Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Service Industry Top 5 Moments

2013 is heading out of here like an old French couple who leaves $2.00 on a $120.00 check.  (Hello!)

There have been many fun, frustrating, and let's say interesting times this past year in the service industry.  I have narrowed them down to my 2013 Service Industry Top 5 Moments.

Some of these moments are from my own experiences this past year, and others are from around the country.  Let's get started.

NUMBER 5
This actually was the most recent thing that happened this year.  Dayna Morales, a 22 year old server from New Jersey claimed a couple wrote on the credit card slip that they appreciated her hard work, but couldn't tip her based off of her gay lifestyle choice.  She posted the slip online and it quickly gained lots of attention from the news and other online sources.  People even began to send Dayna compensation for her lost tips in the area of thousands of dollars.  (Huh?  Maybe I should start posting some slips saying I got stiffed because of some of my choices in life.)  But the Internet came back to bite Dayna in her ass because the alleged couple came out of the woodwork with proof that they actually did tip Dayna, and the homophobic remark on the credit card slip was not their handwriting.  The restaurant quickly suspended Dayna pending an investigation.  That investigation meaning, "dust off your resume, you're being fired!"

NUMBER 4
Nobody loves tips more than a service industry worker.  But now we love them more if they are from Jesus.  No, not the busser Jesus, but the son of God himself.  This group of financial do-gooders, TIPS FOR JESUS, have been going around the country leaving thousands of dollars in tips to unsuspecting servers and bartenders.  (Hello?  My work address is...)  Their motto:  "Doing the Lord's work, one tip at a time."  So now anytime I see one of my customers praying before eating their meal, I give them my undivided attention.  AMEN!

NUMBER 3
Who the hell could forget Alois Bell of the Word Deliverance Ministries and her infamous outing to Applebee's one joyous Sunday afternoon.  After seeing the automatic gratuity on her bill, she scratched out the large party gratuity of 18 percent, and then wrote, "I give God 10 percent.  Why should I give you 18 percent?"  And then she left the server nothing.  Obviously, Alois is not a disciple of  TIPS FOR JESUS, but rather the anti-Christ of that group.  What kind of name is Alois, anyways? ("Fletch" reference.)  Alois got a lot of bad comments and press on the web thingy, and Crapplebee's ended up firing the server who posted the credit card slip which started the whole controversy.  BTW, her large party gratuity was 6 dollars.  Time to pass that collection plate around the congregation again, Alois.  You need more money to tip.

NUMBER 2
Last May, I wrote a post called, 10 WAYS TO GET BETTER SERVICE IN A RESTAURANT.  Little did I know that I had an avid reader who took this list the wrong way.  "Springs 1," from Mississippi, went on a very long, drawn out tirade about how it is "ALWAYS THE SERVERS FAULT, and don't let them tell you otherwise."  For a good laugh, re-read the comment thread.  Springs is a big fan of using caps and "*" to prove her points.  (I'm still confused with the use of "*" though.)  Springs has a certain set of standards on how people should wait tables, and it's her way OR ELSE.  After going through this ordeal with her, I came to the conclusion that Springs and her husband would only be happy serving themselves at home, or if they did have to go out to eat, it would have to be at a buffet.  ("The Encore" buffet in Vegas is the best, BTW.)  She and her husband are also big fans of eating at fine establishments like Red Lobster, or Outback Steakhouse.  Bad news Springs, Red Lobster is going out of business.  Guess you and your husband are going to be slumming it at places like Crapplebee's or Bob's Big Boy for awhile until a new Michelin Star restaurant opens in your neck of the Ozarks.  But maybe this new year you could lose a little weight.  I hear if you cut off your head, you lose ten pounds.

And drum roll please....

NUMBER 1
What can I say?  Something like this never has happened to me in my 15 year career, and I loved every moment of it.  Of course, I am talking about none other than The Cabernet Heist.  If it's one thing that I learned from a USC frat guy, is that they are persistent in actions, but not consistent with their stories.  While bartending a party at my work for a USC fraternity/sorority function, one guy stole a bottle of wine from the inside bar, and brought it over to my outside bar and asked me to open it.  I didn't open the bottle, but rather I opened a
can of worms on the guy ranging from backhanded compliments, to non-sequiturs, and insults alike.  He claimed that he was the social chair of the frat, and that he paid $100.00 for a bottle of Trinity Cabernet.  And why not $100.00?  It's only $92.00 above the retail price.  Like I told him that night, it's a good thing he wasn't the treasurer or that frat would be broke.  Much like his spirits when I took the bottle away from him and didn't give it back.  But I did give him a chance to buy the bottle at the end of the party... for $100.00, of course.

What a year!  I'm sure next year will be even more eventful.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!!                    

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro





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Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Birthday Song

Today is my birthday.  I plan on going out to celebrate at a restaurant with my wife, but I do not want my server to sing "Happy Birthday" to me.  As a server, that is one of the worst things about the job.  I am fortunate enough to not work at a place where it is required to sing.  Or at least, I ignore the requirement.  But my wife, my friends, and most of my service industry friends on Twitter do work at places that require the singing of "Happy Birthday."

That is the most annoying, repetitive song in the world.  Why in the hell would you want a complete stranger to sing it to you?  I'm going to go out on a limb and let the selfish people out there know that you don't have the only birthday in the world.  Yes, hard to believe, but other people where conceived by a man and a woman--wedded or not, possibly a surprise--like myself, and they now celebrate a year of their birth on that same day every year.  Unless you were born on Leap Year, but then you're an alien.

