, i.e., who’ve mastered the subtleties and idiosyncrasies that make them a success, and there are the rest who are more or less new-hires that don’t know shit and are actually holding back the progress of the company until they learn (if they ever do). A small subset of companies (Microsoft ’80s-’90s, Google ’00s, TGIFridays mid-’80-’90s, etc.) obtains new-hires who are best-of-best or else are such go-getters that this doesn’t happen immediately – the culture and the carrot/success possibilities is so strong that everyone is first-class, or else rises to the level of the peers.

But most are not of that class. A successful restaurant concept in a given market is like a cloud of chum in the water for quality waiters. Unfortunately, it also attracts the hacks. But even so, the good servers will congregate around the best new restaurant in town. The place will thrive. Every other restaurateur will be jealous about how they do everything so well and they are ace-ing our shit . . .

Well, that’s because all the real pros are working their Fuzzy Logic waitering magic. When business slows down, and the pros leave for the next Big Thing (unless management and corporate management makes it happy for them to stay), the restaurant enters into the hopeless cycle of hiring ‘spec’ greenhorns to work with the few Fuzzy Logic specialists remaining. And the tide never seems to turn. The good people drain away two by two, replaced by greenhorns one by one and one by one.

What I’m saying is that it’s impossible to manage large groups (really large groups like chain restaurants)

Yeah . . . So where was I? . . . Was I anywhere?

Right . . . It’s part of control. Problems are like a dike springing leaks. If you don’t acknowledge them with that little verbal ‘finger,’ (no jokes, please) they keep leaking. Isn’t it irritating when a waiter pretends nothing is wrong? Yet, when something is wrong and it is noted and promised to be attended to, guests quit worrying.

That’s the key to Control. The guest knows you’re in control and they don’t have to worry about how their meal experience comes out. That’s why they’ve come out to eat instead of doing it themselves at home. Who wants to fret about that junk when you’re paying $30-100 a head? Why should they?

That’s why Control is the best trait of the professional. Guests can forget their usual concerns/worries about putting on a meal and just enjoy the eating and their company.

Who cares about your smile or your great jokes or the fact you know the swimming-depth of Chilean Seabass?

Diner: ‘If there’s a problem, tell me how it’s going to be handled. Otherwise, let go of me and let me enjoy myself.’

Handling The Hurried Diner

Quick entry here. WordPress offers all kinds of statistical info to bloggers, including ‘Top Searches’ on your site. Recently, this appeared on my admin page:

a abr is very busy and one person did not show for their shift. a guest says he is in a hurry and you already have three tables that sat down before him. what do you do,  a bar is very busy and one person did not show for their shift. three tables one guest in a hurry what do you do

Someone seems to have had a big problem – a write-up or maybe even being fired – with a fourth table that was in a hurry and complained, even though our server already had three tables seated earlier.

I have made up an inaccurate concept about foodserving: The big trick is understanding who can wait and how long they can wait. That’s why they call us waiters.

Of course it’s inaccurate because it’s the guests doing the waiting, not us. But I still like the play on words.

The way to handle the above situation is to assess correctly who can wait, and for how long. Obviously, there’s a later-seated table in a hurry. Your first thought must be to get them going, eating, and out as quickly as possible, and damn the torpedoes. This is what you should do. Unlike, presumptively, the other diners, they have stated their desires. At that point you would tell them the compromises they’ll have to make, i.e., order very quickly; be prepared to have courses overlap; and you’ll drop the check as soon as physically possible. In other words, they will have to be willing to forgo the usual pace – and some of the service frills – of a meal in your restaurant. Make it clear you are doing this at their behest.

Next, you get a handle on what the rest of your station is doing.

Side Note: There are too many possible nightmare scenarios to address that would render this analysis impossible – like, for instance, the kitchen has collapsed and everyone is waiting too long for their meals. Instead, I must assume we have a relatively normal night on the job here.

There’s a good chance most of the other three tables are being perfectly normal. So, when opportunities arise to give faster service to the impatient table, you serve the impatient table first, on the assumption you have more good will to burn with the other tables. Essentially, because you’ve set things up the way I described, and placed the full order for the impatient table immediately, you can now proceed with normal service. In other words, taking out the food, clearing the plates, etc, as the tasks come up.

