Monday, June 27, 2005

My Bubble

It's my bubble, not yours, so stay out!

We all have our own personal bubbles, it's the little space that's all the way around our bodies that we hate when people invade it. Guess what? Hostesses have them too! Not only do I have a bubble, but I also, like many, hate having it invaded by people I don't know time after time after time after time...

This falls under the whole respect thing too. This mostly happens when we're on a wait and I'm running the board (that's what we call the wait list). A guest walks in, makes eye-contact with me when I greet them (sometimes) then their eyes dart down to the wait list and stay there while I'm talking to them. The eyes only come back up to mine (sometimes) when they have something to say to me, like their name or asking a question ("30 minute wait on a Saturday night, you're kidding right?", umm, why would I joke about that? Honestly, some people are just so desensitized to waiting because of microwaves and fast food restaurants). I just hate it when people walk through the door, stand right next to me and my desk (which is my working area) and stare at all the names on the wait list while I'm speaking to them, asking how many in their party and their seating preference (smoking or non, I'm on the east coast, we're working on that whole non-smoking indoors thing). They answer me, but not without taking their eyes off the board like the names will magically disappear if they stare at it hard enough.

Really! They look at the board like they know what they're looking at, or maybe they're checking to see if I write down the times that all the guests come in and sit down (I do both), I don' t know if they think they know what they're doing or if they know what to do with all the numbers they're looking at (pager number, number in party, time in, wait quote, table number, time sat) or what. It just bugs the hell outta me because it's like them saying that, first of all, I don't deserve their eye contact when I'm speaking to them, and, second of all, like I don't know what I'm doing and they feel the need to double check my work. Other guests, who's names I have already taken, will come up and just stand there, staring at the list, counting the names in front of theirs, and then get indignent when they see names below theirs crossed off. This is the reason I never completely cross off names, I always leave it so you can read all the information (where they sat down, when, or if they left or went to the bar) just in case a trying-to-complain-to-get-sat-sooner guest comes up. This way, I can easily explain that this guest decided not to wait and this one found a seat in the bar. Do I get an apology or anything? Of course not, I get that "oh" (that everybody who's ever worked with cutomers knows) like it's a substitute for an apology.

If you want to know how much longer until you get sat down, please just ask and don't get all up in my space to find out. Or, you could check your watch and figure, "well, we came in about 20 minutes ago, and she told us it was going to be 45 minutes, so...", but no one actually does that, nobody can do mental math anymore. I wish I had a dollar for each guest that came up and asked how much longer it was going to be when they'd only been waiting half the time I told them. Another thing, look the hostess (or host) in the eye when they are talking to you. Just because they work at a restaurant does not make them any less of a person and it does not mean that they automatically have no idea what they're doing. I've been working in restaurants since I was sixteen, I know how to be a good hostess. I don't appreciate people assuming that I have no idea what I'm doing just because I look younger than they are. I don't appreciate people thinking that just because I work in a restaurant, it's okay to treat me like crap or ignore me altogether. And I don't appreciate people (guests, managers are another story) who try to tell me how to do my job when they really have no idea how this particular restaurant works (I have a previous post about a lady with a party of five who had to wait for a big booth and was mad at me because we didn't have any ready for her when she walked in the door, like she called ahead to let us know she was coming anyway, she probably would've been even more ticked off...anyway...). I've worked at more than one restuarant and I don't even know how every single restaurant does every little thing, so don't think you, a guest who has never needed to work in a restaurant for your whole life, knows everything or anything about how we do things at my restuarant. Some restaurants do call-ahead seating, some don't, some only do it for large parties (8 or more), some only seat larger parties if the entire party is on the premises, etc. Don't think that you know how each and every restaurant works in every microscopic way.

Look me in the eyes when I'm talking to you, you expect me to do the same when it's you that's talking, don't you? How would you like it if I was staring out the window while you were talking to me? Or what if I was on the phone while you were trying to put your name down, how would you like that? I'm giving up my free time to work a job that isn't always the greatest, and yeah, there's always "someone else" that could be taking care of you, but eventually, we're gonna run out of "someone else"s. Eventually, if guests keep treating people like crap, all the "someone else"s are going to be either 14 and throw a fit every time someone yells at them or barely capible of speaking English so they need 2 people to cover the register because their combined English is better than each one individually. Eventually, those people are going to be the only ones that are going to take the kind of crap some guests dish out for the kind of money that they're being paid. Are you going to like that even better than a 19-year-old college student who's been hostessing for going on 2 years and knows what she's doing? Just like I thought, you'd rather have the 19-year-old college student (more mature than a 14-year-old) who can speak perfect English (and could probably give you a run for your money grammar-wise) and has more experience than most of the other hostesses put together, right? Well guess what, that's me folks! And if you'd like to keep the older, more mature, English-speaking restuarant employes, you'd better learn to be nicer and pay them a little more respect.

What's a way you can respect me as a hostess? Stay out of my bubble! If you would like to know something about the wait, please ask me, don't just assume you'll find out by staring at the list. Don't look at the last name on the list, see what I quoted them, and ask why your wait will be longer. Because you have a frickin' party of 8 and that'll require two tables! Or, because so many people are coming in at once and I can't tell them all the same thing because it'll take time to seat them all. After getting about four names consecutively on the list with more on the way in, I up the wait quote because I know we can't seat 15 names in 20 minutes, it just ain't gonna happen! Believe me, we (the hostesses) wish it could because that would me less people for us to deal with, but it's just not something we can do.