I think it's funny just to say "happy birthday" to somebody.  When you think about it, you are just congratulating them for making it another year.

"Hey, good job.  Didn't think you were going to make it through April."

Keep your birthdays humble.  Keep the singing between friends and family.  Keep your server out of the picture for your birthday enjoyment.  They are there to provide you with great service (re: Food and Drink) but not to be your birthday entertainment.

If you really want one of the staff to sing to you, go to Jumbo's Clown Room.  Just saying...

If you really like birthday songs, watch Good Times, "Another Birthday?"



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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro





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Saturday, December 21, 2013

You Got Yelped !!!

A "good" restaurant experience is not only defined by the food and service, but also by the staff's lifestyle choices.

Meet Chillferd I.  Chillferd, (his parents must have hated him,) likes people who are fit and take care of themselves.  While out at a fine dining establishment one evening, he felt that his server didn't fit into his ideal mold of a human being.


Here is his Yelp review:



"This place needs to hire new staff, (especially the short, chubby guy with a beard and glass.)"
Apparently Chillferd's waiter was Santa Claus.  Santa is hard up for money this year.

"Never had such a rude waiter at a 'fine dining' establishment in my life."
He obviously has never been served by a French waiter before.  (Rim Shot!)

"From the start of the night, he was making condescending comments about our food and drink choices."
But Chillferd, that's offensive to the food and drink, not to you.

"I seriously don't know if this guy hates his life or what!"
Chillferd may be correct on this one.  But it may not be his life that he hates.  The server might just hate you.  

"But if you work in the restaurant industry you choose a path of serving and doing your best to make the night a good memory.  That's what you get paid to do!!!  He never had a smile on his face and looked like he had been constipated for 2 weeks."
So now Chillferd is a Gastroenterologist.  Maybe that's why he was making those comments about your food choices.  He was trying to steer you in the right direction.  (Wink! Wink!)

Dear Chillferd,

For Christmas, maybe you could wish for a restaurant with a thin waitstaff who is clean shaven, doesn't have any sight problems, and does the "Master Cleanse" often.

I hope Santa will give you everything you want this year.  But he might not have time considering he is still trying to get his Christmas Eve shift covered at the restaurant.

Merry Christmas!

Bitter

P.S.  YOU GOT YELPED!!!  

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kerry Simon Says... It's About the People

I've worked for a couple of "celebrity chefs" throughout my service industry career.  The one that has made the biggest impression on me is "Rock and Roll Chef" Kerry Simon.  He was named the "Rock and Roll Chef" by Rolling Stone magazine because most of his fanbase are rock-and-roll stars, and other celebrities alike.

Kerry himself looks like the front man of a rock band.  Long hair, easy-going demeanor, and a charisma that the ladies love.  He has many accolades, but my favorite is that he won "Iron Chef America."  I helped open his first L.A. restaurant, "Simon LA," six years ago inside The Sofitel Hotel @ Los Angeles.  It was the busiest and most profitable restaurant I have ever worked at to date.  But no matter how busy we were, Kerry would always make us laugh with his laid back, "What's going on guys?" type of hello's while he would text people from the expo line secretly overseeing everything.

At first, I didn't get it.  I just thought that when you reached that level as a chef, you just watched over the cooks to make sure that they got your recipes right.  Kerry would have his face in his phone and text people during my shifts.  He seriously texted more than a 14 year old girl who just came home from a school dance and had to tell her friends what happened.  But it wasn't until I asked him how he got to where he is now that I finally understood what I have heard about all along from any casting director, coach, or my parents...  It's about relationships, establishing them, and then nurturing them all of your life.

There's that cliche, "This guy knows everybody."  They were talking about Kerry.  Working at Simon LA, I not only waited on these people, but also was introduced to them through Kerry.  The ones that stick out the most to me are, Bon Jovi, Shannon Tweed, and Bill Murray.  Kerry and Bill grew up together and are still friends.  Good guy.  With this crowd, Kerry rocks out with his spatula out.

I remember one night, Fred Durst from "Limp Bizkit" was at the restaurant.  Kerry went over to talk to him for awhile.  Before he left the table, I heard Kerry say to Fred, "Can I get your number again?  I lost it with my old phone."

Fred gave him his number, and Kerry came back to the expo line.  I went up to Kerry and asked, "How long have you known him."

"I don't.  That was my first time talking to him.  But now I can keep in contact with him.  That's how I've met a lot of my friends," he simply said.

"I've been doing it wrong all these years," I said, dumbfounded.  But it works!

I know this post has a different tone than my usual bitterness.  I am writing this because I recently discovered that Kerry has announced that he has a rare form of Parkinson's disease, (multiple system atrophy,) and is now getting around in a wheel chair.  He has no family history of Parkinson's.  He has deteriorated physically, but not spiritually.  Kerry always exercised a lot, ate well, and never smoked or drank.  He drank fresh vegetable juice everyday.  (In fact, he had one of the cooks make his juice no matter how busy we were, but that's Kerry.)

I can relate to Kerry.  There's no history of diabetes in my family, but somehow I'm diabetic.  This is one of life's many curveballs.  But he has asked to bring awareness to this disease and cause, and I wanted to do that.

To say that Kerry Simon is courageous and inspiring is a given.  I would rather say that he is strong, because strength is what he needs to continue to move forward.

