Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Management Breakdown

I talked to my GM about the problems I was having with Amanda.  She was very receptive, said she needed to hear both sides of the story, but would talk to her and appreciated the mature manner in which I was handling things.  Yeah, I'm every GM's wet dream.

However, the problems don't appear to be resolved, and for whatever reason I'm getting the short end of the stick.

Now, Amanda is our FOH manager and in charge of scheduling.  Even though I'm full-time and can work up to 40 hours a week, for two weeks now I have been scheduled three nights, Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday.  I'm one of the top servers in sales, tip percentages, etc. and I'm averaging about 14 hours a week and am available 40.  Not only that, but every time I work with her, she puts me in the section that is first cut, so I don't even get to stay long enough to make any money.

Well, Rachel, our GM, decided to pencil me in some extra shifts to make sure I was getting utilized.  So she scheduled me for Monday and Tuesday as well.  Last night I came in and I wasn't on the floor.  When I asked Amanda to put me on, she gave me four tables in the back of the restaurant.  The worst part it, if one of the tables is sat, the other one can't because they are too close together, so essentially it is a three-table section...and yes, first cut.

Tonight I went in and Andrew, our BOH manager was working.  Again, I wasn't on the floor, and he told me that he didn't need me and to go home.  Go home?  Go home?  I was on the schedule, same as everyone else, so why am I the one that goes home?  Why not send the lazy jackass home who never buses his section and gets some of our worst tips?  Or the girl that is complaining she is sick!?  Why do I get sent home?  "Because you were penciled in and it wouldn't be fair to send someone home who was scheduled to be here."

I WAS SCHEDULED TO BE HERE!  That is why I left my day job early!  That is why the GM put her initials next to my name.  Just because it is written in pencil and not ink doesn't make me any less on the schedule. 

So, the FOH manager doesn't like me, the GM is trying to help me, but didn't express it properly to the BOH, who sent me home.  A breakdown in management?  Yeah, I think so.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Customer is Always Right

The only thing worse than waiting on bad customers is dealing with bad management.  I mean, I can deal with bad customers, because after an hour, they are gone.  But a bad manager that you have to work with several times a week, week in and week out, just makes your job really feel like work.

Now, I've never had a manager that I really butt heads with before, but I finally found that at my current job.  And to be honest, I'm still not sure why we don't get along.  When I was hired, the front of house manager, let's call her Amanda, seemed very enthusiastic about hiring me.  I've served for a while, have a good attitude, etc.  As an added bonus, it turns out that Amanda and I went to high school together, and I was a senior during her freshman year.  She also knew where I grew up, because apparently she lived one street over and she'd play with the neighborhood kids occasionally.  I don't really remember her, but she knew too much to be lying, so I'll take her word for it.  Fast forward seven years and she now gets to hire me!  I was very excited that this connection helped me to get a job.

At first I thought things were going pretty well.  I've been doing pretty stellar at the restaurant, averaging over 20% in tips, which puts me in the top three in the store.  I get along with all my fellow waiters, the back of the house staff all like me, and things are going great.  Then, for whatever reason, Amanda just started acting like I crossed a line somewhere and royally ticked her off. 

Now, Amanda is not what I would call the ideal manager.  She is young, a student, recently engaged and recently got pregnant for the first time.  In addition to this, spends more time on her phone than most employees, has a laser pointer that she plays with WAY too much in the store, and in general won't follow the stores own procedures. 

Case in point, we recently had a store-wide meeting where we discussed ways to make our guest feel special.  One point they really promoted was if it was our guest's birthday, we should let the managers know so they could say something to our table.  Being the corny and chipper employee that I am, I think this sounds great (especially since we don't have to sing!).  I tell Amanda a few days after this meeting that I have a very nice older gentleman at my table who is turning 64 today.  Can you please just go wish him a Happy Birthday?  I only ask because she's talking to the bartender, not doing anything.  Amanda tells me no, she's too busy, but she appreciates the effort (very sarcastically).

