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....

Monday, April 30, 2007

Insults and Answers...

“How are we doing tonight folks?” I asked.

The first thing out of the guest‘s mouth was him spitting out a contemptuous, “It’s our anniversary, do we get anything?”

The first thought in my head was, you’ll be lucky to get anything at all, looking at the displeasure on his wife’s face.

“Sir, we offer any dessert on the house to help you celebrate.” I said.

In my mind I was betting he’d order the generic chocolate lava cake, well he can have that freezer burned microwave treat, much better than a homemade Crème Brulee.

But I digress…

“Well I suppose we should start off with a nice bottle of wine,” the guest stated.

“Is there anything you had in mind?” I asked.

“Can you give me a recommendation?” He asked.

“Well sir, do you think you’ll be having seafood, beef or pasta tonight?” I asked in return.

“Does it look like we’ve looked at the menu?” He retorted.

Great, someone that doesn’t know even the basic principals on which to order wine.

“Sir, do you know if you prefer red or white wine, a sweet or dry wine?” I asked.

“Dry?” He asked with a confused look. A look that stated that he didn’t know that a drink, which is wet, could also be dry as a characteristic.

“I think I would like something sweet.” His wife said.

Well at least she was decisive, but I knew what was coming next.

“Do ya’ll have White Zin?” he asked.

I shuddered to the core of my soul. I thought I would do her a favor and expand her world slightly on her anniversary, call it my little gift.

“Yes, but as well we have a selection of Rieslings that may interest you, this particular line is known for being very light as well as sweet.” I said.

“Honey, can we try it?” She asked her husband.

He grunted an affirmative.

I returned with their bottle and proceeded to present the wine in the proper form.

“Sir, would you care to see if it is to your liking?” I asked after he stared at his sample for a moment, not knowing quite what to do with it.

“Just pour,” was his response.

I started my spiel, “Well would we care for any appetizers to start the evening, we have a wonderful bruscetta…”

“Prime rib,” said the gentleman, interrupting me.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“We want prime rib, medium well for both of us.” The guest stated.

Ok, well we have eight, twelve and sixteen ounce portions, which would you like?” I asked.

“We both want the eight ounce, you charge an arm and a leg here.” He responded.

I gritted my teeth.

“No appetizer then sir?” I asked.

“As long as you keep this full we won’t need one,” he said as he pushed the bread basket toward me.

Ok, well I’ll get everything started for you.” I said as I prepared to flee.

Doesn’t this come with a salad?’ He said, stopping me in my tracks.

“Yes sir, we serve a family style salad with a balsamic vinaigrette…” I said, knowing what he was about to ask.

“Well I don’t want that, I want Western.” He said.

Of course, Western, the only thing worse than ranch.

“We don’t have Western sir,” I said.

“What kind of place is this? I guess we’ll can settle on ranch.” He said.

“Yes sir,” I responded.

It’s pretty bad when you have to settle for ranch, when we don’t have that high society dressing that is Western. Too bad we had ranch for dipping on kids meals and appetizers, I would have loved to say no to that one as well.

Time goes by, I wait on other guests and finally their prime rib is ready.

“There you go folks, anything I can get you for the moment?” I asked.

“This looks kind of small,” the gentleman said as he gestured toward his plate.

I looked over his dinner and in fact his prime rib looked a bit bigger than our usual eight ounce piece.

“No sir, that looks like a pretty good piece of steak to me,” I said.

“Well I raise beef for a living, I don’t need you to tell me what a good piece of meat looks like,” he said.

I just turned around and walked away, he’s lucky he received that large of a cut, you want a larger cut, pick a better piece of meat. Luckily the rest of the dinner goes on just fine, my section fills up and for the moment everything is running smoothly. The gentleman’s demeanor shifts from adversarial to almost human…


“Say, that’s a pretty good wine there,” the gentleman said as I poured him a taste of his second bottle.

“Thank you sir,” I said, taking full credit for picking it out. It wasn’t fine wine by any means, but you have to read your customer and I knew it fit them exactly, and I knew the lady would love it.

“Can I buy a bottle off of you to take home?” The gentleman asked.

“I’m sorry sir, but we don’t have an off-sale license,” I responded.

Continuing I said, “ I bet you can pick up a bottle at the Wine Experience and I’m almost positive you can get it at the grocery store right up the street.”

Ok, we’ll check it out,” He said.

“Sure, besides you’d save a bit compared to what we charge for it.” I said.

That was where it all turned sour again and it was my mistake.

“How much would this cost in the store?” He asked.

“Oh about twelve dollars or so.” I responded.

“And how much are we paying for it here?” He asked.

“Around twenty eight sir,” I answered.

