Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Have A Work Question

     I have a question for ya'll.

     We had a meeting where I work as a server and there was a bit of a debate. Feel free not to side with me if you think that I'm wrong. Feel free to side with me if you think I'm right. I just want your opinions so I know how I can do my job the best that I can and make good tips.

     What happened, was that hostess said that there are a lot of issues with accidentally seating somebody more than once if a guest comes in and picks a section or table they want to sit at, when the server in charge of that table was just sat. (Don't do this. It fucks everyone up. Seriously. Just sit where you're told.) Then servers get mad because they end up "in the weeds", which basically means that they're trying to get everything done at the exact same time for the tables and they can't catch up.

     I said, "Once you get behind, it's hard to catch up until all of the tables are cashed out." The manager looked at me and asked why that was, so I explained. "If you're sat with two tables, you have to get everything done at the exact same time as well as take care of whatever tables you already have. It feels like you're playing catch up and that you don't have time for anything else, when you're also trying to keep up with side work and helping out the servers around you."

     A server said, "That's why we ask for help. Or rather, why we should. Most people don't until it's too late and they can't catch up."

     I completely agree with that. I'm bad at asking for help. Usually, I just pre-bus a table and ask somebody to take the dishes on their way back if they have empty hands or ask for bread to be run out. Very few times have I asked for anything else. It's something that I do know that I need to work on because sometimes, I just don't have enough arms.

     "I agree. But we should always do our best to be at the table ourselves. We want to be remembered. Getting our name out there means people might want us and to sit in our section if they see us again." I pointed out.

     The server agreed but then added, "But let's say that you're at a restaurant. Jose takes you to your table and gets your drink order. Bob brings out your drinks and bread. Jose takes your food order. Susie brings out your appetizer and makes sure you have what you need and refills your drinks. Lucy brings out your food. Oh you want ketchup? No problem, she brings it out. Jose checks back and sees if you want desert and your check, then you pay and leave. That's four people but you have what you need when you need it."

     "I agree with speedy service but at the same time, coming from a customer point of view before I ever became a server, I had that happen and wondered where my server was. I understood they were busy but I wanted to know why they were so busy that I only saw them three or four times." I replied.

     The manager and server looked at me like I was stupid.

     "So you're saying that if you have to ring in an order that takes two minutes, but your table needs ketchup, you would make them wait?"

     "No. I would ask somebody to bring it out, but I should have brought it out before their meal even arrived. But I should be the one at the table as much as possible." I replied.

     The manager still didn't seem to fully agree with where I was coming from, even if he understood. "Greeting the table, getting drinks, taking the order, and cashing out. Those are the four major times that a server should be at the table. Everything else is just fluff and doesn't really matter as much."

     I agree that the rest is not as big of a deal, but I still believe that I should do everything I can to be at the table. Do I need somebody to bring ketchup or bread out for me? If so, then please do, but I would hope that I could just get a tray and use it to get whatever I need to all of my tables in one trip.

     That can't always happen if I also have four salads and a pitcher of tea in my hands, but I should at least make sure that I try. And if I can't, I ask somebody else for help, but 99% of the time, they don't have time and it ends up being "I'll have that right out for you".

     So far, my tables seem to understand when I just don't have enough arms to carry 2 salads, drinks for 3, ketchup, a book with a check in it, and bread. Only the drinks and bread went to the same table. Seriously, that was one trip out of the kitchen a few weeks ago. I had six tables at once and nobody was around to ask so I did it myself and told 4/6 tables, "I'll be right back with a pitcher to fill up your glass".

     Now I would like you to weigh in. Have you worked in a restaurant? What is your opinion? Would you prefer to see your server more for the "fluff" or have a constant stream of people taking care of you instead? Another opinion? Because seriously, I do want to know so I can do a good job.

P.S. I have the poll up for naming the upcoming series that I plan on starting next month. Please vote for your favorite title!


  1. That's a tough one. I think it depends on the restaurant. Being an internationally renowned internet weirdo, I only frequent the finest of establishments where they have a dedicated fluffer. A server shouldn't be wasting time refilling waters and getting ketchups, that's the fluffer's job.
    In all seriousness, I see your side, but I also see your boss's side. From a patron's perspective, a consistency of service is more important. My best indication of good service is if my water is consistently full. That means there is enough traffic to have tended to my needs consistently. The worst thing that can happen as a customer is to need something and not have anyone around who can help. Those four times your boss mentioned seem to be exactly what I expect out of my server and maybe one more, the check-in about 5 minutes after I get my food to make sure everything is okay with our food.

    1. If we had a fluffer, I would completely agree. All we have are other servers though, who are either just as busy or more busy than we are (generally speaking).