In the event that another ‘nice’ table notices that the other table was served first, you can then explain to them what happened: The other table was in a hurry, and thus ordered immediately upon being seated; that the kitchen doesn’t know from anything – they just make the dinners in the order they come in. And finally that this is not delaying their dinners in any way – they will come up promptly at the proper time.

Of course, our Internet Searcher specified a ‘bar table.’ This is probably a lot more difficult, as bar patrons expect their drinks orders to be accepted quickly and placed quickly and to be served quickly – regardless of what kind of ‘cool’ people they are. They also expect to be served ‘in order,’ as in, first seated (and to order), first served. This is a totally acceptable expectation.

In this case, the server really has little option other than to explain to the impatient table that he/she will do everything possible to make this all quick, but there are several other tables waiting ahead of them. You just cannot serve a bar customer first merely because he states that he’s in a hurry and can’t wait. It’s totally likely that all the other customers feel the same but are just too respectful (and knowledgeable) to state the obvious.

When the impatient table gets indignant, that’s when the server earns his stripes. You must be firm without being threatening, condescending, or confrontational. It helps, usually, to interject your personal dilemma into your firm explanation.

‘I understand, and I’ll do everything I can. But right now I already have three other orders to place. Those people are all watching me, waiting for their drinks. If I serve you first, they’ll all be angry, and rightfully so. Just like you would if you ordered first. I’ll do the best I can – I understand you’re in a hurry.’

Who has time for this kind of a soliloquy? You. You almost have to do it, or else you’re going to have an irate patron pouting, shouting, giving you a bad (or no) tip, and/or complaining to management. If nothing else, when the above does happen anyway, you’ll be able to explain to the manger how you handled it, and you’ll be exonerated.

Finally, the cryptic Search Query mentions that one guest is in a hurry, what do you do?

God bless you bar people! We dining room people have a lot to handle that you never deal with, but I’ll never understand how you can still do a good job with all the ‘separate tabs’ obligations of your job.

Assuming your hurried guest in the same party has a separate tab, it’s fairly obvious that you have to attempt to be ahead of the game and bring his check with the delivered drink. Even if you don’t have the physical check (because you don’t have time) you can just tell the guy, ‘If you want to close out, that’s $8 for the martini.’ Let him give you the cash or his card, then you can figure it out later. Likewise if he’s had several drinks: just spitball it and say, ‘Two martinis and an Amstel, that’ll be $21, more or less.’ Figure it out for sure at the machine.

Again, the communication to the guest is the most important part of this. You must tell them what you’re going to do for them, what you are doing for them, and what you have done for them.

When you do this, most any human guest will come to understand that he’s gotten the best that can be gotten under the circumstances, and he’ll be happy enough – though maybe stressed out because he’s late for his plane, and maybe shouldn’t have stopped for drinks in the first place, but anyway it’s all on him.

Backlogged For Weeks

Just when I thought I was out of ideas – nothing interesting was happening – I look back on the last week and see plenty of fun (or just interesting) stuff has transpired.

I could easily bang out a couple hundred words of, ‘…made $64 at lunch, $120 at dinner…’ But who wants to read that day-after-day? I do have an arsenal of future column ideas logged on my computer, but those ideas are always best when spurred by something current. You know what I mean. Bad tippers … yeah, I can digress about that, but it really only works when there’s a fresh story to frame it.

So. I was in a doldrums. But it turns out I wasn’t. I just had to wait. Just like waiters have to be patient about riding out the bad/normal shifts to hit the rainmakers that make the eventual average.

So here’s what’s been happening since nothing was happening.

  1. Ciera and I have been having fun with Frank the Bartender and Table Eleven. I’m neither a guest on, nor a server of, Table Eleven. Table Eleven is the imaginary table we have assigned to Ciera when she wants a drink during her shift. She’ll order a phantom glass of Chardonnay and go serve it to … herself. As there are only 10 tables in the dining room at Carney’s, we call it Table Eleven.

