The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Well here’s what happens when the majority of restaurants have call in policies such as this or oppose offering health benefits to their employees such as stated here.

In the news during the last couple weeks there were articles and newscasts reporting the Norovirus outbreaks that have been attributed to The Olive Garden restaurants.

Locally there was an outbreak at Trostel’s Greenbriar (excellent dining btw) and the same employee was found working at The West End Diner (not so excellent), article here.

Well enough with the hyper linking for now.

My point is this, many restaurants make employees feel obligated to report to workif they are ill.

If I were to call in to work with vomiting or diarrhea the assumption from my management staff would be that I am nothing more than hungover and need to get my ass to work.

This can be applied to anyone that works in many restaurants, particularly corporate chains.

Personally I have worked for three corporate restaurants and the staff was intimidated into coming in sick with the threat of termination or write ups at all places, my peers can attest to the same treatment where they have worked.

In the restaurant environment if you do stay home ill you are virtually marked as a troublemaker and risk losing shifts and prime sections as “punishment” for the crime of falling sick.

As well there is no sick pay, so if you stay home you lose out on a shifts pay.

You might be required to go to the doctor to bring a note excusing yourself from work, never mind that health insurance is often not offered and that a simple doctor visit can cost $150 just for them to tell us we’re sick.

But really that’s noting I haven’t said before.

So what do most of us do?

We suck it up.

We go to work with sore throats, the flu, bronchitis, diarrhea and what have you.

We’re told to wash our hands often (which we should do)

But in most cases, when half a dozen people touch your food before it gets to your table, this approach is just a feel good safety method.

So what happens is the customer and other staff members fall sick when we either are forced to work or can’t afford to take off.

Most of the time it is a simple cold bug that gets around, no one traces these things back to restaurants because they aren’t that much of a risk.

Hell, I’ve seen half or a restaurant’s staff come down with a cold or the flu, I wonder how many of the customers came down with it as well?

But when a Norovirus, E. Coli or Salmonella outbreak hits it spreads fear which a head cold won't.

People are afraid of tainted spinach, lettuce, green onions or stomach flu and the restaurants that they are traced to.

Is it because some server, some cook didn’t wash their hands?

Or is it because the employees might lose their jobs or income because management can’t manage the shift when employees are ill?

So Olive Garden will lose many customer’s and the owners and investors will take a hit, servers will have less customers and the good reputation of a local restaurant will diminish.

They might have staff meetings reminding everyone to wash their hands, wear gloves and all of that common sense.

But at the end of the day when someone calls in sick they’ll be told…

“Either come in and work or you won’t have a job.”

The same thing that was said to me a several years back as a rookie server when I had the flu.

I came in.


At 9:54 PM , Blogger briliantdonkey said...

I agree with most of what you said. These kind of policies DO indeed exist in most restaurants. They DO indeed suck bigtime especially if you really ARE sick. However, playing a bit of devil's advocate it is NOT just a matter of 'management being dicks' or certainly not just 'management's fault.' Your fellow employees are as much if not more to blame for it. If you are honest about it you have to admit that a LOT(certainly not all but a LOT) of call ins ARE because of things like
people just dont WANT to come to work......

people WERE out partying the night before and are hungover.

At the risk of generalizing a whole group of people NOBODY drinks and parties like a bunch of servers and bartenders. As a server and Bartender for 15 years that is my opinion at least whether you agree or disagree is up to you.

or any other of a list of bad excuses. Are the policies overkill? Absolutely, I couldn't agree more but I can see where the necessity is for them. My only advice to fight it is peer pressure. Wait till The next time 'JOE' your fellow server tells you how he was wasted the other night and had to call in sick. Instead of laughing at him and making him think it was 'cool'

tell him if he is going to be man enough to play(drink)to be man enough to pay(come in and cover his own shift).

Instead of saying 'man that's awesome that you drank till you puked in the tub and passed out on the floor' tell him he is a jackass for calling in sick and causing YOU(or another fellow worker)to have to come in on their day off or work a double because he is too freaking stupid to 'know when to say when.' I did this quite a few times, and it cost me in the 'being kewl' department without a doubt. I didn't and still don't care about that. I could go on and on but I have taken up way too much of your comment section already. My main point is the policy sucks, but it is in place because people abuse it(calling in sick). You can let them get away with it, or live with the policy. My 2 cents for what it is worth. Hope you had a great xmas.


At 11:05 PM , Blogger Secret said...

BD, with all do respect I disagree with part of your opinion. While some servers and bartenders do like to go out and party, it is an unfair generalization by management that it is the reason that people call in sick.

It is often their belief that the staff member is "lying" and they often jump to that conclusion before the thought that someone is really ill.

Do I think that employees should be held accountable for calling in with undue frequency or having been known to be out drunk the night before?


