Tag Archives: restaurant

Doubles No More

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Well, it turns out working 70 hours a week does not for good blogging make.  But fear not, life will be better now.  I decided that my 3rd job, bartending in the daytime at a failing downtown hotel, was not worth the $10-30 a day I made there.  Plus, I got offered more shifts at the Indian restaurant so even without the third job, I’m still working 7 nights a week.  Still too much?  Perhaps, but weddings don’t pay for themselves!

This post is pretty lame.  To spruce it up, here’s a video from an awesome new British folk singer I recently discovered.

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“Can you put a bow in it?” a.k.a. How to Get a Job with Dreadlocks

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Honestly, I was fearing the prospect of searching for restaurant jobs in conservative Ohio with my super-hippy dreads.  But, long story short, I got a job and I am already employed, only a week after returning!  The process was not without its bumps, however.

I went in for my first interview at this really classy French bistro/wine bar.  I thought it went okay, not great, and wasn’t really expecting to get it.  The next day, however, I get a call from them.  And right away, as the owner is hemming and hawing and obviously uncomfortable about what he’s about to say, I knew it was about the dreads.  He basically asked me if I was planning to keep them.  Yes, of course, I said.  He was totally apologetic about making it an issue and felt really bad about possibly offending me, but he was also really concerned about the restaurant’s conservative, rich, snotty-pants customers and what they would think.  He asked me about different ways I could style my hair and was being all iffy.  Then he asked me to come in for a “second interview”, which basically consisted of him looking at my hair again, going back and forth some more, and then asking me if I could “put a bow in it.”  “I can put whatever you want in it!” I replied.  Men are so funny when they’re trying to describe women’s hairstyles.  “Okay,” he finally said, “it’ll be fine.”

So, I got the job, provided I put a  black ribbon around my dread ponytail every night.  Lol.  As if that makes the dreadlocks disappear?

But, I am happy, because aside from that minor hiccup, it was the easiest job search I have ever had!  Yay for people putting stereotypes aside and hiring the best qualified candidate no matter what they look like!

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.

How to Treat Your Server Like a Human

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After several years as a waitress, there are some things I just need to say!!!!  If you care about behaving like a decent person when you go out to a restaurant, here  is some advice from one who knows!!!  And for the sake of this post, the personal pronoun “I” really stands for ALL SERVERS you will ever meet in life.

1. Don’t act like I’M inconveniencing YOU when I come to the table!  You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve gotten rude facial expressions or even words, telling me to “Go away, we’re not ready yet”  or something after I’ve given a table plenty of time to decide on their order.  If you want to take your time and aren’t in a rush, just tell me that nicely in the first place.  Otherwise I’m going to assume you came in to actually EAT so don’t get fresh with me for trying to serve you promptly!

2. Realize what’s going on around you, and that I’m not the only one serving you.  I take your order, but the bartender makes the drinks, and the cooks make your food.  Hence, if your drink order is taking awhile, it’s not my fault!!!  Same goes for the food.  If you see me hovering at the bar pleading with the bartender to hurry it up, know that I am doing my best for you!

4. Order preemptively.  If I come by and ask if anyone wants another drink, and you are anywhere close to finishing yours and know you will want another, just order it!  There is nothing more annoying than a large table where one person asks for one more thing each time I bring something to the table.  Get in sync, people!  I should not have to make six consecutive trips just to get you one more round!

3. If you’re going to complain, have a solution in mind.  I hate it when people tell me something is wrong but then reject every offer I make to correct the problem!  First of all, if something is wrong with your dish, stop eating it and tell me ASAP!  “Problems” reported about things you’ve already practically finished will NOT be taken seriously.  Duh.  But, if you don’t want your food remade, don’t want to speak to the manager about a discount, or don’t want a free dessert, why are you even telling me???  You are a complainer for complaining’s sake and I’d rather just not hear about it if you’re not going to let me fix the problem.

4.  Something small but significant:  make it obvious when you’re ready to pay!  Stick the cash or credit card out of the top of the little black book, and stand it up or put it somewhere different on the table.  I HATE it when people just stick their card inside and leave it exactly where I placed it.  That makes me have to guess whether or not there is something in there, and believe it or not I am not psychic.  And there is nothing more awkward then having to go up to a table and ASK if I should take the check.  If you’re not ready, it just makes it seem like I am rushing you, when really I was afraid that I was keeping YOU waiting.  So stick your freakin’ credit card out the top, people!!!