Bottom Line: If you haven't read any part of this post, this is the part to read. Basically, stand at least two feet away from me, look me in the eyes when I'm speaking to you, answer intelligently in full sentences, and do not look at the wait list like you know what you're looking for. The wait list and restaurant itself are my domain and you are a guest, so please behave as one!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

People Are Particularly Stupid Today

Ugh, such a sucky day at work. It seems the majority of our clientel is composed of idiots, red necks, rude people who'll do anything for free food, etc. The toilet (yes, the same one!) was clogged twice today and guess who had to plunge it? It seemed like both times there was a half of a roll of TP in there! Why are people so obsessed with using obsene amounts of TP? It's not like it really helps anything, germs travel no matter what and they're so tiny and you touch to many things in a day, it's impossible to know where you pick up germs that make you sick. I seriously want to find out who clogged the toilet and visit their houses and clog their toilets to see how they like it! I'm going to visit their house and sit wherever I want, touch whatever I want, go wherever I want, let my kids (my hypothetical kids) run amuck and throw food on the floor, I'm going to make them run around like crazy, I'm going to complain about every little thing, and I'm not going to clean up any of this mess that I make.

Honestly, why can't people behave at restaurants as they would at a friend's house or the White House for that matter. You don't do any of this stuff if you're visiting the White House. If you are a guest in some prestigious guy's house, you don't do any of the things that I've seen so many people do at a restaurant. Yet, even though they are still in public, and still not in their own homes, people still think that they can do as they please.

But I have found that shifts can be good or bad, it all depends on how you make them. You could have an interesting or funny conversation with a guest and it just brightens up the rest of your day; or you could let the sucky guests get to you and let them totally ruin what you've got left of a shift. I could have a really bad shift one day but the next time I come in, I have a great time. Your shift is what you make of it, if you laugh with fellow employees or guests, if you can make a little kids happy by sneaking them something extra special just for them (i.e. extra toy or something), if you make someone else happy just by smiling at them, all these things can change a day for the better. If you're grumpy when you go in, if you remember every nasty comment a guest made to you, or how much they ran you all over the restaurant trying to find a table they liked, if you hold on to every time someone *yells* at you, you probably aren't going to have a good shift. As much as I hate repeating this (because it's what my boss is always telling us), but I've found that it can be true sometimes, choose your attitude. I'll admit though, there are somedays where you just want to choose to be grumpy, I'm having a whole week like that (I'll be working over 40 hours two weeks in a row, dedicated little hostess aren't I?), but that doesn't mean I'll let it stop me from having a good shift it one presents itself.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Guests Deserve It...And So Do I

Far too many people walk into my restaurant and just plain ignore me (and the other hostesses) until I become useful to them! I wish I could just ignore them back and see how they like it, let’s see how far they get when the shoe’s on the other foot! I’m not asking for much, just a little response when I say “Hello”, or is that too much to ask?

The guest that has just walked in the door is my number one priority as a hostess. I would at least like a little head nod or something to let me know that they at least acknowledge my presence. It gets on my nerves so much! It's like they don't even have enough respect for me to acknowledge my existence or the fact that I said "hello" to them. It's right up there with people seating themselves, it's part of my job to be friendly and the first person the guest sees when they walk into the restaurant. It's my job to make them happy and comfortable, to make sure that they have a seat where they will enjoy themselves. And since it's my job, I would like to be acknowledged at least before you decide that you need me now.

So many people have just plain ignored me until they needed a seat in non-smoking or when they needed menus. They walk right by me and my cheerful "hello" and into the bar. They only come back once they realize that they don't have menus or even an open table over there. Then they need me, then they see that I exist. And only then. At that point, I don't even care where they sit 'cause I know they aren't going to talk to me willingly while I take them to a table. At that point, I just wanna hand them menus and tell them to sit wherever they frickin' want.

Cell phones too! I hate it when people can't finish their conversations before the come through the door. Because then, while they're still on the phone, I'm trying to talk to them, to see where they would like to sit, and they have this annoyed "can't you read my mind" look on their face because I'm inturrupting the conversation and they can't hear the person on the other end. This one really bugs me too! I mean, I don't answer the phone if people are walking through the door, why? Because the people in front of me take the priority. I wish people would have just enough respect for me to at least wait to keep talking until after I've put them in their table. I'm obviously making time to take care of them, is putting the phone down for two minutes too much to ask?

One of my hostesses told me a story about a patient at the denist she used to work for as an assistant. He was constantly on his cell phone, and told the dentist to wait until he had finished the call! He had scheduled his appointment and everything, but he just had to take that call. So the dentist told the secretary to make another appointment for the guy for "when he has time for me, because I've made time for him". I just can't stand to see people that self-absorbed. If the shoe were on the other foot, I'm sure that guy would've been far beyond ticked off. Why can't people realize when they're being ignorant, inconsiderate, and too self-absorbed to notice anyone else around them? Why aren't we allowed to bring this to their attention? Oh, yeah, because "The Customer Is Always Right", well I got news for ya: that statement isn't true, it's never been true, and the only reason the guy (because it was a guy, dumber than a bag of hammers guys can be) coined it to begin with was to get more customers. The customers love that phrase because it can get them practically whatever they want.

Anyway, before this turns into a rant...I give the guests that come into my restuarant at least the respect of making eye contact and talking with them. I don't call them names (well, unless they tick me off and can't hear me...), I don't ignore them, I don't seat them where they don't want to be seated, I give them everything that they want, the least they could do me is acknowledge my presence. The least they could do is say "hello" back or put the cell phone down for a second and let me do my job. I know it's just hostessing, but I still take pride in what I do and the fact that I can do it well, I still give my job (no matter what it is) everything I've got.

