Friday, June 29, 2007

Another Interesting Work Week.....

An entire week has passed since I last wrote and a lot, although nothing of any importance, has happened.

My restaurant is gearing up for the upcoming remodel. (Rebranding is the official term) The last week has been full of little suprises that are supposed to make us more prepared for our new grand opening.

Most of these little suprises involve moving items that we really need to be able to find in a hurry. The crackers were moved on Tuesday. I opened 5 bags before someone finally told me that all of the bags I had opened were moved to a counter at the front of the restaurant.....OKKKKK.......
And the Mayo and Caesar dressing are GONE!! Luckily the cooks have been helping out with this one. None of the waitresses seem to know where they may have gone. Hopefully, they'll put them back out before too long.

As a group, we are visiously opposed to change. We all complain ceaselessly when the schedule is changed. We don't take kindly to newbies. We certainly don't like changes in management. And now they are about to change our entire restaurant?!?!? Needless to say, we are all having some issues as the big day aproaches.

Perhaps it is a good decision to introduce some of the changes slowly. I can't imagine what the grand opening is going to be like as it is. Thank goodness I have the night off. I'll come in to chaos on the second night, and everyone will share their horror stories.

(Should make for some interesting blogs!!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Broken Cookies & Filet Mignon Quesadilla!

I love mistakes!!

At the end of the night, when I am starting to feel a little hunger rumble through my belly, I usually pick through the kid's menu or the lunch menu to find a small meal to order. I do get a 50% discount on all food I order, but I just can't seem to justify ordering a $17 meal every night.

Well, every now and then the kitchen will end up with extra food or something made wrong, or some other mistake, and they are usually nice enough to share it with the waitstaff.

The last few shifts that I have worked have been a smorgasbord of yummy mistakes. Saturday we had the entire back table covered with everything from an overcooked order of Potato Skins to an entire take out order that no one showed up to claim! We all ate for free that night!

Last night we had another feast! One of the new cooks overcooked a Filet Mignon. So, he decided to chop it up and make a quesadilla for us for dinner. (Way beyond the rules, but we certainly weren't going to rat him out!!) After the most delicious Quesadilla I've ever eaten, I got to finish off some of the broken chocolate chip cookies. Yummmm!!

Thank you to the wonderful cooks!! Everything was delicious!!

The Difference A Dollar Makes

Last night I waited on a dad and his daughter. They were a very engaging table, and I found myself locked in conversation with them.

Their food was late coming out of the kitchen, but they seemed truly unruffeled. I apologized as much as I could without being obnoxious, and this was where the conversation started.

Once the meal came out, everything was fine. In fact, they were actually so full from the appetizer that they ended up wrapping most of the meal.

They had a $50 check. 20% of this would have been $10. The could have left $8, still an acceptable tip, or $10, a generous tip. Instead, they left me $11.

What a difference a dollar makes! I would certainly have been happy with $8 or $10, but $11! This meant that I had done a great job, and it brought a smile to my face. Not a bad way to boost a night that was starting to feel the stress of a kitchen on the verge of crashing...

Thank you very much for the extra dollar!! You made my night!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Cost of Appearances

I recently realized that my favorite black work shirt has a small bleach stain on the front. I started digging through some of my older shirts because I am a little too cheap to purchase another one 2 months before we get a face lift and all new uniforms anyway.

The red one has a small hole in the armpit.

The lime green one has several grease stains around the waist.

The bright blue one has two round stains on very noticeable parts of the chest. (NO IDEA how that got there without being noticed!!)

The navy shirt is too large.

Why am I so cheap about buying a new shirt? Well, for starters, I make $2.63 per hour, so it would actually take me AN ENTIRE night to earn enough from the restaurant to purchase a new shirt. (Assuming they didn't give all of my money to the government for taxes...)

Here's how how much my current uniform actually costs me:

1 Work Shirt $9.99 (Almost 4 hours to earn.)

1 Pair of dress pants $24 (10 1/2 hours)

1 Pair of Safety Shoes $30 (Almost 11 1/2 hours)

Black Socks 2 for $3 (Less than 1 hour!!)