Most days I arrive about 10-15 minutes early for my shift, but last week I got off my other job early and arrived about 30 minutes early.  I asked Amanda if I could clock in early and start taking tables, but she said no, we weren't busy enough to justify it.  So, I sat in the corner booth (where we employees sit) and started reading my book.  Five minutes later Amanda starts yelling for runners and looking in my direction.  I told her I would be happy to help, but that I'm not allowed to work since I'm not clocked in.  They stress this big time at our store.  She gives me a look of daggers.  Later, when one of the employees asks to get cut since we are painfully slow, she goes off about how everyone has a bad attitude, and calls me out, by name, in front of several other employees, when I was still in my booth, reading, having not been allowed to clock in yet.  I know this because she said it loud enough for me to here and pointed me out.

Now, I recently discovered one thing that bothered her and worked very hard to correct it.  Whenever a manager or shift leader is working, I refer to that person as "boss."  Not mean or sarcastic, just a "hey boss, can you help me get separate checks" kinda way.  Well, one of my fellow servers came over to me and said "you know, you've got to stop calling Amanda 'boss' she hates it and gets really annoyed when you say that."  Well, shoot, I've been calling her that for weeks, and she never said a single word to me about it.  She did, however, take the time to complain to several other employees about it, one who was kind enough to tell me so I would stop doing it.

But the reason I'm writing this, the absolute dumb event of dumb events, occurred last night.  My restaurant serves a bread item to the guests which are very popular.  We give them out, complimentary, one for every guest at the table.  Most everyone loves them and asks for them right away, and the kitchen constantly has to make fresh ones, much to their annoyance.  Now I NEVER have given away extra bread, but last night I had a two-top that asked me for four pieces instead of two.  The customer is always right, so I said "no problem" and brought them out their two extra pieces. 

About two minutes later Amanda pulls me aside and in a tone that is just shy of yelling, says to me "how many pieces of bread to we give guests?"

"Well, one per guest, but they specifically asked for four."

"I'm sick and tired of seeing you give out extra bread all the time."

"Amanda, that was the first time I've given out extra, and I only did it because they specifically requested it."

"I don't care, that's not policy.  The rule is one per guest, no wonder we're always running out of bread all the time.  I'm sick and tired of seeing extra bread out at people's tables."

"Well, I'm sorry, I usually don't but they made a special request and I thought it was okay."

"Don't do it again."

*Shakes head.*  As it so happens, my mom had come in to eat that night and saw the exchange when she was walking to the bathroom.  She asked what that was about, and I told her.  "But I heard your table ask for four, were you supposed to say 'no'?"  my mom asked. 


I've been keeping a running list of things that she's been doing, and today I get to go talk to the GM and tell her what I think.  Wish me luck!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Responding to the Blogosphere

I've been reading a lot of posts on other server blogs, most of which I can relate to and find generally amusing.  However, I came across one article that had a lot of points "from servers" that I just didn't agree with, so I decided to write up a few responses.

First, the article in question: Top 11 Complaints About Customers


1. "Make it a good one." - I work at a restaurant that does pretty brisk bar business.  We have a decent wine menu, but not too many wine snobs come in.  Lots of folks will order martinis and 7/7s.  However, I have never once had anyone say to me "make it a good one."  In fact, in my five years serving, I have never heard that phrase at any restaurant I've worked at.

2. "There is a difference between the Merchant Copy and Customer Copy." - I suppose with some restaurants this might be true, but none that I have worked at.  No boss has ever turned away a credit card receipt because we had the Customer Copy and they took the Merchant Copy.

Later, this same note says "If the customer takes both receipts, I give myself the tip I think I deserve – which is nothing less than 20%. They'll learn their lesson soon enough."  I don't know where the server works that gave this quote, but at my restaurant and every one I've worked at, if you take both copies of the slip, we get a big fat $0.  You might have written down $20 on your $80 check but if we don't have it in writing, we get nothing.

