Recently, I told you about the five types of annoying customers that come to my restaurant. If you haven’t read those posts, you can read them here. Do it later (or not), as it’s not necessary for understanding this post.
As a customer, you endure the nonsense of other patrons when they are being inconsiderate. But that’s short-lived and rarely (if ever) affects your food or your service. It’s annoying when someone takes 12 minutes to search through her duffel purse for a debit card, or lets his feral child run around the dining room. It’s annoying, but nothing more. I can handle being annoyed. I’m going to eat my meal and leave.
What about when it’s the employees who are making your experience worse than it should be?
Most team members are good people. They are hard working, energetic, empathetic, and outgoing people. The vast majority of my former coworkers have elevated to bigger and better things, both in and out of the industry.
Some, however, make you wish you’d have eaten at home. These are their stories. *chu-chung.
1. The Rookie
Being a Rookie isn’t a question of age. Age is a decent proxy because, to be fair, a 16-year-old is almost certainly a Rookie. But a 40-year-old could be a Rookie, too. Work is generally plentiful in our industry, even when employment is scarce in other sectors. Go consumerism!
Either way, within a few minutes of interacting with them, you’ll know if you’re dealing with a Rookie.
Ask her how the spicy tomato masala is. “I don’t know, I’ve never tried it.” *facepalm.
Order a vodka & soda. “What kind of soda?” Yeah, because maybe you enjoy the occasional vodka and Mountain Dew. An aside: vodka & Mountain Dew is significantly better than vodka & Dr Pepper. Must be the artificial citrusy goodness flowing down from the Mountain, where the best artificial citrus grows. Just don’t tell the people of Waco, they’re touchy about such divisive rhetoric. When your blood is 28% corn syrup, you get irritable.
Pick out a mid-range bottle of wine. Beads of sweat will form on server’s forehead and temples, because (a) she left her wine key at home, and (b) even if she had it, she’s never successfully opened a wine bottle. Twenty minutes later, a grizzled industry veteran comes and opens the bottle while rolling his eyes so hard he risks detaching his optic nerves.
It’s not her fault. Have sympangerthy for her (sympathy with a creamy anger filling). The restaurant was understaffed, and she got pulled out of her incubator before she finished cooking…maybe for a second time in her life. Her manager mistook “human” for “competent team member.” He threw her in to either (a) doggie paddle her way through the shift, or (b) sink your dining experience in the most awkward way possible. Most likely, both.
Tip the shit out of this woman, and you’ll both feel better about this encounter.
2. Grizzled Industry Veteran
This is the guy who came and effortlessly opened your bottle of 2017 Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon back in Section 1. It was effortless because it was a twist off. Silly Rookie.
For the sake of this article, we’ll call him Grizzly. Grizzly has been working in restaurants since the Teapot Dome Scandal was startling flappers into spastically dancing the Charleston to numb themselves. To be fair, some of the spastic movement was also due to nerve damage from habitually drinking bathtub gin. You bet your ass Grizzly worked that party. He was drunk the whole damn time, but of course he made good cash.
Grizzly is not going to write your order down. He’s going to bring you your soda with about 3 ice cubes in the hopes of not having to refill it. He’ll probably bring you a side of ranch with your fries even if you didn’t ask – because you’re going to ask, and he doesn’t want to make a 2nd trip to the kitchen. If you order a frozen drink, Grizzly will tell you the blender is broken over the sound of the blender whirring. He may smell like bourbon, but that mostly from last night. Okay, and a little from the 2 shots he’s had so far on this shift. But it won’t matter, because he’ll still skate circles around everyone on the floor.
If you’re a normal customer, Ol’ Grizz is going to be the best server you’ve ever had. If you’re a pain in the ass, he’s going telegraph his angst in every way possible. You will get a snow-cone instead of a drinkable soda. You will be swimming in your own dirty dishes by the end of the meal. You’ll get your check along with your entrees.
Pro tip: Watch your server when he goes to the well to pick up your drink. If you see him dip a straw into it with his finger over one end and drip a straw-full into his mouth like an alcoholic baby bird to “test” your vodka and Mountain Dew, you’re dealing with a Grizzled Industry Veteran.
Tip the shit out of this guy, either because he’s phenomenal at his job, or because there’s a real chance he’ll follow you out to your car if you don’t.
3. Flirty the Calculating
Flirty the Calculating, of the House Doucheybro, is easy to see walking up. He is a good looking, well groomed chap who carries himself with a swagger usually reserved for a cattleman strolling through the auction barn. If you smell Acqua di Gio from 30 paces, that’s Flirty for sure.