    As this is a twice, thrice, or more, nightly occurrence at Carney’s, we’ve come to expect it. Because we hate Frank the Bartender (who has to unwittingly service Table Eleven) and we love Ciera (The Open Book), it’s become a real pleasure whenever we can reference Table Eleven. As in: ‘Ciera, Table Eleven is looking all over for you. They’re wondering where the hell their waitress is?’ Or, from Ciera, ‘Table Eleven is barking up my ass. I got to get over there.’ Etc.

     

    I had picked up a couple of shifts from Mark last week, so I worked with Ciera more than the usual Saturday night. Because I love her, we had some fun with our extra shifts together. Frank, being his usual insufferable, asshole self, deserved extra attention from Table Eleven. So instead of the typical order of Clos Du Bois Chardonnay, we decided Table Eleven wanted something ‘fun.’ Brandy Alexander.

     

     

    Beautiful. Any bartenders out there know a Brandy Alexander is blended, requiring a whipped cream garnish and, in our case, chocolate sprinkles. Bartenders are as selfish as waiters. They want orders like Makers Rocks, Scotch Soda, Gin Tonic. Easy stuff. So unknowing-Frank grumbled, but craftsman-like made a perfect Brandy Alexander, which Ciera spirited away to Table Eleven. We were enjoying it so much, laughing so hard, I actually took a few pulls from the straw when I got the chance (very tasty, actually). Although there have been rare exceptions in 20+ years of food serving, it’s accurate enough to say that I never drink before or during work.

    We think we might be onto a good passive-aggressive program against Frank for the future of Table Eleven. Grasshoppers. Old Fashioned’s. Mojitos. Blended Mudslides. This could be fun.

  2. Jerry and Georgina (first introduced here) called a few minutes before coming in – as is their custom. They like to sit at the dining tables in the bar. Unfortunately, tonight these big hitters were out of luck . . . actually, Ciera and I were out of luck (Ciera serves the actual tables in the bar). Anyway, the three acceptable tables in the bar had been seated only minutes earlier. Nothing available. On the phone, I tried to sell Jerry on the two smaller tables in the lounge or even the patio. Jerry: ‘We’ll eat at the bar.’

    This is the worst of all time. Not only do we not get Jerry and Georgina, Frank gets them instead! In case you didn’t back-track and read about them in the earlier post, Jerry and Georgina are the nicest people in the world, they order cocktails and big wine, they’re actually fun, and they tip 30%. Georgina is an ex-restaurant manager; Jerry a real estate developer who used to be in the CIA.

    Dutifully, I told Frank to hold two spots for them at the crowded bar (actually a no-no at Carney’s – the owners don’t allow it – but first, the owners aren’t there, and second, we’re not going to disappoint J&G with a full bar and nowhere to sit). Frank laid out the napkin ‘squares’ for dining and started to get about half-erect (he never gets J&G for himself).

    Even so, Ciera wasn’t going to give in that easily. She’s everyone’s favorite, so she intercepted J&G at the door and tried to funnel them to her on the patio. No dice.

    What transpired was the most over-the-top, teeth-grinding, nauseating display of brown-nosing we’ve seen from Frank in a long time. He was practically doing soft-shoe. The canned stories – usually blasting from the amp at 11 – were coming from the house PA at an arena concert. The fake laughs were more like the anguished cries of a torture victim. He was actually freshening up drinks.

Frank Is So Good, His Subjects Don’t Even Have To Bend Over

In the middle of smarmy performance, we put a warm finger towel in the window for Frank.

Frank: ‘What’s this for?’

Ciera: ‘To wipe the shit off your nose.’

Later Ciera handed Frank an escargot tong (kind of like a pair of rounded pliers): ‘Give this to Jerry so he can pull your tongue out of his ass.’

Aside from our amusement, by the end Ciera and I were actually glad. J&G had a really small dinner for them: Tuna Salad, a Bar Special and cocktails only. Plus, we figured that sitting with Frank for an hour-plus had probably taught them the valuable lesson that he’s poison to the nervous system.

