So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Monthly Archives: February 2011

The great coc au vin controversy

Several seasons ago, Top Chef contestant, Casey Thompson, was undone by her take on coq au vin during an elimination challenge at The French Institute. Well, she wasn’t undone per se because it didn’t send her and her knives packing, but it cost her a win, even though it was possibly the best dish.

What kept her from being Top  Dog that day?

She called the braised chicken dish coq au vin. The result was coq au vin lite, if you will. Some will say, “How can you expect to cheat a dish that is a national signature dish in front of judges who represent the leading cooking school in the US of that country”?

Well, perhaps we should back up and talk about the dish and the controversy.

What is coq au vin and how in the hell do you pronounce it?

It’s pronounced (roughly) cocoa van. Easy enough. So it means chicken with wine, right?

Well, sorta.

Technically, it’s cock with wine (OK, get your sniggering out of the way). The older the cock the better (OK, get off the floor). It’s a dish that’s thickened with the blood of the cock or some other animal like a duck or goose or even pig, since you usually won’t get enough blood out of a wizened old bird to thicken the sauce by itself.

The key components to the classic version of this dish are rooster, blood and time…three things that are precious commodities or outright unobtainables on Top Chef. I mean, when was the last time that you saw rooster at your local Whole Foods?

Why rooster, you might ask? Why would you even want to bother with an old wrinkly sinewey tough bird in the first place?  Why, it’s the sinew and the “toughness”, silly. Sinew is connective tissues made from collagin and elastin and is dissolved through prolonged exposure to moist heat. Muscles which have been overworked are also tough, but they have enhanced flavor components not present in young, unworked muscles. They too benefit from a long braise and the combination of the melting of the connective tissues and the tenderizing of the muscle meat adds to the rich flavor of coq au vin.

All of this begs the question – why rooster? They don’t have much usable yield and French farmers running household farms weren’t probably awash in roosters. In fact, generally, really small operations usually only have one or a small handful, which get exhausted from all of the “pollinating” after about 3 years. You usually only need one rooster for a dozen or less hens. So, not only can’t you fill a pot with chicken meat from the roosters on hand, it’s a time-consuming dish. My theory is pretty simple – you never threw out anything that could be eaten. You never knew when the next revolution or world war was around the corner.  The rooster had to go eventually, so the French found a way to utilize these tough old birds and, in doing so, they created a classic dish.

This dish is best braised for hours and hours. You use aromatics like celery, onions, garlic, and bouquet garni, utilize lardons (thickly cut bacon),  tomatoes and mushroom (if desired) and serve with a starch like boiled potatoes or pasta (traditionally, the French also serve it with green beans). Thing is, the French realize that you just don’t run into roosters every day unless you’re a farmer or happen to live near one. So, even the French have adapted the dish to modern times.  Larousse Gastronomique even mentions that the dish is often made with regular chickens these days and, in fact, doesn’t even mention roosters in the recipe that it provides. Neither did Julia Child back in the day. Even the guy who decries the homogenization of regional cuisines, Anthony Bourdain doesn’t even mention roosters in his recipe and only adds an addendum at the end of the recipe about “being adventurous” and adding blood instead of using flour as a thickening agent. 

If you search the internet for coq au vin recipes, it’s almost impossible to even find one that has roosters in the recipe and demands blood as a thickening agent.

So, why all of the fuss on Top Chef?

Ironically, most of the agitating about the authenticity of the dish came from Italian heritage’d Tom Collichio. In fact,  IIRC  Sirio Maccioni loved the dish, as did the judges from the school itself. But leave it to Collichio to throw the book at Ms. Thompson because it wasn’t really a coq au vin. C’mon dude. She didn’t try to call a Pop Tart a bruschetta. He spent a lot of time trying to convince other judges that she had fired a torpedo into French cuisine.

So Casey, here’s your redemption, despite your recent ceremonial throwing-under-the-bus of your fellow Top Chef runner-up Carla, which I have to say, showed some cat-like qualities. At least you performed a mea culpa…

I would have offered an “authentic” recipe, but, believe it or not, I couldn’t find one. Not even in any of my “French” cookbooks – not even purist Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. That should tell you that Thompson was probably cheated out of a win, since Collichio’s objection was seemingly what gave competitor Hung the win. It probably didn’t make any difference in the end, but still… 

If you actually want to make the real thing, I would suggest that you take a reasonable-sounding recipe and substitute rooster for chicken. Have your butcher find you some pig’s blood and reserve about a half a cup of it. Make sure that if flour or a roux is used to thicken the sauce, ignore that part of it. Make sure that you slow braise the rooster for a long time over low heat (I’d give it at least 6 hours). As you get to the end of the process, instead of adding thickener, slowly add a little blood and incorporate it, adding just enough to start the thickening process. Add a little more and keep repeating until you get the consistency that you are looking for. If you add the blood too quickly, it will cause the sauce to seize and harden. 

