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, August 24, 2009

Lies we tell ourself

We all lie to ourselves, its all part of a natural tendency to protect our own self-esteems and our ever precious ego.

Waiters are no exception.

It is nearly unbelievable the things fellow servers say to each other, especially when one of us is about to leave the flock.

Servers I have know who graduated college or decided to move on to "real jobs" are often derided and mocked for doing so.

"There's no flexibility."

"Really, what are you going to do with that degree, we make as much money as they do."

"Have fun in your cubicle, you're going to hate it."

These are often the words of the poor, deluded lost souls of the restaurant industry.

I have often tried to open the eyes of the blind, I have no issue with those in the "biz", however I walk with my eyes open and have no illusions on what this business is.

For better or worse.

For instance, the argument that we make as much as the "cubicle sheep."

That may be true, for now, but those cubicle sheep have things such as raises, bonuses and promotions and will quickly pass you by.

In our business you will make the same at 25 that you will at 55.

Tortoise and the hare.

As far as promotions go, in most restaurants waitstaff makes as much or more as their management. Which is why the best and brightest don't take that career path for the most part.

Flexibility? It may be harder to get a day of at a split second's notice, but in better employment you have such things as paid days off. Not to mention vacation pay.

At my last job I did have vacation and after working there nearly five years it was still only one week.

Minimum wage.

Which is shit, you might as well not even offer it.

Having cash money in your pocket is a big one.

The problem is most servers don't save enough to cover their taxes, let alone try to save or invest.

401k's in this biz?

As a general rule, forget it.

The big one though is health care. Many restaurant's either offer none, or marginal benefits at best. A friend of mine recently left his management position because it barely covered him, let alone his wife and kid.

The industry sees little sick pay, which I have discussed on here before.

Either you come in sick, cover your shift (good luck at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning) or you're fired.

My old company did offer sick pay.

However it was minimum wage and the only notification of it was buried in the back of the employee handbook.

I did an informal survey and only one person on the waitstaff was even aware of it. The assistant managers even had no idea that it was offered and I don't recall a single person taking advantage of this while they were ill.

They just came in and infected the rest of us and most likAdd Imageely dozens of customers.

All the while the poor smuck at the insurance agency, bank or accounting firm was nestled safely at home, without fear of loss of income or their job.

The biz is backwards, and we deride and mock those wanting out.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Now I'm not currently looking for employment due to my class schedule which I just expanded, but this caught my eye on Craigslist.

"As a member of the Bonefish team, you would be expected to make guest feel as if they were a guest in your home. The internal guests, your team mates would feel as if we were working in a cohesive environment to better serve our guests. If you feel you are a team player and have a passion for creating a lasting great impression for our guest then apply in person at..."

I don't think I should apply, I have many passions in life, but "creating a lasting great impression for our guest" is not one of them.

I also like how the corporate lings calls staff members "internal guests", they are not guests they are employees. What a crock, that line cracked me up though!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Closing Time

Probably the worst policy (ok, maybe that's a stretch) that I have seen at a restaurant I believe I have mentioned in passing before.

We stay open fifteen minutes after the posted closing time.

I don't mean we keep the kitchen open for diners that arrived close to the closing time, I mean we keep seating.

Even if there had been no new tables for hours and the restaurant is empty.

Anyone who has seen the movie "Waiting" would recognize the scene when the entire kitchen is counting down the seconds until close and that one last table arrives fucking everything up.

Its pretty much that, except the second we close the clock gets moved back another fifteen minutes.

Now there have been managers who don't roll with this rule, and frankly neither do I.

It is one of the many contradictions that this business in general adheres to.

Well, a couple weeks ago it had just turned ten o'clock and I was up at the host station when I saw a table come hustling in.

"We're not seating this table, I've been doing nothing for the last hour and I'm not going to hang out for another hour for this." I said to the hostess.

"Ok, but you handle them." She replied.

"Hi, two for the patio." Our new guest proclaimed.

Coincidently the patio was the only place we did business that night, at it was still full of campers sipping on mojitos or whatever fad drink is in this year.

"I'm sorry, the patio is full and by the time you get out there we won't be serving. Maybe you can get a pizza or something in the bar, usually they stay open later." I replied.

"Well we knew we were running late, we'll catch you next time." He said.

Problem solved.

For now, a few minutes past close the hostess was waving me down.

I arrived at the station just in time to see a clearly well-to-do couple enter the door. They were making a big show of looking at their watch.

"We just made it!" The lady exclaimed.

Ummm, no you didn't.

"I'm sorry, but we close at ten." I said.

Not used to being told no she began to argue that her clock said, "it is only five till."

"I'm sorry, but I have five after and we are closing down for the night." I replied.

"So you're not going to serve us?" Her husband exclaimed.

This was quite different from the group that had come in right after close.

I pulled the asshole card.

"I'm sorry, but we have people that need to get home to their families, that's why we have posted hours."

"But its only five after." He said.

"Yes, but how long were you planning to stay? I'm sorry, but we're done for the night.