You can read about Kerry's story here.  

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro





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Saturday, December 7, 2013

The New Drunk

I bartended another fraternity/sorority party for USC again at my work.  I think I might be getting some sort of reputation as a bartender at that school.  Once again, I irritated one of the frat boys to the point of them throwing a tantrum... and I loved it!

This dude comes up to my bar and asks for an A.M.F.  (Adios Mother Fucker.)  Basically a "Long Island Ice Tea," but without the Coke, instead Blue Curacao.  I started to make the drink and I noticed something odd with the guy.  While he's gently swaying back and forth, I see that his eyes are closed.  He was SLEEPING STANDING UP!

I look over at the security guy who was stationed at my bar and give him the "can you believe this shit" look.  He looks shocked.  I put the alcohol bottles down and instead put water in the glass I was using.  The frat dude, who's still asleep, notices nothing.  I then begin to wave my hand in front of the guy's face to see if he's actually out.  He finally opens his eyes.

"Good morning sunshine!" I say.

"I'm fine," he says while looking down at the glass of water.  "Is that all alcohol?"

"If you want it to be," I answer.

"That's water!  I want an A.M.F."

"I don't think that's a good idea," I reply.

"Why not?"

"Because you were sleeping at my bar."

"No.  I'm fine.  I was just waiting for you to make my drink."

"Most people don't pass out while they wait," I say.  "It's just common courtesy.  Stick with the water.  You'll be fine."

"I'll just have a little bit," and he drinks some of the water.  Then he puts the glass down.  "Now I'll have an A.M.F."

"My answer is still no.  But congrats on being able to sleep standing up.  That must come in handy in crowded rooms."

"I WASN'T SLEEPING!  I'M FINE!" He rebuts.

Then I turn to the security guy.  "Was he not asleep for a couple of seconds?"  He nods.  "There you go."

Then "Drunky" goes over to the security guy and tells him that he's okay to have another drink.  The security guy tells him that if the bartender cuts him off then it's over.  So he comes back over to me.  And I've noticed that his complexion has turned a bit redder.

"I'm okay to have another drink.  Yes!"

"No."

He turns and storms off.  Reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet and throws it as hard as he can on the floor with a (SMACK!)  Then he stumbles to try to pick it up.

Another security guy comes out of nowhere and picks him up with one arm and throws the kid out.  I'll say this about USC frat guys, they have durable wallets.

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tips For The IRS

Our friends at the IRS are cracking down on the people who do not need to be cracked down upon... The Service Industry.  Starting in January 2014, the large party automatic gratuity will go away and be replaced as a "service charge," so restaurants will have to report this income and it will be taxed.  What does this mean for many servers?  Most places will probably do away with the large party gratuity and leave it up to the customers to determine the tip for a party of 8 or more people.

Great!  Just what a server wants to hear.  That their tip is being handled by the restaurant they work for and the customers we serve.  Right now, I happen to work at both a hotel restaurant, and a "free-standing" restaurant.  At the hotel, they've moved our tips onto a paycheck so all of our tips are taxed.  At first, it sucked.  But I realized later that it's better for things like trying to get a loan, or to show income by having my tips on my paycheck.  But the other restaurant doesn't do that.  That's what most servers want, because it's up to us to report our tips to the IRS.  Most credit card tips are taxed, leaving the cash tips up to the server to declare.

Not declaring your tips is a mistake.  As a server, I'm not supposed to say that, but it's true.  Like one of my old managers used to say, "You have to declare all of your tips.  It's not the '80s for Christ's sake!"  Which still makes no sense to me considering I wasn't old enough to wait tables in the '80s.  Unless you count setting and clearing the dinner table growing up.  But I was never tipped for that.

The real debate going on across the country is one about wages.  As far as I know, California has the best wages for the service industry.  Minimum wage is $8.00 an hour.  Texas still pays their servers $2.12 an hour, and they've been doing that since the early '90s!  Most customers don't feel like it's their place to have to make up for lousy wages with a hefty tip so us servers can afford to live.  I get where those customers are coming from, but also, it's been a tipping society for centuries.  In the Old West, you would order a bottle of Sarsaparilla from the bartender and throw a giant gold coin on the bar with a (BAM!) and that would be the payment and the tip.  So nothing has changed.

People just want to eliminate tipping all together.  Forcing restaurant owners to offer some sort of salary to it's employees.  That's not a good idea.  Most restaurant owners I know would make that salary very low, and the amount of people working in the service industry would decrease.  It wouldn't be a desirable job anymore.  Not only that but also the prices on menus would significantly go up because that's how the owners would have to pay the salaries.  Causing a huge ripple effect, making going out to eat a luxury for only the upper class.  And they don't need anymore luxuries.

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Cabernet Heist

I thought I had seen it all.  I'm humbled to say that I was wrong, and it was so worth it.  The following happened recently while I was bartending an "exchange" with a sorority and a fraternity from USC.  For those that don't know, an "exchange" is a themed party for frats and sororities at different locations, and usually they act horribly and get drunk and any outsider would see this and immediately weep for the future.

This particular night was no exception...

There was about 250 people at this party.  One bar was inside with two bartenders, while there was an outside bar with one bartender.  I was bartending the outside bar.

The first hour of the "exchange" was a hosted bar.  So the college kids made sure to consume as much free alcohol as their livers could tolerate within the allotted time.  Everybody who was of age was wearing a wristband to ensure no underage drinking, and I was only giving out one drink per wristband.  The free hour quickly went by and I switched over to a cash basis bar.  That's when the fun started.