Apron - FREE!!

The work shirt that I receive when I spill a tray full of drinks down the front of myself on a busy night *** FREE!

The Truth About Camping

Campers: Customers who have eaten, had dessert, coffee, paid, and are still sitting in their booth. You may even hear a waitress say something like "Table 57 has pitched a tent and moved in." This usually applies to parties who have been in their seats for more than an hour and a half.

There are MANY opinions out there regarding campers. This is mine: In general, they suck. Occasionally, I am proven wrong by a table, but not usually.

I know that for the most part, campers are not taking up my table just to be a pain in my a&&. I know that they are simply having a great time with their beloved friends or families, and they just don't want this wonderful night to come to a close. I know that many of these people only gather once or twice a month, maybe even year. (Even waited on two women Friday night who had not seen each other for over 30 years!!)

I can completely appreciate every party's need to spend half the night at my table. HOWEVER, the party who wants to pitch a tent and build a campfire also needs to be aware of how their actions are affecting their waitresses and their fellow customers.

Here are the plain truths.

How it affects waitresses:

  • On any given night, I am assigned 4 tables.

  • The only money that I will make throughout the night comes from these 4 tables.

  • Tables generally turn approximately once an hour.

  • If a table has pitched a tent, the table they are at is no longer available for future customers.
  • If the table does not turn, I will make no extra money from it.

  • This potentially cuts my profit for the night by 1/4, assuming that only one table is camping.

How camping affects other customers:

  • Campers hold up tables that could be used for customers who have had to wait.

  • Patrons on the wait list are quoted times based on the assumption that all tables will eat and leave.

  • Now, a quote may be over because of campers.

  • Some customers may leave rather than wait for a table that is not moving.

This is how this plays out in my bank roll.

In my first hour, all 4 tables order food, eat, and leave when finished. If the restaurant is on a wait, the potential for my second hour is very much like the first. However, this time around, all 4 tables order food, eat, and only 3 leave when finished. I am now working 3 tables. The night will continue like this until the campers decide to vacate their comfortable seats and move along. Meaning that I will miss 2, 3, 4, or more tables and the money that they may have left.

Should they leave an additional tip for taking up my table so long?

Some may argue that because I only refilled their sodas and coffee throughout the additional 3 hours that I should not be tipped beyond the 20% dictated by their check amount. But what if they only have a $35 check?

This is an issue that we face every night. My advice, move to the bar. Luckily, my restaurant offers a full bar with private seats available for people who want to stay all night.

**And Thank you to the two women who sat for 3 hours Friday with a $15 bill.

The $15 tip was greatly appreciated!!!***

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Grow Up

On one really, really bad night, I got the pleasure of waiting on a very immature group of teens. This is not even close to the first group of immature teens that I have had the pleasure of waiting on, but this group certainly stood out.

While waiting for their meals to arrive, they somehow managed to throw popcorn so far that they almost hit another table. I was almost impressed. When their meals arrived, they all seemed top settle down a little. They made it through the meal with only one spill. I was definitely impressed.

As I was starting to clean up after they were finished, they decided to order dessert. No problem, right? We offer a Chocolate Fudge Cake which is one of the most popular desserts available. (Chocolate cake, ice cream, hot fudge...Who could resist?!?)


"I'll take the Chocolate Fudge Packer Cake." Now, keep in mind, I had already had a very rough night. I was not in the right frame of mind to be taking any more crap from a 15 year old. One of his friends spoke my thoughts, "Grow Up."

With the most disgusted look I could muster, I left the table. I made the cake and brought it back. When I slammed it down in the middle of the table, the group ordered another one, only this time they ordered it correctly.

One of my managers had overheard the entire exchange. As the group was leaving, he caught the boy and pulled him aside. They had a little discussion, and I could see them head over toward me. Sure enough, my manager was making him apologize. The junior high teacher in me couldn't help feeling some compassion - and pointing out the lesson in this - Don't say things like that because you could seriously offend someone.

