I’m just your server, and many things are not my fault…

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I’m posting this now as a filler while I’m on the road.  This happened back in July but I didn’t feel comfortable posting it while still an employee of that restaurant.  There are some nasty stories of servers posting too much online, managers finding it, and them getting fired.  Although I don’t think this post ever had potential to get me fired, I chose to be safe rather than sorry.  So here it is now, an old post from July 4th:

Disclaimer:  My restaurant almost always runs smoothly.  Today was just an exception.  So if you’re looking for a place to eat in Flagstaff, know that my restaurant is awesome and this was just one very rare, very messed-up day.

Let me tell you the story of my day, a day in the life of a restaurant server.  It’s the 4th of July, and I have to work.  That’s fine with me, actually, because we’re expecting it to be busy since the 4th of July parade goes right past the restaurant.

To be prepared for a busy holiday, we had three servers on instead of the usual one.  Myself and one other girl who’s very experienced, and the third server kind of new but usually really awesome.  The one front-of-house manager was also bartending, and we had a host.  The kitchen, however, for some reason did not seem to be prepared for the busy day.  They only had two cooks working!!!!  What????  Warning bells!!!  Before we even opened we had parade-goers popping in the door asking what time we opened and/or if they could use our bathroom.  We were all ready to go in the front of house, hoping for a big-money day.  Other girl was smart enough to take the patio for her section (an opportunity I would later regret passing up on), so guy and I were rotating tables inside.  As soon as we opened at 11am we got a big rush of tables.  After the initial hubbub of getting drinks and orders taken for my sudden five tables, I was fine.  Keeping up on refills and setting utensils and appetizer plates and everything.  Tables kept steadily coming in and I kept getting their orders taken and drinks out like a pro.  It didn’t take long, however, for us to realize that the two poor kitchen guys were going insane.  The restaurant was 3/4 full and there were only two of them.  Why didn’t they have more people scheduled?  I have no idea.  The manager back there kept saying “You have to slow ’em down guys, you have to slow ’em down…”  Well, I’m sorry dude, but I’m not going to purposely wait to take an order when it’s clear that a table is ready.  That just makes slow service my fault when clearly this quagmire we’re about to be in is entirely your fault.  I go back out to the floor, make sure drinks are full and no one seems too antsy yet at my tables.  I notice one table that belongs to other guy that still has menus and no drinks despite the fact they’ve been there for a few minutes.  (We’ll call them Old People Table.)  I check with him to make sure he’s got it and he says he does.  A few minutes later, they still have their menus and one of them clearly gives me a “Come help us!” look.  So I go over, apologize for their wait, and take their whole order.  Other guy comes up to me right after, asks if they’re mad, I say “No, I think they were just a little impatient,” and offer to tell him what they want.  He says “No, you can just take it.”  Great, so now he’s generously (sarcasm) giving me an extra table that’s already irritated because of his lack of attention.  A.k.a. some extra work with the chances of a good tip already ruined.