  1. The Swingers came in to Carney’s Wednesday late, party of three. They are half a young couple (she’s in her twenties, he just turned 50). He used to manage the restaurant across the parking lot, so we came to know them very well. And, yes, they are Swingers. They have had countless dates at Carney’s auditioning other swinging couples – and they’re oblivious to having any discretion, let alone shame, about it. They’ve inquired about our own availability. Wednesday, they announced to anyone (and I really mean anyone) who came by the table that their friend was an occasional ‘menage partner’ and they were here to dine before going home to have some fun. The girl was pretty cute, still in her twenties, extremely affable and smiley. I guessed she was on ecstasy. He is pretty round, nice enough, not even really a blowhard, but someone who has a very good opinion of himself, and his attractiveness. His wife is pretty and tending towards overweight, but has a wall-eye that you never know if it’s the right one to be looking at when you talk to her.

    The amazing thing to Ciera and I was that the friend was a repeat customer. We laughed about the poor souls who hooked up with these two on the Internet and finally had to meet them face-to-face. Ouch. And this was supposed to be a night of hot sex . . . with your tubby bodies?

    On the other hand, I’d guess it’s the girl who’s usually the main draw for this sort of thing, and she’s young and not bad looking, excepting the fluttering eye.

  2. We had a week-long episode of owner-neuroses over shift changes at Carney’s. It’s a set schedule at Carney’s. There are a total of five waiters, one of which works Friday night only (and is willing but not interested in working more), and another who works Tues.-Wednesday only (and who the owners don’t like to work weekend shifts because he’s old and slow). Vacations for two people at once (myself and the wife) are very difficult to arrange. Getting individual shifts covered isn’t as much of a problem, as the waiters all understand the situation and freely sub for each other.

    The thing is, as the saying goes, it’s not rocket science. There are so few variables (Hello? Only five waiters?), any shift changes are extremely simple to execute. Unfortunately, Carney likes to maintain that she is the one in control of the schedule. Thus, she has us jumping through the hoops of getting changes okayed by her first. As if there is any possibility that, for instance, anyone besides Ciera can cover for me on a Friday night when I want to play a gig.

    ‘Okay,’ says Carney, ‘I see what you need to do here. Hmm. Yes, Ciera could work that Friday, then she’d be working Friday, Saturday, and a double on Sunday. Hmm. Okay, I’ll have to think this over. Because you know that would be three days in a row for her. And that double. I don’t want her to get tired. I’ll let you know tomorrow. Because, you know, when people get overworked, I’m the one who has to pick up the slack.’

    I’m going to Vegas later this month, so I needed to switch two shifts with Ciera to have Thurs.-Fri. off. Carney pointed out that would have Ciera working five shifts in a row. She’d let me know tomorrow.

    My successful policy has been to just let the owners be crazy, don’t challenge them, and let matters fall out in their rightful proper way. So I said okay. I mean, I have to be able to get a day or two off if I need it, right? And there’s no other way besides this that it’s going to happen, right? Well, then, go ahead and think it over if you need to . . .

    But it was that ‘pick up the slack’ thing that really grated on all of us. (And incidentally, Carney made sure to echo the refrain to each of us during the course of the week.)

    First of all, it’s total bullshit. She doesn’t pick up anyone’s slack. She might act like she is, running around forcing a second loaf of bread on a table, or getting a cocktail order 30 seconds before we arrive at the table, or picking up a dirty plate just as we’re entering our section to . . . clear tables. But she doesn’t really do it, nor does she have to do it.

    Second, it’s not as if anyone’s performance is suffering when he/she works a few days in a row. We are professionals. Every waiter is older than 40. We know what we are doing; we know what needs to be done; and we know how much effort it takes to do it.

    Third, we only work 4-6 hour shifts, for christsakes! Is she not aware that the vast majority of the American workforce works 40 hours a week? And hard, at that? We’re tallying 20-25 hours. In my case, about 15 a week. It’s f’n’ insulting.

    Fourth, this line of reasoning doesn’t for some reason extend to the kitchen staff, who log 40+ each week. Nor does it apply to Frank, who probably works nearly 40 hours. Does she think we’re invalids or something?

