PDA in Restaurants: The Five Second Rule
February 24, 2009

I was inspired by this really touchy-feely couple we had a few weeks ago to write this post.

First of all, they were “same siders” which means they sat on the same side of the booth. It’s really annoying when people do that because you have to reach all the way across the table in order to set down the person’s glass or plate. And if its the guy that’s on the outside the girl always gives you a dirty look like you’re trying to get all up on her man when in fact – you’re just trying to set down her Pepsi.

So anyway, they were same-siding it up and totally making out. And not like they were stealing a little smooch here, a little snuggle there. It was all tongues, snaggle teeth and hormones. Here’s the rule:

Five seconds.

You know when you drop an Oreo on the floor, but if you grab it really quick (within five seconds) it’s totally cool? This applies to making out at a restaurant. If your lips are locked for more than five seconds, you need to get a damn bedroom. Because it’s offensive to go to the table to take an order and you guys are all doing that and such. We get it. You’re in love, he’s great, she’s great, you want to go home and make ugly babies. We understand – we just don’t want to watch. We just want to take your order.

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Real Customers of Genius
January 17, 2009

Janet Presents: Real Customers of Genius

Today, we salute you, Mr Verbal Tipper.

(Mr. Verbal Tippppppper)

We all know servers don’t work to make tips. We just want to know we did a great job.

(I just want your approval)

They say money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy a college student booze and books. And your empty compliments can’t buy anything.

(I’M BROKE!)

Oh, you maven of Stepford, you master of Yuppieville. I hope you feel fancy and look rich when you drink White Zinfandel in your polo shirt.

(Let’s just double the tax!)

With any luck, you’ll not only tell me how great I was, but you’ll leave a religious brochure next to that 10% tip.

(But I don’t wanna go to hell!)

So thank you, Mr. Verbal Tipper. Because when a recession hits, you keep my confidence up and my wallet empty.

Here’s to you Mr. Verbal Tippppperrrr


*Inspired, obviously, by Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius*


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Rambling Rant
January 5, 2009

Let’s talk about high expectations, serving at a restaurant at the mall, and cheap bitchy customers.

The mall:

Get off the interstate and head to the mall. There’s traffic. You stop and go, trailing close behind a hunter green Dodge Strattus that winds ever slowly through that right turn. Once you reach a crowded parking lot you realize there’s not a chance in hell you’ll grab a decent spot, so you settle for some shitty patch of pavement between a minivan and a Lexus – between Sears and Rite Aid – a friggen quartermiledash to your restaurant’s front door. You run past the cars with tantalizing anticipation of a busy night. All these people are here to eat! you think. Excitement builds. It creeps through your skin, through your wallet, out your smile. Imagine the guests at the tables, the tips in your pocket – the money!

You blast through the door – can’t get there fast enough – and blink a few times to fully comprehend the visual of ghost town a la carte. Empty booths, vacant tables, bored hostesses, zombie servers…that rush? That tease? For nuttin’.

This must be what it feels like to be blue-balled.

And so would be tonight, along with so many other nights/situations in which my childlike optimism gets the best of me. I.E. hope is foolish – and that the old complaint about serving is so true: The money at this job is so unpredictable and it’s really hard to budget yourself when you’re working for tips. The crowded parking lot could either mean a busy night for you or a sale at Macy’s. The two women in Ralph Lauren could mean rich people who tip or pathetic phonies looking to impress….(somebody. But not me.)

haha you suck

haha you suck

Let’s talk about those women, and let’s not mince words. This pair of C U Next Tuesdays tipped me $5 on $51. The one in a Ralph Lauren shirt, the other in a Ralph Lauren hat. Both get wine, appies, dinner. Seem extremely refined and gracious – way more polite than I am even if I was being fake. They seem to take their sweet time – like the type of customer that likes to “wine n dine” as to SLOWLY enjoy the dining experience. These types generally enjoy running you into the ground with special requests and bizarre customizations – but if you do it in an obliging and professional manner, they tip you quite well. In fact, these are usually the types that enjoy hearing my “I’m a college student…No, I’m single…I grew up in Buffalo…I want to do PR in Boston” schpeal because they either A) feel like I’m a future successful member of “their” league therefore of their caliber and worthy of a tip or B) are really awesome, humble people who worked really hard to get to where they are and remember where they came from. But yea, they tip well if you do your job.

Not these “ladies.” $5 on a $51.79 tab?! Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me? That is less than 10%, and to this I ask #1 What the heck is wrong with you #2 Where’d you get your clothes, Plato’s Closet? Waterloo Outlets? Screw you. #3 Do you even know how sorry I feel for you, that you have to put on that kind of show to make yourself look like some yuppie when in fact you’re just a cheap POS?