“That’s what I thought, and here I thought I was buying an elegant bottle of wine for my wife on our anniversary.” He said angrily.

“Sir, that’s just how the bar markup goes.” I countered.

“I don’t mind paying for a good dinner, I just don’t think I should be making the owner rich.” He spouted out.

Continuing he said, “I thought I was buying a nice bottle and now you tell me I can buy it at any grocery store in town?”

His face was starting to turn red and he went on some rant about how he felt cheated by paying that much for a cheap bottle of wine. I tried to diffuse the situation a bit, however my patience for asshole customers was nearly gone.

I put it this way, “Sir, the principle is kind of like this, when you go to the bar you pay what, three fifty for a beer, if you buy it at the store it costs about a buck fifty, I’m not trying to cheat you or insult you, its this way anywhere you go.”

“Whatever, I think I want to talk to a manager,” he said.

“Yeah, I think that’s what’s best.” I responded.

I sent Mike, the assistant manager over. Mike wasn’t too happy with me when he returned.

“What the hell did you say to that guy?” Mike asked.

“He’s just pissed about what he has to pay, its not my fault the asshole doesn’t know how to go out to eat.” I said.

“He wants to speak to the General Manager, I don’t know what you said, but he’s pissed off as shit.” Mike said.

So the GM went over to placate the insulted guest and we bought his chocolate lava cake.

I went up to pick up the payment decided to do what I do best, apologize without apologizing.

“Sir, I’m sorry if you felt I insulted you, I was just trying to help you out.” I said.

“Whatever, keep it,” he said as he pushed the check presenter toward me.

I picked it up and looked over at his wife, “Have a good night,” I said.

She gave me an apologetic smile and shrug as if to say hey, I’m the one that has to live with him.
I hope he slept on the couch given the pittance he left me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Here We Go Again...

So after work on Saturday night a gathering at a local bar took place.

There were servers and bartenders from three well known local restaurants and invariably the subject went to how our nights went and the usual bitching about customers and whatnot.

One waitress bitched about her twenty-top of prom kids that ran her ass off for Mountain Dews and Shirley Temples, with a bowl of cherries accompanying, of course.

I whined about my table of girls celebrating their friend’s birthday, along with the one entrée and few appetizers the whole table ordered.

One of the bartenders with us laid out his plight as he had his bar top customers toss him the occasional quarter rather than folding money.

We all understood.

Then Misty showed up, she works at a high-end steakhouse in the area.

“You guys bitching about work?” She asked.

“You know it,” we answered.

“Well I have the story of the night, listen to this bullshit.” She said.

“Tonight we had this thirty-top roll in and they put four of us on it, huuuuuuge party, they spent over eight thousand dollars.” She started.

“So they tipped us another $350 on top of the twenty percent gratuity.” Misty said.

“Well sounds better than my night, I only made forty bucks on my twenty top.” I said.

“Here comes the good part, since we made extra on the party the Executive Chef decided that we should tip out the kitchen four hundred dollars.” Misty said.

Well that sounds familiar,” I said.

“Isn’t your tip-out already a third of your tips?” I asked.

“Yeah, we already had to pay five hundred dollars to the bussers and the bar, even though we had all the wine bottles out on the table and did all the wine service ourselves.” She said.

“So you ended up paying almost a thousand dollars in tip out then?” I asked.

“Something like that, I walked with about two hundred, but really should have made three after the tip-out.” Misty said.

“So what did the Chef say to you anyways?” I asked.

“He said that the kitchen really worked hard and deserved extra since we got extra.” She said.

“Was there any protest? I would throw a fit,” said another server at the table.

“Well we protested to the General Manager, but he talked to the Chef and agreed with him.” Said Misty.

“That’s bullshit,” another in our party added.

“Then the Chef tried to pull a guilt trip on us, he said we were all just greedy and implied that we didn’t deserve to make that much money.” Misty said.

“That’s fucking illegal, I just read about another place that was taking the staff’s tips, he just can’t do that.” I said.

“Well we called our human resources department and they agreed with us, but the General Manager still wouldn’t give us our money.” Misty said.

“Fuck that, management has no right to distribute your tips, the guest left it for you, not the kitchen. Kitchen gets salary and hourly, they aren’t tipped out employees, your Chef is a thief and it is illegal for him to distribute tips to non-tipped employees.” I said.

“He even gave the dishwashers $50 each, to wash thirty fucking dishes!” Misty exclaimed.

“Fuck that, call the state Attorney General’s office or the labor department, these fucks can’t get away with this shit, I quit a job because of this shit and these managers have no right to take away what you earned.” I said.

“I make three bucks an hour, where was management when it was slow and I was pulling fifty bucks a shift, that’s ok but if I make three hundred I’m being greedy and don’t deserve it?” Misty asked.