My fiance says I care too much (thus the reason I've been working so much these past two weeks, that and it gets my parents off my case about money and a second job), and maybe I do, but when I get into something, when I commit myself to something, I give it everything I can. I do work when I'm off the clock, I often times bring home some work with me, and I come in a lot on my days off and I work days I'm not scheduled when they need me. It's my job and I still take pride in it, even if it is "just hostessing", and I just wish people would respect that and respect me for it.

I make time to take care of them, can't they make time to say "Hi, I'm fine thanks, how are you?"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

10 Commandments Concerning Hostesses

The Hostess 10 Commandments:
(For Customers)

1. Thou Shalt Not Seat Thyself
Seating yourself directly refers to walking and and just picking whatever table you like. Seating yourself indirectly means a hostess is "seating" you, but really you call the shots. I wish I had a dollar for every guest that has decided they didn't like the table I was taking them to (or sat them at) and wanted another one. If the hostess puts you there, it's for a reason, deal with your issues and sit down and shut up!

2. Thou Shalt Specify Up Front
If you want a booth rather than a table, say so before the hostess starts taking you to a table. If you want to be in a certain place, by a window, away from the window, away from the bathrooms, etc., then tell the hostes that before she sits you down. So many people have come up to me, after they'd been sitting at their table for a while, and asked to sit somewhere else because of such-and-such. I grin and happily (or so appear) take them to another table. When I get back up front, where they can't see my face, I'm frustrated because they didn't tell me what they wanted to begin with and just expected me to read their minds and magically take them exactly where they wanted to sit.

3. Thou Shalt Assume The Hostesses Know What They Are Doing.
If there is a wait, but you see open tables, it is understandable to ask why the tables are open, but not understandable that you demand to sit down and not wait because you see open tables. If there are open tables but the hostesses have a wait list going, there are several possibilities. The first is that the kitchen is backed up and food is coming out late and wrong, in order to minimize mistakes and help the kitchen catch up, the hostesses may be on what is called a "kitchen wait". There is no shortage of open tables, but seating them will cause the kitchen to become even more backed up, causing even more problems with even more guests who are now very hungry and impatient. Another possibility is that the hostesses have the open tables assigned to other guests on the wait, it's just that they haven't sat them all down yet.

4. Thou Shalt Not Be Curt or Uncivil.
Being rude to the hostesses gets you nowhere, it may (in some restaurants) get you food with *special* ingrediants. It's not a very good idea to tick off someone who has acess to the food you are about to eat. If your kids have you especially irritated, that's fine, take it out on your kids, not the hostesses. The hostesses are doing their best to get you a table that will make you happy (mostly because they don't want you coming back and bugging them, but also because it's their job), there is absolutely no excuse to be rude to a person who has been nothing but sunshine and daisies to you since you walked in the door. One rude customer can ruin the rest of a shift, no matter how many nice, friendly, and funny people come in later.

5. Thou Shalt Call Ahead With Large Parties.
If you have a party of 8 or more, pleae call ahead. I cannot stress that enough. People walk in with parties of 25 and expect us to automatically have space for them (we're a small restaurant, we really don't have accomodations for parties like that) and then get impatient and even rude when we tell them they'll have to wait so we can put them at tables together. I've had parties of 20 or 25 walk in during peak hours on a Saturday night (between 6 and 9) and want to know how long ti will be. When I tell them at least an hour, they walk out. Now had they called ahead, had we had some notice, we would have been able to better prepare for a party that size. Those parties were spur of the moment, "hey let's hit a restaurant" ideas so the people didn't have the brains to think that it's dinner time on a Saturday night and that any restaurant they went to would make them wait, no matter the size.

6. Thou Shalt Not Lie, Thou Shalt Not Say 8 or 9 And Thy Grande Total Be 15 or 22
This is another thing that I can't get through people's heads (mostly because I'm not allowed to confront the guests or yet at them). They think that if they give us a lower number, we'll be able to seat them faster than if they give us the real number. Then, when the rest of their party starts trickling in, they start stealing the tables around them to accomodate their growing party.

7. Thou Shalt Be Happy Where The Hostesses Seat Thou
This is pretty self-explanatory and ties in with some others. If the hostess can't seat you where you want (i.e. all the booths are full), be happy you at least have a table. If a booth gets cleaned off 20 minutes after you sit down, don't ask to go sit in that booth, just stay where you are and be glad you at least got a table right away because the people who are going to that booth probably had to wait 20 minutes for that booth to get up and cleaned.

8. Thou Shalt Not Be Angry With The Hostesses Because Thou Art Late
"This happens every time we come at this time!", that's an easy one, then don't come at this time stupid! If we're not on a wait when you call, and don't take your name, then we're on a wait when you arrive, and this happens "every time", either come later or come earlier genius. Leave a half an hour later than usual, that way, when you call, the restaurant will be on a wait and you can put your name on the list, cutting down your in-restaurant wait time. Or, leave a half an hour earlier if possible, that way the restaurant won't be on a wait at all when you get there. Honestly, it's not rocket science people! Another thing, if you're in a semi-large party and you give an arrival time to the restaruant, show up at that time, or earlier. I've had parties that didn't come in until a half an hour after they told us they were coming and we had given their tables away because we figured they were no-shows. Don't sit in the parking lot until the time you gave the restaurant either, just come in and let them know that at least one member of the party has arrived, even if some places will only seat the whole party. It's still better for them to know that the party is coming and not no-shows.