"Can I get a vodka-tonic?" asked one frat dude.

"Nine dollars," I replied.

"It's a hosted bar," the frat guy smugly replied.

"Only for the first hour.  Now it's a cash bar."  I said.

"We were told it's hosted for two hours," he argued.

"You should go and find the person that told you that, and tell them they're wrong," I answered.  Then I moved on to the next person.

This went on for quite awhile.  I would hear things like,"now that I'm paying for the alcohol, maybe you can put some alcohol in my drink?  I like them strong."

Which I would smile, pour the same amount of alcohol that I had already been pouring all night but say, "this one is REALLY strong."

Or, I would say that it's a cash bar and some of them would ask if they could use a credit card.  I would say yes.  Then they would tell me, "So you mean it's a CASH and CREDIT bar?"  Because they're going to USC, they thought this was amusing.

"I stand corrected.  It's a 'Payment Bar.'  You pay for the drinks with some form of legal tender.  Probably being your parent's credit card."

Then, suddenly, my dreams came true.  There was a short-frat kid, with glasses, and headband and a crappy mustache who put an unopened bottle of Trinity Oaks Cabernet on my bar.

"I just bought this from the inside bar and they don't have a wine opener.  They said you could open this for me," he said.

I took the bottle and placed it behind me like I was going to help him out.  Then I made drinks for some other people who were waiting before him.  "Shorty" was not a patient frat dude.

"So, are you going to open my bottle of wine?" he demanded.

"I didn't know we were selling bottles at this party?  I thought it was only one drink at a time," I questioned.

"No.  I paid the bartender inside $100.00 for this bottle so me and my girlfriend can have it.  They told me you would open it."

Mind you, Trinity Oaks Cabernet won't cost anybody more that $8.00 at any grocery store, but he claims to have paid $100.00.  Put I still played along.  "Do you have a receipt?" I asked.

"I left it at home," he said with a straight face.

"You left Hollywood to go back to USC to file your receipt?  That's pretty smart.  Always keep your receipts for your accountant."  Then I noticed that he had three other people who were standing at my bar listening to our conversation, but they were telling me to give him back his bottle of wine.  But I don't get many opportunities like this.  So I continued.  "What did the bartender look like who sold you this bottle?"

"Short guy with a black mustache," Shorty said.

"I hate that guy.  He's always doing shit like this," I immediately answered.  But the description he gave does not even come close to what the other two bartenders look like.  "If you can find that bartender and bring him out here, I'll give you the bottle back."

"I can't find him.  Just gimme back my bottle.  I paid $100.00 for it!!!  I'm the social chair of this fraternity, you can give it to me," he insisted.

"No.  You stole this bottle.  So it's going to stay here," I told him.  Now his friends still felt the need to stick up for this guy by pleading his case.

"He's a good guy.  Just give him the bottle back," they said.

"I have a lot of money.  I paid for that bottle!" Shorty yelled.

"Well it's a good thing you're not the Treasurer of the frat, because you would have overpaid for a bottle of Trinity Oaks Cab, if you had actually bought it.  And we also don't store our wines at 98.6 degrees.  It feels warm, like it was stuffed under your shirt... when you stole it!"

Now he's fuming.  His friends are still trying to help him out.  "It's only a ten dollar bottle of wine, just let him have it!" they pleaded.

"So you're the smart friend." I said.  "But you should've helped him out by not letting him steal a bottle of wine from a bar, and then bring it to ANOTHER bar.  Remind me never to hire him to be on my heist team.  He would steal money from one bank teller, and then bring the money to the next teller and ask them to make change."

Finally, they left.  But I would continue to see this guy throughout the night.  As if he was still thinking he could steal back the bottle.  So I placed the bottle at the end of my bar to tempt him.  Like a moth, he kept floating by.  He finally left the party when I placed a sign on the bottle.



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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are You Smarter Than A Customer?

If my life were a game show, then I would be constantly playing against my customers.  So let's get ready to play, "Are You Smarter Than A Customer?"

Recently I argued against one lady who spoke annoyingly slow.  When she finally finished her question, it was along the lines of, "Is there caffeine in the herbal mint tea?"

"No.  There's no caffeine in the mint tea," I answered.

"I'll have the decaf mint tea," she replied.  Mind you, she spoke extremely slow.

"There is no decaf mint tea.  It's herbal.  There's no caffeine in mint leaves."  I argued.  But I wish there was caffeine.  So she could speed herself along and get the hell out of my section.

Then, on the same night, the bar was busy so I went behind it to help out the other bartender, Matt.  There were only two bartenders behind the bar.  Matt was on one side of the horseshoe and I was on the other.  A group of girls comes up to my side and one of them says,

"There's no alcohol in my drink.  Can you put some more in it?  It just tastes like fruit juice."

This is when I love being behind the bar, because I can actually talk to customers the way I want to.

"If there's no alcohol in it, then how can I add more to it?"

"Well it just tastes like juice.  There's not enough alcohol," she pleaded.

"You have to take your drink to the person who made it."  I added.

"It was one of the bartenders back there."

"Well there's only two of us, so it shouldn't be hard to find the one who made your drink."  And then I helped the person next to her.

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Less Ice, More Alcohol

I survived another Halloween shift at work but not without my fair share of comments from peeps trying to get the most alcohol for their buck.