    The reality is that she needs to feel important. She needs to make things difficult because . . . well, that one I’m not sure about, but it has to do with making herself feel important. It’s all very stupid, and unfortunately it’s the kind of thing that makes me want to just walk sometimes. I’m the kind of employee who understands that bosses don’t need headaches from employees; they have enough with all the other aspects of running the business. I do my job thoroughly and well. I don’t complain. I don’t bring them problems I can solve myself. I don’t challenge them when I have a better idea. I do the things they demand even when the demands make no sense. When I have a schedule change in mind, I line up all the stars in the heavens in advance, and then present it to the manager/owner, so they have to do as little work as possible in adjusting the schedule. In return I think it’s only fair that when I do need something, they do not act like it’s a huge hassle when it really is not.

     

    Side Note: I’ve addressed types of schedules before, but here again is the summary of the two basic types of server schedules. Flexible Schedule is where the manager writes a new schedule every week/two-weeks/month. That schedule can completely change, theoretically, for every server at each posting. Servers request days off from the manager and the manager does the juggling to make things happen. This is the key compromise because by asking servers to be effectively ‘on call’ each week, they also have to accept that servers will not be available on certain days. They often have to suck a lot of ass to get servers to work on days they claim they are unavailable. It’s a big job, but the advantage is flexibility when staffing needs to be adjusted on the fly.

     

    Set Schedule is where servers ‘own’ shifts permanently: like at Carney’s, where I am scheduled every single Thurs.-Sat. forever. If servers want days off, they negotiate on the side with other servers to cover their shifts, then have said changes approved by manager. This frees managers/owners from the thoroughly irritating hassle of dealing with schedule requests every week.

     

    So, if Carney is going to have a Set Schedule, then let it be that. I get my shifts covered? Then it should be ‘Good roads and fair weather to you, Waiternotes! Have a great vacation!’ Not, ‘Gee, I don’t know. Ciera is will be working almost 30 hours that week! Heavens! She might collapse completely and then I’ll have to do even more than I do already!’

    Anyway. As usual, this whole bullshit has died down in the last four or five days. But it will resurface again should I need a real vacation – say a whole week. Heavens!

    Two local calamities have been a boon for business at Carney’s. There was a kitchen fire a few weeks ago at a competing restaurant. Really, little damage was done. Unfortunately for the competitor, the fire opened up the Pandora’s Box of Health and Safety Regulation approvals that needed to be met anew. They should have been closed for a couple of days. Instead, it’s been over a month and they’re still fighting through inspections and new construction and modifications usually subjected only to new restaurants. No end in sight.

  3. Power went out in the neighboring city the other night (we’re right on the border), so another (powerful) competitor had to shut down. We got a lot of their business that evening, most of it new. As Carney’s delivers a very high grade product and has very professional and personable staff, we were able to make a blip on these guest’s radar. It made for, first, a very profitable night, but second, no doubt some high quality repeat customers in the future.
  4. I got a big tip at Michael’s at lunch, shattering my hideous slump. No joke, I’ve been making crummy money at Michael’s the last 5-6 weeks without exception. I’ve been getting hit with both ends of the stick: fewer weekly shifts, and far lower tips for those remaining shifts. I had no $100 days for a month. My average day was around $55 for that time. (Bear in mind that baseline for this job for three years has been $100 average, with many weeks averaging $125 or $150 a shift). Either the bottom had finally fallen out, or else I was just in the king of all slumps.

    Anyway, a guy arrives at a two-top with his own bottle of Martinelli’s (producer of the famed sparkling cider) Pinot Noir. He states that his supposed date might or might not show up. Corkage, possible stand-up . . . not promising. However, I’m familiar that Martinelli (like Gallo) produces some very fine wines apart from their usual mass market swill. We strike up a bit of a conversation about it. I admit that I’ve never had Martinelli but have heard good things about their high end stuff. He pours me a taste and he educates me about the wine.

    Usually, being wine-educated by guest is extremely tedious for any of several reasons: 1) I already know what they’re teaching me, 2) They’re completely wrong about what they’re trying to teach me, 3) They’re acting like their visit/relationship to this low-to-medium-level vintner in Paso Robles is some kind of insider connection to the Holy Grail of grape juice, 4) They want only to pontificate, and not listen if I do have a small tidbit to contribute, 5) They may be 100% credible in their knowledge, nice people, and not just showing off, but unfortunately I just don’t have the time because I’m busy.