9. Thou Shalt Not Blame The Hostesses For Thy Own Incompetence
Just the other day, I was taking a family of three and a high chair to a booth (just like they wanted I might add), when they see the booth I'm heading for, the dad goes, "No, we'll be too cramped there, can we have that big booth over there?". I say "sure" and take them over, knowing full well that two adults and two kids fit very comfortably in that "cramped" little booth I was originally taking them too. Heck, four adults fit comfortably in those four-top booths. So I sit them in the six-top booth that he had picked out (boy do I wish all the six-tops had been taken or that the last six-top was going to a party of six that had come in just after this family) and they seemed happy, for five minutes. Probably five minutes later, one of the servers (not the one who I had sat this family with) comes up and asks who's section they were sitting in. I asked why, and she said that the guy was really rude and wanted to know if she was their "waitress" and where their "waitress" was because they wanted their drinks and if their "waitress" was sooo busy they didn't want "her" (it was actually a guy that was serving that section) and why would "SHE" (meaning me, who had been all smiles to them) seat them with a server who was busy? I was like, "Ooooh, no, no, no. They are not blaming this one on me. I was taking them to a server that wasn't busy, I was taking them to a server who could have had their appitizers by now, but nooooo, 'We'll be too cramped there, we want that booth, I'm a bloody moron, blah, blah, blah'." I really wish I could say what I'm thinking to guests without getting fired for it...

10. Thou Shall Be Polite and Friendly
Have you ever noticed how much better your day goes when you're in a good mood? Have you ever noticed that if you're happy and friendly to people, they usually smile and are friendly back? Don't you get better results that way? Doesn't it make everything more laid-back and easy-going, in a good way? The same thing applies when you walk into a restaurant. Just because they work in a restaurant does not make the employees any less a person than you or anyone else. Being polite and friendly just makes everyone's day that much better. Restaurant employees catch so much crap all day long (from guests and other employees), it really is refreshing for them to talk and interact with someone who is nice and friendly. You can just brighten someone's day with just a warm smile and friendly "Hi there, how are you today?" and ruin someone's day with a scowel and a "I called ahead, I shouldn't have to wait, give me a table, let me talk to your manager!". How would you rather be remembered in some random employee's blog, as a friendly regular who the hostess just loves talking to, or being chewed out by what the hostess you were rude to with all the things she didn't say while she just smiled and took the crap you dished out?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Customer Isn't Always Right, The Employees Just Can't Say So

Have you ever demanded service because you were the customer and "the customer is aways right"? Have you ever felt that it was your right to make employees run around like chickens without heads because you were basically paying their bills? Felt that it was your duity to make sure that the manager knew you weren't happy? Felt like you were entitled to a free meal because your food didn't come out exactly as you ordered it? Do you really think that just because you tried something new and didn't like the way it tasted (even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with it), that it should be taken off your bill? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you're not going to be very happy with the rest of this post, but you are in serious need of a rude awakening and this is just the post to do it.

Most employees (not just restaurant employees!) hate the phrase "The Customer Is Always Right" and most of us would like to smack whoever coined it. Sure, it seems like a good philosophy for anybody selling something, but what about times when the customer isn't right (and believe me there are plenty of those!)? There are times when customers will do whatever it takes just to get something free. There are some customers who are not above yelling, screaming, cursing, lying, and threatening (there's so much more but those are the prime examples) to get what they want. Tell me, are they right? Should they really be allowed to do that? Should the employee that was unlucky enough to be helping them have to put up with that kind of treatment without so much as a peep by way of self-defense? They shouldn't, but they do because "the customer is always right." Managers are trained to do whatever they can to ensure a happy customer, and the customers know it. "I wanna talk to a manger!", "Go get me a manager!", "Where's your manager?!" are all commonly heard, and most without a "please" or "thank you".

Most people take out their anger on the first person they see or the person that is (unfortunately) helping them. That's why I hated serving. No matter what the problem was (if the food was too cold, if it wasn't cooked right, if it wasn't even the dish they thought they ordered, if they didn't like it, blah, blah, blah...), it was all my fault and no one else's. It wasn't the cook's fault for misreading the ticket. It wasn't the food runner's fault for bringing the wrong tray of food to the table or for pulling the quesadilla with onions instead of the exact same one except without onions out of the window and traying it up with the rest of the food. It wasn't the hostesses fault for seating them too close to smoking or where it was "too loud". It was all my fault. Anything and everything the cutomers were unhappy about was all my fault and my tips would suffer because they weren't happy. Then comes the words all angry customers say "I want to speak with a manager", though usually not that nicely. Nowadays when I see people complaining (it doesn't even matter what they're complaining about really), I normally just think that they're trying to milk some free food out of an accident or something. Some people are just always trying to get something for free when they really don't deserve it.

I know how it looks when a guest complains about their experience, so when I go to a restaurant that I didn't enjoy, I don't ask to speak with a manager, I don't demand that the food be taken off my bill, I simply go online and write out an e-mail to that restaurant (usually long, detailed, and thorough) explaining why I will not be coming back. That way, their food costs are affected, it doesn't look like I'm scamming for food, and it will give the management some idea of how to fix problems (or who to fix) so that other customers don't have the same experience I had. I also happen to know that Corporate (if it's a chain restaurant) does not like to see e-mails such as mine about any of their restaurants. I don't look to get anyone fired, I don't wish termination on anyone because they maybe had one bad night, just ensure that it's not going to happen again to anyone else because anyone else might not be so nice.