Here’s the thing about status: You can wear what you want, and you can act how you act to make yourself seem all hoyty toyty to the people you are trying to impress. But the real rich people are the ones who have the money, but never lost the perspective of where they came from, the memory of a time when ten bucks made a difference, the compassion of the financial situation of others who are actually working hard for a dollar. Character is what you do when no one is watching, and I feel the same way about status. It’s not the popped collars and the diamonds that make you seem rich to me. It’s not those outward symbols of money. It’s using cash-not credit. It’s the people who tip well and say thank you. The people in designer clothes who leave crappy tips are in denial. So I’m here to remind you that you are as fake as the lame-ass polyester wig on your head. You’re rude, trashy, and if I saw you again in public I’d happily hand you back the five bucks you insultingly tipped me because you obviously need that more than I do.

Phew. Breathe.

Finally, I’d remind you that I’m not taking your BS cop-out of a tip personally because it’s you – not me. Five years from now, after the recession, after Miley Cyrus goes to rehab and after one of the Jonas Brothers inevitably comes out, I won’t be a server. But you’ll still be pathetically tipping your server $5, wearing the same stupid Ralph Lauren hat in the same stupid restaurant.

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Upselling. Imma hustla.
December 28, 2008

Here’s an introduction:

I think that this owner has some helpful tips, and they might work for some people. However, I’ve just been doing this long enough to understand the style of my delivery. And the fact of the matter is this: If I said, “Now don’t forget to save room for some of our homemade Key Lime Pie!!” I would come off like a used car salesman reminding my customers not to forget about the great deal on the lime green Pinto.

Not that I have the top sales in my restaurant, but I think I’m in the top 25% on the mojo score chart and I’ve gotten a lot better over time. Things that work for me…

1. Upselling alcohol

Raspberry martini

Raspberry martini

After I go over the specials (where I include a little aside about the wine menu on the specials card) I try to read how the customers react. If they seem kinda interested, I say, “Now, can I get you ladies something to drink, maybe a glass of wine to start off with?”

  • If they seem like they are kinda looking over the wine list and like they know what they are doing and need a few minutes to decide on wine – I bring them a glass of water in the meantime and take the order later.
  • If they seem interested, but unsure – I ask if they like red or white, sweet or dry, and I recommend something.
  • If two or three people order the same type of wine – I ask if they would wish to share a bottle and usually mention how if is sometimes more economical to do so (and it means a better tip for me because I get to show off those sweet wine presentation skills haha)
  • Great tip: Always try to get the person to order the second glass of wine (or beer, or white russian…what have you) BEFORE the meal comes out. You’re seriously a million times more likely to get them to order that second glass if you pay attention and make the offer before entrees.
  • Think of your own drinks that are not on the menu and suggest them.  This is a pic of a raspberry martini.  It’s Absolut raspberry, Chambord, and sour mix.  (Or try a Cosmo with Absolut Mandarin!)
  • Know the beers on tap! Have at the very least a general idea of all the bottles.
  • If they seem kinda interested in the idea of alcohol, but not wine – talk about martinis and mixed drinks.
  • UPSELLING MIXED DRINKS: Try to learn a few types of Gin, Vodka, Whiskey, Bourbon…ect. Then, when someone orders a gin and tonic you can say, “Would you like that with Bombay or Beefeeter?” For Martinis: “Would you like that with Grey Goose or Absolut?” Make them ask for well.

2. Upselling Appetizers:

tutta-fried-calamari

Usually when I drop off the drinks I offer, “Would you like to snack on an appetizer while you look over the menu?” or “Would you like to nibble on an appetizer while you wait for the rest of your party to arrive? We have really great bruschetta and I love the fried calamari.” Just keep babbling about the appetizers until they seem sorta interested in what you are saying. Then…agree with them and make it sound like it was their idea.

Example:

Me: “Would you like to snack on an appetizer? I personally really love our calamari and the bruschetta is pretty great as well.”

Customer: avoids eye contact and reads menu

Me: “We also have a delicious stuffed mushroom dish…”

Customer: perks up and looks at me, then his wife, then me with anticipation

Me: “I know! Doesn’t that sound good? It’s tender, juicy, a little spicy – it’s stuffed mushrooms!!”

Customer: “We’ll take an order of that!”

So if you can’t interest them in appetizers…take their entree orders. After each individual orders his and her entrees, ask that person if he/she would like to start off with a soup or a salad. If the guest seems to stop for a second to consider it, remind the guest of the soup of the day or of your favorite salad. If they order it (“sure, I’ll take a salad”) offer “just a small house salad?” to get the specific order. This sells your salad because you aren’t making it sound like a big deal. And it’s not – it’s soup or salad. It’s healthy. 🙂

Note: Be honest. At my restaurant, honestly-two people can share a house salad and usually get their veggiefix. So if people ask about your portions sizes, tell the truth. Say it’s big enough to share if it really is big enough to share. Upselling is great, but honesty is better, and people will usually appreciate your help.