I'm pretty sure that kid grew up a little that night. I may never know, though, I think he's still a little too scared to show his face in our restaurant again.

What a Night!!!

Wow - What a night. It's 12:44 AM and I am just getting home.

As usual, I was late to work. I'm usually 30-40 minutes late every day because I wait for my husband to get home from work to take the kids. (Another reason why I love my job!! They don't care if I'm late.)

When I finally arrived, dinner was in full swing. I was double sat before my apron strings were even tied. I jumped on the floor and greet the first, second, and by then third parties with all of the pent up energy I had gained from spending a rainy day stuck inside the house with my kids.

Everybody was out for a drink and a party tonight. People were in a good mood. I was actually having a great time! The kitchen was ON tonight. Not one mistake. Food was served hot, drinks were served cold, and we were slammin'!!!

About half way through the dinner rush, one of the other waitresses came down with a stomach bug and had to spend some quality time in our bathroom. (I'll leave out the details.) Our manager was a little nervous about going short handed on a busy night, but he really didn't have a choice. One other waitress and I stepped up. Our stations were on either side of our sick coworker's. We split her station in half and shared the extra tables. (Who wouldn't step up? WAY more money to be made when there are empty stations.)

So we ran with 6 tables instead of 4. This rarely happens because you really have to be on your game to serve that many customers efficiently. At one point, I had two parties of 8, both with birthdays that needed desserts and singing, a party of 5, and a party of 2. I thought I might go a little crazy - and the mess left in the wake of all of this was a little overwhelming. But we made it through, and we had the extra cash to show for it.

One of my very last tables of the night was a table of two young men. They ordered beers, an appetizer and meals. I was in such a great mood at this point, I was joking around with them and having a great time. When they left, they left me a 35% tip. I was so excited that I almost missed the phone number and name written on the check! They were very cute and WAAAY younger than I am. If I wasn't a happily married woman, I may actually have called!

Thank goodness tomorrow is my day off - I need some sleep....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who Should Get Tipped?

I am definitely asking for some comments on this one.

This post is inspired by a question on one of the comments I received not too long ago.

There are several types of professionals that our culture expects customers to tip. Each performs a different type of job and receives a different amount of pay from the company they work for.

I have my own personal policies for who I tip, how much I tip, and why. I am curious to find out how others treat the same situations.

Waitresses -
I never tip less than 20%. If a waitress has been exceptional, I will tip 30% or more.
WHY? I know that waitresses only make $2.63 per hour. If they do not receive tips, they go home empty handed. The tip I leave is the only form of payment for their time.
I also know that the extra $2 I may leave means very little to me when I am eating out, but when I am the waitress, that extra $2 means far more.

Workers at Buffet Style Restaurants -
Since most of the meal is self serve, I only leave a 10-15% tip on the table for the busser who has to clean up the mess. However, if there is a waitress who brought my drinks, condiments, extra plates, etc. I would still leave 20%
WHY? Out of habit and politeness. If I had everything I needed, I leave a larger tip.

Hairdressers -
I usually leave 15-20%
WHY? Even though I know that hairdressers make more than minimum wage, I still leave a larger tip. If I happen to find a hairdresser I like, I know I will be back. I want to get another good haircut, and I am willing to pay for it.

Coffee Shop Drive Through Workers -
I usually leave the change from my order or at least $.50.
WHY? After a lengthy discussion with a coworker about this very topic, she made me realize that there are a ton of jobs out there expecting tips. However, out of all of the jobs, waitresses are the only ones still making less than minimum wage. Since the other professions actually get paid by the companies that they work for, they should not receive a standard 18-20% tip. (However, I frequent the same coffee shop and I order a very distinct coffee made a very unique way. They know me - and after I started leaving a little more every time I went in, my coffee started coming out perfect every time.)