Here’s what it might end up looking like:

From The Motley Fool: Waiter – there’s an iPod in my soup

Waiter, There’s an iPad in My Soup

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz |
February 18, 2011 |

The two founders of BJ’s Restaurants (Nasdaq: BJRI) are striking out on their own with a new concept called Stacked.

There won’t be waiters taking orders. Every table will have an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, allowing patrons to scour the menu and send customized food and beverage orders to the kitchen.

A high-tech automated eatery isn’t new. I hit up uWink — a concept dreamed up by the same guy behind Atari and Chuck E. Cheese — three summers ago. Every table had a pair of touchscreen monitors where guests could place orders, play games, or engage in trivia bouts with other diners.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.fool.com/investing/high-growth/2011/02/18/waiter-theres-an-ipad-in-my-soup.aspx

This really isn’t that new of a concept. Back in the Sixties, when I was sprouting hair in places I didn’t even know existed, we had a steak house that had a push-button system for ordering. It was almost like Sonic – you had a series of push-buttons that you used to order. I’ve got this image of 4 of them, although I  don’t know why you’d need so many, since you ordered through a speaker. I want to say that it was a George Lindsey Steakhouse. I also remember a lot of pounded copper in the restaurant.

Strange the things you remember from your childhood.

Article about tips, taxes and the IRS at Tip20! (the exclamation point is part of the blog’s title).

http://www.tip20.com/tips-taxes/25

This article is generally OK but still perpetuates some myths about how the IRS deals with tips and taxes.

They are correct that the IRS will use credit card slips to determine whether cash tip reporting is accurate (see below)

However, they miss the mark when it comes to the old 8% reporting standard.

“8% is simply a bottom line that the IRS uses when attempting to determine how much a server earned in tips over the year”.

Well, not exactly. They don’t treat anything automatically as taxable income. They only treat tip income taxable income as reported by the waiter and the restaurant. 8% is a vestige from years ago when they weren’t looking as closely at what tipped employees were tipping and 8% was “routinely” reported without incident. Around 15 years ago, they realized that tipped employees were underreporting and that they were losing out on taxes, so they got aggressive about requiring accurate reporting from tipped employees.

“What it means is that in the absence of documentation to show how much that server earned in tips the IRS is going to assume that they earned at least 8% of their food and beverage sales. So if a server sells $1,000 of food than the IRS is going to automatically assume that they took home $80 in tips that night. They’re going to treat that $80 as taxable income and depending on what tax bracket the server is in they might get 25% of the $80 which is $20. So when a customer tips 8% it isn’t all going to the government, it’s simply that all of it is going to be taxable automatically”.

The IRS doesn’t reveal what can cause red flags that could trigger audits. They don’t give away the percentages that they expect to see either. They really don’t make assumptions about any particular percentage per se. Besides, many restaurants have signed TRAC or TRDA agreements, which are blanket tip reporting documents that require restaurants to establish baseline reporting standards. We’ll get back to tip percentages in a minute.

“Most service employees average 15-20% of their sales in tips, so using 8% as a default is conservative from the IRS’s point of view”.

The IRS doesn’t have a “default” tip percentage anymore. As I said, 8% is a vestige of the old days. As far as I know, 8% is meaningless. They obviously have percentages that they expect to see and they aren’t talking, but people “in the know” seem to think that they have a range of tips that they might expect to see.

“In places where credit cards are used the IRS can use the tips on charged receipts to estimate the amount of tips received from tickets paid in cash. The two are generally close to each other, so if a server shows 16% of tips on all of the charged receipts they’ll be sending up a red flag if they under declare their cash tips too drastically (e.g. 6%)”.

I might be wrong about this, and I’m not a tax attorney, but if the IRS is looking at a particular waiter’s credit card receipts, there is no “red flag”, there is only an audit. You aren’t sending up a red flag, you are basically holding yourself liable for penalties and accrued interest in the event of an audit if you are drastically underreporting your cash tips. Now, it’s certainly possible that a restaurant itself gets audited and a waiter might get caught in that net. But that’s a little different from what the above statement implies, that the IRS is randomly checking individual tipped employees. I don’t think that this happens (correct me if I’m wrong on this).  If a whole restaurant’s figures are way off in terms of what is the “industry norm” that they have themselves determined, at that point, you will probably see an audit. And, as I point out elsewhere, a waiter could conceivably get caught in a net if a restaurant has to go under the knife. Perhaps this is the point that Tip20! was trying to make.