3. "Snap out of it." - "I'm a waitress, not a freaking dog. I do not respond to snaps, whistles, clicks, or any other non-verbal way of getting my attention." Maybe it is because I'm in the Midwest, but I don't get a lot of people giving me non-verbal gestures to get my attention.  Or maybe it is because I keep an eye on my guests and work to anticipate their needs.  Either way, I treat my guests well and usually get the same in return.

It is a valid point though, if someone did snap to get my attention, I would certainly get annoyed.

4. "I'm not your friend." - True, most people don't remember my name when I introduce myself and we don't wear name tags, but those that DO remember and use my name get far better service.  And, oddly enough, they don't pry into my personal life unless I open myself up to it.  It is one thing to make polite conversation about the weather or local sports teams, but people only pry if I let the conversation go in that direction.  It is amazingly easy to cut a guest off and say "excuse me, I need to take care of another table."  When you are waiting tables, what guest isn't going to let you go?

5. "Don't steal my pens."  - I say, don't bring nice pens to work.  A box of Bic pens, which costs a whole $1.50 for decent ones, just don't get stolen.  And if they do, I usually have about 5-6 pens on me, and I guarantee you I won't have that many stolen in one night.  And if I start to get low, I'm making enough that I can drop another $1.50 if need be.

6. "On the run." - I couldn't agree more with this quote: "When you see your server running around like a headless chicken, economize your requests. If all of you need refills and condiments, then let us know at the same time. It takes much longer to run back and forth five times than it does one."  I like my guests to feel important, but when we are busy and it is clear I have more than one table, don't take up all my time, especially with stupid requests that you really don't care about.

Biggest pet peeve, someone asks me to fix something, get them a fresh drink because they don't like their lemonade or don't like how something is cooked, and then they DON'T TOUCH IT!  Yes, it took them five minutes to redo your ribs, but they are even better now that we've done them twice.  So eat them!

7. "It's not all for me." - "Please try to remember when your bill is $100 and you leave a low percentage tip -- let's say $14 -- I have to tip the bartender, the busboy, and the hostess, oh the government taxes me on sales, plus a credit card fee to run your payment just to get my tips."  This is true at every place I've worked.  At my current restaurant, usually about 4% of my tips are going to the bartender, the hostess, and the food runners/busers.  That means that if everyone tips me 15%, I'm only going home with 11%.  And do you know what 11% of $400 is?  $44, for a whole shift.  In case you are wondering, 18% is the new 15%.  20% is always appreciated, and if your service was good, not asking for too much.  Especially on your $20 check.

8. "If you can't tip, don't eat out." - The title says it all.  I don't mind taking care of customers who are using coupons, but remember, you should tip on what your bill was, not the discount.  If you have a buy one get one free coupon, tipping 15% is really like tipping 7.5% because you didn't have to pay for two meals but I had to serve them.  And if your whole table is using coupons, odds are no one is tipping as well as they should.

9. "Up-selling is mandatory." - Really, I don't take up too much extra time and I do it pretty low-key.  Rather than ask if I can start them out with a soda, I offer them a specific wine or a mixed drink.  It only took me an extra five seconds to say and it isn't going to slow your food down, so don't hate me for trying to sell it to you...it is my job.

10. "Please watch your kids" - Kids make a mess, and I understand that.  Apologizing for the mess goes a long way, even if it still irritates me.  But please, if you can't control your kids from being truly catastrophic (how did they get marinara on the window, I didn't bring you anything with marinara!?), hire a babysitter or take them to a more appropriate restaurant.

One side note: my family went to another restaurant out of town to celebrate my nephew's first birthday.  They brought cupcakes for everyone and though my nephew was messy, they apologized to their server because they hear my horror stories.  They also offered that server a cupcake.  This has happened to me and I usually accept.  It is a small thing, but it made my day.  If you are going to bring your own food into a restaurant, bring enough for everyone.

Anyways, future blog posts will be more about my own experiences, but I'd love to talk about all things food-service related here!  I look forward to hearing from you and about your own experiences.