“They have no right to determine what you make, report them tomorrow, I swear I’ll call it in myself!” I said.

Misty sat there and sipped her beer with a pissed off look on her face, “fucking bullshit,” she muttered.

"And to end it all, we are allowed to take home wine that our parties don't finish as part of our reward for such a group, they had Silver Oak and Stag's Leap so we had some good bottles to take home, except the Chef wouldn't let us and took them home for himself." She said.

"Sounds like he's the one that's greedy to me, he's pretty liberal with other people's money, and other people's wine as well, fucking travesty." I said.

"Fucking bullshit," Misty said as she took another sip of beer...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Obnoxious Inebriation

Dear chain restaurant/chain restaurant manager…

Right now I am mightily drunk, I had deep conversations on life, racism, the war as well as our beloved restaurant industry in the last few hours, here's a few things that may infuriate you...

As well as the grammar Nazi's out there.

First off I violated the rule of having three tables/12 "guests" in my section.

I had eight tables at the height of tonight's rush (did I spell tonite wright?)

And a total of twenty four guests rolling in my section at the same time.

I suppose I could have had several (ten) less "guests" and had a better ability to give proper service, after all my chief purpose in this business is to service the "guest".

Was that period in the right place? Last time I messed with a period I got dumped, but I digress.

I guess I was a greedy son of a gun (not a bitch, my Mother's a Saint!) but with that extra ten people I made another$1,000,000 or so, at any rate a higher number than any server should deserve.

I probably could have made a bit less and provided a marginal bit of extra service, but rather than sell desserts or coffee I pushed you out of my section for another table.

"Dessert, well they're oooooooooook, no we don't have expresso...

(Apologies, espresso)

Bamn, another $200 table instead of a camper with their $5 desserts.

Then I took seven tables, one was an eight top, to the chain restaurant managers I do apologize, I should have split that table, but I was greedy.

Instead of pulling $35 on a split I put myself ahead and rolled with $70.

Oh yeah, I won the sales contest and brought home a nice bottle of wine on the house.

I guess I don't care about the guest as much as my own income...

But they are related now aren't they, I care about the guest as much as my income is involved.

But time to go, "Rocket Queen" is on my stereo and its time for one last beer before I have to wake up and play an actor again.

As we say "Peace, Love and Chicken Grease."

Was the period in the right place?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Small Victories

Well in life we all have our small victories. I have been back at my old restaurant following the debacle at the bistro where the owner felt that he deserved a slice of the tips.

I made that decision for the simple fact that if I trained at another restaurant for another week I would lose pretty much a full month's income and I don't think my landlord would take to kindly to that one, plus I had just dropped $600 on textbooks and for some of us of the proliterate class that can be a bit of a hit.

Initially I was just going to work the holidays and move on, but there has been a few developments along the way.

Mostly the loss if about 50% of the staff.

That being so there were fewer top servers left as the winter rush picked up and that meant more money for me and a few others that had managed not to get fired or decided to move on.

The one real issue for me upon my return was the fact that the general manager, who was a corporate yes man in the highest sense, had brought the chain restaurant notion of small sections that theoretically would lessen guest complaints and such.

Well that theory in my eyes is just that, a theory, while the reduction of my section by 15% is more a bit of reality.

So several of us were on a campaign to human resources and the other new assistant managers to improve section sizes to what they were for four years, because although our new GM had been there for three weeks, he apparently had a better idea of what changes needed to be made than, oh say the entire staff, other managers, owners and anyone with a nervous system.

So for several months we went on with smaller sections and weaker servers to fill them. The staff we had to replace was pretty much the best one I have ever worked with, their replacements belonged at the Olive Garden.

Well, weeks of bitching, complaining and a few talks to one of our restaurant's owners payed off.

"How come your section sizes are so small?" He asked me on one occasion.

I was sure to let him know my opinion, one that he brought up in a management staff meeting, he was concerned about our lack of tables and its effect on our incomes. That can be a true rarity in this business.

So the next week the GM gave us some BS story about how impressed he was about how we handled the holiday rush and such so he was going to enlarge the sections. Like it was his idea, really it was the efforts of the service staff and our protest above his head that did it.

Personally I think it would have been better if we just kept our strong staff and those capable of being proficient servers instead of hiring sub-par staff, but that's just one man's opinion.

Irregardless we won, and the only good part about this whole deal is there are few servers that they feel can handle the largest sections and large parties, apparently I am one of them.

So I guess every cloud has a silver lining, and in this one I am cashing in on the inexperience of the staff with a larger section than they can handle and first pick on large groups.

Damn, it make it hard to quit, I think I might make this work for the moment.