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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