3. Upselling Desserts:

delicious5

It’s winter! People are starting to not give a shit about their waistlines. Have your cake and eat it too 🙂

Hand your people a dessert menu as you are clearing their plates. Mention your favorite item and explain why.

Example:

Me: “Do you like chocolate?”

Customer: nods – it’s chocolate, of COURSE they like it.

Me: “Yea, me too! I love the chocolate cake here. It’s a rich, molten chocolate layer cake drizzled with a steamy chocolate sauce, and then it’s served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream. It’s sex on a plate!”

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what I say. But you get the point, you gotta entice them. Mention the coffee, the hot tea, the cappuccinos, the lattes, the after-dinner liquors. Assume they want it (because you know they always do; it’s just a matter of if they are willing to spend the money and the calories on it) Make them tell you no.

In Conclusion:

I think it’s all about reading people. You can tell when someone is just not interested in the damn calamari. So don’t push it. Don’t be annoying or presumptuous. But offer an appetizer, a wine, or a dessert. Describe it. If they seem the slightest bit interested – as though they are in some vague way giving the shyest bit of attention to your suggestion – give details. Be sincere. I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t eat or drink myself. If I don’t happen to like the soup of the day, I say so and suggest my favorite soup instead. However, I seriously do love the Mark West Pinot Noir. And the calamari. And the  chocolate cake. I’m just happy to make more money off of your enjoyment of my favorite items.

Photo creds:

http://cheekylotuskitchen.blogspot.com/2007/07/raspberry-martini.html

http://masak-masak.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html


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Gift Cards!
December 21, 2008

Gift cards! I can’t sleep and I thought I would take the opportunity to express my feelings about gift cards. As you can probably guess, I for the most part despise them. I will explain my top three reasons why gift cards can go to hell, then I will oblige you with an upbeat account of my first great gift card experience.

Top three reasons gift cards can go to hell:

#1. People who tip me on the check total left after they use a $25 gift card.

  • I bring you appies, martinis, and cannolis. You run up a tab of $50. Then you proudly hand me your $25 gift card along with your debit to take care of the rest of the bill. Then you tip me $5 and think you left an awesome tip because you tipped $5 on $25. No, you stupid piece of shit. Just because some secretary gave y0u a gift card for Christmas and you don’t have to pay for that food doesn’t mean that I didn’t do my job of ordering and bringing that crap out to you. So regardless of whether or not you are paying for it, I should still be compensated for serving it. So tip according to the entire tab, before your discount.

#2. Expired gift cards.

  • I had this lady try to use what she thought was a $50 gift card for her meal. I rang it through and it came out to only be worth $45. That’s because it was expired for a few months, and it decreased a couple dollars in value for every month that she didn’t use it. She played stupid (“I didn’t know it would decrease in value!” Really? Because it says so right on the back of the card…so…) and inevitably swindled my manager into honoring the full value of the card. It was a lot of extra work to re-do things in the computer, and it was right before close. And I found it hilarious that they tipped me the exact same as they did the first time we finalized their tab, even after I had stayed late and gone through all that trouble to save them five fucking bucks.

#3. The coupon mentality.

  • People expect special treatment because they have gift cards. I feel like people complain more about their food when they have gift cards because they assume that because it is free for them, it must be free for the restaurant too, so therefore it’s totally cool to return food they deem “not what I was expecting” or “just not to my liking.” So then they get those items comp’d, in addition to whatever gift card discount there is. The restaurant loses money, and I waste my time.

And now, for my great experience. I had a group of ladies come in with gift cards and free birthday dessert passes. Basically, they paid with cash the part of the tab that was left over after the discounts. They handed me the check book, said they didn’t need change, and went on their merry way. They left enough money to cover the tab had there not been a discount – meaning, I got to keep the difference as tip. I think it was like $25, which is awesome.

I don’t even expect people to be extra nice like that – I just expect them to be fair. But when people take the extra steps, it really puts a smile on my face. Maybe that’s the lesson to be learned: That not everyone appreciates the extra effort, the out-of-your-way actions. But when they do – they really do.

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The grinch who stole Thursday
October 31, 2008

That title refers to the stupid bitch at table 32 who had to question every little thing I did and tell me that we didn’t make our salad dressing right because we use cream and “I make salad dressing all the time and that’s not how I make it.”

Really?  Well then.  We have an opening for an Executive Chef.  Wanna apply?  Or are you too damn busy giving favors for jewelry in your Pittsford-ass cookie cutter sub-division to make something of your life?

Women.
October 19, 2008

Grr….

