Tales from the Restaurant

Tales from the Restaurant
Where you'll find all the restaurant dirt you'll ever need.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Power of Tipping Generously

An odd thing occurred to me today as I went to mail my taxes in and grab a bite to eat on the corner. I walked into the pizza shop and ordered a BLT. When it came time to pay, the man behind the counter insisted I just take it. For free.

When I insisted on handing him the full fare for the delicious bacon-laden lunch, he leaned in and spoke to me in his European accent. He said;

"A few weeks back, our delivery driver dropped off an order to your house. When he didn't have enough change, you told him to keep it. Our driver recognized you when you walked in."

I saw over in the corner that same guy who earlier in the week, graciously accepted $20 bucks on a $12 dollar delivery order. He came over, gave me a quick nod, and said "I always pay back my debts."

Moved as anything, I left the store, BLT and chips in hand. As with anything, generosity is always appreciated if not reciprocated. Conversely, there's nothing you can ever gain by being overtly cheap.

As a waiter, whenever someone tips me generously, I remember that person. I look forward to serving that person again, and would do everything I could to get whatever free or coveted items to his or her table without getting into too much trouble with the management. Often times, I'd risk it anyway.

I forget what journalist wrote that short piece a few years back about his journey to New York City with a stack of twenty dollar bills. He tried to see how far he could get by slipping twenties into the hands of the right people. He was let into exclusive luncheons, ferried around to awesome places, and generally well-liked by whomever he paid.

The important thing I realized about this whole situation was not that the money itself was significant. Of course, the money is appreciated. But in retrospect, the subtraction doesn't quite work out. I left the guy eight bucks when he delivered to my house, but the cost of the sub and chips was more than that upon my return. His net gain was in the negative, but he recognized me for my generosity and future business.

My friend and I recently staked a claim on our new hangout spot, a classy restaurant/pool hall/karaoke venue. The first couple times we went, I doubt we were distinguishable from the other bros in the place. My friend and I both tipped generously each time we went, and by the third time we went, we were treated like regulars, given free beer, and generally made to feel more welcome than the average person. The man in charge gave us free tastes of exclusive and obscure tap beverages, four pints for the price of three, things of that nature.

It speaks to most things about life in general, but if you help others when times are good for you, you can often count on others when you're up the creek and down the waterfall.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Worst...Table...Ever.

They strolled in five minutes before the venue closed. They walked up to a table they thought was theirs by default and sat themselves right down, paying no regard to anyone or anything that might have held their attention or needs. They proceeded to ask angrily for menus, assuming someone had seen them.

They were....the party from HELL.

By "Hell," I clearly mean "Eastern Europe."

It's not that people from a specific region did anything wrong, it's just that THESE specific people from this SPECIFIC region did EVERYTHING WRONG, and deserve a SPECIAL place in HELL.

I used enough capital letters in order to MAKE a POINT, and will STOP AT NOTHING in order to MAKE A CERTAIN SIX PEOPLE PAY for their CRIMES, REGARDLESS of the GRAMMATICAL FAUX PAS'S of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE. But I DIGRESS.

Imagine a group of six people, sitting down at a table right before the restaurant closes.

They order a bottle of fine wine;

...now, this ain't exactly a two-buck-chuck from the local Trader Joe's.
This might rather be an 80-dollar caviar wine designed to palate the tastes of the gentleman who wants to club a golf course manager to death who hasn't yet made the required connections with the people in charge of swaying his shot.

This guy has a chip on his shoulder.

He came to eat with his friends, and tried in vain to impress the living shit out of them. He sent back an important bottle of wine, and instructed his friends to order a new thing for every time his server reached the table, implying that a relay race was somehow afoot.

They asked for tartar sauce. They asked for lemons. They asked for cocktail sauce. The kitchen was closed, but one of them still asked for a baked meal, and complained that it wasn't prepared the way he was used to. The head honcho sent back a bottle of wine, and despite the fact that the bar had already closed, he asked that a different wine would be opened for his table because he simply "didn't like" the previous one.

This attitude would be somewhat easier to deal with if the restaurant weren't closed, but alas. The convenience of a couple of strangers will always come closer to the needs of the one person with a posse of internationally-inconsiderate dick-noses.

This man and his friends had no intention of going anywhere, and they each wanted to know why there weren't any complementary mints or dental floss.

