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....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Rookie

The Noob.

I’ve mentioned before that its hard to befriend rookie servers, because you never know how long they will last.

Could be a week, could be year.

About half seem to make it, and half of them are actually quality employees. Yet another reason behind turnover.

Today I’m going to talk about the half that don’t make it. They seem to spout off catch-phrases like, “Well at my old place we did it this way” and “I thought Zinfandel was pink.”

Its best to filter them out as soon as possible. The downside to that is I’m a trainer.

That means I get to train wave after wave of replacement servers, the faster we turn over, the more work for me.

A month or so back, I had a kid from the Cheesecake factory, chain restaurant disciples are the worst.

They’re the type that actually believe in the mantras of corporate life, they’d make good little comrades if this was a police state.

The kid observed me for all of five minutes when he started to criticize my service.

“How come you didn’t tell them your name?” The kid asked.

I gave him the usual “I prefer to be called sir” bit and he was lost.

“At Cheesecake we’re required to tell our names and ask if they’ve dined with us before.” He replied.

“Why?”

“So we can guide them through the menu if they haven’t been here before.” He said

“Listen, you’re not at Cheesecake anymore, you can give whatever spiel you want and as long as you talk about the features you can do it anyway you want.”

A bit later in the shift I was jockeying about four tables and I had him help me set up a fourteen top.

“So do you have to split the table or are you taking it yourself since you have me today?” Asked the kid.

“Uh, yeah I’m taking it myself, I don’t split tables.” I said.

“I think you need to split it, at Cheesecake we have to split groups like that so they get the proper experience.” He replied.

“Kid, they’ll get the service they need, and if you want an experience I’d suggest something a little more adventurous than eating lunch.”

Part of what I teach noobs is how things really work.

For instance I don't push dessert at lunch.

My job is to get people in and out as fast as possible, they have places to be, I have tables to turn.
What he couldn't understand is that although my actions benefit me, they benefit the customer.

I suppose its that selling Cheesecake to people in a mall is hardwired, but he insisted on talking desserts to all my tables.

He didn't sell a one, they asked for their checks, not a description of Panna Cotta.

As it goes, lunch continued and I dazzled him with my ability to take more than three tables.

Fast forward a week.

I catch the kid crouching down to take an order, now my spot is pretty decent, maybe not fine dining but a good restaurant nonetheless.

We don’t play that Outback suck up shit, we give real service.

“Listen kid, we don’t kneel at our tables here.” Said I.

“It’s a good way to get tips, it brings us down to their level so they don’t feel we’re standing over them.” He replied.

“Okay, this corporate bull doesn’t fly here its embarrassing, you know how I said that we do our own thing here, well make sure it isn’t out of TGI Friday’s handbook.”

“It was Cheesecake Factory.”

“Same difference, its embarrasing to the other staff and we don't debase ourselves in front of customers,” I said.

He lasted about a month

His replacement came in, nice gal with a couple notable local restaurants under her belt.

She was corking the wine on the first table I gave her no problem and she was on the floor a day early.

Was the difference that she wasn’t corporate?

Nah, we all started somewhere.

The difference was she believed in herself, not an employee handbook.

30 Comments:

At 1:02 AM , Blogger misha said...

i completely refuse to work for a corporate mentality restaurant. last night at chili's (free drinks) our waiter was an automatron

 
At 7:42 AM , Blogger Lyla Lou said...

I never understood that whole stooping down thing...especially for those tables that take forever to order, don't your knees start to hurt?

I'm so glad I'm out of the business, but every once in a while I miss it. I miss working with people my age, I miss having friends at work=)

 
At 10:07 AM , Blogger I am so wise said...

Look, if chain restaurants and their service actually sucked, they'd be naturally selected against by the free market. Advertising cannot make you eat food you dislike or go places you truly hate.

Hating on corporate chains for their success just reeks of jealousy.

 
At 3:46 PM , Anonymous Food Service Ninjah said...

i used to bend down to hear my guest better in meantime I have learned to read lips pretty good and if i tried to squat down like that I would blow a knee in 10 sec.

Chains suck for a lot of reasons bland food

-we are a junk food nation so naturally they are successful

-they give out free shit at drop of a hat to guests who bitch simply because they know they will get it free -thank you Steak & Ale and RIP

-they treat employers as just a another input and grind you up in the process

-they value procedures over getting the job done

ex a chain Shirley Temple will have XX amount of grenadene while a Shirley Temple made an exp server has a good 3 oz of the cherry sugar crap in it to make it so sweet the normal guest will only drink one saving the server time and the business money otherwise you looking at 5 refills

BUT WTF where is any hate on chains success here-all the blogger mentioned was that his chain trained noob was a douche bag trying to train his trainer. The dumb shit could have held his tongue for a few days and then done it his way and made less money since his tables would turn slower.

