A Few Notes from a New World

10 08 2010

As all of my co-authors know, I’m an engineer. For those of you that don’t know me, personally, it’s beneficial to the content below to know that at times I can be a generic-cliche-antisocial engineer. After graduating last May (no, not this *past* May, the one before that…), I’ve found the job market to be unpleasant. I’ve scanned every version of ’employment pages’ and ran an exhaustive networking scheme. After all that, I didn’t get one truly positive lead. Sure, a couple interviews that went nowhere, but nothing worthwhile.  In this “transition period”, I’ve looked into other jobs – specifically those that wouldn’t require much effort – in terms of learning new skill sets, or general emotional investment in my progress. Due to physical limitations (a decrepit back/spine), my temporary careers have been limited to certain jobs. This spanned from desk jobs to… well, other desk jobs. After a year I found it was more important for me to get any sort of income, so I opened myself to jobs that would probably force me to be on my feet all day and to learn plenty of completely useless information.

My plan of action was obvious: I’d begin my post-engineering-college life with a job in the service sector.

Let me mention the only way I got my “job” was due to a family connection – my cousin was on the verge of leaving this restaurant, which left an opening to be filled and a name to reference. Anyway, now that you’ve been caught up, here are a few conclusions I’ve found most people don’t realize when they walk into a restaurant [These are subjective and location based, if you’re thinking of a Waffle House, some of these won’t ring true; for restaruants like Cheesecake Factories, or P.F. Chang’s, these might help you:

1. Your waiter or waitress is more than likely a college graduate. You don’t need to talk down to them; odds are they understand you – and think you’re a douche.

2. Although it may seem like it, you aren’t the only person being waited upon. Servers often have more than one table at a time, but due to time/space/physics limitations can’t always be waiting on you.

3. When a server takes “a long time” to get to you, odds are they’re busy. Sometimes, there may be difficulty in reading your body language. [If you run into a lot of issues with waiters/waitresses being unsure if you need something or are ready to order, take it as a hint that you’re the problem].

4. If you see something on the menu and want it changed, odds are it can be done. Restaurants want to keep you as happy as possible, so if a server says “no” it’s either because it’s something that can’t be done (I.E.: Taking peanuts out of a dish, because it’s mixed into the sauce) or they’ve preemptively attempted to keep you from modifying the shit out of your meal.

5. Customizing your meal is fine, but be clear with the person taking your order AND try to be as understanding as possible about questions regarding your changes. If you want your order customized, don’t act as though it’s your god-given right – we’re going out of our way to make your experience the best it can be.

6. Looking for discounts and things to complain about is the easiest way to let the staff know you’re a jerk. If you really want to nail this point home, tip off of the adjusted/discounted price.

7. Tipping might be something you see as optional, but most server’s wages aren’t even at minimum wage. [Positions that can be tipped are often held to a lower standard wage] This means if you don’t tip, odds are your server is walking away without minimum wage.

8. Restaurant hours don’t equate to work-week hours. This is most easily illustrated via math: In two weeks time, at “full time” (working 8+ shifts a week) I put in only 45 hours. Combing my tips (Average: 19.7%) and hourly wage, I made less than $700. While this puts my hourly wage at ~$15.50, if I were working full time at a normal job (80 hours), I’m at ~$8.75/hr.

9. More often than not (especially in chain/corporate restaurants) the person taking your order had to memorize preparation methods, ingredients, allergy advisories, and a few other things about EVERY dish on the menu. If they made it through all of that, they can probably handle guests [if they’re having trouble, try to put yourself in a completely performance based position and imagine the stress].

10. If you are acting polite, courteous, and are open to talking with your server, it’s more likely they’ll stop by and remember things for you(r table) more often than others.

Okay, enough of my bitching… Most of you probably knew some of that stuff, but the reason I mentioned all of these are because they’ve come up in the short time I’ve been in this field (1 month).

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4 responses

10 08 2010
TwitchyLittleBaker

My friend, Amanda, works at a restaurant in the kitchen, and I hear some of the craziest shit about what people do.
This one woman ordered a BLT with no mayo and extra bacon. This sandwich has two strips of Canadian bacon that’s sliced pretty thick. They sent it up with 4 strips. The woman sent it back saying there wasn’t enough bacon. They put 15 strips on it (which is about $6 of bacon on an $8 sandwich.)
How ridiculous is that?

10 08 2010
Driftwood

Heh, I probably have one awkward story for every day I’ve worked at this place. My favorite: I stopped by a table to refill a woman’s iced tea (we only have unsweetened, regular brewed iced tea and a few bottled iced teas).

Me: “Would you like some more iced tea, ma’am?”

“I had Raspberry Iced Tea. Is that raspberry iced tea?”

“We only have regular iced tea in this pitcher, and the only flavored ice tea we have comes in bottles.”

“Well, it tasted like raspberry tea. Maybe you accidentally poured some in the back?”

*re-explains that we only have those teas*

“But it tastes like raspberry…”

I took her glass to the back and filled it up (using the same pitcher I was using) and brought it back out:

“Sorry, we only have regular iced tea.”

*Sips* “No you don’t! This is raspberry flavored!!”

….

10 08 2010
evilfishytank

This sort of reminds me of a LJ post my friend’s girlfriend had about working at Subway:

http://users.livejournal.com/_kirbylicious_/161056.html#cutid1

How much of that applies to working where you are?

P.S. Remember LiveJournal? What the hell was up with that?

11 08 2010
Driftwood

A fair amount of that applies, sadly our managers (as well as the general culture/mentality of the place I serve at) strive to make everyone know that *everything* and *anything* they want can be done. I’ve actually never been to a restaurant that does as much to make customers happy.

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