With that I received a dirty look and out the door they were.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Last Day

I had recently taken on a part time position at a local ethnic restaurant, he is the accounting of my last day.

The only background is that a friend of mine works there and makes incredibly good money.

The chef (he will be known as “Chef” since he’s of the ilk that demands to be called the title) is well known and with all fairness to him, put out a good product.

First off, any chef that I have known that demands to be called that is a straight asshole, and this guy didn’t prove to be the exception.

He is very difficult to work with and demands high respect, well I demand that also.

He, however is not able to return any respect for his employees.

The last week working there had Chef constantly knit picking on issues that had nothing to do with service and everything to do with his ego and his need to control.

In other words he made the corporate type managers that I have run into look like angels.

I mean I have run into general incompetence, ineptness, stupidity and criminal malfeasance in my time, but never the direct rudeness of this individual.
So here is my last day on the job…

We had finished opening and with one table in the restaurant I was doing further side work with Mary, the manager.

We were setting up the to-go server station when fire trucks and an ambulance drove by blaring their sirens.

“Maybe your house is on fire,” she said, smiling.

“Don’t joke about that, some kids playing with matches lit one of my apartment buildings on fire where I live.” I said.

Just then Chef rounds the corner.

“This not necessary, I no pay you for this!” He said in broken English.

“I'm sorry, I don’t understand you.” I said.

“All this talking, we have complaints.” Chef replied.

“From who? There’s no one here.” I said.

“Don’t talk back, just say yes.” He said.

With that he was back in the kitchen.

Five minutes later…

I hadn’t worked lunch yet so I was pouring over the menu to catch the differences between that and dinner, right then Chef rounded the corner.

Gesturing wildly he said, “I don’t pay you for this” and then sputtered off in intelligible English.

“I don’t understand you, I’m sorry,” I said as I struggled with what he had said.

“I don’t pay you to stand around, this is my time, not yours.” He replied.

I explained that I was studying the menu and he asked why I didn’t have one at home.

“I don’t know why you don’t learn,” Chef said as he thrust a take out menu in my hand.

“I have one of these at home, I’m just trying to learn.” I replied.

“Just say yes,” He said.

Yes to what??

About an hour after that I was approached by Chef while I was questioning a coworker about a piece of etiquette

“This is the second time you’re talking back here, this is not necessary.

This is the second time I’ve told you about this, the next time….” (Chef makes cutting neck gesture)

Are you fucking kidding me? I guess I’m not allowed to speak, so much for getting to know my coworkers.

Later on….

“Joe, come here!” Chef shouted over the bar.

Chef then pointed to a plate of sushi, “You eat?”

It was almost a command.

Having lunch plans later with a friend I declined.

“No, you pay for it, you can try,” Chef said.

“No, I don’t pay for it, I’m not hungry right now,” I replied.

“You have to pay for mistakes, this is a mistake, you pay for all mistakes!” He said.

“No, I don’t pay for mistakes, I didn’t make this mistake they have their food,” I said.

“You rang it in, you have to pay for it.” He replied.

“This is my restaurant, you pay for mistakes when you make them.

“You can‘t make me do that, I don’t have to pay for anything and I won’t!” I snarled.

Just then the manager arrived and Chef pointed at the dish, “make sure he pays for that.”

Mary kind of shook her head at me.

I reiterated, “I did not ring this in, Mary just told me it was extra and a mistake.”

“You just say YES when I talk, I don’t need to hear all this,” with that Chef walked away shaking his head.

Mary pulled me aside and told me, “Don’t worry about that, I comped it.”

“I don’t like being talked to like this,” I said.

“He’s just very particular, you have to watch out for mistakes.” She said.

All day long I’ve been making mistakes in his eyes or was being lazy.
It’s a mistake to be pleasant with my coworkers.

It’s a mistake to study the menu.

It’s a mistake to speak to a coworker about a service issue.

It’s a mistake to ask why only half my order came up.

I think the real mistake was a Chef not having any idea what service is or how to manage a staff.

The real mistake was me taking this job.

I hung my apron up and walked out, a mistake only remains a mistake if you don’t take steps to fix it.

I was inches from the door when the chef called me back.

“You come here,” he said, once again gesturing wildly.

“It is rude not to thank me, you no leave and say nothing!” He said.

Every time I had greeted him or given him a farewell he had ignored me.

He demands that we call him chef and thank him every night for the privilege of working for him, yet he is rude in return.

What kind of respect for that? Is this how you make employees feel welcome???

Only a gross hypocrite would expect such politeness and offer none.

I’m officially done with the restaurant business for the moment. I’m a college senior who will graduate with honors, I am in my late twenties and have over a decade of experience in the industry at some of the best restaurants my city has to offer….

And I get treated like a five year old by this clearly deluded chef who thinks that employees should be subjected to this type of behavior, as if we're idiots or his dogs.

Maybe I should just concentrate on my studies for the time being, that at least is important, unlike waiting tables.