I get it.  It's Halloween and people want to drink and get crazy.  I stepped away from the serving scene for the night, dusted off my bar tools, and got back behind the bar for a night of freaks, sluts, and bingers.  And that was just the employees.  (Rim shot!)

For some reason, people have this belief that too much ice is damaging to their drink.  As a bartender, when you make a cocktail, you start out by filling the glass to the top with ice.  The reason for that is to ensure that the alcohol stays at the proper temperature.  Most bars nowadays have the type of ice that doesn't melt as easily as ice that looks like it's "wet."  It's the ice that is not clear.  Cocktails that are made by not filling the glass full of ice will be diluted, because the amount of alcohol causes the ice to melt.  But more ice just keeps the alcohol cool... as ice.  Here is an interesting alcohol about ice.

So people kept asking me to dump out some of the ice.  My initial response is, "Haven't you watched Bar Rescue?"  Most looked at me weird and just beg for their drink.  But I even took the time to prove the theory by making two drinks side-by-side.  The one with less ice melted.  The one with full ice didn't melt and looked better.  But who am I to be right?

Then I would hear this comment:

"I can't taste any alcohol in this.  Can you put some more alcohol in my drink?"

My answer is always, "NO!"  Yes, there is alcohol in the drink.  And just because there's less ice doesn't mean that I'm going to make up for it with more alcohol.  For most of the people at the party that night, the reason why you couldn't taste the alcohol was because you were high on cocaine.

My favorite part of that night was when this short man came up to my bar.  He was dressed as an astronaut.  My ice bin was directly behind the counter ledge of my portable bar.  This guy had a lit cigarette and he kept waving it over my ice.  So I had to follow his cigarette around with my ice scoop like that scene from "16 Candles."  ..."Viola!  Breakfast is served."

Sure enough, he drops his cigarette in my ice.  I immediately grab it and throw it down on the ground.  Then this little man flips out.

"Why did you do that?"

"Your cigarette was in my ice," I told him.

"So!  Now I'm not going to tip you!" he yelled.

Then without missing a beat, everybody else in line pushed him aside and said, "I'll tip you."

Step aside little astronaut.  And no, you're not getting more alcohol or less ice.  

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Saturday, October 26, 2013

I've Got (No) Personality

They say that a great personality makes a great server.  Somehow I've managed making it 15 years in the service industry, making a living, while continuing to build my comedy career, and still not have a personality.

I take customer's orders correctly.  Recommend wines, alcohol.  Make tables laugh.  I have settled arguments, and helped with celebrations.  I've waited on people who were visiting from all over this great country, and interpreted hand signals from international guests from places like Asia, all with decorum and best of all--without killing anybody!

I work at two establishments right now.  One has been my "bread and butter" for a couple of years, and the other place is newer and that means it's an opportunity to make better money.  Well, just because it's new doesn't always make it better.  I recently discovered that my lack of shifts at the newer place was not a matter of my work ethic, or experience, but rather because the two owners think that I don't have any personality.

Hang on, let me say that again... that I (Joey Rockenstein) don't have any personality.

Me.  The guy who came up with the brand THE BITTER BISTRO.  Me, the guy who performed the BLACK POPE joke, and was called a racist on Youtube.  Me, the guy who played "Zach" the douche manager on the beloved web series, GOOD TIMES.

That is a pretty harsh comment to say about someone.  And the fact of the matter is that maybe it's not that I don't have any personality, but that the two of them are contagious, and their lack of personalities has rubbed off on me.

But who am I to judge?    

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Monday, October 21, 2013

I Fart Therefore I Am

It's truly is the little things about this job that really bring an innocent smile to my face.  Like crop dusting (farting) at work.  The best happened one night, during my last shift, while managing a small bar called Cafe Muse.

Cafe Muse was a beer and wine bar located on the corner of Olympic Blvd. and Sawtelle Ave. in West Los Angeles.  The place was owned by a Persian family, and the clientele was primarily Asian.  So you can see that I fit right in with the place.

When I first started working there, I noticed that there was a lot of underage drinking going on.  I told all the servers and my boss, Alan, to card people no matter how old they looked.  It's better to risk feeling embarrassed about asking for an I.D., then to get caught by the Alcoholic Beverage Control, get fined, and jeopardize the business losing their beer and wine license.  Sure enough, on a night I was gone, ABC sent in some undercover agents, one of the servers didn't ask for an I.D., and he ended up serving a minor.

I'm back at work and Alan tells me what happened, but I got a sense that he was kind of blaming me for them getting busted.  At least they still could sell beer and wine.  The only thing that Alan did differently was finally hire a door guy to check I.D.'s before they came in.  Which, when I think about it now, it's a restaurant.  Anybody, any age can come through the door.  If they're underage, they just can't order booze.

Cut to a couple of weeks later.  It was a busy night.  I had done last call and was trying to close up while also trying to get customers to finish their drinks and get the hell out.  The door guy proved that he was worth the money by doing nothing but stand at the door.  Hence, the "door guy."  (Lou, I said "hence.")

Out of nowhere, Alan emerges.  He must have transformed from being a bat.  He comes behind the bar and scolds me for people still drinking past 2am.

"I'm trying to close up.  I can't go up to every table on my own," I said.

"I've been watching you for the past 15 minutes.  I can't have people drinking past 2.  The cops have been on my ass!" He yelled.

First of all, I'm creeped out that he was watching me.  Second, why the hell didn't he help me and the other servers?!!  But it didn't end there.

