Tales from the Restaurant

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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Celebrity Vs. Special Treatment

If you happen to work at a restaurant which has any degree of notoriety, you may at some point have an encounter with a celebrity. In the last year, I've had the chance to meet a few famous people. On a personal level, I'm not too fazed by celebrity. If you're famous and used to special treatment, I'll give you the same kind of service I give to everyone; the best I can.

Provided you don't suck as a waiter, any famous person would be happy with your service. Everything should go smoothly, and usually it does. The only issue is that people tend to get nerved up.

When I took care of a foreign prince and his throng of secret service agents, I didn't mess anything up. I was a great server and brought them everything they asked for. The man was not only nicer than 75% of the people I take care of on a daily basis, but he tipped an extra ten percent on top of the 18% party-assigned gratuity.

I always thought that if you ruled your own country, you'd be stressed out beyond belief dealing with political turmoil, attempts at your life, and getting reelected. Yet this guy was nicer to me than the old crabby-faced bag lady at the other table who has a sour attitude because she keeps leaving some magazine at work.

It truly is quite baffling.

Usually, everyone else around you is nervous FOR you. You don't have to actually mess up in order to make things awkward.

Usually someone else can do it for you.

Maybe someone else notices.

Oddly enough, someone in the kitchen might have screwed up, resulting in the need for managerial attention. One of my fellow waiters took care of a well-known movie star last week, and he was unintentionally served cold soup. The problem with that isn't that he was necessarily a special person who deserves extra care, but should actually be getting hot soup like everyone else. Unless it's gazpacho. Which it wasn't.

Which reminds me--who the hell eats gazpacho?! That shit is horrendous! Cold soup is gross, and it doesn't have to prove that it's the bastard child of minestrone and cocktail sauce. Pass on that garbage.

Anyway, some celebrities tend to get pissed off if they don't get treated somewhat normally. Which might cause your situation to capitulate in complete suckdom.

Or it might be delightfully serendipitous.

You just never know.

Restaurant joke of the week;

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Water: The Kiss of Death

When you're serving someone dinner and beverages, there are certain things that you tend to look for. You ask questions that probe deeply into the patron's psyche (Where are you from? What do you do that brings you here? Are you celebrating something? What do you tend to drink with dinner?).

These questions are perfect for figuring out how to help a restaurant guest have a fantastic experience. However, there are some things that are subtly reaffirmed to you that the people you are taking care of are not only determined to NOT have a good time, but also are not intending to leave you a tip.

Clue #1-

When everyone at the table wants water, it's a sure bet that they're cheap. If they won't spend two bucks on an iced tea, they probably won't feel the need to tip you an extra couple bucks for amazing service.

Clue #2 -

In general, race and ethnicity factor heavily in the restaurant environment. The sad rule of thumb is that if any guest you're serving has an identifiable ethnicity (or one you aren't sure of), it's a good bet you're not going to get a significant tip.

Knowing this, it's easy to say "If I ever go to another country, I will find out beforehand how I am supposed to tip at restaurants! Toodley Moodley!"

In China, there is no industry standard for tipping; all waiters and waitresses are paid a flat rate. In the United Kingdom, ten percent is expected, and a twelve percent service charge is used for large parties. In France, fifteen percent is factored in no matter how many people or what you order. At one point in Japan, accepting tips was considered dishonorable and tipping disrespectful.

It was always curious to me why often times French visitors would not leave extra money for the server. If the person's English wasn't good enough, I'd use what French I speak to explain the difference. I found it helped in most cases, got me yelled at in broken English in others.

Barring that, why can't foreigners do the same research when they come to visit?

Clue #3 -

If you get a person that can't be happy, give up. I have taken care of people with utter perfection in my execution and then found out that the person had approached a manager without my knowledge to complain about the entire meal. I've had a person tell me once that the lobster they ordered smelled "too much like the ocean."

It's best to not let it get to you.

There are other smaller hints and clues that you're dead on arrival (groups of high school students, people asking for rolls instead of ordering something, etc.), but these are the surest I've found. Post your own in the comments!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Like a Good Neighbor? Like Hell.

In the hospitality business you expect that when you go out, you will be taken care of. If where you are going happens to be affiliated somehow with someone you know, you should expect that you will be taken care of very well.

This is one of the basic fundamentals of any business.

Sometimes, you do a favor for a friend, and that friend instantly forgets who is doing the favor.

Take last week, for example.

A group from a neighboring business needed a reservation on a moment's notice for about fifteen people on a busy evening. Not only were the managers of the shift excruciatingly accommodating, but several bottles of wine and free appetizers were arranged for them before their arrival.

When they were seated and stuffed full of appetizers, they placed their dinner orders with the very author of this blog. He went around, making sure that of the three things they could each possibly order, each of them would get what they asked for.

But they weren't happy. The protagonist's order-taking computer broke down for a second, temporarily losing one order of the fifteen that was taken. The server noticed quickly, but not quick enough. The unspeakable inevitably happened. Because of the digital screw-up;

The one woman customer ultimately had to...

Under any other circumstances, this would not have been a problem. Yet the next-door Hitler-boss decided to get her mile out of the meal;

"Because I waited 5-7 extra minutes for my meal, EVERYONE AT THIS TABLE is getting a FREE DESSERT!! Do you understand?!?"

Oh, I do. Because we tried to do everything we could (bringing you an alternate meal while your friends were dining/delivering your side dishes beforehand/giving you your dinner for free/bringing extra wine at no cost/suspending your incumbent waiter(s)/ sent your post-packaged dinner back to the chef), you suddenly think it's ALRIGHT to come back to the host stand and tell the innocent-looking hostess that his/her restaurant "REALLY dropped the ball this time?!"

NOTHING ON THIS EARTH is worth the price of your reputation. From now on, everyone in the restaurant will see this;

And will get this--

"Choke on it and die!! RAAARGH!!"

The twat waffle actually left her seat, demanded dessert for everyone, and stormed up to complain to the host stand to alleviate a problem that wasn't actually real. The woman wanted all fifteen of her cunt slaves to have free desserts, free entrees, and free humility. That last thing wasn't quite free, but seemed like it was because of the impending sense of dignity rape she let down on her neighbors. So she will be getting a free additional course a week after her meal, whether she knows it or not. Read on;

I feel that in this instance, my anonymity rule might be acceptably broken. Everyone who reads this--please send a warm letter of recognizance to the Le Pli Spa in Cambridge. Thanks!