Gas Station Attendants -
I actually started pumping my own gas so I wouldn't have to deal with this issue. I really don't know the right answer.
If it is really snowy and freezing cold out, I will generally go to the Full Service Island. I ask for $9 in gas and hand the guy a $10.
WHY? Because it's freezing and I feel bad for watching him as I sit in my heated car.

There are several other types of people that I have tipped on either a one time basis or at Christmas. (Mailman, garbage men, babysitters at the gym, etc.) For the most part, I tip very generously. Good tippers tend to stand out and they are usually remembered. They also get better service the next time around. This is a fact that I can attest to from both sides of the tipping dilemma.

If you have a tipping theory to share, please feel free. I am certainly interested in seeing other points of view.

How Would You Like It Cooked?

I ask this question 20-30 times a night.

People are usually very particular about the way that they like their meat cooked. If I am going to go out and pay really good money for a steak, I want it to be cooked the way I like it. (Medium rare - The thought of eating a well done steak just kills my appetite.)

But here's the catch. My idea of medium rare comes from the way that the cooks at my current restaurant prepare our steaks. Each restaurant has a different standard. The temperature names are still the same, the general appearance is still pretty close, but there can be a slight difference of opinion when the final product is brought out.

I once waited on a table of women who all wanted their steaks medium well. Not a problem, I placed the orders, brought drinks and appetizers, and got their table ready for the upcoming meals. Then I brought out the steaks. As always, I asked the customers to cut into their steaks to make sure that each was cooked to their liking. Two of the women said they looked perfect. The third woman complained her steak was undercooked. She had ordered medium well, and there was still pink in her steak.

Here is where the differences start. To the cooks in my restaurant, medium well offers a hot, slightly pink center. If you want no pink at all, you need to order well. Most people associate well done with burned to a crisp. We call that Extra Well. Just a slight difference that makes a BIG difference in the end. (This is why we have the temperature chart - with pictures!! - in the menu.)

The woman started to argue with me about the steak being undercooked. (Did I mention that she was the only one at the table with this problem?!?) I started to explain that our idea of medium well was slightly less done than what she was used to. I apologized repeatedly and told her we could fix this problem in about 5 minutes. "I know how to order a steak! Don't tell me how to order a steak! I wanted medium well!! This is NOT medium well!" She got so loud and belligerent that I sent a manager over to apologize again. He received the same treatment.

We finally got the steak out well done, but we let her think it was medium well. And now she wasn't hungry any more. "You may as well just throw the whole thing out." She just wanted another beer.

Our town has some unusual policies regarding alcohol consumption. One of them is that guests are not allowed to have more than two drinks without eating food. (We allow customers to bend the rule when they order because MOST of our customers actually do eat the food they have ordered.) Since this would be her 5th beer without eating anything, I was not allowed to serve it. Since she had been so rude to me anyway, I have to admit, it felt kind of good to shut her off.

The group left soon after, and both of the other women made a point to come and apologize for their friend.

I hope my friends never have to apologize for any of my behavior!


Our galley has a little dishwasher for us to use to wash the cups during our shift. No one is assigned to take care of this, but we are supposed to work together to make sure the cups get cleaned and carried back out to the bar if necessary.

This is a common source of frustration for many of our servers, because many of the other servers come by and leave cups on top of the dishwasher for others to take care of.

One waitress in particular is famous for getting upset about having to do all the cups. She has recently gotten much more vocal about it. In fact, a few nights ago, I brought my own cups to the dishwasher to find a little note on top that read, "DO YOUR OWN CUPS!!" It was signed "The BI#$%" I knew who it was. And since I knew that she knows I always do my own cups, I couldn't resist messing with her.

I took all of the cups out of the dishwasher and left them on top. Then I waited for her to come into the galley. She took one look at the dishwasher, and her face turned red. Her eyes even turned red!! And she just kept walking.

"What - not even going to say anything about the cups?" Once she realized that it was me who had done it, she laughed. We have a secret bond over the cups. In fact, it is usually the two of us who end up doing most of them. And apparently that gives us the right to pick on each other.

I know she'll get me back eventually, and I'm a little nervous.