Unfortunately, most customers don't handle things that way. If they did, so many more people would be happy and better off, I might even start serving again if that were to happen. But let's face it, as long as any store works by the "Customer Is Always Right" philosophy, customers are going to think they're right even if they are not. Customers *know* they're right and they are always going to fight, argue, threaten, lie, and cheat to get what they want (usually free stuff) and they aren't going to let anyone tell them otherwise.

For more examples of when customers aren't right, please visit: and read thoroughly through whatever you like. Anybody in retail, grocery stores, etc. will get a total kick out of how true all of these stories are!

Servers Work For Tips, Not Pity

Servers are usually only serving for some extra money or to pay the bills. Some people serve because they like it, others because they need to or their kids will go hungry. Usually the only people who know of this reality is people who work (or have worked) in a restaurant themselves. The average customer doesn't even think about this when they choose to hijack tables or sit where they want, they only think about themselves and how hungry they are. Granted, when you come into a restaurant you should be hungry, but not completely self-absorbed, I mean come on! You shouldn't be totally pigheaded to not realize that all the employees working are just like you and trying to earn a living. You don't know their history or background, you think maybe they're working at a restaurant because they dropped out of highschool or they didn't go to college. Did you ever stop to think that maybe they're working in a restaurant to pay their way through college?

Maybe someday we'll be like the rest of the world and pay our servers a real hourly rate and won't have to tip at all, but until that day, please keep in mind that your server is doing his/her best to keep you happy and make a decent living. Where I'm working now, servers are lucky to make $80 a night. Usually, a server's shift is about five or six hours long, more than that if they are a "double" or "volume". Now, you might be thinking that if a server makes $80 in six hours, that's more than ten dollars an hour which isn't so bad (it's slightly above minimum wage in Maryland), but you've also got to consider that six hours serving can feel like a lot longer. There's always running involved, there's always a customer or two who aren't totally happy, there's always something that goes wrong, there's always stress when it comes to serving. Mostly, servers make around $2.38 an hour plus whatever tips they can get, and mostly, their paychecks are zero (or close to it) because taxes on their tips get taken out of their paychecks. On top of that, servers usually have to tip out at the end of the night, bussers, hostesses (in some places), bartenders, food runners, etc. So a server usually goes home with a fraction of what they received in tips total.

I hate hearing servers say "That table only left me 36 cents for a tip" because it bugs me how some people can be so ignorant and self-absorbed not to leave at least a 15% tip (which is unfortunately still optional). If your servce was "okay", then leave a 15% tip, if it was really horrible, that's when you leave a smaller tip, and it you had a wonderful experience, then by all means tip more than 15%. But come on, tips that aren't even a dollar are a joke and most servers want to just shove it back into the guest's face and say,
"Thanks but I don't need your pity, you obviously need that more than me".

Just something to keep in mind the next time you eat out...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Notible Customers - Part I

These are true stories (about customers) that have happened while I have been in the restaurant, not from what I've heard from other people (although I would have to start a whole other blog for that)! This is only part one, I'm sure I'll have even more soon!

The Salmon Guy...

The Salmon Guy is, unfortunately, a regular at the restaurant where I work. Normally, regulars are the best source of revenue for a restaurant, but this guy takes the cake as far as regulars go. He comes in every week, on Tuesdays, and orders the salmon and his usual soft drink, is very specific about his food, hardly cracks a smile, and then tips the server a dollar ($1!), no matter how much s/he bends over backwards for him. One week, he complained about how loud the music was; I hadn’t particularly noticed, but that could be due to the fact that I hear it all during my shift and tune it out. The next week, I had the distinct pleasure of seating him, and though I managed to see a smile attempt to spread across his face when I asked if he had a good weekend, he still made a crack about forgetting to bring his earplugs when he “comes to this restaurant” and asked me why we kept it so loud. All the servers hate waiting on this guy and usually trick the new servers into taking care of him. That only works once though...

*Edit August 2005* Salmon Guy has been seen, by me and other hostesses, as leaving the restaurant with earplugs in his ears. No folks, he wasn't kidding when he said he forgot them that week, he really has earplugs that he wears! We all wonder about him and why he comes into our restuarant so much if he doesn't like it. He seems not to like it anyway. He never smiles, doesn't tip well, orders the same exact thing every time (and is very specific about it), and doesn't like the atmosphere. Why doesn't he just get carry-out if the food is all he likes?

The NA Party...

The NA party always comes in on Sunday nights, usually around the same time every week. The number of people always varies, and it usually ends up being more than they tell us anyway. On top of that, they always seat themselves and take over any tables they want, even though most of them know better! This bugs the hostesses because if they take active tables, then that’s that many less tables that the hostesses have open to seat other customers. It bugs the servers because that’s that many tables the server waiting on them will have to clean, especially if out of the server’s section. The NA party looks like a bunch of redneck motorcyclists and they act like it too! They have no problem sitting themselves at a dirty table before giving anyone a chance to clean it, they have no problem remaining seated while someone is cleaning it, and they have no problem just sitting there and watching, not doing anything to help. The NA party is the one I mentioned in the previous post "Customers Do Not Own The Restaurant", they were the "A Party of 8, No 12, No 15, No 20...It'll Be 22..." party.

The Two Guys...

There are two guy friends that are always coming into our restaurant, either together or with wives/girlfriends/whatever, and they are the kind of customers every server dreams of waiting on! At least, as far as I know. They are the kind of customers I like taking care of as a hostess. They are so patient and understanding, it doesn’t matter where we seat them (some people don’t like sitting close to smoking, which I can understand) or whether they have a booth or not. One of the guys came in by himself one night and his server didn’t know he had been sitting at his/her table until he came up to me and said something! He had been waiting five or ten minutes just for a greeting from his server and he was totally laid back and cool about it! I did find his server though and whoever it was took care of him and he, presumably, enjoyed the rest of his meal. Another night, we were on a bit of a wait, and they waited patiently in our little foyer thingy chatting away with the hostess that had been posted out there to open the door. She enjoyed them so much that she didn’t mind staying out there longer than she had to (we usually take half-hour shifts).

