Friday, May 25, 2012

Customer Inquisition


Throughout my career in the service industry, I have been bombarded by all sorts of random questions.  Everything from, "where's the bathroom," to "Does anybody here sell weed?"  It is the servers job to answer each question with professionalism, tact, and a straight face.  The first two I can still handle.  The latter, I gave up on years ago.

I can't believe some of the questions that come out of the mouths of some people.  It is pure torture, and gives me some insight of what the Spanish Inquisition was all about.  (Okay, maybe not that crazy, but you haven't dealt with some of the characters that have sat in my section.)

One night, I had the leader of the "Inquisition" sitting in my section.  She wins the prize for asking the most ridiculous questions in one sitting.

"Is the Tuna Tartar very raw?"  She asked.

"For most people, yes.  Most places don't normally ask for a temperature on the Tartar, but for you, we'll make an exception."  I politely answered.

"Is there Crab in the Crab Salad?"  She again asked with a serious face.

"Yes, there is Crab in the Crab Salad.  By law, we are obligated to serve exactly what is written on the menu."  Phew!  Another bad situation, thwarted by me.  But then...

"Can I get just a little bit of Diet Coke?"  She asked as she finished off her meal.

"You either get the whole Diet Coke, or none at all.  The owner doesn't make exceptions on that.  Sorry."  What the hell does this lady want?  A spritz of Diet Coke.  Here, let me put some in a water bottle, open your mouth, and I'll give you a few squirts of Diet Coke.  10 cents a squirt.

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of one?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tips for the Lips


The New York Post published a story about female servers in France who made better tips by wearing red lipstick.  See below.


RENNES, France -- Waitresses may strive to get orders correct and provide excellent service -- but pocketing good tips is all about the lips, French research has revealed.

Waitresses who wear red lipstick on average received tips 50 percent of the time from male customers, The (London) Times reported, citing a study by sociologists at the Universite de Bretagne-Sud.

The tips were larger in amount than those given to waitresses who wore brown, pink or no lipstick -- and those groups on average were only tipped 30 percent of the time.
The presence of red lipstick made no impact on the tipping habits of female customers.
The researchers noted that the rise in tips by male customers could be due to red lips being "associated with an indication of estrogen levels, sexual arousal and health."

The study results had "practical implications for female employees," the sociologists said, suggesting that red lipstick was a means for "enhancing their incomes, especially in bars or restaurants where men go."

The sociologists compiled their research after recording the tips received by seven waitresses -- wearing various colors of lipstick or none at all -- who served close to 450 customers over a two-month period.

The study was published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

Well I'll be damned... the French have tipped!  At least, 50% of the time.

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of one?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Expendables


People who work in the "service industry" are extremely expendable.  Owners and managers like to show how powerful and mighty they can be by placing you on suspensions, and the ultimate, letting you go.  And in a world where you are living by the money you make shift by shift, this can hurt not only your wallet, but your pride as well.

There was one establishment in particular that reveled in treating their employees like cattle, slaughtering them at their leisure, and threatening to do the same to anybody else who didn't fall in line.  I know many of you who live in Los Angeles probably have worked at this restaurant, or one of the sister restaurants at one point in your service career, the dreaded... Miyagi's on Sunset.

One of the owners set the tone the first staff meeting that I attended.  I was hired as a bartender, and was actually pretty excited to be working at such a busy and trendy night spot in Hollywood at the time.  Tom, the owner, simply stated at the meeting, "These are the way things work around here.  I don't care if you like it or not.  If you don't, you can walk out the door right now!"  Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross" showed more compassion.

I was stuck working the 2nd floor bar.  The place was 3 stories with a bar on each one.  The busiest bars were on 1 and 3.  I was the newbie, and got the crap bar.  But they thought that they would be nice to me and throw me a bone by putting me on the 3rd floor on the weekends to work the service bar that was set up next to the dance floor.  This meant that the servers would come to me for cocktails that they couldn't get from the main service bar because that bar was too busy serving customers.  Needless to say, I hardly made any drinks, and barely made 35 dollars working a shift that I didn't leave until 2:30 in the morning.  I finally got fed up and decided to exercise my entrepreneurial skills, by making 4 or 5 Long Island Ice Teas, putting them on a tray, stepping out from my partitioned bar, and selling the drinks for 5 bucks a pop.  Larceny, allegedly.  But I got bills, people!

I was involved in a theater company in Hollywood this time as well.  I had finally gotten a part in one of the mainstage shows, and had requested the appropriate time off from Miyagi's, getting it approved, so I thought I was okay.  Wrong!  As I was walking up to the theater company on opening night, I get a phone call.  It's Heather, my manager at Miyagi's.

"Hi Joey.  It's Heather from Miyagi's.  I was wondering if you were planning on coming into work tonight?"

"I requested the time off and got it approved, by you, so I wouldn't have to come in this weekend."  I stated.

"Well, we are going to be really busy.  And one of the other bartenders called off, so I need you to come in."  She said, with her best manager voice as possible.

"I'm in a show.  I can't come in.  That's why I requested the time off."  I was beyond frustrated at this point.

"Well, since you aren't coming in, we're going to have to let you go."  Heather said, without even missing a beat.  Pretty obvious that she had said this speech before.

"Just so I'm clear, you're letting me go for following procedure for getting time off?"

"If you aren't coming into work, then yes."

I hung up.  This was my first time getting fired from a service job, and I'm proud to say, that it wasn't the last.

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of one?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More Actual Customer Quotes!



You seriously cannot make this stuff up.  Yes, these are actual human beings, who have come into the restaurants that I've worked at, and said these things to me.  As per usual, I will give you the actual quote, followed by my italicized commentary which I may or may not have said to the customer at that time.  Enjoy!

"Can I order room service to my room?"  I actually caught myself making a WTF? face at this person.  No, actually we'd prefer it if you would order room service to your car.  Then drive the hell away from here!

"I'm trying to decide between the fish, the steak, or the chicken.  Which one is better?"  Me:"What are you in the mood for?"  Them:"I think chicken.  But I could like fish or steak."  Customers like this woman makes me think that I did some horrible things in a past life, and they are my purgatory.

"Bring us more champagne.  The little ones need to have bottles to pop open."  Of course.  Because what parent doesn't want their child pointing a champagne bottle at somebody and trying to force it open?  Enjoy your New Years in Juvi, kid!

"When does it get busy?"  "Why aren't there more people here?"  So now, I not only need to be a server, but a promoter as well.  Give me a second.  I'll send out a few tweets to get some people in here.

"I don't like your steak knives!  Can you bring me one of the Chef's knifes?"  They only way a Chef is going to let a customer put their hands on one of their knifes is after the Chef stabbed them with it, and the customer was pulling the knife out of their neck.

"I don't want the potatoes that come with the Salmon.  So I don't want to pay the full price."  Certainly!  We are actually a 'pay-what-you-can-restaurant.'  Because each item on the plate is priced individually.

"I want my Lamb rare, but pink."  Yes, because blood comes in lovely pastel shades of pink, and slight hues of red.  People, there is no in-between!  You order options are:  Rare.  Med-rare.  Medium.  Med-well.  And well-done.  (Breathe)

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of one? Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro