Restaurants and Recessions: A Bitchy Waitress Perspective

The post is meant to communicate to the masses the reality of the recession and the restaurant. The reality is? It sucks. Restaurants and recessions go together like water and oil. Like babies and alcohol. Like Bush and boots. This post is not based on any of that credible news information garbage or on true statistics at all. This is my experience.

Despite the expected rush of the holiday season, my restaurant is somewhat of a ghost town most nights. Rows of empty booths line the perimeter of the dining room, with a few random tables sat. The white shirts, armed with our table crumbers and wine keys, stand in a row with our thumbs up our asses, with nothing better to do than to flirt and trade drunk stories from the weekend prior.

And then it happens: Your section is sat.

A deuce. They order waters, share a pizza, then one cup of coffee at the end. They stick around for extra refills for an hour and a half, expecting you not to notice that they are sharing the same damn cup of coffee. They leave you slightly less than 15%, as do the three other tables you have that night. Yet still, you tip out 15 bucks for the two lazy ass teenage bussers (and the one kid that actually does his job) and the creepy table runner – one of those kids you just can’t put your finger on. You walk out with $20, only to notice that your car is on empty on the ride home. $20 gets you 3/4 of a tank and a pack of gum, and you walk into your apartment having just about broken even.

A few weeks ago, our company president made a visit to our location. Nice guy. Great guy. I respect a company president that tries to learn the name of every server. My complaint: a condescending two hour speech about how to serve better and earn more money. I swear to God. Don’t tell me, don’t even insinuate, that I am not doing everything I can to make the best of my situation and earn 20% on every table that walks through those doors. The fact is, times are tough. And if you have to make little cut-backs in your budget, the first thing you will do is cut down on how much you tip some random waitress. It doesn’t matter if I do a lap dance or a magic trick: Some tables are just poor and pissed off and they are taking it out on me. There is nothing I can do to earn more, and I find it insulting for someone to suggest there is.

Restaurants are suffering. Roadhouse Grill got the proverbial 86, and rumor is we are just about sold out of Ruby Tuesdays. I know of a girl who works at a Ruby Tuesdays in Ohio. She was at the top of the sales and tip percentage scores for her store. Then she had to take night classes last semester, so she had to switch from dinner shifts to lunch shifts. It’s lunch: So it’s no wonder that her tip percentages and sales dropped. Formerly at the top of the roster, she plummeted to the bottom 25% – and they threatened to fire her. One of your best waitresses. And you’re going to fire her just to make payroll? That’s cut-throat. It’s a sign of the times.

Yet not surprisingly, Olive Garden prevails. The bitch, the Wal-Mart of corporate restaurants, is still packed with customers looking for tasty Americanized Italian cuisine with unlimited refills for $10.

olivegarden

walmart-evil-2

http://letustalk.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/walmart-evil-2.jpg

My restaurant is a limited liability company, so believe it or not, I’m not in as bad of a situation as I could be. I may be making $15 some nights, but no one is gonna fire me to cut down on payroll.

Something interesting about the business at my restaurant has been the usage of credit card sales vs. cash. My manager pointed out to me that our cash deposits are way up for our week-day sales, but we still have the weekend rush paying with credit cards. Meaning, it seems like if people can’t use cash, they aren’t going out to dinner on a Monday or Tuesday. They are staying home and eating leftovers instead. But they are still going out on the weekends, using credit cards.

I optimistically view this as a positive trend. Sure, it really sucks for me right now. But perhaps people are starting to get honest about what they can afford. They are spending within their means.

It comes down to integrity. I’m not of the age group that deals with the sub-prime mortgage crises, but I am of the credit card variety. I encourage people to get honest and stop swiping. Charging things to make it look like you can afford that meal is a lie. Skimping on a tip to afford that meal is a lie. I personally believe that if you can’t afford a meal with a 20% tip (unless the server does a shitty job) means that you can’t afford to eat at the restaurant that night. I think it would feel so much better to pay cash for a meal and leave a decent tip, knowing that you worked hard and earned that restaurant experience…and that you can afford to recognize the hard work of the server who provided that experience.

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3 Responses

  1. People should tip only if they want to do so. Unfortunately we live in a society that the only way we expect to see appreciation, 0r seem to know how to show it is with money. There are other ways of showing that you are satisfied with a restaurant’s service. E.g. informing the manager that the service was excellent or recommending the restaurant to family and friends. When I go to a restaurant I expect good service because I am paying and good service should not depend on the possibility of me leaving a tip. Moreover there are people who work for much less than restaurant workers and they should not have to pay a tip when going to a restaurant. All jobs today involve some aspect of service so why is there tipping in some jobs and not others? We all have bills to pay and can do with the extra cash.

    • I couldn’t possibly disagree with you more. I make $4.60 an hour. Who do you know that makes less than that? I know – a server in Texas who makes $2.18 an hour. I also have to tip out 3.5% of my sales to a bartender, food runner, and busser. So when my sales were $1,100 on Saturday night – that meant that I had to fork over nearly $50 of MY tips to those who help me do my job. Also, if you tell me or my manager that I did a good job, that in NO WAY helps me or any other server pay bills. So no, there isn’t another way to show your appreciation for the hard work of a waitress other than a tip. It’s the only way that matters. You are wrong.

  2. I have been killed by this recession. I like your blog, you may be interested in mine. It is called http://www.stuckserving.com, it posts funny waiter stories daily. Check it out!

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