The Importance of Teamwork

"There is no I in TEAM."

This silly little quote has been written on our staff bulletin board for so long, I barely notice it any more. However, tonight the real meaning of those words became unbelievably clear.

Tonight started like any other Tuesday night. A small waste of my time. A little money being made, but not enough to pay the mortgage. We were not very busy at all. So the manager started cutting some of the waitresses.

He cut 1 & 2. And no one came in. The waitress in station 3 was training a new girl and they had a ton of paperwork to finish, so he let them go. And no one came in. So he cut station 4. Station 9 is usually cut after 4, and that station had no tables and was next to be sat. I knew the waitress in that station wanted to leave, so I asked that he cut her, too. Now there were only 3 of us left.

And people started coming in. We got a party of 7, a party of 10, two parties of 5, and three parties of 4, all in about 30 minutes. We held it together, and managed to get everyone fed and happy with no problems at all. (Although, I did think the manager might have a small stroke before the night was over.)

Once people started to leave, we looked around the restaurant to realize that we were 10 minutes away from closing time and we had a MESS to clean up. Usually, we clean our own tables, do our own sidework, and finish all of our own table maintenance. However, tonight was a different story. I cleaned tables while another girl did sidework for both of us. The third girl want around and did all of the table maintenance. Because we were working together, none of us were really stressed about the fact that we had way too much to do this late at night. And we actually got it all done quicker than we ever imagined.

Now if we could only get the others to help out during the entire shift. What a great atmosphere and easier work environment we could create!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Educated Waitress

Another one of my pet peeves is when people assume that I am a waitress because I chose to do nothing with my life. Since I am in a position that requires little education, I must be uneducated.

"I don't mean to be confusing, but could I have the baked potato instead of the fries?"

We get comments like this all the time. Each waitress has her own reasons for choosing this profession, and many waitresses are either in school or have already been to school. In the restaurant I currently work at, almost half have a college degree or some college education. Many of us are mothers who have chosen to work evenings so we can be home with our little ones during the day.

I fall into this category. I have a Bachelor's in education and am a certified teacher. I taught junior high for several years before giving it up to become a stay at home mom. Needing to get out of the house and earn a little spending money, I started waitressing part time.

Waitressing is a good fall back career. It's good money, and there are always restaurant jobs around. I have waitressed on and off since I was 15. What other career would give me the opportunity to work less than 20 hours a week and still bring home over $500? Not only is the money great, I also have the freedom I need to be at home during the day with my children. If I need a night off, I simply get another waitress to cover my shift. No questions asked.

So, the next time a waitress arrives at your table, dispel all those stereotypical assumptions and get ready for an encounter with an Educated Waitress.

The ULTIMATE Customer Service

Every year, the restaurant that I work for takes a trip to a nearby Casino. This is a highly anticipated trip, and we all talk about it for months in advance.

We talk about it with each other and we talk about it with our regular customers. It's definitely a topic of conversation because there are so many stories associated with these trips. (Who won, who lost, who had to get out and push the bus off the highway when it broke down last year...)

This year, one of our bartenders was talking about the many stories with one of her regulars. He handed her a $20 and said, "Bet it for me, if we win, I'll split the money with you." Everyone laughed, she put the money in her purse and went on the trip the next night.

Well, while there, this bartender played and had a great time. Finally, she told the people around her "OK, this is Tim's $20." She put the $20 in AND WON $1000!!!!!

When she came back, she had all of the money ready to give to the customer. All $1000. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when she gave it to him. She had split the money into several envelopes each with a label for suggestions of how to spend the money inside. (A night out NOT at our restaurant, a spa day for his wife, etc.)

After getting over the initial disbelief of the situation, he held true to his word and split the money with his new favorite bartender.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Blame Game

There are several points of view that are most frequently seen in the restaurant industry. Unfortunately, each person who holds one point of view or another is too frequently unable to see the situation from another side. This is where "The Blame Game" comes into play.

