There was an entry in today’s “You’re the Boss” blog on the New York Times website entitled “One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers should never do. (Part 1).” Oh man, I just had this rip a new one. My responses are in italics.
ONE HUNDRED THINGS RESTAURANT STAFFERS SHOULD NEVER DOBy BRUCE BUSCHEL
Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building. Veteran waiters, moonlighting actresses, libertarians and baristas will no doubt protest some or most of what follows. They will claim it homogenizes them or stifles their true nature. And yet, if 100 different actors play Hamlet, hitting all the same marks, reciting all the same lines, cannot each one bring something unique to that role?
1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting. Translation – “I’ll be happy to make you feel warm, cuddly and take you for everything you’re worth.”
2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?” Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar. Yeah, but we waiters know you’re on a blind date and are already laying bets if you’re gonna bolt when you discover your internet love is 300 pounds of unwashed manic-depressive goodness.
3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived. This is complete bullshit and a money loser for the restaurant. What happens when you seat those three people but their friend doesn’t show up for an hour? I’ll tell you what – they’ll eat bread and water while waiting for their friend to get his or her chronically passive-aggressive late ass in gear. The result being that the restaurant can’t turn the table and no one, including the waiter, makes money.
4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right. Okay, that might work if your restaurant has a bar or some other space for people to enjoy their “amuse-bouche.” But have you seen how tightly packed restaurants are in Manhattan? Enjoy your free cocktail in that coat closet!
5. Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated. Yeah, we had little rubber wedges called “Shuv-Its” to level the table. Whenever I had a customer who whined about their table (After they knocked it askew with their goddamn baby carriage) I’d tell them it’d help them “Shove it.” Got some priceless looks with that line.
6. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral. Since when did customers become witnesses? Maybe when the waiter goes postal and indulges in some blunt force trauma fun with a bottle of Perrier.
7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness. I agree with this one. Telling a customer your name just gives them permission to shout it across the dining room when they run out of bread. But no cuteness? How can I not be me?
8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment. But if they’re rude and talking on a cell phone for ten minutes – interrupt away. Half the time they’re talking to their therapist anyway. Smashing the phone to bits is a nice touch too.
9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition. So how are the actors waiting tables ever going to get any practice in? How can they bring “something unique to their role?”
10. Do not inject your personal favorites when explaining the specials. So what do you do when a customers asks, “Well, what do you like?” Tell them it’s all good? Something sucks. Customers aren’t that stupid.
11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left. But if you hear a waiter say “the lobster’s been very popular tonight” that means we’re running low.
12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass. Agreed. You can really never know if your waiter washed his hands after taking a dump.
13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the handles. See above.
14. When you ask, “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right. Wrong. A good waiter should never ask “How’s everything?” That entertains the possibility that the kitchen produced crap. Perish the thought! Customers need to grow a set and tell the waiter they don’t like their food. We’re not mind readers.
15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.” Aw man, just Google the answer on your iPhone table side. Get with the 21st century.
16. If someone requests more sauce or gravy or cheese, bring a side dish of same. No pouring. Let them help themselves. Yes, the restaurant doesn’t want to be named in a lawsuit when the customer finally has that heart attack.
17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait. Yeah, but some customers hate having an empty plate in front of them whether or not someone else is eating. What do you do in that circumstance? Tell them they’re being rude? Maybe smashing the plate on the floor’s the answer.
18. Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?” I agree with this. That’s why waiters note the position of the diner on their dupe pad. But what do you do when the customers pay musical chairs? It’s auction off the food time!
19. Offer guests butter and/or olive oil with their bread. Wait a minute. I though Bloomberg banned all fats from New York City!
20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another. So when you run out of that organically farmed heirloom asparagus grown by environmental pot smoking hippies give them nothing.
21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong. Sound like some of the blind dates I’ve seen my customers reel in. Throw it back!
22. If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two. But if the customer wants to try every wine in the place they’re trying to get drunk on your dime. Happens.
23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc. I guess Mr. Buschel has never worked in place that was kick ass crazy busy. I’d write the info down on a piece of paper. Busy waiters don’t have time for arts and crafts projects.
