You Might Be A Douche… (Part 1)

images

Who doesn’t love a good Jeff Foxworthy “redneck” skit?  Well, to honor that I would like to start my own little list.  The following are things that send red flags shooting in every direction for most bartenders.  They make us slump our shoulders, take a deep sigh, and close our eyes for a few seconds to calm down the stupid.  This list will be on-going.  Here are the first ten of “You might be a douche…”

1:  You walk into a bar.  There are 16 empty, clean bar stools to choose from and you sit at the 17th bar stool – the only bar stool that still has an empty plate and glass from it’s previous occupant at it.  Whyyyy???

2:  You walk into a bar.  The entire bar is clean and empty.  And you ponder for a good five to eight minutes over where to sit.  It’s just a chair.  You won’t find a golden ticket under it.  Sit down.

3:  You sit down.  You may talk with your friends for a few minutes.  The bartender asks you what you would like to drink.  Your answer can include, “Just water for now,” “May I see a drink list?” or “What do you have on tap?”  Your answer can NOT include, “Gosh, I don’t know.”  You.  Are at.  A bar.  Really??

4:  You sit down.  The bartender says, “Hi!  How are you?”  And you answer with the description of a food or beverage item.  So sorry.  I don’t think you heard me.  “HI!  HOW ARE YOU??”

5:  You sit down.  You’re on your phone.  I’m telling you right now the bartender won’t even go over to you.  Give the seat to someone who’s ready to order and spend money.  If you’re conducting business, good for you.  I’m sure you have a lovely office.

6:  You order a Bloody Mary any day other than a Saturday or a Sunday.

7:  You order a Bloody Mary ANY day after 4:00 pm.

8:  You ask for blue cheese stuffed olives with your martini.  The bartender tells you that the bar doesn’t carry them.  You ask the bartender to make them for you.  Sure.  Let me drop absolutely everything I’m doing so I can go slap on some latex and shove some mold into a fruit that’s been marinating in a jar of it’s own juices for God knows how long so you can have a free appetizer with your glass of gin.

9:  You order “an extra extra dirty martini.”  And then send it back because it’s too dirty.

And a personal favorite:

10:  You sit down and order… nothing.  I don’t care if you’re waiting for a friend, or waiting for to-go food, or waiting to speak to the owner of the company.  Ask me for a soda, or get the fuck up.

To be continued…

 

Closing Time

images

The last half hour of a bartender’s shift is the most anxiety-ridden time of our day.  There is one thing that we all fear: the straggler.  Nothing is worse than having it be ten minutes to closing and having a few people wander in looking around like they just landed in Oz.  If it has been a busy night and you feel a little beat up, all you want to do is finish up with the patrons that are already there, clean up, count your tips, maybe have a beer, and go home.  If it has been a slow night, you ONLY want to go home.  So your clean up and tip counting is done early because when the manager locks that front door, you can punch out and fly out the back door.

But then… your hopes and dreams are crushed.  Because an Uber just let out Malibu Ken and Barbie at the front door and they look like they’re about to write the next chapter of a Nora Roberts novel.  Little do they know you’re about to tell them that the kitchen is closed, no you cannot recommend a “fun” drink, and you respond with one word answers when asked how your night went.  Their Nora Roberts novel just went the way of Thomas Hardy.  A good rule of thumb, regardless of the establishment, either know when the bar closes before going in OR be sensible enough to take the hint that it’s time to get the hell out.

A man (lets name him Bob) that was hosting a private event in the restaurant finished with his party and after saying goodbye to his guests, came to sit at the bar.  I gave Bob a beer, and he informed me that he was just waiting on someone to meet him.  This was a good hour before closing so I wasn’t too worried.  Twenty minutes later, another man (lets name him Bill) joined him.  They clearly hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and I wasn’t convinced that this wasn’t a secret romance reunited.  Nevertheless Bill ordered a beer and the two continued to talk.  About a half hour later, Bob received a phone call and went to a nearby table to take the call.  I continued to clean up and soon it was closing time.  Fifteen minutes after closing time, Bill asked me what time the restaurant closed.  I told him and after an embarrassed look at his watch he apologized for the hour and explained that Bob was on a phone call to China.  I told him I still had work to do so he could hang out while I finished.  A few minutes later Bob got off the phone and returned to the bar.  He said he hadn’t realized what time we closed and asked for one more round.  In a moment of weakness I said okay and gave them another round.  They paid immediately once they received their drinks.  That was the good news.