5. Don’t think you can make up for a bad tip by being super nice to me.  This is known as the “verbal tip.”  Honestly, it’s just like an extra-hard slap in the face.  If you’re really nice and complimentary the whole time, then I’m going to expect a good tip.  Not getting one from such nice people makes me lose my faith in humanity.  I can’t take your compliments to the bank.

6. I make $4.35 per hour.  That’s NOTHING.  My checks are like a bonus.  I live on tips.  20% OF YOUR BILL IS THE NORMAL TIP FOR A GOOD SERVER!!!!  (I’m talking to you Euros, you’re in America now.)  So, you should always start with the idea of tipping 20%.  If the service is bad and it is clearly the server’s fault, you can deduct.  If the service is AWESOME, or you feel like being extra generous, feel free to tip over 20%!!!  But you should never tip less than 20% for good service in this day and age.  Also, guess what?  I don’t even get to keep all of those tips you give me.  At the end of the night, I give 10% of my total tips to the bartender, another 10% to the busser, and 5% to the host.  So I only even keep 75% of the tips I make!!!!  Also look at it this way: when you tip me, you’re also tipping everyone else who’s working to serve you!

I’m sure I will think of more of these later so perhaps I will add to this post.  But for now, keep this post in mind next time you go out to eat!  What do you think?  Have you done any of these things I just warned about?  Or are you always an awesome customer and appalled that others are not?

Celebrity Encounter!

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I had the most exciting night I’ve ever had at work last Wednesday!  An encounter with a minor celebrity left me slightly starstruck.  So who’s seen the movie Into the Wild?  It’s one of my favorite movies.  Well, Wednesday night the actor who played Rainey was at one of my tables.  I didn’t see them sit down but another server came up to me and said “You have a table.  And it’s the old hippy guy from Into the Wild.”  At first I thought she meant someone who looked like him, but I walked up and it was totally him!  Ah!  He had the same long braid, same sexy deep voice, and was just a HUGE man in general.  So of course I tried to provide the best service possible and probably neglected my other tables.

Here’s the backstory on the guy:  His name is Brain Dierker; he is from Arizona and was originally hired by director Sean Penn to be the marine coordinator for the kayaking scenes in the Grand Canyon.  As he was helping with those scenes and working with the cast and crew, Sean Penn eventually began to see him as the perfect person to play Rainey (the part was still uncast).  He asked him to play the part and Brian, having never acted, was originally hesitant but eventually agreed.  And aren’t we all glad he did?  Wasn’t he awesome?

So I knew the backstory of his unconventional casting and that just made me love his performance even more.  What I didn’t know is that he is actually from Flagstaff and owns one of the ski shops in town!  So apparently other servers knew this and had seen him around before, but this was news to me so I was still super excited and a bit giddy!  Of course I didn’t ask for an autograph or let on I knew him cause I didn’t want to seem like an unprofessional and annoying fangirl.  He seemed very down to earth and laid back and you could tell he was a good guy, much like his character in the movie.  What a great encounter!  I can’t believe I spent several years in NY but had to come to Flagstaff, AZ to meet a real celebrity for the first time!  Oh, and yes, he tipped a solid 20%!  Good thing, would’ve been a major turnoff if he hadn’t!

April (Snow) Showers

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Zach and I were both supposed to work Saturday, but when we woke up at the dreadful hour of 5:45am, there was a foot of snow outside.  By the time we got the car down the driveway there was no hope of Zach making it to work by 7 so he called off.  I was determined to still make it to my new job so Zach somehow drove all the way to the interstate on our crazy unplowed roads.  I was already questioning whether I should even try to make it when we saw the highway wasn’t even plowed yet.  Oh, and it was still snowing.  So I called off.  Criollo didn’t care, they knew it would be dead anyway.  Phew.

Yay!  An unplanned but much-needed day off!  Since we had already braved the treacherous roads and were awake from digging out the car we decided chow-time was in order.  We had some delicious breakfast and coffee at the Pine Country Restaurant but what I really got excited about was this:

Look at that plethora of PIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alas, apparently normal people do not eat pie at 7am, so our server dropped the check without even asking if we wanted dessert.  Don’t you know we’re not normal????  Don’t worry, we ordered a huge piece of Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie to go and enjoyed it at home later.

When we got home Zach made these:

Don't they look professional? He makes the best Bloody Marys ever!

