“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.

 

ACHOO

Unknown

Bar Manager answers a phone call from an employee. After the usual introductions, this is the following conversation…

Bar Manager: “What’s up?”

Employee: “Yeah, I really don’t think I’m going to make it in today… You see, I’m sneezing a lot.”

After a moment of silence and some back and forth comments, I said, “Well then as you know, company policy states that the next time you come in you need to have a doctor’s note confirming that you are indeed ill and cannot come in for your shift.”

Employee: “Well I’m not going to pay a co-pay and go to the doctor for a common cold!”

Bar Manager: “Then I guess we’ll see you in four hours for your shift!”

The employee proceeded to come in, stand in the corner for an hour, and walked out.  We never saw her again.

“Safe” Drinking

I’ve served alcohol to a few pregnant women in my career.  I can probably count them on one hand.  Some people judge them for drinking; some people judge me for serving them.  The truth is, restaurants are private operations that can enforce any policy they want in regards to alcohol service.  Bartenders absolutely can refuse to serve pregnant women.  However, this may leave them susceptible to lawsuits since the women could claim that they are being denied fair and equal service.  

Personally, I believe that what a woman chooses to do is her own business.  That being said… there are women who have an occasional drink throughout pregnancy and women who make me shake my head.

I had a woman, mid-thirties, come up to me once who was so pregnant I was afraid we’d be cleaning up after her once her water broke.  The baby looked ready to tend bar.  It was the middle of summer, and this woman looked sweaty, agitated, and uncomfortable.  She came up and ordered a Pina Colada.  I asked her if she wanted it non-alchoholic and she quickly said “No.”  Not that I could ever understand what she was going through, but it was that point in time when you know better than to second guess the customer.  She got her rum-filled Pina Colada (I short-poured it a little) and she went on her way looking a little more relaxed and calm.  

Now.  Another woman comes in.  This woman was early to mid-twenties.  I didn’t see her enter since I was helping another guest.  When I turned around she was sitting at the bar with her friend.  She ordered a pinot grigio and her friend ordered a Cosmo.  A few friends joined them.  As I was pouring everyone their third round, people started asking this woman when she was going to find out the sex of her baby.  I almost dropped the martini I was pouring.  I walked around the bar pretending to go get something, and I saw her approximately five-six month pregnant belly.  She started going on and on about how she hoped it was a girl because they could do so many more things together than if it was a boy.  Two hours later she was still at the bar.  I’d say she and her friend probably had six drinks each.

What you choose to do in your own home is your own business.  And as I said before, I do believe that what a woman chooses to do is her own right.  However, there comes a time when you have to think about how your actions are going to be perceived.  I have a friend who RARELY drinks, doesn’t smoke, and has suffered though multiple miscarriages.  I’ve known others who can’t even get pregnant despite their countless efforts.  And yet this young mother not only chooses to indulge in multiple drinks, but she chooses to do it loudly, publicly, in front of her friends as if she’s showing off.  Makes me shake my head.

 

 

 

The Customer Is Always Right

Image

This is true.

The customer IS always right…… in front of the customer.  And we in the customer service industries who rely on these jobs to pay our rent will always go above and beyond to ensure over the top hospitality and a perfect guest experience.

But let me share you a few examples in which the guest is CLEARLY not right.

– A woman orders shrimp skewers over a bed of rice.  She finishes the meal.  She calls the manager over to the table while using the skewer to pick the remnants of her dinner out of her teeth, points to her empty plate, and says, “I didn’t like this.  Take it off the bill.”  Yes she was serious.

– A man comes in and orders veal parmesan, in a bolognese sauce, over rigatoni, with the pasta very al dente.  I looked at him and calmly said, “Sir, we don’t have anything close to that on our menu.”  He wouldn’t believe me until I actually showed him a menu.

– A woman orders a shrimp cocktail.  She finishes the shrimp cocktail.  She calls the general manager over and not only complains that the shrimp cocktail was “bad,” but she also states that the dish was incredibly over-priced.  Maybe, JUST MAYBE, she could have come to the conclusion that the dish was over-priced BEFORE she ordered it.  The woman demanded it be taken off her check.

– A guest informed me that he could not taste the alcohol in his extra-dry straight up Ketel One martini.  Pardon me but if you cannot taste the alcohol in a glass filled with four ounces of vodka that has had nothing between it and the glass but ice… we may want to enroll you in AA.

– In general, do not DEMAND we have something on the menu that we took OFF the menu six months ago.  I’m sure you had a favorite dish, and I’m glad that you are a returning customer.  But no conversation should go like this:

     “No, we don’t carry that salad anymore.”

     “But you used to!!!!!!”

     “Yes… we USED to.”

So yes, the customer is always right.  Until they aren’t.

“Sign” Language

Image

I recently returned from a wonderful vacation to the Dominican Republic.  Their Brugal rum is intoxicating yet not deadly.  The first drink makes you believe you may actually start breathing fire, and by the third you’re wondering what you’ll name the warm fuzzy dragon lounging in your ribcage.  

While I was there, I came across some people that I couldn’t communicate with very well, so I gestured and had to use various hand movements to get my point across.  Made me think… in THIS instance, using hand gestures to ask for what you want is completely acceptable.  In a foreign country, either on the street or in a restaurant, using your hands to communicate is not a bad thing.  Being American even, and trying to serve or help someone from a foreign country can be taxing.  If they are using their hands to communicate with you, you can’t fault them because they have no other means of getting their point across.

THEREFORE…. being American, in America, speaking to an American bartender, in English should NOT require extreme hand gestures and/or random pointing to menu items while trying to order or communicate.  I’m pretty sure I know the menu better than you do and I DID graduate the fifth grade SO… sounding out your order and tracing the lines of the menu whilst speaking is not necessary.

Good talk.

Onion-ish

Image

“Hi I just want to order a large onion soup… but could you have them, like, strain out the onions… so it’s just the broth?”

I have an idea… why don’t you go to Shop Rite, buy a can of chicken broth and a can of beef broth, combine them and heat them up, then serve it to yourself?  Should get you out of my face and save you about $6.00.

The Perpetual Olive Branch

Image

As bar manager of my establishment I am responsible for ordering all products for the bar, from soda to scotch.  This includes all dry storage items such as bar fruit, juice, produce, etc.  A few months ago we switched to a new company that supplies our dry storage items.  On my day off I received a text message from one of my regular guests.

“You need to get new olives,” they said.  “These suck.”

We are talking about green queen stuffed olives that are MAYBE a fraction smaller than the ones they replaced.

“They are not new,” I replied.  “We switched to this brand a few months ago.”

“I know.  I thought it was a temporary change, that’s why I didn’t say anything.  But they’re AWFUL!”

“Ok,” I said via text.

“Since you seem to think that I have some say in the selecting, packing, and shipping of our olives, the next time I am out olive-picking in the south of Spain, I will make sure to keep in mind that you are not happy with our current selection.  Clearly on my day off I have nothing better to do with my time than to worry about how you are unhappy with your martini garnish.  Maybe if you didn’t drink them so quickly you wouldn’t need tapas to go with them, and therefore you wouldn’t give a shit about the size of your olives.  Just as I’m guessing by now you’ve figured out that I don’t give a shit either, especially when they’re just as good as the old ones and I’m getting them at half the price.  My next day off is Thursday in case you feel like texting me and bitching to me again.  Perhaps you are unhappy with the size of our lemon wedges,” I said via my mind.

Reason #12 why a bartender should never give their personal cell phone number to a guest.