Bill and Bob stayed and chatted for another two hours.  Two.  Hours.

Bill and Bob are assholes.  Don’t be like Bill and Bob.

 

SMILE

Unknown

Servers and bartenders are constantly on stage.  We perform and entertain while providing a service to a paying audience.  Instead of applause we are rewarded (or should I say judged) with money.  In a way, our job is harder than a stage performer’s because we need to read every situation independently to assess the level of entertainment needed.  Are these ladies looking to maximize their afternoon fantasies while their kids are in school?  Are these men on lunch hour blowing off steam or is this a working lunch?  Is this woman buried in her book wanting to finish a chapter before book club or is she using the book as a cover and is actually not reading a single word on the page?  It takes all kinds.  If we are lucky, the audience will return and reward us with more accolades i.e. money.  Maybe this is why so many people in the industry are in the theater business?  And there is nothing more difficult than shaking off a bad performance.  But you swallow the bad taste in your mouth (grin and bare it… if you will) and move on remembering that every guest is a new opportunity to make someone’s day a little brighter.  Because in all honestly, it’s really not about the money.  At the end of the day if you are good at your job, then you will be rewarded.

I have had plenty of people say to me, “Smile!” or, “You should smile more!” or, “Don’t take yourself so seriously!”  The pressure of working full time, or going to school full time, or making sure your bills are paid on time, or making sure your family is provided for sometimes creeps into your brain and takes over your facial expressions.  Sometimes for no reason at all you zone into oblivion and just need to be snapped back to Earth.  Maybe your friends are blowing up your phone making it hard to concentrate forcing you to shut off your phone completely.  Whatever the reason, people never hesitate to tell a service professional that they should be happier.

The other day i had just finished carrying two full cases of wine stacked on top of each other up two flights of stairs.  To my great relief, I managed to get them behind the bar and on the floor safely.  As I opened the boxes and started putting the wine away I heard a voice saying something behind me.

“Excuse me?” I said as I turned around.

“Smile!  It’s not that bad!”

“Oh I’m fine!  It’s all good!”

“Well you’re putting those wine bottles away with this, ‘Ugh!’ expression on your face!  Lighten up!”

“Oh of course!  No worries!” with a smile and a ‘hahaha’ is what actually came out of my mouth.

What I wanted to say:  “I didn’t realize that you expected a rendition of ‘Make ’em Laugh’ while my BACK was to you.  I’m completing a requirement of my job that is actually benefiting you in that I’m making sure this bar is supplied with more of that overpriced sludge that you’re chugging.  I just carried 70 pounds of wine up two flights of stairs.  Maybe if you tried to lift something heavier than a glass from time to time you’d be able to go out to a bar in something other than an over-sized Hawaiian shirt with a stain on the collar.”

That last part was just me being mean.  But… honestly!!!

“You’re Too Smart for This.”

The restaurant and bar I called home for 15 years has recently closed.  It was eight bittersweet weeks of memories, tears, and goodbyes.

It was also eight weeks of, “So what’s next for you?” and “Are you going to be okay?”

Every bartender has a shelf life, and I had already been working on a game plan for my future.  So when I reassured the inquirers that I would be okay, I was confronted with, “Good.  You’re too smart for this business.”

What do you think I DO for a living??

I count, calculate, evaluate, and record the bar’s weekly ending inventory and costs including variances and costs of goods sold.  I actually helped to design the Excel program that monitors all the restaurant data including inventory costs, expense reports, and invoices.  I order product and receive weekly invoices for all bar products including beer, wine, liquor, and dry storage goods.  I work with vendors to implement new product and to keep our wine and drink menus current.  I help to hire, schedule, and oversee a staff of ten bartenders and close to fifty servers including their new hire paperwork, training, incident reports, write-ups, and terminations.  I organize training data, cleaning schedules, and staff meetings.  Oh, yeah.  And the restaurant averages about $6 million a year.  The bar alone brings in on average about 22% of that number.  During my time at this job I obtained an Associate’s Degree in Accounting, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and two professional certifications in Transcription and Paralegal Studies.  I also paid for half of my wedding myself, traveled internationally three times, and bought a house.