 
At 4:18 PM , OpenID aria60 said...

I really hate it when waiters kneel down. It looks uncomfortable and must be uncomfortable... and I don't know, but it feels better when they're above me. I feel like a waiter should be in a position of some authority.

And the author didn't say that chain restaurants suck. As I see it, the point is that a small, individual restaurant is shooting for a different customer base than a chain one. Chain ones get their customers by low prices and their type of service. A small restaurant is trying to lure in people willing to spend more to get a more interesting meal. Because of that, they can't let people get the idea that they're just another chain. They can't compete with the chains on price. So what that server was doing could have been hurtful to the business.

 
At 6:07 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

Here's my boyfriend's explanation for the popularity of chain restaurants: if you're in an area where you don't know about the quality of local restaurants, you're taking a risk choosing an unknown place. It could be excellent, or it could be terrible. With chain restaurants, you at least know beforehand that the food will be mediocre.

 
At 10:05 PM , Blogger 6th Floor blog said...

Exactly, Chain's are a reliable B- quality experience. Some people don't need nor want the other stuff. But that's not the point of the story anyway.

I always wonder if there was some pysch-analysis involved in some of these tactics, like the kneeling down. (Although, I don't have any problem with the Hooters waitresses doing it) Does it pyschologically make the patrons feel friendlier with the server or something? The thing is, some people can pull it off, and some people just come off fake.

 
At 11:50 AM , Blogger Emily said...

I hate when servers kneel down to talk to me. I also hate when they touch me for no apparent reason. I heard statistically your tips are higher if you touch your customers, but I find strangers touching me without asking CREEPY.

 
At 7:44 PM , Blogger I am so wise said...

Uhh, Michelle, that doesn't explain how chain restaurants got so big. After all, McDonald's started with a single store. Then, they grew as they beat out dozens of other fast food outfits and hundreds if not, thousands of other restaurants.

"A small restaurant is trying to lure in people willing to spend more to get a more interesting meal."

Utter nonsense. Small restaurants charge more because they cannot get the same rates as the big chains.

 
At 10:08 PM , Blogger MiniHotPot said...

Hostesses drop like flies ...

 
At 1:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The kneeling thing is unprofessional. Maybe that's why they think it brings in more tips. "Hey, this guy is my friend, I should tip him more!" ?

Also, announcing your name to a table is fine and cute, but it's not done in fine dining. So, it just depends on where you're at, I guess.

 
At 9:50 AM , Anonymous Pam said...

As a customer, I hate the kneeling thing. It reads as smarmy and sucking up, sort of like a used car salesman. It gives me the same creepy, uncomfortable feeling. A waiter is providing a service in a, hopefully, professional way. Tips should be given for professionalism, not for fake buddy-buddy crap. Also, don't really care what their name is. I'm not giving him/her mine, why should they have to tell me theirs?

 
At 10:47 AM , Blogger Suz said...

Giving your table your name allows them to call you something other than "hey" or "miss," neither of which I prefer. The funny thing is, after 25 years of waiting tables I find that the tables who actually use my name almost always (95%) leave a better tip than those who don't.

Interesting.....

Corporate sucks. I did it for 8 months and had to get out. Ack!

 
At 12:13 PM , Blogger akirakid said...

Don't know if you saw the July issue of Reader's Digest, but they excerpted the new book "Waiter Rant" with "13 things your waiter won't tell you". Well there is an online talkback section at rd.com/waiter. You really need to read the posts from Springs1. The lady is psycho! I have been in heated discussion with her for two days. I would love to see how you handle her.

 
At 12:24 PM , Anonymous Nana said...

40+ years ago, my uncle owned a restaurant. He said French & Italian waiters would argue with him...we did it this way / that way at my old place. He loved German waiters: give 'em an order and they'd do it. Even if it was, go spill wine on table 2...Germans followed orders!

 
At 8:19 AM , Anonymous BusBus said...

While reading this post, I couldn't help thinking of the chippy waiter from "Office Space" when reading about the noob *rolls eyes*

 
At 2:10 PM , Anonymous Inez said...

I know I sound corporate-y, but I kind of like how waiters guide me through the menu and introduce themselves. It makes them feel human. Unless, of course, they rattle off the menu like they're bored - then I don't like them. Couple it with some eye-rolling and I'm out of there.