Meanwhile, two of my tables are getting pissed.  (We’ll call them Angry Table 1 and Angry Table 2.) They both have kids, so I understand.  I go back to the kitchen yet again to check on their food…still not coming.  I ask the kitchen guys to please make the kids’ quesadillas first so at least their kids can start eating.  I refill chips and salsa for the table that ordered it and go ahead and take it off their bill (paying for it myself).  I get free chips and salsa (on me) for the other table while they wait.  I make sure everyone’s drinks are always full, explain that the kitchen is backed up, thank them for their patience, and apologize profusely.  Thankfully, this whole time, most of my tables are pretty cool.  It’s just these two that are impatient.  At this point, I know that it’s just not going to turn out well, but I try to keep smiling and just control what I can.  Finally, the first quesadilla is ready and I immediately take it to the kid at Angry Table 1.  The rest of their food comes shortly (finally!) and in all they wait about 40 minutes.  I check on them after a few bites and ask if everything is good, and they nod/affirm.  Finally the first quesadilla is ready for Angry Table 2 (they had ordered 2 for 2 kids) and I run it immediately so the kids can have something to munch on.  As soon as I walk past them again they complain to me that the quesadilla is “way too greasy; it’s a GREASE-adilla.”*  (Hahaha, brilliant play on words guys!!!!)  I apologize again, and tell them I’ll have the kitchen remake it and make sure their second one is better also.  They say now they only want ONE quesadilla better cooked.  Ok, deep breath.  I’ll have it for you as soon as they make it.  Then, as luck would have it, Angry Table 1 HEARS Angry Table 2 complain about the Grease-adilla and decides to tell me as I walk past them (after checking on them earlier) that their quesadilla was “exactly the same, way too greasy and disgusting!!”  But the kid already ate it.  Lol.  Here’s a hint for all you readers:  If you’re going to complain about food, do it before the food is half or totally eaten!!!  That’s the only way your complaint will be taken seriously!!!  Of course I apologize profusely some more, offer to have a new one made, offer them free dessert, etc.  They refuse it all and ask for their bill.  Angry Table 2 gets their new quesadilla and the rest of their food.  (Again, 40 minutes.  Way longer than it should take.)  They also refuse my offer of free dessert.  They ask to speak to the manager and I send him over.   He discounts their food and they pay and leave.  Angry Table 1 pays but then asks to speak to the manager also.  (Copycats!!!!)  I ask him to go over there as soon as he gets a chance, but he’s also bartending so he’s busy too.  Not two minutes later, I walk out again and they’re leaving.  One lady says to me “Well, we would have loved to speak to the manager, but now we just want to get out of here!”  I politely as possible tell her, “That’s our manager right over there, I asked him to come speak with you when he had a chance but feel free to approach him on your way out.”  Which they never did.  AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So all in all, both Angry Tables got free chips and salsa, were offered free dessert but refused it, had the chance to speak to the manager, and I can honestly say I gave them the BEST SERVICE I COULD POSSIBLY GIVE.  It was the freakin’ kitchen, people!!!  I’m sorry!!!  Angry Table 2 still tipped me 10%.  Woohoo for mercy.  Angry Table 1 though?  Their bill came out to about $80 and they left me………..27 cents.  And that’s just because they wanted their credit card transaction to be an even dollar amount.  (So I didn’t even claim the tip to spite them….mwahahaha!!!)

Now let’s get back to the drama of Old People Table.  They finally get their food after about 40 minutes and only asking me one time if it was coming (overall good patience compared to everyone else).  They also refuse free dessert.  Then, to make a bad day even worse, I go to swipe their credit cards and our system is not accepting them.  It just totally pooped out.  That has never happened before but as luck would have it, it happened on an already crazy day!!!  We were about to have to comp everyone’s food and put a “Cash Only” sign on the door, lol.  So they waited another 15 minutes just to pay while the manager called the General Manager to get her to run down here on her day off and fix it.  So I’m bugging him incessantly asking what to do for my table that wants to leave while he’s bartending and calling her and trying to fix the computers.  Argh!  Eventually we just let them pay with a check and the GM came down and fixed the system.  Crisis averted.  By this time, the cooks had finally gotten another guy to come in early and help them.  He was working crazily helping them catch up for a good two hours before even having a chance to clock in or change into his work clothes, lol.

Oh man.  So all in all, a ****show of a day.  It’s no wonder every single server was found at the bar after the lunch shift ended.  (Other girl never had many problems though…people who sit on the patio are always more chill…I shoulda known…d’oh!)  Oh, and the people at Angry Table 1 ALREADY left a scathing yelp! review which rightfully criticizes the wait-time but flat-out lies about my service.

So the main purpose of this story is not to get you to feel sorry for me but just to get you to think about how much of it is actually your server’s fault when you have a bad experience at a restaurant.  We are the public face but there are so many things that are out of our control.  Overall today, my sales were over $500, but I only made $80.  With sales like that, and for how hard I worked, I should have made $100, so that’s pretty crappy.  (I jokingly asked the kitchen to tip me out, yeah right.)  Honestly people, what can we do to make you happy???  I bought you appetizers out of my own pocket and offered you free dessert!  My argument is this:  when you have a bad experience that is out of the server’s control, you have every right to complain to the manager, get a discount, write a bad review about the food, whatever.  But TIP YOUR FREAKIN’ SERVER if it’s not their fault.

What do you guys think?  Anyone have any restaurant horror stories, either from a server or customer point-of-view?  What should I have done differently?  Did this help you understand what goes on in a restaurant better?

*At least the other servers and I got a free GREASE-adilla.  It was delish.

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