"It's not my fault the cops have been on you," I said.

"I can't have this.  You're fired," Alan stated.

Suddenly, it was as if I had been holding an AK-47 assault rifle in-between my butt cheeks, and it was jammed for awhile, but finally freed it up by hearing those words.  I couldn't control the blasts the were coming from my ass.  After I had heard "you're fired," I unloaded countless rounds of farts.  And my favorite part, I didn't move away from Alan, nor did he step away from me during my hail of flatulence.  He was somehow completely oblivious.

                                                       

"I'm going to need your keys," he said.

I handed him the keys to the place.  "Here you go."  All while still uncontrollably farting.

I've never smiled so much while being fired.

Like I said, it's the little things.





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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro





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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Yelp is Ruining America

I write a lot of posts about my disdain for Yelp, but I have never really given a full explanation of why I feel compelled to call out these people who write these dissertations and have the nerve to call them reviews.  In short, Yelp represents everything that is wrong with society, and has given people the opportunity to be mean while hiding behind a keyboard.  I hate Yelp.

I believe that Yelp actually started out as a useful resource.  It gave people the address and number of businesses, with a quick explanation of what they are about, and a casual review by patrons who either liked or disliked their experience at the place.  But that quickly dissolved as Yelp welcomed people to create profiles and openly bash and berate businesses, and rewarded these so-called "reviewers" with an "elite" status on the their Yelp profile.  Which is basically nothing more than a fancy badge to put on your profile page, and you're invited to the "Elite Yelp Squad" events that are held in your city.  Which means that if you are a nasty person and are looking to hang out with people with common interests as your nasty self; there's a place for you.  But of course, nobody would show up at these events, because they fear talking to people face-to-face.

But of course, my interest lies more with the Yelp reviews of the service industry.  Wouldn't it be just as useful to write "the food was good, but not great," or, "the service probably would have been faster had they not been so busy," or whatever.  As opposed to,

"Firstly, for a slow Monday night, our service was lack luster, but that was just par for the course.  We started with the oysters with red pepper stuffing.  It tasted fine, however, the stuffing was way too much for the oysters and I ended up eating the last few sans stuffing so I could actually taste the shellfish.  The salmon was good.  A tad over cooked for my taste, but the flavors matched well with the barley and it was a good portion. Nothing too impressive.  Finally, dessert consisted of a trio of creme brulee...not bad, not fantastic...which describes my entire evening."

Maybe it's just me, but the details in this review are not needed.  And believe it or not, that was one of the shorter examples I could find on Yelp.  Also, they have boxes at the bottom of the reviews for you to click if you thought the review was "useful" "funny" or "cool."  So even Yelp acknowledges the stupidity of these reviews.  But interestingly enough, Yelp may have screwed the pooch because they have been brought up on many class action lawsuits, and have been accused of extortion on many accounts.  Yelp Being Sued.  But I will be nice and throw them a bone and say, allegedly accused.

Also, these "Yelpers" have even specifically named servers and bartenders in their moronic essays.  Would good does that do?  Other than jeopardize that individuals job, which they probably were already reprimanded for, and now they have been slandered.  All because you--the Yelper--feel like you know everything about service and cuisine ever since you started watching shows like "Kitchen Nightmares," and "Top Chef."

I know I've said this before, and it's not in our culture, but if you are that unhappy with your food or service, you should say something to the server or the manager.  You are paying for it for Pete's sake.  Get what you want!

It's sad, because long gone are the days of Vidal Sassoon's mantra, "and they'll tell two friends... and they'll tell two friends... and so on."  Word of mouth is no more.  And if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all has changed to if you can't say something nice, just write about it on Yelp.  Aw, the humanity!!!

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro





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Sunday, October 6, 2013

My So Called (Mentally Challenged) Persian Girlfriend

I swear by everything holy that the following is the truth.  This story is from when I managed a beer and wine bar called, Cafe Muse. I know that I'm probably going to take some heat from people thinking that I'm being mean, or not compassionate, and to those people I say, "get bent!"  I say it now and I will say it again, I WAS THE VICTIM!

It was at Cafe Muse that I had my very first stalker.  It was too hard to pronounce her Persian name, so everybody told me to call her Donna.  Donna was a very nice woman who had a mental handicap.  Now, I’m probably am going to offend some of you with this, but just so you can get a clear picture of what I was dealing with during these shifts, she had a very hard time talking, and back in the day before it got confusing with all this political correctness, she would have been called retarded.

Donna came in one afternoon and ate with one of her relatives.  I don’t have a problem with anybody with any kind of condition.  As I have one myself, I was very patient with her while she was ordering and such.  But like I said, she had a hard time pronouncing words, so I gave her the time that she needed.

“Can I get a l-la-latte?” she asked.

“Of course,” I replied.  And I made her a l-la-latte.

Apparently, I must make a really damn good latte because Donna kept showing up at the beginning of my shifts and ask for one.  I just made them for her and sent her on her way.  Soon enough, I was catching wind from the guys who worked in the kitchen that something else was up.

“She likes you,” the cook Jose de Luis told me that afternoon.

“No, she likes lattes,” I defended.

“I’m telling you.  She did this before with the white boy who was here before you.  She likes white guys.  That guy had to quit.”

“Great!  I’m going to be stalked by a mentally handicapped person,” I joked.
So I went upstairs to talk to my boss about this and he confirmed what I was told.  Alan, my boss, went and got his brother-in-law and they both met with me in his office.  It was like some kind of weird, Persian sit down.

