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Valentine’s Day

Many words have been spilt on the waiter’s perspective of Valentine’s Day.

Amateur night. Uncomfortable proposals. Weird prix fixe menus. Buttkickings.

You know the drill.

So I’m going to simply mention a few things.

Amateur night refers to the fact that this is some people’s limited exposure to dining out each year. A lot of very young people also take advantage of Valentine’s Day. This means that you might not see the same percentages that you would normally see. Now is the time to take a smaller tip less personally than you normally would.

Valentine’s Day actually started Friday night, due to the fact that it’s on a Monday this year. so I’m a bit behind the curve. Having said that, expect to get your ass handed to you tonight (Sunday night). Hopefully, your restaurant has anticipated the extra business. This means more floor staff and a kitchen that has ramped up in personnel and prepping (increasing pars). This means breaking out extra champagne flutes, wine glasses and smallwares like candles, silverware, etc. If i were you, I’d go into tonight and tomorrow night expecting to have to deal with issues not anticipated by management. If you do that, you will be prepared for anything.

90% of your business tonight and tomorrow night will be deuces. Live with it.

Embrace the holiday. Wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. Be as upbeat as you can possibly be. This is an important emotional holiday for most Valentine diners. Sometimes it’s forced. Try to make it special for those who see it as an obligation.

Want to be different? Go get a box of those insipid candy hearts with a little message on them. Leave two with the bill. It’s cheesy but it’s a touch that many will appreciate.

Volume is your friend. Embrace it. Prepare to be busy. In fact, your economic and emotional well-being relies on it!

I don’t have much more inspirational guidance to give you as I’m a bit spent from last night’s reaming. I had very nice guests and things flowed well and I grossed $490! That means I walked with $335. I’m not complaining at all. Our kitchen rocked and there were few issues from my viewpoint. I was literally sore from all of the running. However, I’m a bit nervous as that usually means that the next night will dissolve into chaos! Oh well, I’ll go into tonight’s shift not expecting the worst but being prepared for any eventuality. You would do well to follow my example tonight and tomorrow night.

Good luck to all of you and to our diners, I hope that you get good service in the face of the inevitable stampede, that if you are foolish enough to propose that your proposal is accepted, and that you understand that your waiter will be dealing with extraordinary circumstances. If you don’t eat out all that often, remember the normal guidelines – 15% for average, workaday service, 18 – 20% and more for great service. Please try to be a little bit more patient with your waiter than normal. Our kitchens are trying to feel between 2 – 4 times the number of people, especially considering that this is Sunday and Monday night. Your accommodation is greatly appreciated.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s hoping that you and yours have a great Thanksgiving.

For those of you working tonight through this weekend, don’t let your guard down. The night before Thanksgiving can be deceptively busy (at least busier than you might expect). If it doesn’t pan out, at least you’ll have been prepared.

And you’d be surprised how many people eat out the weekend after Thanksgiving. You wouldn’t expect people to want to eat a bite for days or to be living off of leftovers, but many people just want a break from the usual Thanksgiving prep work and table fare.

Also, be on the alert for overdrinkers. Know the signs for cutting someone off. You don’t want to be responsible for someone getting themself or others hurt or killed.

So keep your game faces on.

Happy Labor Day!

For those of you who are lucky enough to have restaurants that close for Labor Day, enjoy the fruits of your labor. For those of you who still have to work, I hope that you have been lucky enough to be compensated with an extra day off sometime during this Labor Day weekend.

I meant to post about having to work the Sunday night before Labor Day because it’s such a tricky night, but I forgot. Even managers get sucked into a false sense that it’s going to be slow, but waiters can be lulled to sleep thinking it’s going to be slow. Logic dictates that if Sunday is normally slow, the day before Labor Day will certainly be even slower. After all, everyone’s going to be cooking out and partying on Monday. Who wants to eat out when they’re having to prep for a full day of stuffing faces?

Well, dear reader, logic fails if you don’t consider that Labor Day is a big travel weekend. People fly in to rejoin their friends from far-off places. Who wants to cook for them the night before the big cookout? People who travel are hungry and a restaurant is a good stopping off point on the way home from the airport. Parents fly in to visit their kids off at school and they enjoy the opportunity to take the spawn out to dinner. People like to turn the cooking duties over to the pros to give them some relief from all of the pre-cookout prep and concerns. And finally, this is the time when people make last-minute, spur-of-the-moment decisions to “grab a bite to eat”. So, restaurants which get most of their covers from reservations don’t see a lot of early names on their books.

When you take all of these factors into account, the Sunday prior to Labor Day often comes as a big surprise to novices as well as seasoned vets.

That’s why I wish I had posted a caution before last night.

I hear you saying, “Well, big boy, you sound smart now“. I’ll bet you got rocked last night and now you’re pretending to be really smart. Hindsight is 20/20, right?

Well, you’re right. We did get rocked last night. We started with about 35 covers at the end of Saturday night and ended up with 140 by the end of the night! Normally, we’d finish with about 60 – 80 if we started with 35. We even had one less than our normal Sunday crew of 7 servers, so you can imagine that we were relatively very busy. Of course, I knew that we were going to be busy, so I wasn’t blindsided, but the manager that did the schedule didn’t look at historical figures, I guess. The MOD realized that it was going to be busier than usual since we had gone from 35 to about 70 during the afternoon leading up to pre-shift. But even he was surprised at what we ended up with. We doubled that figure by the end of the night.

But you would be wrong if you think that I’m just posting this info based on hindsight.

For evidence, I give you this post from last year:

http://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/09/03/labor-day/

While you should read the whole post, and the other post that references the coming last quarter of the year,

http://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/getting-into-holiday-mode/

here is the part that should make me look like a genius:”

“But don’t get fooled. Remember what I said about the day before a major vacation – it’s often times busier than you might expect. As the day before Labor Day always falls on a Sunday, a day that is traditionally already a bit slower than most, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. One thing about the Sunday before Labor Day, it can surprise you. This is because some people have family and friends who travel in to participate in the hallowed Labor Day Cookout. Because the grand feast happens the next day, some of these folks will go out the night before because they want someone else cook for them and they want to start their Labor Day in an institutional social setting. And the hosts like to be distracted from all of the prep work that they’ve done prior to The Cookout.

So, if you’re working Sunday, don’t assume that it will be dead. It might very well be, but if you go in anticipating better, you won’t be caught flat-footed”.

So, note to self, “Make sure that you post this warning next year to warn your fellow waiters that might have to work pre-Labor Day Sunday night”.

BTW, I walked with $325.

And didn’t get out of the restaurant until after midnight. We normally close at 10pm and do our last seating around 9:30. I got three tables at 9:45, only one of which was on the books (for 9pm).

So that reminds me of something that I failed to mention – be ready for uncharacteristic late tables. I’ve noticed that in the past as well. I think it might be related to travel.

New trend in restaurants

Many restaurants that have traditionally closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Day are now staying open in hopes of trapping the last little bit of income.

Personally, I think this sort of thinking steals a little more of the soul of a restaurant. Not that it’s necessarily “evil” to do so, but to do it only in the face of a temporary financial crisis sort of throws your employees to the wolves, especially if it’s been your policy over the years to be closed on those traditionally closed days.

This isn’t the way to build loyalty.

BTW, I’m not bitching about this because it affects me this year. All of the remaining big holidays fall on my days off.

:stepping off my soapbox now:

chain-gang 

Image courtesy of http://chrislott.org/

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