    I had the time for Mr. Martinelli’s 2002 Blue Slide Ridge Pinot Noir. Because: It wasn’t busy, I didn’t know about the wine, he was a nice guy, he didn’t mind hearing what I had to say, and his wine was f’n’ awesome.

    His date finally showed up, a pretty Asian lady – I’ve waited on her before and found her pleasant. I simply gave them the normal good, but adjusted treatment a professional and caring waiter can provide. They weren’t in a hurry, so I kept the pace slow. I didn’t bother them much because they were perfectly happy by themselves. I offered any possible adjustments to make their meals perfect. I poured the wine in only small amounts. I was personable but not overbearing.

    He ended up tipping me $140 on a $200 check. I made sure to return before he left and thank him for the exceedingly generous tip.

    Side Note: This is something I’ve learned over the years. Too often, inexperienced servers will get a 30% or better tip from a table and treat it like any other. They will collect the check, cheer their good luck, pocket their money (or enter it into the computer), and never visit the table again – having already made the ‘last thank you and goodbye.’ Not only does the big tip deserve extra thanks, per karma, it usually requires it in the real world. This person has made an extraordinary gesture. You don’t have to bow and scrape, but you should make an acknowledgement to him/her that what he/she has done is extraordinary. It’s nice to be appreciated, and these people deserve the appreciation. I don’t doubt at all that many a $100 tip has become a server’s last $100 tip (from that person) because that gesture was not acknowledged. Fifteen or 20% might be perfunctory, but significantly more than that is a gift or a reward. Simple. It’s just like a Christmas or birthday present. The giver must be thanked.

    So that got me over $200 for the day. I followed that, off the next day, with another $200 day. I’m hoping this signifies my breaking out of a slump, rather than a mere aberration in an endless stretch of horrible business.

  5. My left knee has been bothering me for a couple of months. It’s as if there’s debris floating around in there that occasionally slips into the wrong spot and causes pain. Or else the bones are just scraping. I’m a no pain kind of guy. Muscle pain I can understand – you work hard or work out hard, the muscles will ache. That’s fine. Other than that type of thing, I’ve never had physical problems. Long day at work – the legs ache, sometimes the back – all it ever takes is a good night’s rest and a day off and I feel perfectly normal. But the nuts-and-bolts stuff is a little scary.

    I approach physical problems (joints, back, and whatnot) analytically. I’ve always been fit and healthy, so I try to figure out if there’s something in my method that is causing the problem. For instance, awhile back, I experienced an almost arthritic pain in both my thumbs – the muscles and joints at the fleshy part of the palm. After ignoring it for awhile, as usual, I examined what I was doing in my work. It turned out that I was over-relying on the hook of my thumbs to carry plates which were the base for a larger stack of heavy plates and silverware. Can you picture what I’m saying? Pick up a plate, hooking your thumb over the edge. Then stack several more on top of that plate. As the weight increases, it’s the thumb that’s holding up the whole shebang. This manner apparently served me well for a couple of decades, but the body does age, and perhaps that joint has reached its limits. So, I adjusted to a new angle, and the pain went away once I adjusted and healed.

    I also had very sore ankles around a year ago. I mean, like throbbing at the end of the day. I discovered that I had gotten into the habit of ‘cracking’ my ankles when I pivoted. It was a deliberate act, like cracking your knuckles or your neck. I could do it, so I would do it. I stopped doing that, and the ankle pain went away.

My Ass Is Better, But You Get The Idea

The knee, going on four months, isn’t improving as easily. I got new Dr. Scholl’s insoles (I always use these, but sometimes I let them wear out and don’t replace them). I noticed I was for some reason planting heavily forward when walking at Michael’s, instead of a normal gait. Correcting that did help, but the pain would still be there sometimes when I would plant forward. This is not normal. After all, you do have to plant forward when walking sometimes, right? I started stretching more in the morning. I tried new shoes. I’ve been doing deep knee bends, on the assumption that the muscles stabilizing the joint have atrophied and need merely to be built up. The knee bends have been amazing. Working, I’ll have a pang of pain, then steal away to do 40 knee bends, and I’m good for the rest of the shift. Indeed, the knee has had fewer problems, but the occasional tweak shows it’s not actually healed. On the other hand, ligaments (if the problem lies there) do not heal quickly at all, so I should probably be more patient.