So yesterday was an OK Saturday night. I came out with like $120 (after my $26.72 tip out, mind you. A blog-worthy topic in and of itself). But anyway, things were alright, except for my one table that completely stiffed me!

The bill was $81.18. They gave me $49 cash and told me to put $32 on this one lady’s card. So they didn’t give me enough cash, but I decided to absorb the $.18 difference to spare myself the embarrassment of having to explain to three drunk women that they owed me $.18. They told me to “keep the change” – which is ironic, because there wasn’t any!!

I gave them great service. In all likelihood, I could have been looking at a $12-$15 tip. But no. Because they suck.

I told one kid about this, and he told me (and he “swears to God” this story is true) that last week a customer mailed a tip to him. That he got an envelope labeled “To Adam” with 10 bucks in it and a note explaining how sorry they were, that they didn’t have enough money, that they felt terrible about not tipping him. I actually read a post from another blogger that had a similar situation happen.

I honestly don’t think these women intentionally left without tipping me. They were really nice and seemed happy with the service. And it seems like someone who didn’t tip would sneak out really quickly and avoid eye contact and such – but they didn’t. They stuck around to say goodbye.

I’m freaking compassionate. I suck at math when I’m sober – so I can imagine the numerical kerfluffle I’d be in after a few drinky drinks. Maybe it was the cosmos, or the lack of a calculator, but my belief in the good in people leads me to believe this wasn’t on purpose.

But at the same time, I’m not holding my breathe and waiting for a little envelope addressed to Janet.

Cosmos - Good for the mood, bad for the math skills

Cosmos - Good for the mood, bad for the math skills

Blush n Studder
October 17, 2008

So yesterday I had a terrible night, and after making $47 on the lamest closing shift ever, my friend reminds me with sunshiny optimism about why waitressing is so awesome: because of all the cool people you get to meet.

Really?  The down-talking verbal tippers??!  I know, I’m so blessed to have met them.

But today I walk in and immediately get thrown onto a party because some other server “can’t handle it.”  I look across the restaurant and gaze at my prospective table: A fifteen top of collectively, the most attractive group of men I’ve seen ever since I realized that boys didn’t have cooties (which coincidently was only two years ago!  Just kidding…sort of).

So I take them on.  It turns out they are a hockey team – for the farm team to the NY Rangers.  And this would mean something to me if I followed sports.  But I don’t.  So their J Crew shirts and charisma were plenty enough.

But what my friend said is true.  Last year, I met some actors who were in town to do a show called White Christmas at the Geva Theater.  They were really nice, and so interesting.  In all seriousness, it’s fun to meet people who live completely different lives than you.

Finally, a happy rant.  For once, a good surprise.

A future NY Ranger at my table.  Hmmm sigghhhhhhh

A future NY Ranger at my table. Hmmm sigghhhhhhh

OPRAH
October 15, 2008

I’m so excited. I’m sitting here watching Oprah, and she has this show about rudeness in America. She included this awesome segment about people who act rude in restaurants. THANK YOU Oprah for bringing light to an issue that is really important to the restaurant people affected by rude customers.

There was this RUDE girl named Jeni featured on the show, and she completely embodied the typical nightmare customer. Get this: she admitted to yelling at a server for refilling her iced tea because it ruined the “sweetener to tea ratio” of the remaining tea in the glass.  Really?

The show also featured Steve Dublanica, whose blog Waiter Rant is one of the reasons I chose to do this topic for my project.  I’m not gonna lie, there was only so much market research I could do at my PR internship this summer and his site helped me pass the time.

Steve Dublanica, author of Waiter Rant. Google his blog!!

Steve Dublanica, author of Waiter Rant. Google his blog!!

Jeni is the one on the left. At least her sister seems sweet.

Jeni is the one on the left. At least her sister seems sweet.

When I grow up, I’m not going to push my children to do any particular sport, activity, or college major. I will, however, insist that they spend at least a summer working in a restaurant. If people walked a day in our shoes they would learn to be more compassionate, respectful – LESS RIDICULOUS!!!

And as for Jeni: Good luck, girl. I can 100% guarentee there has been spit in your food if you seriously act like that in a restaurant.  Even better – how about spit in that freaking iced tea.  How’s that for a “sweetener to tea ratio?”

Here is a link to my favorite segment on the show: http://www.oprah.com/media/20080909_tows_waiter

Photo creds:

http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/20080909_tows_rude/7

http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/20080909_tows_rude/8

Another fun conversation
October 10, 2008

This one is dedicated to Niki, who tonight, had a table that ordered the Ziti al Forno – but instead asked for the Ziti al Porno.

That's a sexy plate of pasta.

Nice.

I have a theory that you are never too sad, tired, rich, distracted, or important to appreciate a great sexual innuendo.