Take this dining experience for example.
A couple goes into a restaurant for a dinner out.
They called ahead and arrived 15 minutes before the quoted time. However, the table is not ready yet.
***So people start yelling, and The Blame Game begins.
Is it the hostess's fault for not correctly guessing how long the previous guests will take?
Is it the customer's fault for arriving early?
Is it the waitress's fault for not speeding the meal up fast enough to turn the table?
Is it the kitchen's fault for not cooking fast enough?
Is it the manager's fault for scheduling an inexperienced hostess on a busy night?
Is it the company's fault for setting the policies that determine the quoted times given customers?
Is it the town's fault for installing that extra stoplight that allowed the customers to arrive ahead of schedule?
****I think you get my point.

The same game will be played over and over throughout the night. Why did the drinks take so long? Why did the food take so long? Why were there no walnuts or extra peppers? Why, why, why?!? And more importantly, whose fault is it?

My question is this - Why does it matter who screwed up? What if NOBODY screwed up? And things just went slightly wrong because of an unavoidable situation??

When I go to work at night, I go in with a positive attitude. I greet every guest with a warm smile and a friendly demeanor. I have been waitressing long enough to be able to anticipate the needs of most of my guests, and I take care of them each. This is why most of my guests frequently ask for me when being seated - with many of them willing to wait longer for a table in my section.

Sometimes things happen that cannot be avoided. When these situations arise, I am always available to assist and correct the situation as soon as possible. The stations in my restaurant are set up to be within view of one another, so we are never far from any table.

The point of this little tirade is simply that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, things do not go perfectly. On these occasions, it is far more mature to fix the problem with an understanding attitude than it is to start placing blame on anyone.

And I do realize that not all waitress are blame free. In fact, I work with several that are new and still learning how to care for their tables. But to assume that all waitresses are going to give you bad service simply because you had one (or two or three) bad experiences is not fair to your next waitress. Believe it or not, some of us know what we are doing, and we will try our best to let you see that.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

You Realize this is a Joke, Right?!?

Well, there was some activity in the comment department today!! All kinds of new comments were added!

As I read through the comments, I realized that this person actually thought I was serious in many of my posts. Since people that know me - and most of the people who don't know me and have already commented - know that I have a joking personality, I assumed that the topics and conversations mentioned here would be taken with the same attitude I wrote them. Just letting off a little steam...

See, waitresses (and many others in the customer service industry) have to be very nice to very rude people. We have absolutely no ways to respond to defend ourselves when a customer decides to take their bad day out on us. We smile - we try our best to make things better - and in the end, we are left with a feeling of bitterness for not standing up for ourselves.

This blog is my own way of getting back at some of the customers who I have encountered over the years. Although I would never speak to customers with the attitude displayed in many of these posts, I THINK many of the thoughts that are posted here - as do many of the other servers I have met and worked with.

So, if there ever was a concern that there is an uncaring, "LAZY" waitress on the loose, you can rest assured. I am simply a very good waitress with a very dry sense of humor that is rarely seen by customers.

The purpose of this blog is to offer myself and others in the wait staff profession with a "customer-attitude" free space to express frustrations with the jobs that we work every day.

Everyone needs a place to vent - and this is mine.

So to all the others out there with a tough job and a sense of humor - ENJOY!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Movin' On Up!!

Wow - The last few weeks have been a bit of a blurr!!

I have been training to be a bartender!

I was so excited at first! This is an opportunity to try out something different and make a little extra $$$, too. And the training started... I needed to put in 5 training shifts. No problem, right??

Well, I don't make tips when training, I make $7.50 an hour. Which, at first, didn't seem like a bad deal. Plus, I get a free meal. Then I got my first paycheck....

Since the restaurant doesn't pay me enough hourly to cover the taxes I owe based on my tips claimed, all of my bar training pay was taken in taxes. So I was basically working for a free meal. Since I still needed to work my regular shifts to pay my bills, the extra shifts started to wear me out. I knew I was working for something worthwhile, and if I wasn't going to get paid for my training, I was at least going to eat well. The free filet mignon was amazing!!