Most recently, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe my incorrect stretching might be part of the problem.

At any rate, I’ll keep you posted. I have to do something to keep my readers coming back.

Team Waiting

Some restaurants implement team waiting as part of their permanent labor structure. Team waiting takes myriad forms, the most extreme of which is the ‘Front Waiter/Back Waiter’ system. Essentially, the front waiter handles the P.R. and customer relations: Greeting, order taking, orchestrating service, handling the bill, and being general liaison with the guest; the back waiter more or less does the grunt work like making salads and other server-prepared items, running food and drinks, clearing plates, etc. Like all teamwork arrangements, if each person is strong at his/her job, the results are exceptional. Just like having one man building a car is slower, less efficient, and likely resulting in inferior quality, while the assembly line system is the opposite, with different people of different expertise handling specific jobs.

In my experience, team waiting has a lot more duplication of duties, though certain tasks have a natural way of falling into the hands of the most capable person for the job. For instance, if a waiter is much at ease with his tables, has a great personality, and is a great salesman, he’ll usually somehow end up performing those functions, while his partner will do other things.

The last two days at Michael’s I had teammates. This is pretty common during the Christmas season because of the surplus of large parties. Yesterday (Tuesday) I paired with Jane, a young lady who was a pretty good worker. I have a lot more experience than she, both at Michael’s and in general. I did a lot of the orchestrating: ‘You go set table 48 up for appetizers, and I’ll do the specials on the new table.’ That kind of thing.

Communication is very important. The left hand needs to know . . . There were problems only a couple of times, and none of them serious. At one point, I really needed help and I couldn’t find her. I spent a minute or two searching and gave up. It turned out she was taking the order for the large party in the private banquet room. So, this was necessary and productive, and ultimately not a bad thing. It could have been better if I’d known though. Because in my head, besides the other tasks I needed help with, I knew the banquet party needed to order soon, and I was stressing about that.

The opposite of good communication is obvious. But there’s another angle to it – and one of my pet peeves – over-communication. There’s a certain waiter at Michael’s that I hate to be paired with because she soils the communication lines with extraneous, confusing, and often totally useless data. I’ll be entering a complex order into the computer and she’ll interrupt me to say that she just refilled all the waters. ‘Great. Thank you. But I don’t really need to know that. It’s something we both should be doing on an ongoing basis and there’s no need to brag about it.’

She also likes to inject too much complexity, especially when serving the order. Most (all?) restaurants serve based on seat numbers. But this waiter will be standing there with the first three plates in her hands, and I’ll say ‘Go!’ And she’ll hesitate and ask who’s the first position? Well, the same as it always is: the person in position 1. (There is a codified system in most restaurants for position 1. Easiest example is, standing before a booth, the person on your left is #1, moving along through #4, clockwise.)

‘Is that the lady with the red and black sweater?’

‘I don’t f’n’ know who’s sitting there, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a naked werewolf! Deliver this steak to position 1 and move along.’

One time she royally screwed up a party of 20 by doing this, because as the ‘other’ server on the party, she started directing our helpers.

Anyway, today I was with another teammate, Jack, and he was even better than Jane. He really takes care of business. He doesn’t ask too many questions. Detail work, like resetting silverware, he just does it. He also has a good personality. I had a good handle on our two big parties during the second turn. Meanwhile, he did a lot of talking with a VIP deuce, which was the perfect thing to do. He worked them good and got a 20% tip from a habitual 17%er. He knew without asking that if I wasn’t doing something important that had come up, he should do it.

It was a very pleasant day. We worked hard, got a $300 tip on $1100 from our best party, and ended up walking with $215 each.

I’m off tomorrow night because I’m going to the Dan Hicks concert at the Coach House way down in San Juan Capistrano. Maybe I’ll let you know how that went tomorrow night or the next day, depending on how much I drink.

Merry Christmas