Monday, February 28, 2011

for the love of the game

~ the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Now don't go thinking that I have only negative things to say.  I love what I do, serving people is a great passion in my life and as such I am drawn to the restaurant business like the proverbial moth to flame.  I believe that the soul of the business is not in the tips or the late night drunks, or any irritation that besets a server on a daily basis while dealing with imperfect humans, but in finding the beauty in people and the very same imperfections that make them so damn difficult.

It truly is an art to take a troubled guest and change their evening for the better or to take the average guest and truly make their experience extraordinary!  Also, there are few individuals who get to experience incredibly special moments with near strangers.  I've witnessed dozens of engagements (even helped deliver the ring on occasion) celebrated 90th birthdays and intimate anniversaries.  These are the moments when you realize briefly that humans, despite all our flaws, are often inherently genuine.  Being able to experience those moments and truly connect with people is why I do what I do.

I strive always for the perfect service.  Whether that is matching the perfect Bordeaux to your rack of lamb or just making sure that you have that extra side of mayo for your fries.  Making people feel welcome, appreciated and well served is always at the forefront of every service for me.  I applaud other servers who can 'handle' the irritable old lady whose soup isn't hot enough, with a smile.

When servers focus too much on the tips, we lose sight of the service and we end up causing a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I encourage everyone who is in the service business to truly focus on the guest experience and the money will follow naturally.  Not always of course but if you can embrace a genuine thank you from someone whose life has been enriched by the simple act of giving great service you wont worry so much about it.  I don't.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

late night bar etiquette - ordering

Quite simply in a loud, incredibly busy environment where there are infinite numbers of people lined up for drinks, your conversation should go something like this:

(the bartender makes eye contact with you and leans in to hear your order, you say)
- bottle of bud light
(the bartender nods, retrieves the bottle, opens it and hands it to you.  you hand the bartender enough money to cover the average bottle of beer - say about $5 or more - the bartender brings you change)

This is a very simple formula.  Perhaps you don't want a bottle of bud light, the sentence you say could be: 2 gin and tonics; 4 jager bombs; 3 pints of keith's; 2 vodka water barlime; a bottle of coorslight and a pint of stella. Anything!  But don't give the bartender a part order then when they come back try to add to it, you've had your turn - pay up!

Please refrain from asking your bartender to tell you how much.  We have not memorized every possible combination of alcohol on the planet and how much it comes to.  Give the bartender enough money to cover your order AND THEY WILL BRING YOU CHANGE!  It is ridiculous to trust what the bartender tells you but not trust them to just bring you the correct change, hand over the money (that you already have out of your wallet before you order).

On that note, have your money ready always.  Don't order and when the bartender returns with your drink you fumble through your pockets for where your drunk self left your money.  And NO, we do not take debit!  We are too busy and debit takes too long, and you'll probably pull your chip card out too early and we'll have to start over again.  Bring a credit card, build credit while you drink, start a tab and DO NOT try to pay that tab at 5 minutes to 2AM.

Do not ask for a generic type of beer that if often offered both in bottle and on draft without clarifying.  It slows the bartender down.  Remember it is very loud and you are drunk so you may not be at your most articulate!  Place the modifier either directly before or after the object in your sentence; "bottle of bud light" OR "bud light bottle" works.  In almost every bar in this town the taps are visible and the bottle types are displayed/listed.  Have a back up product in mind if you don't see it right in front of you.  You can ask for a "pint of bud light" but the bartender might say "we don't have bud light on draft" so you say "coorslight?"

Clever modifications of drink names are not clever!  A sicillian kiss IS NOT a sicillian.  A gin and tonic IS NOT a G&T.  When you ask for a porn star, clarify, is it a shot? a drink?

Also to those of you who have never been to a liquor store, Tequila is more expensive.  Don't be mad at your bartender when 3 shots of Tequila is more than $20, this does not give you licence to not tip.

If you couple these basic concepts with being a decent tipper (as discussed previously) you will be a joy to serve and every time you reach the bar, your bartender will bump you ahead in line.  It really is not hard to get good service, you just have to be an informed customer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

late night bar etiquette - tipping

Tipping well is incredibly important when you are trying to get service at a busy bar.  Imagine: you are standing at the bar, money in hand, waiting.  You are surrounded by crowds of people all with the same basic intent - to get a drink from the bartender - yet for some reason it seems like they keep skipping you.

The busier a place is the more important your tip becomes.  Of course, to do their job, the bartender has to serve someone, but that someone does not have to be you!  If the person to your right or left has established themselves as a good tipper and you are a bad tipper, guess who will get served over and over again?

You might have been waiting for five or ten minutes, perhaps longer, when suddenly the bartender looks over your head, makes eye contact with someone behind you and begins pouring their drink.  Look over your shoulder, this person is a regular, he/she is good tipper.  He/she will always get served before you, unless you place yourself equally in this category. This may upset or irritate you, but really, put yourself in the shoes of the bartender.  If you had to do a job but someone offered you more money to serve them first, would you turn it down?

Remember this at last call as well, if you have been a poor tipper all night and you're hoping for just one more drink - a bartender always remembers a good tipper and never forgets a bad one - you will be overlooked. So the next time you wonder why "the service here sucks!" consider your tip amount, you'd be amazed what an extra couple of quarters will do.  And if you're planning to be a really bad tipper bring a credit card and run a tab for the night so that the bartenders don't know this until it's too late.

If you found this information valuable, you may want to stay tuned for the next post: late night bar etiquette - how not to be an ass!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

an introduction

'To blog or not to blog' has been a debate in my life for quite some time.  I appreciate a good blog now and again and certainly enjoy the opportunity to vent about how terribly uncouth people can be - it really is shocking at times!  However, this will also be a place to detail the wonderful dining experiences (and those that fall short of expectations) that I have on a regular basis.  I am both an avid diner and an industry professional so, though you may not believe everything I say, hopefully it will at least be controversial (exposing the tender underbelly of the business) and somewhat interesting.

Bon appetit!