“From now on, don’t say hello, or anything.  Just make her latte and walk away,” they told me.

“So you want me to be mean to your relative?” I said.

“Just don’t say anything, and she won’t bother you.”

So I did what they told me.  Donna would come in the restaurant, I wouldn’t say anything, make her latte, and walked to the back.  The only kicker was that once I got to the back of the restaurant, all the cooks were peering through the window, pointing at me, driving me fucking nuts.  Which is what most restaurant cooks like to do.  Make inappropriate comments, and take their time making the food.

Oddly enough, it worked.  Donna stopped coming by, the tension eased up, and it got back to normal… so I thought.  After about a month, Donna shows up.  I make her drink, but instead of taking it to go, she decides to sit at the bar and drink it.  I can only stand in the back of the restaurant for so long re-folding napkins, and acting like I’ve got stuff to do.  She waves me over, and I’ve got to be honest, I was curious to hear what she had to say.

She hands me a folded piece of paper and leaves.  Most of the time, when a guy is handed a folded up piece of paper from a girl, he is excited about it.  I was frozen with fear.  I could already hear the guys in the back of the restaurant laughing at me.  I opened up the paper to see what looked like a phone number, with the following note:

“JORY,” which must be the Persian way to say, (Joey.)  “Call me and you can come over.”

I have basically been propositioned by a woman, in her mid-forties, who is mentally challenged.  In hindsight, I really wish that I had kept the piece of paper.  And before I go on, let me remind you guys again, I AM THE VICTIM here!  Who the hell is going to believe me on this?  But I took the paper to my boss and the rest of the Persian mafia.  They finally admitted that she had done this to the guy who had the job before me.
  
“Do I need to get my attorney involved?” I asked.  I always liked to throw that line out.

“No.  Donna will not bother you anymore.  And if she comes in again, just ignore her and don’t make her drink,” they told me.

So the same happened as before.  Donna disappeared for awhile.  Which seemed strange because it seemed like she had some kind of full time job in the offices, but I couldn’t tell you what the hell she did.  But somehow, it was a position that didn’t require her to be around for some of the time.  She must have had some clause in her contract that gives her time off when she's stalking her new favorite white boy.

But like the saying goes, all good things come to an end.  Because Donna reappeared.  It was as if she thought that nobody would notice if she went back to her old habits.  So there she was, at the end of the bar, with the same black mug that she brought in everytime to get her damn latte.

“J-J-Jory.  Can I g-get a l-la-latte?” she quivered.

But I knew where this would lead.  As nice of a person as I am, I had to put my head down, grab some random papers off the bar, and walk towards the back.  She had seen me do this before, but never without making her latte.  You could hear the pain coursing through her body.  She called my name again… nothing.

As I stood in the back I could see her turn and walk towards the front door, but before she got outside, she turned back to me while standing in the doorway.  She must have channeled her inner Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction,” because in one quick motion, she raised her mug up above her head and slammed it down on the ground.

SMASH!

Broken mug pieces shattered everywhere as she turned a hobbled off to wait for her ride.  I never saw Donna again.  It’s safe to say that if it were up to her, she probably would have killed me if she possessed the capabilities, so that nobody else could have me.  But let this be a lesson:  Never manage a place owned by Persians.  And don't date anyone you work with.  Although I never dated Donna, I still look back on her as my so called (mentally-challenged) Persian girlfriend.  

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro





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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

5 Ways to Know You've Been #servingtoolong

As I write this I shudder to think that I have worked in the service industry for 15 years.  (Maybe more.)  But you would never ask a woman her age, and the same goes for anyone who works in the service industry.  There's no promotion.  There's rarely any benefits.  So there sure as hell is no way that I have made a living for as long as I have waiting on people.  Have I?  UHG!  What can I say... time flies when you are wishing people would go eat somewhere else.

But alas, here I am.  Sure of myself as an excellent host of whatever section I might be assigned to for the evening.  Confident behind any bar.  And able to describe any varietal of wine even though I probably have never tasted it before.

"How would you compare the Artesia Pinot Noir with the Opus Cab Sauv?" asked a lady one evening.

Me, having absolutely no clue.  "Well, the Artesia Pinot has a hint of pepper, with a finish of dark berries and vanilla.  The Opus is a full-bodied Cabernet, slightly acidic, with a long, silky finish."

"What about the Jordan Cabernet?" she asked.

"Not as silky or acidic."


But I can do this because I have braved the waters of the service industry for so long.  And I have noticed that I not only think like a server when I am clocked in, but also when I am not on the clock and trying to lead a normal life.

Which brings me to,

5 ways to know that you've been #servingtoolong

5.  When dining out in a restaurant with friends or family, you start stacking the dirty plates in neat piles so they can be cleared easily.

4.  You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because you realize you forgot to bring table 33 the other glass of wine that they ordered.

3.  You know exactly when you are going to be written up by a manager.  Even before they realize that they are going to write you up.

2.  When you get home from a trip to the grocery store, you put the newer items in the back of the fridge, and the older ones towards the front.  Basically, you rotate your own stock and mark it on your par sheet.

And lastly...

1.  When moving through a crowded room, you say "BEHIND!" when trying to pass someone, (or "PASA/ al TRAS.")  And when going around a corner, you yell out, "CORNER!" 

I know I am not alone on this...