Then we proceeded to watch the final 3 episodes of Big Love (what will I do without those crazy Mormons in my life?????), cuddle, nap, and make more yummy food.  So as crazy as a foot of snow in April is, we were both grateful for the day off.  We live together but we don’t often get enough time to just chill out.  We end up arguing more when we’re both so busy that we don’t do anything fun together.  It was a much-needed day to reconnect and it got us rejuvenated to face another crazy week.  We can’t wait for South America when we’ll be together 24/7 for a whole year.  We like each other way too much.

Serving is awesome because…

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I recently started my new job.  I worked two weekends “in training” before getting the go-ahead to give my 2 weeks notice at my receptionist job.  So now I’m in the midst of my last 2 weeks here AND working weekends at my new job.  It’s crazy exhausting but I LOVE my new job and can’t wait to be there full time.  I’m working at Criollo Latin Kitchen as a server.

 

I hate it when people judge me because I’m a college-grad who’s still serving tables.  I got one particularly condescending response from a current co-worker when I told her I was leaving.  Of course she didn’t say it to my face, but to my friend Matt, who in turn told me.  She flat out told him I was “stupid to leave a job with benefits” and should “stay and advance my career.”  Totally sounds like me, right?

So now, I present to you, my list of reasons why I ACTUALLY LOVE restaurant work.

1. Travel is my priority right now.  I don’t want to start a career and get tied down to it.  I don’t want to have a job I will feel particularly bad about leaving if I decide I want to say, go backpack through South America for a year.  Restaurants are used to high employee turnover rates and are usually full of cool people who will encourage my adventures and are often planning their own.  For me right now, work is a means to end to support my travel habit and independent filmmaking, and not much more than that.

2. Tips tips tips.  I can make SO MUCH MORE $$$$ than I can working at a desk job, or even an entry-level film job.  At my old restaurant, Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, I averaged $20/hr in JUST TIPS on a bad night.  Criollo is going to be even better.  With $30 steaks and $150 bottles of wine on the menu, I’ll hopefully average about $30/hr just tips for dinner shifts.

3. Benefits are not an issue.  Obama’s health care reform included an awesome idea to make parents’ health insurance cover their children until age 26.  So I get to go back on my dad’s health, dental, and vision, and it’s all WAY BETTER than my $3000-deductible insurance from my current job.  Yay Obama-care!!!!!!!

4. Flexible schedule.  I can work different days each week, pick up shifts when I need some extra cash, and request days off whenever I need them.  None of this “you have 10 vacation days a year” nonsense.  If I NEED a few days off, whether I’m getting sick or I’m going to Mexico, I can get a few days off.  I get paid for the days I work and don’t get paid when I don’t. Makes sense to me.

5. No desks!!!!  I HATE sitting at a desk all day!!!  How utterly unhealthy!!!  Of course serving is the exact opposite…you NEVER get to sit down and are running around the restaurant for up to 12 hours a day.  But being active, busy, and up talking to people all day is just so much more fun than sitting at a desk staring at a screen until your eyeballs burn out of your head and you turn into a big fat blob of mashed potatoes.  Ick.  Moving makes the time go faster AND burns more calories.  Hurrah!  Plus, I swear my back hurts more now just from being in the same position all day than any of my muscles ever hurt when I was serving.

6. Learning opportunities.  At Mellow Mushroom I learned all about microbrews and now I can say I really understand and enjoy good beer.  Criolllo is much classier and thus is all about fine wine and liquor.  So now I’m going to get to learn all about that stuff.  And in the interest of “learning” all of Criollo’s servers get to do a mandatory weekly wine tasting.  Hoo-yeah!  Last week we tasted tequilas rather than wine.  Did you know that expensive tequila actually tastes good to sip?  Shocker!

7. Future.  Zach and I definitely have nomadic tendencies.  He now has tons of experience as an electrician and I have tons as a server.  With these skills we can find jobs anywhere.  Criollo is definitely gonna class me up and hopefully after this I’ll be able to find work as a fine-dining server or bartender.  Mucho peso, baby.  Plus, I could see myself being happy as a restaurant manager if it was at a cool place like Criollo.  And Zach and I have been known to dream about “our bar on the beach” in some expat-friendly area of some developing country.  So I AM developing skills for my future.  And that future, hopefully, will never involve a boring desk job again.

What do you think?  Am I extremely naive and shortsighted?  Or can you see where I’m coming from?