I don't like the kneeling part, though. That's a bit strange.

 
At 10:25 AM , Anonymous banquet manager said...

If more restaurants actually taught the right way to serve it would be much easier for trainers like you. Enough of the "theme restaurant" garbage. They should show 'em the right way for once.
Visit: So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager

 
At 8:57 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

After being an employee for many independent restaurants throughout the years and having that be the basis of all my serving and bartendeing knowledge, I got sucked into corporate bullshit. I became a trainer at [insert chain name here] for a year and the brainwashing was the hardest part for me. I've quit recently and I'm worried that I'm scarred for life... if I'll ever get my self respect as a server back. Those places fuck you up. But I'm excited that at my new job I don't have to tell strangers my goddamn name all the time.

 
At 3:39 AM , Blogger Ribeye of your Dreams said...

I'm at a corporate place, and it's not all bad, just mostly bad.

One thing I learned there is to not become a drone; I can't handle the corporate lines that most places make you say, so I rarely use them.

I've worked in privately owned places before, sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't, but believe me, even servers that don't work corporate have issues sometimes.

Only advice I have to give to corporate going to fine dining or just faux fine privately owned dining: Don't be a douche, learn as much as you can, and forget the corporate rules. You can learn them again later if you don't like the new place.

RagingServer.com

 
At 1:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate chains, when traveling it's not that difficult to look up decent local restaurants online. The waiters are robots, the food is crap, as is the wine selection.

 
At 1:05 PM , Blogger Ribeye of your Dreams said...

Just to drop a line, I mentioned this particular entry in a post I made last night about management screwing us out of money, however, due to the readers inability to click on a given post here and go to a page with only that post shown, I wasn't able to put up a link. Anything you can do about that?

 
At 2:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha it would be just like a corporate comrade to try kneeling down at a table to increase tips at a real restaurant...that kind of sh*t only works on teenage girls at mall cafeterias. I'm so glad I've found someone else that doesn't like to give his name to tables! I just think it's better for business if we don't have tables yelling, "Kevin!" from across the room.

 
At 1:02 PM , Anonymous edass said...

Have any of you been to Dicks in San Diego?any professional waiters dream job.

 
At 2:08 AM , Blogger purplegirl said...

I must be in the minority; I don't mind working for a chain restaurant. I've worked for two large chains and one family-owned, and both had their advantages. Of course, the chain I've worked for longest isn't too pushy on the corporate stuff, so that's probably got a lot to do with it. In contrast, I worked for Perkins for about a month and I wanted to kill somebody.

 
At 10:45 AM , Blogger Theresa said...

Edass,

My hubby took me to Dick's in San Diego for my birthday. I was SO surprised ~ I had no idea the philosophy of the restaurant was to be as rude/annoying as possible! After my shock wore off, I found a funny waiter who had "Taco" tattooed on his tummy (Don't ask how I found out!) and professed my undying love for him. He did not reciprocate :( which is ok, my hubby only went along with it since it was my birthday!

 
At 11:23 AM , Anonymous Strawberry Blond said...

Words cannot express how glad I am that Outback doesn't push that kneeling down, "I'm your loyal subject and I'll take your order" garbage. When I first started working there in college they encouraged us to sit down at the table with them.

I never did it. I certainly don't want some crazy stranger sitting at my table, so I refuse to BE that crazy stranger.

It's become much more professional over the last three years, believe it or not. I enjoy working there now. All the best servers there (our "A" team) has a motto that we chant to ourselves during the dinner rush: TURN AND BURN! I'll be polite and let them sit back and relax for a while, but after an hour, it's time to get up and leave. Believe me, we'll find some way for them to get the picture (in a completely professional way, too).

 
At 3:35 AM , Blogger The Hungry Traveler said...

This reminds me of a co-worker I had... "When I used to work at the Red Lobster... At the Red Lobster we did it this way... Blah blah blah at the Red Lobster..." Arhhh!! I have never been to (and now never will go to) a Red Lobster since he pretty much ruined that one for me. And why did he always have to say "THE Red Lobster"? It was so annoying!

 
At 3:13 AM , Blogger DodgerFan said...

Can anyone tell me what is with that kneeling down shit??? Are we about to play Twister or are you my waiter???

 
At 5:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a fellow server t my establishment that kneels down when she takes orders.
I always assumed that she did it so customers could look down her cleavage and she could get a better tip. (Our uniforms are either wifebeater tank tops or low-cut v-necks).
Maybe she didn't start out doing it for that reason, but considering it isn't coroporate policy that we do and no one else does it... well... you can draw your own conclusions from that...

 

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