Water Shirt Lady...

Every server, at some point, spills drinks on or near his/her customers. It just comes with the territory and it’s something that bound to happen sooner or later, especially with new-to-the-job servers. However, there was this one lady recently who just totally blew the entire thing out of proportion just to get a free meal. This server did spill a couple of drinks when she got to the table she was delivering them to, but from what I saw and heard, most of the soda ended up on the floor and some ended up on the table. Two, maybe three, tiny drops had bounced off the table and landed on this woman’s blouse, no big deal right? Wrong. She went into the bathroom to “clean” them off, and next comes up to the hostess desk with huge water spots on her blouse demanding to speak to a manger! Naturally, we asked where she was sitting and promised to send a manger right over while one of the hostesses went to search for one. The manager talked to this woman for several minutes and then left them. We found out later that this woman had gotten a free meal for messing up her own shirt in the bathroom and blowing a few drops of soda out of proportion. The server was not happy at all for the rest of the shift because this woman had been rude for the rest of her stay (and rude is apparently not a strong enough word).

“Can We Have A Big Booth?”...

When the restaurant is on a wait, most people don’t care where they sit. The ones who really care generally tell the hostesses ahead of time that they would prefer a table or a booth (or far away from smoking if your state hasn’t completely outlawed smoking indoors yet), and others just assume we’re all telepathic. There this one couple recently who came in while I was working the wait list. They gave me their name, number in their party (two of them), booth, and non-smoking right off even before I could tell them how long the wait was. I said that it might be a little bit longer for a booth (just a precaution I take that covers my butt, but I can usually garauntee a booth for them if I just tell them it might be a longer wait), but that I could definitely get them one. You would think that would satisfy them, but it didn’t. When their turn came up (within the quote I had given them thank-you-very-much) and one of my runners sat them down, in a booth, they asked her if they could have “that big booth” and pointed to a clean six-top. Thankfully, we had already assigned that booth to a party of six and my runner knew that and politely told the couple that it was for a larger party that wouldn’t fit into a smaller booth. That, thankfully again, was the end of it from that couple. People really bug me sometimes! Here we are, a relatively small restaurant, on a 30-40 minute wait, and two people, who know there are other people waiting, want to sit in a booth that can accomodate six people! Yeah, like I’m going to stick two people in there and make six people wait longer just because the two people wanted it. Do your math people! Six people who want the big booth out number the two people who want it by four! There ain’t no way that couple was getting that table unless they sat themselves there, which is too hard to get away with on a busy night because all the hostesses know what’s open, what’s about to be open, and what’s not.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rude Customers Make Me Hate My Job

I'll begin this post with an example of something that happened quite recently.

I was hostessing one night with two other hostesses and this woman comes in and says that she has five people. One of us, I don't remember who, asks if she would mind having a chair at the end of a table because we were out of the six-top booths.
"To get bumped around? No. We'll wait." Came her reply in a snappy tone.
Okay then. One of the other hostesses got her name and wrote it down on the waitlist while I went to check on the six-tops to see if any of them would be getting up soon. Much to my dismay, and this woman's annoyance I'm sure, all the six-tops had food and only two of them looked as it they might be getting up sometime soon. I went back to the desk and told her that it was probably going to be around 20 to 30 minutes for a larger booth, and that was accounting for any chit-chat time that the tables might have after they finished eating. The woman didn't say anything to me, unless it was "fine", but she had an annoyed "whatever" look on her face.

About ten minutes into her wait, one of the servers (one of my favorites, she's such a sweetheart) asked the woman if she was waiting for anything (she was the only one waiting, mind you, we still had smaller tables open that we were seating).
"Yeah, a table." Came the retort, rather loudly.
I guess she wanted me to hear her and do something about it right then because she was being so cleaver.
The server came over to me and asked if I had a table for this woman.
"As soon as a six-top gets up and bussed it's hers." I said.
During all of this time, her kids are running all over the place looking at the different games we have to play. Once or twice they came over to ask her a question or say something to her, and she was short with them as well. I had the strong feeling that the kids were the reason she was mad now.

Another five minutes or so later, she comes up to me and demands to know if these (four six-tops along the wall to the right of the hostess desk) were all the big booths we had.
"No ma'am." I said, and pointed along the wall perpendicular to that. "We have three along that back wall there."
"Oh." She puffed under her breath, and sat back down.
Finally, she gets tired of seeing other people getting sat before her, and probably of waiting too, and says to me, very loudly without even getting up off the bench she was sitting on, "We'll take anything."
"Okay ma'am." I say, and I gather up five menus, including some crayons for the kids, five rolls of silverware and I set up a booth for them, complete with a chair at the end.
"You're table's all ready." I said and she finally got up.