“Still when a server is stiffed they are still losing money – they’re getting zero on a ticket that the IRS will assume they made at least 8% on, paying taxes on revenue they didn’t make”.

Not true. The IRS doesn’t look at an individual table, it looks at the big picture. While a stiff minutely drags down the general tip percentage, it is irrelevant to the IRS. The IRS isn’t going to tack on additional “income” that it assumes you made on that stiffed table. While it’s a good idea to note such tables on a tip report, if you are reporting your cash tips fairly, a stiff on its own won’t raise any “red flags”, nor will it add to your tax burden. Where a waiter loses money on a stiff is if they still have to tip out on those sales. Then they’ve actually paid money to wait on that table.

Here’s what’s true:

“Servers are required to report ALL of their tips, even if they made 25% (or more) of their sales in tips”.

It’s also true that in the unlikely event that every table in a shift stiffed you, you are required to report ZERO tips. You are required to report what you actually make, not an estimate of what you make or report income that you didn’t actually make (which is why you get to deduct your tipouts to other tipped employees).

However, this is complicated by the fact that some restaurants do actually have a “set percentage” that you can’t report below because they have a TRAC or TRDA agreement with the IRS. This means that you could conceivably end up reporting income that you didn’t make if you have a very bad night and don’t meet the threshold that the restaurant requires. I worked in a restaurant that required at least 10% of your income after tipout regardless of what you actually made. I think that I actually got hit with reporting 10% once when I actually only made 9.8% after tipout. Our tipout was around 7% of the tip percentage and that one night, I didn’t quite make 17% in actual tips. I could have probably made an issue of it, but .2% wasn’t worth making a fuss over. However, being someone who reports all of their income, I wouldn’t routinely report more than I actually made. Most restaurants set the bar so high that except fo a weird situation such as the one that I mention, it will never be an issue. And I’m pretty sure that I could have reported 9.8% without any problem had I demanded it (especially since I had no cash tables that night). I would have simply documented that these were my true tips. Since I usually reported 11-13% or more of my tips after tipout (I usually averaged 18 – 20% over the whole shift), my reporting far exceeded the “minimum”.

There’s a good reason for reporting all of your tips. In the event of an audit, you can rest easy and not have to worry about the occasional shift where your tip percentages were lower. The IRS is going to pull a pretty large representative sampling of your credit card slips. and they’ll take the lower percentages with the larger and determine a “real” percentage. I know of one waiter/bartender back in the 90s who ended up owing over $18k in back taxes, penalties and interest. Once they figured out that he was severely underreporting, during a certain period, they went back three years! That was enough for me to just simply report what I make. It’s not worth it for me to save a few bucks in taxes to risk getting nailed for a large back taxes bill.

Please note that I am not giving legal or accounting advice and that I don’t specialize in the tax enforcement strategies of the IRS. The waters have been muddied a bit with the advent of tip compliance programs, but I’m pretty sure that what I’ve written here is fairly accurate and applicable to most of my readership.

I welcome any credible corrections to what I’ve written, especially since it’s been years since I’ve had to deal directly with TRAC agreements (they started coming in during the last year or two of my managerial career).

Uncle Sam wants you...to give him coins.

I’ve been a bad blogger…

…because I really haven’t had the time to keep up with the ever-expanding universe of restaurant bloggers.

Normally I like to give a little review and add links to fellow bloggers individually because I think that they deserve credit for their hard work and I like to make it easy for my readers to decide whether a blog is worthy of following.

So this is a bit of a departure for me.

I’m going to list a raft of blogs that have popped up recently. I have at least taken a cursory look at each of them and feel that they are worthy of inclusion in Ye Olde Blogroll. I am not listing them in any particular order nor is the inclusion of them a permanent condition. But I think it’s important to give them exposure and I’ll let you decide for yourself which ones you find relevent, entertaining and informative. I’ll be actually adding them to the blogroll shortly. Meanwhile, use the links that are provided here.

http://www.thejadedwaiter.com/

http://aneducatedserver.wordpress.com/

http://dignityandrespect.wordpress.com/

http://fuckmytable.wordpress.com/

http://doyoudothatathome.com/

http://www.gratuity-not-included.com/

http://waitress-tales.blogspot.com/

http://www.servernightmares.com/

 www.lifeonacocktailnapkin.com

I’m sure that there are more that I’ve missed. If I’ve missed your blog, feel free to list it in the comment section of this post.

I apologize in advance for not giving each of these blogs their rightful due. But I think it’s better to at least get the links out there. Perhaps I will comment on them later, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Needless to say, I found a lot of entertaining stuff in these blogs and I think you will too.