24. Never use the same glass for a second drink. When the dishwasher’s on his marijuana break and there are no clean glasses to be found, you better believe we reuse that glass. Or somebody else’s! A quick rinse in the slop sink and you’re good to go.
25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing them on the table. That’s because the lipstick some chicks smear on their mouths has the staying power of grout sealant.
26. Never assume people want their white wine in an ice bucket. Inquire. And make sure not to laugh when they want ice cubes in their Brunello! Snicker, snicker…….
27. For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour. So just how are we supposed to hustle wine and increase everyone’s profits? I give Buschel’s restaurant less than a year. Again, customers need to grow a set here. If you want to control your intake tell the waiter you’ll do all the pouring.
28. Do not put your hands all over the spout of a wine bottle while removing the cork. Don’t want to give anyone a dose of that H1N1 you’ve been fighting but can’t take time off to recuperate from because your boss is a soulless, mercenary asshole.
29. Do not pop a champagne cork. Remove it quietly, gracefully. The less noise the better. Agreed. But if the customer’s a real pain in the ass aim for their eye.
30. Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle. Does that’s that hold true for serving beer too?
31. Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong. Have you seen the Brobdingnagian portions some restaurants serve? If you ate if all you’d explode like Mr. Creosote!
32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them. So what do you do if that three martini cougar offers you a handjob?
33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by. I’d agree with this if greedy NYC restauranteurs didn’t pack their guests cheek to jowl like chickens on a poultry farm.
34. Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers. But if its the end of the night and you have a romantic couple that just won’t get out, a high volume discussion about genital warts is in order.
35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests. I’d agree with this if restaurants weren’t so cheap and actually fed their employees! I worked at one place where they deducted $2 per shift for staff meals and didn’t give us any! “Madam, if your done with your osso bucco may I have it?”
36. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage. Man, I had to deal with waiters who never took showers! You prayed they covered up the stank with a good toke of B.C. Bud.
37. Do not drink alcohol on the job, even if invited by the guests. “Not when I’m on duty” will suffice. Oh give me a fucking break. Without alcohol waiters would be killing restaurant managers and hostesses every day.
38. Do not call a guy a “dude.” Unless he’s a surfer.
39. Do not call a woman “lady.” I prefer the terms “Madam” and “Broad.”
40. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad. Yeah, but some of the options on the menu really do suck.
41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do. Bullshit. People who use these pleasantries are just as likely to be turds like anyone else. “..one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” You’re not the only one who can whip out Shakespeare Mr. Buschel!
42. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else. But can you tell a guy when his fly’s open? There are some things I just don’t want to see.
43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant. Translation? You’re only a waiter. You’re nobody. You’re irrelevant. Something tells me Mr. Buschel’s a bit of an elitist. Good luck with the restaurant buddy! You’re gonna have a hard time finding waiters when they read this tripe.
44. Do not discuss your own eating habits, be you vegan or lactose intolerant or diabetic. Yeah, no one wants to know you’re a sickly nuts and twigger anyway.
45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests. That’s an example of ageism right there! What makes you think old people don’t appreciate salty language? “Happy Fucking Eightieth Birthday Grandma!”
46. Never acknowledge any one guest over and above any other. All guests are equal. Oh please……just kiss up to the person paying the bill.
47. Do not gossip about co-workers or guests within earshot of guests. But if the guests are the parents or significant other of a waiter you hate, let that story about their linen closet/cucumber dildo episode slip out. Ooops. Did I say that?
48. Do not ask what someone is eating or drinking when they ask for more; remember or consult the order. But waiters lose the order slip half the time anyway. I’d much rather ask the customer than deliver them the wrong dish. You know why? Because the restaurant will make you pay for it if it is!
49. Never mention the tip, unless asked. But if they do ask feel free to inquire if they’re related to Ebeneezer Scrooge.
50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout. I’ve found a consistent, “Don’t even think of fucking with me” attitude is usually more appropriate.
Man, I can’t wait to see “Part 2.”