However in my experience restaurants make blanket and unethical policies that can effect the staff's moral and health. A case by case basis with call-ins is the right course. Often a manager just want to avoid part of their job, which is making the restaurant run smoothly.

Many managers won't help cover a shift or strap on the apron themselves because it requires actual work (this does not include those of you that do, and I know several that will and have jumped on the floor if need be)

I believe that is immoral and I think that the restaurant business should be held accountable for their employees, not just look at themselves like the business is exempt from being a good corperate citizen. For some reason management believes that our business is special and the rules don't apply.

Well they do apply and I believe it is risky to just assume the employee is a liar when people's health may be at stake.

At 10:52 PM , Blogger Lord Retro said...

I work as a cook, and my restaurant has a policy where you can call in sick up to 2 hours before your shift starts. Generally speaking, you won't get too much grief if you call in WAY ahead of time. (Which is hard when you work at 6 in the morning)

If you call in with less than 2 hours before your shift, OR if you have called in the past 2 shifts in a row, you need a doctors note. Never before the 2 hours, and never on your first 2 consecutive call-ins. We're not told this part though, that if you ARE asked for a doctors note and you don't meet the conditions, you can call corporate and get the manager in trouble. I wish I had known that earlier than last month.

I have a bad back. I hurt it at a previous job and one day before my shift I hurt it again. I called in 5 hours before my shift started (I worked at midnight) and was told straight up that I needed a doctors note or I had to tough it out. Not even an option of finding someone to come in, just note, work, or gone. I had an appt. with my chiro. the next morning, but NO, they had to have the note before my shift started.

In my crazy town, everything is closed up early (hospital wise) and I ended up the next town over at a 24 hour walk-in clinic, was seen by a "nurse" and told "yep, you're in pain. here's a note" Spent $75 to get TALKED to and a note.

The people I work with know me, and know that I don't party, don't drink, don't smoke, don't do any of those server vices, and they also know I'm broke, so I never turn down shifts unless I have to. But not everyone I work with is that way, and it sucks coming home from a double shift to see new pics on facebook from the previous nights kegger posted by the guy you covered.

Sorry that was long, but I had to rant.

At 10:57 AM , Blogger briliantdonkey said...

That is okay, we can agree to disagree.For the record
I agree it IS indeed an unfair generalization. Both by management to assume the server is lying AND by me saying 'servers and bartenders drink and party like no other.' That said, it is an unfair generalization that I can see where it comes from is all I am trying to say. Of course not all are like that. I myself as a bartender and server very rarely drink, but let's face it that IS the exception to the rule. I too had to call in once and was faced with this same policy. All I can suggest is stand your ground, remind your manager you are not one of the habitual offenders and let your work performance/attendance speak for itself.


At 4:45 PM , Blogger Hoodlum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This makes me glad I work for a large corporation with a unionized work force... I have shingles right now, and while I'm not infectious I feel like I have a red-hot poker in my side, 24-7. Sometimes the pain is less, sometimes more, but it's always there. The only thing that seems to even partially relieve it is sitting upright in a chair with back support, my arm tucked tightly to my side. I can't imagine being forced to work, walking all day, with this kind of pain.

I feel for you, this is no way to treat employees.

At 11:27 AM , Anonymous Curious said...

As a cancer patient that went through high dose chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, part of my regulations after transplant was that I couldn't eat at a restaurant for at least six months.

The transplant completely wipes out a person's immune system and even weak viruses and bacterias can make us go septic. After reading your post, I can definietly see why oncologists are so strict with their patients in regards to dining out, even months after the procedure.

At 12:11 AM , Blogger mist1 said...

I used that Norovirus excuse once. My boss didn't buy it.

At 2:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a sign at work that says "Norovirus is a big deal. If you are vomiting or have Diahrea, do not come in to work to protect your coworkers and guests." First person to tell the boss they had diahrea (that wasn't caused by tacos and alcohol) was told to suck it up. We had a server puke in a garbage can in the back and have to go back out on the floor. Nothing says appetizing like vomit on the breath of your server.

At 5:51 PM , Anonymous restaurant gal said...

I wrote about this never-call-out-sick culture, too. Basically, if you work in a good place with decent management, you still come in sick rather than call out. The difference is, they send you home pretty quick.

Best, The Gal

At 10:13 PM , Anonymous Michelle said...

I was just googling around to see if there was anything I could do to NOT have to work tomorrow when I came across this link. I called my boss today and told her I have the flu. It's horrible. I should not be working tomorrow. ANYWAY, she said I have to find someone to cover my shift. Guess what? No one can cover it. I wokr in a restaurant.

Tomorrow someone is going to get the flu because of me. I wouldn't even go to class today, but I'm forced to go to work with my sore throat, cough, achy muscles, runny nose, and exploding orfices.

Yay for restaurants.



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