Archive for October, 2008

First time for everything

October 27, 2008

OK it is a very common policy for sit down restaurants to have gratuity policies for large parties. In fact upon reflection I cant think of a single exception. Somewhere some independent operator will have a no grat policy in America but I have yet to dine there I guess.

Tonight we had a group of 7 come in. We have a fairly easy pushover of hostess. She tends to say to tables as she gets to their assigned table is this table alright in words and especially body language. We have live music so this opens the door to MASSIVE amounts of table hopping. This causes all kinds of problems-the main one is a server gets overloaded with too many tables all at once. This force said weeded (overwhelmed ie I am in the weeds and cant see my way out-you ask or bark orders for coworker assistance or you go down in a bloody mess) to begin waiting all their tables as one table which forces the server to turn in multiple tables all at once which tends to gum up the smooth flow of production in the kitchen especially if the orders are chock full of special requests. Then all those tables finish at once and can leave in mass leaving you open to multiple table seatings at once AGAIN all night. The corollary problem is due to the that another server can end up going FOREVER with out getting sat AT ALL. Then the restaurant fills up and that server may get an entire section sat in 5 minutes. Trust me its not fun on the server and the guest experience suffers as well.

But I digress…Our nice  young hostess which I dearly like but really wish she would develp a more  stiff backbone seats this party of 7 at 2 separate 4 tops. This is odd as they are right beside each other and normally would be 2 tables put together as a single large table. My manager asks why the  odd table arrangement. She replies that they asked for 2 tables because they didnt want to pay a gratuity. I happened to be standing next to the manager and began chuckling. My manager hails from  Yankee country and naturally is very firm with what ever the rules are. He also hasnt forgotten what its like to be a server and defends us as much as he can from guest abuses.

Next thing I notice they have gotten up and left. They spend the next 10 minutes milling outside our front door figuring out  what they would do next. If they didnt want to tip a server a variety  of fast food was just down the street–>McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Subway within walking distance. I kinda wish I had the opportunity to interact with them to get a better read from them. We had to assume they were just being cheap in the end. A halfhearted complaint of prior poor service was mentioned.  If it was so bad last time then why was this 1st we had heard of the problem and why were they back? Why didnt they discuss the issue up front with the manager rather than dictating their dining terms to our hostess?

In all my years of serving tables usually wait to refuse to pay a gratuity until after the meal is over as they can get away with it. Legally all you can do is ban them from return visits and try to have your staff remember who they are.

And to the folks who will no doubt respond whining tips are not guaranteed. I have to agree with you because in America they are all too many thieves out there. Thieves? you think…Hell yeah when the server loses the opportunity to make money while waiting on your skin flint ass they lost out on taking care of another more generous guests. That server will also pay out 3-5 % on average of the total bill (my place errornously calculates the tip share on the total including tax to boot) to support staff so when you stiff COST the server in two ways for that tip out one and second because the fed/state govt requires you to pay taxes on the expected income. Most places force you declare 8-10% of sales as income, tho some place require 12% declared income. These percentages are mainly moot because most POS systems have intergrated ordering, credit card processing, and timekeeping with declared tips included. Thus any tips on credit or bank cards are autodeclared. I would estimate cash sales to be annually 10-15% of my sales.

And for the whiners who still think stiffing is a cool thing to do as I MUST  be some whining self entitled asshat myself–think again I have been doing this a long time and have become  pretty good at it. As a result I tend to outsell my coworkers most of the time and tend to be one of the servers with the highest take home percentages which is the true measure of a servers quality of service.

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Another Tale from the Past in my life as a FSNinja

October 26, 2008

OK folks I FINALLY found that napkin with the notes on the strangeness I have encountered as a restaurant ninja. So I remembered one of those odd moments in my waiting career.

I had just moved into my locale I currently live in from the boondocks where I attended college. How rural a place was it you ask? It was depending on the productivity of the hoelsteins that year-either the number one or two milk producing county in Texas. Now the town my college was in also had some manufacturing so the locals who had gotten away from farming for the most part were one or two (if they worked at the college) generations off the farm. I had some unusual offers while waiting during my college days. One guy offered me a job roofing. I asked him a few questions-what pitch roofs did he do?  Nothing too steep but ocassionally  he got jobs with step pitched roofs like in a Victorian house. Would I be hauling shingles but ladders with my bad knee? Yes -deal breaker there. Finally how much an hour did it pay? It paid less than I made an hour waiting on people in the boondocks where I was HAPPY with $1 per head in tips. Bear in mind this was a LONG time ago and our meal prices compared to now were much cheaper.

SO I go workin  the big city (DFW, TX) and the closest decent place to my old home which I had to commute from initially (70 miles each way). It was a locally based chain of cajun restaurants heavy on the kitsch. Decorations consisted of anything you could expect to find laying around any cajun’s place down on a bayou.  Zydeco music on repeat over the house speakers. Fast forward a few months, I have gotten a place in the city and and gotten comfortable in the job.

In comes a family which probably lived in a neighboring county which is very similiar to where I went to college. Traditionally a big agricultural county including dairy but on much lesser scale than my college’s county. Over the years alot of the locals there have gotten blue collar jobs in the big city to their north. My coworkers refer to their guests by the county’s name which to be nice I wont name. Its a derogatory one as in demanding, low tipping, tend to try and complain to get free stuff type of guest. They also tend to be less comsopolitain than our big city locals and need lots of help  with the menu about the food and especially about what this cajun incredient or sauce is about. We sold a lot of gator there and you would have to assure them its tasty(which  it is).

So the family comes in and things are going swimmingly. They tried to get a beer for their daughter. I carded her and she was only 16 or 17. Mind you by state law a parent present can order and physically served alcohol to their underage kids and wards. HOWEVER most chains refuse to serve underage ANYONES because the only way to PROVE that they ae your kids especially with step kids or other relatives you are raising is to have ID with matching addresses and court documents/birth certificates. Trust me NO ONE carrys this kind of info. Another variant is the underage spouse of a legal aged drinker which can drink underaged by state law. Most people attempting this learn to carry a copy of their marriage license and get their IDs with matching names and addresses.  SO I have to refuse this request.

By now the meal is midway though and its become OBVIOUS the daughter I can be charged with statutory rape for being in a room alone with by her parents is INTO ME. Lots of flirting and doe eyes plus blinking excessively and hair tossing. Mind you I am not the most attractive guy around -at the time I was packing a few extra pounds but I get called handsome when a girl describes me to her girlfriend who I have not met yet. We also wore shorts and hiking boots so she could check out my muscular legs. I also have a baby face.

Near the dessert course dad makes a pitch for his daughter. It is so long ago I couldnt give you the exact wording but basically I he told me I was welcome to see his underage daughter> I proceed to inform him that probably wouldnt be a GOOD idea since I was 26 at the time. He didnt seem to MIND the age difference.

That kinda scared me-what  father in his right mind encourages a guy nearly twice his daughters age to date her. Servers arent know to be low keyed either and since I didnt say I was saving myself for marriage. So it would be expected if we dated for lots of drinking to happen which would naturally lead to lots of sex. And thats where the minute either parent got upset with me they could get me arrested for the statutory rape charge. They aklo had 3 other kids so I thought maybe he just want to get rid of a mouth to feed.

I tried to avoid them as much as possible until they left after his kind offer.

About 20 minutes later one of the hostesses made production of deliverying me a note from the smitten girl with her phone number on it.

All in all it could be worse I waited on a woman who was 300 pounds if not more who couldnt stop making ebony and ivory comments(she was black and I am white) and at  one point copped a feel of my right cheek.