While out in the food and beverage blogosphere, we alternate between discussing the art and science of serving tables, hosting, bartending and managing, and sometimes we talk about how absolutely ‘unprofessional’ we, our coworkers, superiors and clientele can be. The lost concept of professionalism among service staff is renewed by Penelope Tsaldari, an absolute treasure, blog buddy and email friend. You can read her excellent commentary and advice, part Ann Landers, part Head Bitch in Charge and all Southern grace, charm and Dekalb County peach schnapps here at http://ptsaldari.posterous.com…I can’t wait until I get to participate in an anticipated round table for her blog!
“Good evening, welcome! How many? Please, follow me right this way!” I flash my 4,000$ smile at the party of five as I show them to a “shell” booth in the corner that should seat them comfortably, introduce their server and return to the host stand. I take a minute to sketch out the next three full rotations of seating to Amelia, the petite treasure of a high school student slash hostess extraordinaire and proceed to walk back through the dining room. “May I take that out of your way?” I inquire to a guest who has pushed a half eaten salmon entree in a lime and ginger sauce to the side of the table.
“It was very salty”, she said, a forlorn look on her face. “The sauce wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be”.
“My goodness, I apologize, ma’am, I’ll have a fresh one with another sauce of your choice put on the grill right away, may I bring you a salad while you wait?”
She is smiling now, “no thank you, on the salad, but I would love to try the honey glaze this time”.
Nodding I swiftly carry the plate to the kitchen, a maelstrom of servers, the chef coated expo and the thundering of the line and the dishwasher, of scoops in ice.
“Heidi, you’re about to get a party of seven, Amelia is pushing the tables together. Steve, are you ready to pick up that banquet on the porch? I need a flying salmon wearing honey glaze”, I say pushing the plate through the window to the chef on the other side, “to table 17. Rob, I’m about to turn your entire section, so eyes alive. Boss”, to my FOH manager, “I’m going to swing through cocktail and check back on the door….Twenty three open menus! Heard?”
I leave him standing on the line garnishing a dish, pick up a tray of appetizers going to the bar and walk out of the kitchen, swinging a right after making sure my way is clear, up the steps to the bar. It’s pumping because of our wine specials, and the two black-encased curvaceous ‘angels’ behind the bar are busy. “Babygirl”, I say, motioning the food three feet down to the top of Sara’s head, “food for seats 21 and 22”.
She swiftly picks up the plates, her gorgeous hair perfectly coiffed, thousand watt smile in play as she turns back to customers. “Anything you need?”
She nods up towards the liquor cabinet, “just a bottle of Goose and I need you to present a bottle of Chardonnay to table 64”.
I pick up the few service tickets hanging out of the printer, pound out the cocktails, toss a tall bloody mary and make it spicy and then grab the polished glasses and the bottle, the chiller and double check to make sure my opener is in my pocket. Off I go, looping through the cocktail tables to 64. Liz, our cocktail extraordinaire, deftly swerves around me with a tray of drinks. Three dirty tables, I think, compiling the list to communicate to Damien, our busser for the right half of the restaurant.
I was never a manager officially, but I have managed. In this above anecdote, one of the last good nights at the Fish Haus before we wound up closing our doors in January of this year, I was actually a server pulled off the floor to run the door, and being that I worked with a total asshole whom only I, it seemed, could stand up to, a bully, an obnoxious whiskyholic if there was one, I essentially took over the smiling, the table touches and the fine-tuning. I was to the point, yet gentle to those around me, I knew the computer system but could also handle customer complaints. I had no official responsibilities but having worked on the line, the biggest sections in all four dining rooms, bussed tables, been a shift leader, I knew how to do most of everything if not enough to manage.
Being a bully, as Penelope says in her criticism of a pair of restaurant owners who bully to avoid responsibility, to blame everyone else, instead of getting involved and DOING SOMETHING about problems that arise, is unacceptable in this industry. Bullies threaten, push around, are cruel and unkind. They play games, start shit, do drama and are ugly. They walk away satisfied when people cry or get upset, push them to anger and then fire them for insubordination.
I have never understood this mentality. I, one of the potentially meanest, angriest, cruelest, power-tripping ladder-climber ass-kisser total bitches I have ever met, have never understood this mentality. A deep breath and a kind voice helps get a point across, an explanation of why I offer the advice I do and why it shouldn’t be ignored. The Bible says to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” and I cling to that every day. The Serenity Prayer says to be serene over what can’t be changed, courageous to impact what we can and wise enough to know when to put up, when to shut up and when to stand up.
Why do restaurant managers not get this? Their approach can change so much….it can’t heal laziness, destructive lifestyles of staff, dead business, etc., automatically, it’s not the key to everything, but a peaceful work environment can do so much.
Wiser words have never been spoken, Penelope. Thank you for spreading a good word!