When I got to their table and her kids started piling in, she must have lost it.
"This is rediculous!" She cried in an angry tone. "Next time you should tell someone that you just sat all the six-tops so we could have gone somewhere else!"
"I'm sorry ma'am, but what the hell did you think you were waiting for? Did you think I made you wait for my own personal amusement? Do you think that I wanted to have you yell at me? Do you think that just because I work at a restaurant, it gives you the right to treat me like crap? Do you think you really know better than me how the seating in a restaurant works? Did you think I was going to tell other customers to get up just because you didn't want to wait for 20 minutes? Do you think that I actually have any control over when people get up? Would you like it if I came up to your table while you were eating and said, 'I'm sorry, but I have a really impatient customer, you need to get up now so I can seat her at your table.'? I've been hostessing for almost two years, I know what the hell I'm doing and customers like you make my job more stressful than it needs to be. Customers like you make me want to walk out right now because I do not have to put up with your crap, not for the less-than-minimum-wage paycheck I get. Do you think I'm working here by choice? Do you think this is really what I want to be doing, dealing with customers like you? I have got car insurance, phone bills, and now college bills to pay for, I am here because I need to be, not because I enjoy it. Aw, boo-hoo, you had to wait for 20 mintues, that's your own damn fault lady. We offered you a solution that could have had you eating your dinner by now, but you didn't want to take it so shut the hell up. This is your own fault, not mine. Next time you want to say something to me in a nasty tone, you can do it when I'm off the clock and I can start cussing your ass out."
That was what I wanted to say.
"I'm sorry ma'am." Was all I said, because I knew better than to say what I was thinking.

One of these days, I hope somebody opens their own restaurant where, under circumstances such as this, employees are allowed to answer back to the customers and defend themselves. I would have soooo loved to chew this lady out, but because I was on the clock and value my job, I didn't, but I would have loved to. I wouldn't have cussed in front the kids, but I've been using cuss-alternatives for years and only cuss when I get really mad, so it wouldn't have been too hard to leave the cusses out. Some day though, I am going to open my own restaurant and employees can defend themselves to customers who are being especially difficult and smartassy (as long as someone else can confirm that the guest was truely being ignorant). So many customers are so difficult and they need to be told, but no one is allowed to tell them because "The Customer Is Always Right".

The thing with rude customers is that, no matter what, they don't realize how rude they're being and that they might not actually be right, they just think they are. Employees are not allowed to retaliate or defend themselves in any way or it will be their job. I think people are especially rude to employees of businesses because they know that the employees aren't going to do anything about it if they value their job. Just because someone cannot defend themselves, does not, in any way, give anyone leave to be rude. Employees are people just like you and me, and no one appriciates someone being rude to them. Nobody likes it and there are better ways to get your point across, or whatever it is you want, than being rude to employees.

I can see how it might be at a restaurant because people are generally hungry when they come into restaurants, and hungry people tend to be a little grouchier than they would normally be. After all, you're paying for this, possibly over-priced, meal, and you want it to come out exactly like you ordered it. But, please understand that mistakes happen, it's not anything personal against you. Someones, restaurant employees being human like everyone else, people just make a mistake. No one means for it to happen, it just does. Maybe a plate of food gets pushed aside and isn't noticed until the guest notices something is missing. Maybe one of the cooks is having a bad day and without even thinking, just automatically makes your dinner with the one thing that you asked them not to put in. Maybe your server is new to the job and still isn't quite sure what she's doing yet. Maybe the problem is you, the guest, and you are blaming someone other than yourself. Maybe you think that the restaurant does something "all wrong" and they should change it, and you vocalize this opinion, loudly. Yeah, please don't do that. Maybe you're criticizing your server for doing something that s/he has been trained to do because it's his/her job. Whatever went wrong, keep in mind that there is probably not just one factor in the mistake and it's nothing personal against you. The restaurant industry is not out to get you and they don't mess up your orders (even though the orders are ridiculously complicated sometimes) on purpose for their own sick humor.

One rude customer can totally ruin the rest of the shift for some people; potentially making even more customers unhappy with their experience than they normally would have been. I know some employees who just take it all personally again them when a customer is being rude that the rest of their day is ruined and they are "down in the dumps" for the rest of the shift. Do you know what it's like to work with upset people? For those of you that don't, it doesn't make anything any easier. If you do know what it's like, why would you cause that on purpose? To make someone else miserable because you are? That's not the way to do things, you will not get very far in life with that attitude and you most definitely will not enjoy it.

Bottom line: treat others as you would like to be treated. Restaurant employees are people just like you who haven't done anything to deserve your disrespect and rudeness.

Customers Do NOT Own The Restuarant

Just because you are paying for your food and paying a lot of the server's salary, does not mean that you own the restaurant; it does not mean that you can do whatever you want.

A Few Examples:

It'll Be 30 of Us, We Have Reservations
One night, a Saturday night, I was working the board, and we had only a few tables left open to seat, and a woman walks in.
"How many will it be tonight?" I ask, thinking it would only be a few.
"I'm not sure." She said.
That always worries me. I hate hearing, "I don't know" or "Oh, gee, I don't know, lemme count" or "We're about to find out" because it usually always means a large party who think that they own the restaurant and pay my salary.
"I think we have 30." She said. "We have reservations."
Now, we don't take reservations, with the exception of very large parties and managers take those reservations, not the hostesses.
"Let me grab a manager for you." I said and hurried off to hunt down a manager.
I soon found one and asked him if he knew anything about a party of 30. He didn't. Figures doesn't it? But, he went to go ask the other manager if he knew anything about that party of 30. I went back up to the front to tell the guy that seemed to be in charge that the manager was on his way up. The hostesses told me later that the guy had been yelling at them about not having something ready for his party.

