Monday, March 21, 2011

Do's and Don'ts

Thought I was gone? Nope, you're not done learning.

A common thread I've noticed across successful blogs is a common theme to some posts. That being in mind, I hope to provide a list of do's and don'ts every week or so.

Starting today with some of the most basic:

Do: Ask for everything you could possibly want.
Don't: Wait for me to make each trip individually to ask for something new.

This is a fairly simple concept, but it's incredible how many tables make this mistake completely innocently. I want to give my tables everything they could possibly want, the more convenient and enjoyable I make their experience, the more money I make. What I can't handle is being sent on half a dozen errands in a row because a guest can't communicate their needs all at once. Cooperate at the table, and be ready to make requests when your server checks on you. If i'm spending 4 minutes running back and forth grabbing dressing, then napkins, then lemons, then refills all for one table, then others are getting neglected.

Do: Politely communicate seating requests
Don't: Bark orders at the hostess or server telling them exactly where you will or won't be sat.

Same principal as the last, meaning that I definitely want you to be happy with where you're sitting. Some people are more sensitive to light, sound, or just prefer tables or booths. I understand this, and want to accomodate you as well as I can. The only problems that arise are when people demand to sit in tables that would better accomodate other guests. I suppose a good way to look at things when you're eating out is from another table in the restaurant's perspective. If the entire eating process is a hose, and you're actively clamping that hose by tying up your server, or taking up tables that other guests could use, you're causing a problem.

Do: Sit as long as you'd like
Don't: Forget that you're taking up a table in a server's section

I understand that people use restaurant's for business meetings, first dates, and reunion's. For this reason people oftentimes want to stick around for a while. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, so long as people understand that they are taking money away from their servers by keeping that table occupied. If you stick around for an extra 40 minutes after you're finished, you're removing an entire cycle of guests from your servers sales. As I said before, this is completely acceptable. Servers want their restaurants to be welcome environments, so long as they are still earning money. In my opinion, a good rule of thumb is to add an extra dollar or so (depending on the original bill/tip) for every ten minutes extra that you take up a table. If that sounds unreasonable, just remember that the tables you are forcing your server to pass on could be running up $75 plus tabs while you stay and chat for 45 minutes. It's not so much a rule, but it is a common courtesy that good servers deserve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tipping for beginners.

As far as I'm concerned you're all beginners.

Tipping is definitely an awkward arrangement. I'm just running around doing my job, and you, a complete stranger has direct control over how much money I make. I know a lot of people who frequently over-tip because they just feel weird about the whole situation. I've come to discover that the vast majority of people don't feel this way. So, the question is, where do we start?

Fifteen fucking percent. That's where we start.

Barring near complete and inexcusable failure to meet your standards(I'll elaborate later) 15% is where you should be starting, no matter what.

Consider the fact that most restaurants require their servers to tip out anywhere from 3-4.5 percent of their sales (Not tips) and you'll realize that a 15% tip is actually more like an 11% tip. In a very ideal situation a server is running about 100 bucks in sales an hour. That means if everyone tips 15% (they don't) and we're running enough tables(we typically aren't) we're making about eleven bucks an hour before Uncle Sam hits us up for his share.

Now, before I go into why you absolutely have to give us more money, I'll point out some circumstances in which it's absolutely ok to lower your tip:

Uncorrected mistakes of any sort.
Unexcused inattentiveness: Meaning that they sucked at handling you for no reason at all.
Attitude issues: Do not read this as "they weren't friendly". This is reserved for servers who are going out of their way to be rude for no obvious reason. Servers often don't have time to be overly friendly, especially towards a stranger(we have no idea how you define friendly) I'll break this down in a later post... I promise...

Back to the issue at hand. I try not to be greedy, ever. I understand that times are tough, though eating out is a luxury that should be immediately cut if you're budgeting. All of that aside, I get that people can't just drop 30% because they think I'm awesome. If I do my job, without much more, all I want is 15%. If I feel like I took care of you without you ever having to ask for anything out of the ordinary I'm hoping for 20%. If you tell me that I'm great, and I restored your faith in my generation, I'd love 25%.

The problem is, it's never that simple. So all I ask is that you try and take everything into consideration. Look at these two scenarios:

Table A's order: 2 waters, small app, split entree. Tab: $14.50
Table B's order: 2 bar drinks, large app, 2 premium entrees. Tab: $47.00

Now I've done almost an identical amount of work on both these tables, but the tip is gonna be vastly different. So the lesson is this: Consider how much work you're giving the server. If Table A leaves me 15%, I'm gonna be disappointed. Table B leaves me 15%? Completely understandable. Keep this in mind especially when you use coupons, it's especially annoying when people get free entrees and assume that the service is paid for too. I assure you, it isn't.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rule #1: Your server and you.

I suppose I should start by describing my work environment, since most of my lessons will be coming from encounters in this specific type of restaurant. I work in a family oriented, fast paced, dining chain. I bartend there, which essentially boils down to waiting tables + making a few drinks while getting paid a little more than an average server.

What I mean by "Your server and you" is that as a guest you should fully understand what your server is capable of. Before anyone gets any ideas, I should say that I've never, and will never participated in anything like what was on display in the infamous "revenge" scene in the movie "Waiting". Not to say I haven't had guests who deserved it.

What servers are capable however is manipulating your experience from both a monetary and enjoyment standpoint. I can easily save a table 5-10 dollars depending on what they order with absolutely zero fraud. It's all about tricks in systems that allow us to take care of more cooperative tables. Now it goes without saying that a server will not go out of their way to refill a rude tables drinks, or make sure they are completely satisfied (some people never are), but it may come as a surprise to you that we lowly waiters/bartenders can also hit the worst people in their wallets. We have to find someway to jack up that 10% tip.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Who's ready to learn?

I feel like an ambiguous outlet is important. Perhaps this a good time in my life to try something new. Personal musings aside, this is something I've wanted to do for a while. I'm a bartender/server, been doing it for 5 years. I've discovered in my time that most people simply don't understand what they're doing when they mistreat someone in the service industry. Of course there are many people that are to arrogant or obtuse to be bothered with treating a server like a human, I actually believe that most people just don't understand how to be good guests when eating out.

With all that being said, I think I'm gonna try and frame this blog around simple rules for being a good patron. Rule #1 coming soon, look forward to it.