So I’ll make you a deal.  You don’t underestimate my level of intelligence, and I won’t overestimate your level of tact.

 

What’s that smell?

A woman holding a baby walks up to a bench outside a restaurant.  Directly above the bench is a series of open windows.  Directly inside the windows is the restaurant filled with people enjoying their meals and having relaxing conversations.

The woman proceeds to put her baby down on the bench and change its diaper.

For the love of all things holy… WHY???

Where Are We?

I apologize for the absence… WordPress and I had some miscommunications.

Onwards…

Guest: “Hey, is this a full rack of ribs on your menu?”

Snarky: “Yes it is.”

Guest: “Are they… like… Outback Steakhouse ribs?”

After a blank stare and a long pause…

Snarky: “I have to say no, since we aren’t in an Outback Steakhouse.”

“What’s Your Real Job?”

Our most hated question.

The general population is under the impression that bartenders work to supplement some other source of income.  And for some bartenders… that’s true.  College kids want spending money or traveling money, school teachers want a second job during the summer, even suits that work in an office from 9:00 to 5:00 can’t resist working a wedding or bar mitzvah at a banquet hall on the weekends in order to afford that family trip to Aspen.  Some bartenders do choose to moonlight as a  restaurant employee in order to pay for hobbies and/or vacations and/or other luxuries life has to offer.

Then there are the rest of us.  The ones that show up despite the weather, despite what may be going on in our personal lives, despite what day of the week or what time of day it is.  We are the ones that are responsible for college kids on vacation to make sure they don’t get behind the wheel of a car, the ones that can’t help our kids with homework because we are working nights to pay their tuition, and the ones that smile and ensure perfect service during a business lunch because a bad lunch could be the difference between a long lasting relationship and a deal that falls through.

“What’s your real job?”  I’ve been asked it more than once.  I bristle EVERY time.  I do not believe that the people asking it mean to be insulting, but that is exactly how it comes across.  Those people are assuming that what we do for a living does not fulfill society’s expectations of what a “real job” should be.  Well, I would like to take this opportunity to answer their question in as many non-restaurant related words as possible 

My job:

I am a foreman.  I maintain a staff while overseeing their behavior and compliance with company standards.  I monitor their output and verify customer satisfaction.  I train people under my supervision, ensure appropriate use of equipment, maintain an employee schedule, and communicate progress or set-backs to my supervisor.

I am a maintenance worker.  I’m involved in fixing any sort of mechanical, electrical, or plumbing device should it be out of order or broken.  I also perform scheduled maintenance on all appliances to ensure they remain in working order.  Should a problem arise that I cannot fix, it is my responsibility to commission someone to fix it.

I am a conversationalist.  I won’t always know the right thing to say but I will sit through and listen to any problem you may want to talk about.  Areas of frequent conversation may include but are not limited to: sports, marriage, divorce, children, fidelity, infidelity, dating, inability to date, unreasonable superiors, promotions, demotions, work-related stress, and current events.  Areas of conversation that are avoided: religion and politics.  You may not always feel better after a conversation, but you definitely will not feel worse.

I am a maid.  I pick up after you leave and make sure your space is presentable for when you return. I clean up your plates, I wash your dirty glasses, and wipe down and polish any surfaces that require my attention.  I’ll even clean up the bloody napkin you left behind after you stopped your nose bleed.

Lastly and most importantly, I am a host.  I am here to ensure an exemplary guest experience.  I do my best to resolve any issues you may have so please do not hesitate to come to me with problems or concerns.  I ensure you receive everything you may need during your stay no matter how strange you may think your demands may be.  From the moment you enter the establishment it is my job to provide the hospitality you deserve.

So as you see, my job does not end once your cabernet has been poured.  I hope I have been clear.