All while the table persisted, you contemplated the very reason why you wouldn't have gotten home until 2AM, you couldn't find anyone in the kitchen to make your food, or why you couldn't possibly have pleased anyone for any reason.

And then Murphy's Law enters your mind.

...and you then wonder what it is you did to deserve it. And there is no logical answer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Seven Words You Can't Say In A Restaurant

Hey readers. Just to curb any chance you may have thought this post would be a delightful spin off of everyone's favorite George Carlin routine, there will not officially be seven words on this list. In reality, I can't imagine there's more than three words I've ever used in any restaurant environment that have received more than a cocked eyebrow.

I guess I'm just a sucker for campy names when it comes time for a serious post.

Let's get down to brass tacks.

Despite the fact that the restaurant is the only professional forum where it is okay to talk about things like nipples, rectum massages, skullfucking, cauliflower, and Ronald Reagan, I've discovered the one topic which is completely taboo. Ironically, the only phrase you can't mention is "sexual harassment."

If someone feels "sexually harassed," the harasser's career at the restaurant is almost certainly over.

You see, in the restaurant, waiters, cooks, bartenders, and even the non-English-speaking support staff will constantly be quipping back and forth in the most perverse manner attainable. As mentioned in earlier posts, homoerotic suggestiveness and depravity are all but acceptable in the colloquial dialogue of the restaurant underbelly. This isn't to say that if someone on the staff were uncomfortable, that that person would not be accommodated. They rest of the staff would almost certainly spare the one affected person/lesbian/feminist/socially awkward malcontent/overly-conscious idealist if that individual were to publicly and knowingly isolate his or herself from the crude fracas.

If that one person decided to go to the management with his or her concerns, that person would be doing a gravely unacceptable and irreversible thing. That individual would be broaching a topic that would upset the very balance that helps keep the restaurant staff friendly, trusting, and above all, sane. That person would potentially get someone fired because he or she feels they have been SEXUALLY HARASSED.

The caveat in all of this is that the person affected doesn't necessarily have to be the subject of any of the things said or done. That would be too easy. The person can overhear a joke, read an obscure word, or even receive an incorrectly interpreted glance in order to retaliate and get someone fired. If the person accused happens to be a respected or well-liked employee at the restaurant, then the accuser will have made an enemy of everyone at the restaurant. That person will be retaliated upon in every legal manner capable by the restaurant's staff.

His or her tables will be repeatedly sat with destitute high-school students and families with screaming infants. That person's side work will become the most rigorous, often involving scrubbing toilets and counting toothpicks. Nobody will talk to that person without necessity.

The staff of the restaurant protects its own, and will quickly make enemies with those who threaten that sanctity. Forever.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Industry Standard

If I had to describe the way the industry standard in the US denotes tipping, I would say it is "inconclusive." I would then say "hand me a bunch of dandelions, because Ray Bradbury taught me how to make myself drunk with these. Also I'm poor."

What I'm trying to say is that the methodologies of tipping in the United States mean just as much to the layperson as the fundamental intricacies of "time travel," or "health insurance."

Take last night, for instance. I had a huge group of men (and one or two margarita-drinking-NOT-men) celebrating a birthday party. By "celebrating," I of course meant, "ignoring the person responsible for their libations."

After ringing up a significant check, I counted the money and was left with less than 6% of what I brought them.

This was upsetting, but most servers (pussies like myself) aren't comfortable with approaching a poor tipper to ask what the problem was. This is acceptable only if you have big enough balls to bring it up in the most passive-aggressive way humanly conceivable.

For example;

I was lucky enough to have a fellow worker looking out for me, casually mentioning that his buddy only got a few bucks for an hour's worth of serving beers and tactfully ignoring poorly-constructed penis jokes.

I was approached shortly afterward by a drunken fellow, apparently the Deanna Troi of the group, who handed me a few more dollars and apologized for the drunken misdemeanors of his rowdy and under-cognizant friends.

I was relieved that someone nearby had a true grasp of the scenario, but stunned at the notion that people who have never been formalized in the fine arts of tipping or basic mathematics consistently find that they have aged twenty-one years on this earth with no knowledge of the industry standard.

Yet, it happens all the time.

It's the subtle relationship we share which determines who of us make rent and whom do not.