I'm sorry, if you don't know how the restaurant is run, and who is privilege to what information, then you have no right to tell any employee in that restaurant how to do their job or how not to do their job. He had absolutely no right to be angry at the hostesses because it's not their fault that they didn't know about his party. It's not their fault that they didn't call ahead to make sure that we had a place set up for them, it's not their fault that whatever manager had taken their reservations neglected to tell anyone else about the party, and it's not their fault that the restaurant was busy and full on a Saturday night with no place to accomodate such a large party for a long while! Luckily, the manager was right behind me as I was coming up front, and took care of the situation before the guests got any worse. The bar was pretty dead that night, for some reason, and the party was contented (with some free appitizers provided by the manager as an apology) to sit and stay in there for the duration of their meal.

In this instance, it would have been better had the party called ahead, maybe an hour before arriving, to make sure that we had had set aside tables for them. Like I said before, we don't normally take reservations, so whatever normal process involved in checking reservations for the day is bypassed at our restaurant. I don't even know quite how regular reservations work exactly, the restaurant's side of it (I know how to make reservations, you just call and give your name, ETA and number of people in your party) anyway. I've never worked at a restaurant that took them.

A Party of 8, No 12, No 15, No 20...It'll Be 22...
It was a Sunday night, I went in to eat at the restaurant I work at, and I got mad at some customers that came in. From what I was told, the first couple of people that came in told the hostesses that it was going to be 8 people. That 8 soon turned into 12, that 12 then turned into 15 which turned into 20; the final count became 22 after they stopped straggling in. From where I was sitting, I watched as about 12 people walked passed the hostesses and sat themselves in a section of tables that was closed and had already been cleaned for the night. They didn't even wait for the hostess to give them menus or even for one of the tables to be cleaned off! They just walked over and sat wherever they felt like. And they do this every week! Over the next half an hour to forty-five minutes, more and more people just added themselves to the party, taking over any tables that they could to accomodate their large party. The hostesses were so entirely pissed with this party, I think had they not valued their jobs they would have told this party off!

Just because you bring in a couple hundred dollars to the restaurant every week, does not give you the right to just do as you choose and seat yourself where you wish. Like I said in a previous post, the hostesses are there for a reason and if you don't listen to them, if you seat yourself, you mess everything up and you piss people off. Another thing, if you've got a party, do the restaurant and the hostesses a favor, get the exact number of people in your party. If there is even the slightest possibility that someone else might come, count them when you're counting heads. The difference between a party of 8 and a party of 22 is quite a bit to smaller restaurants. While they don't want to loose the business of such large parties, it is very hard to accomodate them because of limited space. It is even harder when the party walks around and sits wherever they want, without even bothering to wait for the hostess to give them menus. When you go to a restaurant, just because you are spending money out of your pocket, does not mean that you've become an owner of that restaurant. If you did, you would be doing a lot more for that restaurant than just eating there, believe me. I'm not even a manager and I come in on my off days to fix things!

You are still out in public when you come to a restuarant, just think of it as eating at your friends house for dinner; behave in a restaurant as you would at a friend's or aquaintence's. You wouldn't let your kid throw handfulls of food on the floor of your friend's house, would you? I hope not. So don't let your kid do it at a restaurant. When you enter a restaurant, the only rights you have are to use the bathroom, order food, sit down, shut up and eat what you ordered how you ordered it, pay your bill, and leave. That's it. You don't have the right to make a mess in the bathroom and not clean up after yourself because after all, "They pay people to clean up after me". You don't have the right to sit wherever you frickin' want, you don't have any right or excuse to be rude to employees (unless they were rude first, but generally they aren't the ones who start it...), and you don't have the right to make it as hard as possible for the employees to please you.

Party of 40 at 6:00
Luckily, the managers remembered to let the hostesses (and other managers) know about this party. We had it planned down to a "t" where they were going to sit, there were even two extra spaces in one of the larger booths so they could spread out a little bit. The first guy came in around 5 and had a drink at the bar. When I had set up all the tables, I showed him which 8 booths were his (the party's) and how there were going to be two different servers, so it would be easier if they sat according to how they wanted the checks to come out. The rest of the party started arriving at 6, like they said they would, and everything seemed to be going well. Then, the other hostesses and I noticed something. Four members of the party had decided to sit at one of the adjacent booths, a booth that was not in their designated section of booths. No biggie right? It's just one extra table, that's no problem. Yeah, but not when two other members of the party hijack another booth, one big enough to fit six people and they are the only two sitting at it.

So they were taking up two extra tables when they could have been taking up only one extra table. On top of that, I did the math, for them to have two people at an extra six-top and four at an extra four-top, that is eight extra people. They had almost 50 people come in when they told us it was going to be 40. Unless there were tables with one extra seat that someone decided they didn't want to sit in so they hijack another table. The kids (it was a whole soccer team with parents) were always up and running around and the parents were mingling with each other at the different tables, it was hard to tell who went where. But still, even if there were tables with an extra seat or two, there were still more people there than they told us were coming, and with a party that size, that's not a very nice thing to do. You might think, "Oh, two extra tables, that's not a big deal", well, maybe not to you. But if you think about it, two servers are one table less than they were before, they aren't going to make as much money as they would have had that booth been open because, keep in mind, most people will ask for a booth if you give them a choice.

"It never ceases to amaze me how some people have a blinding sense of entitlement to the point they refuse to acknowledge anybody else!" Is a quote that I read on and I thought it was well worded. I just wish that less people were so wrapped up in themselves to stop and think about how their actions affect other people for once. Do you know how rare that is in the restaurant industry among our guests? I've been working in restaurants since I was sixteen (I'm nineteen now) and I don't see it much, usually only in other restaurant employees. Just please, when you go out in public and will be dealing with other people, be more considerate and try not to think just of yourself, you might find yourself a happier person.