Flirty was a baseball player in high school and went to community college to play, but he tore his sublateral cranial rectal dorsal ligament (SCRDL) and his plans fell through. His ego, however, remained fully intact.
The Doucheybro gentleman rigs the system to maximize his profits for minimal efforts. It all starts with the hosts. By getting in good with the young ladies who seat the guests, Flirty makes sure that he gets a disproportionate percentage of “the good tables.” As the night progresses, he focuses the bulk of his effort on what he considers to be the most potentially profitable tables vis-à-vis his charm. This includes, but is not limited to, bachelorette parties, girls’ night out, teachers hitting up happy hour, and counter to the obvious, men’s softball teams.
If you are not part of one of the above listed groups, and you find yourself in Flirty’s section, you are unlikely to get more than simple, adequate service. Try to keep your order ultra simple, order two drinks up front, ask him to bring the check when the entrees arrive, and pay in cash so you can bounce when you’re done.
When tipping Flirty, you should tip the shit out of him, because his tips go directly back into the local economy when he goes out each night after his shift.
4. Weeds McGee
Good old Weeds McGee doesn’t have any more tables than anyone else, but he’s sweating like the Ultimate Warrior after a cage match. The only difference is Weeds isn’t on cocaine, though that might help in this situation. Unfortunately, Weeds kind of sucks as a server, so he doesn’t make enough money to buy coke from Flirty…uh, I mean from some random drug dealer who definitely does NOT work at this restaurant.
He’s not ignoring you, he just can’t multitask at the level necessary for this job. Unfortunately for you, he has 100% open availability and shows up on time, so he’s literally never going to be fired. Such is the way of the restaurant world, grasshopper.
If you find yourself with Weeds as your server, you can handle it one of two ways. First, you could treat it exactly the same as if you had Flirty as your waiter, because irrespective of why you’re not getting service, well, you’re not going to be getting service. Alternatively, you could catch Mr. McGee the first time he arrives at your table and tell him, “I can see you’re really busy. When you come back, we’ll have our entire order ready for you, and we’re going to tip you 20% at a minimum, no matter what. We will be the easiest table you’ll have all night.”
When you get ready to tip Weeds, tip the shit out of him, because the poor guy clearly isn’t spending his tips on drugs. And almost everyone else is going to be less understanding than you.
5. Trainer Tiffany
Trainer Tiffany does everything by the book, even when “the book” was written by people in a conference room 17 years ago. Do not interrupt Tiffany while she is giving you the spiel, because she cannot stop once she begins.
You will be offered specific drinks by name, two specific appetizers, and you WILL hear about the specials in excruciating detail. She will also refer to everything as if it is hers, and will add the word “tonight” throughout the monologue to make sure you know the offerings expire with the close of business.
TIFFANY: Hi folks, welcome to Pickle-O’s, my name’s Tiffany and I’ll be taking care of you tonight. Tonight I’m featuring two specials tonight, I’ve got a six-ounce filet mignon cooked to your liking, drizzled with a saltwater taffy/cotton candy reduction, served with pan seared ranch Corn-Nuts and sous-vide broccoli rabe finished on an antique Dutch rotisserie at 700° for $27.95 tonight, and I have a special feature tonight in conjunction with Ray’s Taxidermy out on Route 6, presenting a slow-roasted rack of raccoon tonight, started with a dry rub of sea salt, lake salt, road salt, and imported Croatian rosemary, served with an ensemble of savory quinoa and kale chia pudding and a single stalk of rhubarb, cooked over an illegal barrel fire behind the building, and that’s for $32.95 tonight. Can I get you guys started with some drinks, maybe a Cuba Libre made with Pepsi for some reason or my famous Arnold Rogers, which is fresh brewed iced tea also mixed with Pepsi for some reason and grenadine, or maybe some crunchy panko breaded sweet and sour okra pickles stuffed with kim chi or some mozzarella sticks tonight?
YOU: No hablo inglés.
Believe it or not, you just stumbled upon the best way to handle the misfortune of getting Trainer Tiffany as your server. She will go away, and you’ll get Entrenador Esmeralda. Esmeralda is bilingual, so just speak English when she arrives and you’ll be fine.
Tip the shit out of Esmeralda, because she was a busser for 2 years before this, and Tiffany always tipped her exactly 0.7% of her sales and not a penny more, because that’s what “the book” said to do. Plus, Esmeralda saved your ass from being checked on 27 times during your meal.
So, having read this, you’re better equipped to dine out and have an amazing experience. Your server has a hard job, made harder by quasi-alcoholism and daily, unpredictable pay. It’s just a meal, try not to let it become a referendum on who they are as a person, or more to the point, who you are as a person.
And don’t forget, tip the shit out of your server. Trust me, just do it.