      I was taught that it's a 2 minute check in. Though, a lot of people have to Instagram pictures and it ends up being 10 minutes before they try it haha. I think that there should be a 2 minute check in for every course brought; appetizer, salad, entree, dessert. Add those to the other things and I think I would agree more, because it's rare somebody will tell the food runner that something is wrong. I've had times where I just can't check on them for 10 minutes but I send people by to do so, and they still wait to tell me that something is wrong. Using those check points for refills also saves trips. But again, I understand, because sometimes we just need a fluffer to make sure they get their tenth diet coke with a lemon slice.

    2. Quit with the fluffer jokes, Pickleope. Rachel is an innocent young girl.

    3. ...I really must be innocent. I'm gonna need somebody to explain this to me.

  2. I can't provide a definitive answer. I often go to neighborhood restaurants where certain servers are my buddies and I don't want any other servers hanging around. I have always had difficulty asking for help because it's tiresome and embarrassing to be turned down. I will ask for help from other bloggers, I guess because the blogging community is nicer than my "real" world. Perhaps you need to take your laptop to work with you and email me when you need help and I will get the ketchup and the lemon for the diet coke while you do the other stuff. I will be your assistant. If I can't actually get to the restaurant, you can encourage customers to chat with me on their phones and I'll try to entertain them while you catch up. When The Hurricane worked at the Chinese restaurant when she was in college, they did not have assigned tables. Everyone did whatever needed to be done, and the manager split the tips. The Hurricane typically made $20/hour. If I were a customer at your restaurant, I would want you and only you to take care of me but that's because I can't help being so fond of you. Beware of Pickleope and those fluffer jokes.


    1. Sometimes, tip sharing can be good because if you're sat in a crummy section (near the bathrooms or the doors or have too many booths or tables or you're near a party...) then it'll help keep things pretty evened out. However, there will always be somebody who takes advantage and does half ass work all the time. It depends on the day and the people, I think.

      As for your offer, I will have business cards printed up and pass them out to my tables when I bring their bread and drinks. "If my service takes too long or if I'm too busy to engage in witty banter, please contact Janie Junebug."

  3. I'm not really the norm when it comes to customers, because I can wait and that doesn't bother me (especially if the restaurant is busy). I also try to be friendly with servers and talk to them. So all I have to say is this, from the above example (and feel free to take it with a grain or two of salt).

    "Jose takes you to your table and gets your drink order. Bob brings out your drinks and bread. Jose takes your food order. Susie brings out your appetizer and makes sure you have what you need and refills your drinks. Lucy brings out your food."

    That's all fine and good, but if I have 4 people who keep coming around taking care of me, who do I ask for if I need something? Do I ask for Jose? Or do I bother Lucy to bring me a dessert menu? What if Lucy's busy doing something else? That just seems confusing. Really, I don't mind having one person doing it. I can wait an extra 45 seconds for that ketchup if he/she's busy, and as I said, I usually like talking to them, so having a 'familiar face' float around is better to me than having someone new swoop in just so they can get me something a little faster. "Uh, which one are you again?"

    1. I think it's an entirely different story if somebody is in a hurry or if they're really impatient. But again, that's when the server should get them what they need before the meal and drop the check off during the initial two minute check saying, "I don't want to rush you but I know you're in a hurry, so this is for whenever you're ready".

      I totally agree. It's confusing. If I say, "Hello! My name is Rachel and I'll be taking great care of you today." then they should have me taking care of them. Otherwise, they'll probably feel like they don't know who to tip or who to ask for things. Usually, if I'm running food for another server, I'm still busy and don't have time when a table asks me for ketchup or a fourth side of ranch, so either I have to basically jog to get it or I tell the server if I happen to see them. Asking for help is great when you need it, but it feels like what the others were trying to say is like taking advantage of the willingness to help.

  4. I don't mind a bunch of people helping out. I'd prefer that, rather than waiting 52 years for my meal. And if it makes life easier for the main server, I'm all for it!

    1. Maybe it depends on the guest. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this topic.

  5. Hrm, I don't know. I do prefer a familiar face to at least be coming by. I'm fine with someone else delivering my food, but the server should stop by soon afterward to make sure everything's good. I always feel weird asking the random person for something I need. And if something is wrong with the order, I think I'd feel like I'd get the server in trouble if I mentioned it to anyone else but him or her. I'd also think that the first person to visit at the table is my server unless they specifically say "Such and such will be with you soon, but can I get your drink order?"

    I was a server at a 50's diner type restaurant for the breakfast shift. I made every effort to do everything myself, like you do, and I built up a great base of regulars because of it. Then again, this thing with other people showing up is relatively new, and wasn't happening when I was a server, anyway. We were not encouraged to ask for help.

    1. If I get drink orders for somebody else, I start off with, "Hello there! __ will be taking great care of you today, but can I get you started with some drinks and bread?"

      I don't like asking for help unless I absolutely need it. I don't mind people running my food but if it's slow, all be damned if I don't try to do everything alone. If it's slow, it looks bad asking for help or not being the one that the guests see. If it's busy, I still hate asking for help, but I mainly ask for refills or bread, or a follow if my hands are just too full.