Saturday, December 20, 2014

The early bird gets punished?

This is a story about that awkward moment when you discover your friend has a habit of which you highly disapprove and believe is detrimental to success.

Tuesday morning I served in the Cocktail part of the restaurant. Three servers scheduled, with staggered clock-in times. Pretty standard. While we awaited the third server's arrival, Jackie and I alternated taking tables, as is the routine with only two servers. Cocktail is primarily open seating, but the hosts will still seat the area if needed. 

As I chatted with one of my tables about their orders, I realized that the man sitting alone at table 111 still had his menu but not yet a drink. And that he had been that way for about three minutes. He was Jackie's guest, per rotation, but perhaps Jackie hadn't seen him come in? Or perhaps Jackie talked to him while I was in the kitchen just a moment ago and now she's in there getting his drink? I guess we'll see what happens, I guess.

She emerged from the kitchen and walked right past 111 to drop something off at table 110. Then she walked off, completely ignoring him. Well maybe she thought he was my table? Honestly, it doesn't matter; I mean, it's just one guy. Taking him on as a new table would certainly not put either of us in the weeds. But we need to be clear on the rotation here. Sitting three minutes unattended-to is at least two minutes too long in my book. Neglecting a table is not acceptable.

I walked quickly over to Jackie and spoke to her out of earshot of the tables. "Are you going to take 111?"

"Yeah, I got him. He's just waiting for the rest of the party."

"Oh. Really?" (Now I'm confused.) "I was just wondering, cuz he'd been there a while and I didn't see a drink on the table. But if you got him, then that's good." We parted ways.

I don't know what happened while I was in the kitchen submitting food orders, but when I reemerged I noticed an iced tea on the table. For whatever reason, I caught myself chuckling a bit to see that. Would she have gotten him the tea if I hadn't said anything? Or did she get him the tea just to satisfy me? Who knows.

Only a few minutes later, the rest of his party arrived. Normally, our restaurant has a policy against seating incomplete policies, but (just like the list of side dishes on our menu), most of our policies pretty much get overlooked and ignored. Especially for small parties at lunch when the restaurant has enough open tables to spare one.

Shortly afterwards, it's my turn again. As I take entrĂ©e orders from my new guests at 109, in walk three tables almost simultaneously. Our third server is nearly an hour late at this point, so the first will go to Jackie, the second to me, and the third to Jackie. Easy as pie. Now we're each at five tables -- enough to keep us busy and on our toes, but not enough to become overwhelming. I'm not so secretly hoping that our last server doesn't show up. I'd rather be running around to make my money than be underworked, bored, and leaving without enough to make it worthwhile.  

Anywho, this third table is, once again, just one guy. And once again, he is waiting on the rest of his party to show -- this I gathered from the phone call he was making as I walked past. Jackie brought him his menu and silverware and, I'm assuming, was given this news. After she walked away, I kept an eye on his table, this time specifically curious if she would bring a drink without my prompting.
[ photo credit ]

Five minutes later, still no drink on the table. His friend arrives, and they almost instantaneously get back up, walk back to the host stand in the lobby, and ask to be seated on the other side in Dining Room.

Okay, so now I'm really curious. Was the Cocktail area environment not conducive to their working lunch? Doubtful, as many other guests I serve in Cocktail, including some regulars, use our stations as makeshift conference tables. Was the table not big enough? Doubtful again, as two people should have extra room when seated at a four top. I am running out of ideas to release Jackie from blame.

I can't shake the idea the first guy at the table just plain didn't want her as their server because she didn't provide any service other than bringing a menu and silverware in the five minutes he was at her table. Regardless of the reason for his move, the facts remain that twice Jackie refrained from bringing drinks to a table immediately when she found out that the guest was waiting for the rest of his party. I would like to witness this happen a third time, just to confirm my suspicions, but in the words of my mother, "Doing something one time is just that. Doing something two times is starting a habit." I guess this is just a part how she serves.

I caught a bit of a breather at the gossip station host stand right after the men got reseated. I told one of the hostesses what I had witnessed between these tables, and told her that, quite frankly, I was shocked she wasn't bringing them drinks. Host(esse)s may not be directly involved in the dining experience whatsoever once they walk away from seating the guest, but it constantly astonishes me how much information they can absorb about the servers. Her response? An knowing eye roll and an annoyed, "Well that's Jackie for ya!" I shook my head and walked away, not wanting to learn what other faults the hostess could tell me.

As frustrating as serving a party with staggered arrival times can be, I would NEVER make a guest sit at my table for five minutes, or however long, without at least a drink just because the friend is arriving later. To quote a former manager this time, "A guest won't feel like he's being served until he's got something on the table in front of him." [ This is a huge reason why I work to sell appetizers at every table. ] Obviously you know my stance on this issue, but out of curiosity, what do all you servers out there do? If an incomplete party is sat in your station, do you tell the guest(s) that you'll wait to serve them 'til their completion? If so, why? I am most curious!

[ degreed waitress ]

1 comment:

  1. Funny. I prefer when a larger party arrives staggered. Keep in mind that I serve to an incredibly older demographic (I could be serving some what could be their last meal) less mean than true. Anyway, separate checks are usual, they are picky, anxious and make changes and make u run. Also our checks are hand written with prices but they take them to a cashier to pay. The tips are low as is the cost of living but these folks are lucky to leave 10%. Sorry I'm off topic but bottom line.... Greet within a minute. Drink on table within 3 minutes depending on how many are being ordered. A glass of water with your greeting can buy u a few extra minutes if your in the weeds.