I got many of these links from this compendium:

http://www.bschool.com/blog/2011/60-best-blogs-in-the-restaurant-industry/

I’m proud to have been included. I’m listed #2, although I doubt that they ordered their list in any particular hierarchical fashion. Also, there are quite a few related blogs at this site that will be listed later, especially those dealing with the kitchen (i.e. back-of-the-house, chef/cook related).

“Don’t be scared of the sommelier”

A nice article about how to take advantage of the sommelier, written by Nashville’s only sommelier (as far as I know, she’s the only one).

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110216/LIFE02/102160313/On-Wine-Don-t-scared-sommelier?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CEntertainment%7Cs

Statistically speaking, most restaurant guests will never interact with a sommelier. There can’t be more than 1% of all restaurants in America that employ the services of a sommelier, and I think that 1% is probably being generous. And most people won’t dine at a French Laundry or Aureole.  Nashville is lucky to have a pair of restaurants that are moderately priced and still have a sommelier (F. Scott’s and Table 3). This is only possible because Loehr is a co-owner of those restaurants and happens to be an über wine geek who has received her Advanced Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers, which puts her one step away from getting her Master Sommelier Certificate (there are only 120 people in the US who have received that certification). 

I place so much emphasis on wine knowledge because, in most restaurants, waiters must take on the role of the sommelier. Even if you work at Applebee’s and only need a limited wine knowledge, you won’t always work at Applebee’s if you intend on staying in the business. So you should start learning as much about wine as you possibly can. You will never know everything about wine even if you’re waiting tables for 40 years. It’s a matter of constant attention and there’s always more to learn. Every vintage, every blend, every vineyard, every region is different. In fact, there are infinite variations in each individual region. There are new processes, new trends, new vintners. This requires staying as on top of the wine world as you can.

Waiters will never have the resources that true sommeliers have. Sommeliers taste every wine that they serve. They do comparative tastings with other like wines. They meet with wine representatives almost daily. They are fed huge amounts of information about currently produced wines. Waiters only get a sprinkling of this massive amounts of information. So it’s extremely important to take advantage of the information that trickles through the sommelier or person responsible for the wine program, whether it be tear sheets about specific wines, tastings or staff meetings with wine reps. And, there’s an additional burden on waiters to maintain an independent study program.

You can’t be a great waiter without this knowledge. You can’t be expected to know everything, but you should be able to advise  and educate your guests, without being a Wine Nazi, in choosing the perfect wine from your list with the food that they will be eating. I hope that you use this blog to help in this process. I have written about wine on occasion and, even though the amount of coverage that I can give wine is limited, I think that some of my thumbnail sketches can help distill knowledge from the wide world of wine. Just search for wine and you’ll find a dozen or more articles about commonly available wines. I hope to continue this series as I go forward. What I try to do is give practical information and be as complete as I can in this format. I can’t really cover the subject like a dedicated wine website or book, but I can try to give the information that helps when trying to guide a guest in their dining experience. I try not to clutter my articles with so much information that it becomes unwieldy. I try to simplify as much as possible while still imparting the essence of the subject.

Elise Loehr

Worst.Fears.Realized.

’nuff said.

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.

Dish of the day – crudo

Crudo is the Italian combination of the two culinary concepts sashimi and ceviche. Obviously, it involves raw seafood and it made with some acidic component, olive oil and sea salt. Ceviche differs in that it’s actually a cooked dish, the cooking coming from marinating seafood in an acidic liquid, usually citrus based. It’s usually cut into smaller pieces or is assembled from various raw seafood such as small shrimps, calamari or small, bite-sized pieces or fresh fish. Crudo, on the other hand, isn’t actually marinated in anything other than olive oil. The acidic component is added at the last minute, whether on the plate or drizzled over the fish or actually applied by the diner fresh from the fruit. Any additional ingredients other than what I outlined are usually limited to some sort of aromatic herb such as basil, parsley or fennel. Also, it’s usually presented more like sashimi, with slightly larger pieces. Ceviche, on the other hand, features smaller cuts of seafood, either diced or cubed in order to facilitate the “cooking process”. It also usually features onion or shallots and can also have additional ingredients. Different regions have different variations, including ingredients like corn, chiles, etc. Sashimi is basically just raw fish, sliced to show off the grain of the fish and is served with minimal accompaniment, i.e. a little sliced daikon, cucumber or ginger and usually is served with a dipping soy-based sauce that might or might not include wasabi

Crudo is simpler than ceviche and slightly more involved than sashimi.