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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro




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Monday, September 23, 2013

Ready To Order!


I've noticed that there's a fine line between being ready to order with your server, and just wanting to sit at the table for an eternity and talk.  Because there have been many occasions when I have gone up to the table to take an order and then be waved away and told,

"We haven't even looked at the menus yet.  Give us a few more minutes, we're catching up."

So I oblige.  Only to be waved back to the table and scolded.

"We need to order!  And we're in a hurry!"

It's hard enough sometimes trying to judge when is the best time to interrupt a conversation at a table to tell the specials and take an order, so perhaps it's best to save the "reunion" conversation til after you've given me your order.

These also seem to be the same people who think a certain way.  I'm talking about people who have homes that are over 3500 square feet.  And that's probably just there "second home."  These  people expect certain treatment, the kind where I can magically appear when they are finally ready to order, and quickly disappear when they can't bare to see me anymore.

What do you expect to have me say when you tell me,

"I can't taste the alcohol in my drink.  Tell the bartender to put more in it!" one lady demanded.

"It's a vodka martini.  It's all alcohol.  That's why your drink is so clear," I explained.

"Well then I want to order a different drink that has more alcohol."

"Might I suggest a vodka martini?"

"Fine!  And we're ready to order!"


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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."
 

The Bitter Bistro




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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Service Industry (guest post by MAX TIMM)

This is the first of many guest posts about how the service industry has affected people's lives for the better or for the worse.  MAX TIMM is a very talented writer whom I've known through my own writing endeavors.  But I never knew he had a connection to the service industry.  Soon, Max will be coming out with his novel, The Wishkeeper.  My wish is to stop waiting tables.  Max's came true.  But before the novel, there was the service industry.  And not only did Max work in it, he was submerged since childhood.  

See below...     

At the outset of World War II, men and women were enlisting in “the service”. I’ve always marveled at how patriotic and brave such a simple term really is, much less the mere act of risking and sacrificing life for freedom. The men and women who enlisted in the War called it “service” as if it was their responsibility as Americans - it was as simple as that. They had a wish to retain their individual freedom, and grant the same types of wishes for others.


There is a different type of service - an industry that I have worked in for over fifteen years. An industry that relies on the same kind of enlistment by men and women. We do not, however, consider such enlistment as our American responsibility, but instead, a responsibility to granting our wishes to make a living wage…and possibly, God forbid, enjoy a night out…on a Monday.

I grew up with two parents who devoted their lives to and fed their children because of the food and beverage service industry. My father bartended for decades and for the past twenty years has been the general manager at a country club in small town, southeast Wisconsin. My mother has owned and operated her own catering company for nearly twenty as well, and together put me to work in every knowable facet of the service industry since I was fifteen. Let me make this clear…I did not enlist myself, I was drafted.

For almost two decades my paychecks came from some form of a food and beverage institution; Big Foot Country Club, Gordy’s Boathouse Bar and Grill, Butch McGuire’s Bar in Chicago, The Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey and too many catering companies to count.  Did I do this because I loved serving snobby customers from the left, and clearing their barely-touched plates from the right?  Did I sprint through icy driveways every New Year’s Eve as a valet and park $100,000 cars because I enjoyed the feeling of frozen eyebrows?

I didn’t do any of this because I loved doing it.  I didn’t do any of this because it was a lifelong dream.  I did it because I knew there was something better out there.  I did it because money isn’t the only thing that is important in life.  I did it because it was my responsibility to feed the ever-growing wish to pursue something that may never pay me a dime.  Why?  Because sometimes we have to push through the shit to find the shine.

I’m a writer.  And just like any person who pursues a creative profession, I would do it for free. Do I want to do it for free?  Good lord, no.  Do I want to eat?  Well, sometimes, but by working in the service industry, I was not only able to support myself and take care of the basic necessities in life, but every time I would put on an apron I would remind myself that I am picking up that old lady’s filthy napkin because one day I won’t have to.  It’s a very strange, backwards approach to life. Doing something so that one day you won’t have to. It actually doesn’t make any sense, but what does make sense is how much stronger, patient and accepting I am as an individual because of my time spent in the service industry. I have also noticed that every guy or gal I meet who has spent a substantial amount of time waiting tables or tending bar is just, very simply, a higher caliber of human. That sounds dramatic, but in all seriousness, these people have an ability to accept that wishes and dreams do not always come true in a day. They have the ability to stand by their wishes and dreams, to remain persistent and patient, and allow their wishes to define who they really are. It is by accepting the responsibility to pursue your dreams and make your wishes come true we grow as individuals and better serve the world as a whole.

So though we may not technically be going to war when tying that apron around our waists, we are at the very least accepting the burden of our long term intentions and agreeing to one day manifest them in the service of our wishes. I think that is definitely something worth fighting for.

Now if I can only grant my wish to eat something other Ramen noodles…


Max Timm is the author of the young adult fantasy novel, The WishKeeper. It will be going into wide release as of December 2013, but you can get your mitts on a copy before then by pledging to his current Kickstarter campaign.  




To learn more about the book and the author, you can do so here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1997871021/not-just-another-pixie-story-a-young-adult-fantasy




Or follow Max and the book on Facebook.


Thanks Max.  I can definitely say that you are a child of the service industry!  Contribute to his Kickstarter.  It's an awesome novel and he is a gifted storyteller.








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

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."
 

The Bitter Bistro

 FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER CLICK HERE
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