As more and more chefs discover crudo as a “new”, “fresh” culinary product, the tendency has been to add additional components, or use crudo as an ingredient in a larger dish. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but the key to a successful crudo is two-fold, find the freshest saltwater seafood (because, let’s face it, raw seafood is potentially dangerous), and the KISS concept, Keep It Simple Stupid. The star is the seafood, not the things that you might pile onto it. Well, that and the combination of the olive oil, sea salt and acidic component. It’s almost like a very simple, deconstructed citrus viniagrette, or gastrique. Some chefs also use various vinegars in addition to the citrus juice.

If you keep in mind the simple concept that ceviche is actually a cooked dish and sashimi doesn’t have a “sauce”, but a dipping sauce, it’s easy to keep them separate.

Not many restaurants serve crudo, but who knows? You might encounter it some day and I hope that you get the chance to try it at some point. It’s a fresh, clean dish that is almost a palate cleanser.

Traditional crudo

Hamachi crudo with avocado

Serving the business dinner pt. 1

I’ve discussed this before, but it seems appropriate to delve into it again.

There are a couple of variations on the business dinner.

The first is the small non-business business dinner. This would be your standard table of business types (up to about 6 – 8 people). This is a gathering of people with shared business dinners just getting together for a social dinner. There will be some business discussed, but mostly in the context of work-related conversation, much like we as waiters do when we gather for post-shift drinks. Lots of shop talk, but little actual business done.

This table is treated just like any other table. while they might all be dressed in Armani suits, they aren’t needing any special consideration. However, it can be helpful to identify the “host” or the alpha male/female. They might be the one to either order the wine or identify the person who’s considered the “wine geek” of the table. However, you shouldn’t play to this person to the exclusion of the others because you’d be surprised how many times someone who you didn’t expect actually pays the check.

This brings up an important point about every table. You should give everyone equal attention. You never know if someone who you don’t suspect ends up paying the check after all. I can’t tell you how many times it’s an administrative assistant or other diner who ends up paying because they have the corporate card and perform the task of paying the bill in lieu of “The Boss”. It’s almost like “The Boss” isn’t bothered with such mundane things like paying the bill.

How do you find out if the event is a social one? Simple. You ask up front. If it appears to be business-related, you ask someone who appears to be in control if it’s a business dinner and if you need to serve them in a particular way. If they say, “We’re just getting together; we don’t have any special needs”,  then it’s full speed ahead with the normal service steps. If they say, “We’re going to discuss some business, so we’re not in any big hurry”, or “Yes, we’re going to need some time before/after the entrée to discuss some things”, then you proceed to:

The small business dinner.

This requires restraint on your part. Interrupting conversations to inquire how everything is is not a good thing. You almost have to throw out the service steps book and rewrite it. the main thing is to make sure that they get cocktails/drinks quickly. Once you do that, take a step back and observe them. If the menus remain untouched and they seem into heavy conversation, simple cruise them periodically to look for signs that they are starting to lose interest in business/cocktail hour behavior and getting interested in food. This could mean a couple of them picking up menus, snatches of conversation about the cuisine, looking around, etc. Many times, business colleagues like to discuss business over cocktails and this is where some important business sometimes gets done,  so it’s not as important to sell apps or script specials. Wait until the time is right.

Hopefully, you got an idea about how they want the pacing of the meal to go when you asked them your initial question. Just remember that you have to be flexible and intuitive. If you notice them shifting from business to hunger, be ready to suggest an appetizer. If they go for it and don’t ask about the specials, the best thing to do is to get an appetizer order, ring it in and then return to the table to talk about the specials. Try not to do it all at once if you can. Reciting the specials gives you the chance to fill some time while you’re waiting for the appetizers to arrive. However, if you tell them about the specials and then ring in the appetizer because they’ve asked about them, you can always fall back on taking the entrée order while you’re waiting.

One optional thing that you can do, which requires an additional step on your part is to suggest that you take the menus away and bring them back after the appetizer. Juggling menus while trying to eat appetizers can be awkward, especially when they’re wearing thousand dollar suits. of course, this holds true for any table, but it’s especially true in this instance.

One key thing to remember is that people talking business can be incredibly focused. We waiters can feel uncomfortable when we are excluded from interacting with the table. Try to repress this by remembering that they don’t need your “entertainment” or “service”. They are focused on themselves. If they spend 20 minutes over drinks, it’s not like a normal table being stuck with drinks for 20 minutes while they’re waiting for you to return to talk about appetizers. However, you do need to continue to monitor them because these sorts of folks can shift quickly from business to dinner.  Just watch for the signs that I mentioned.

You need to give business tables their time and space. If you are in a restaurant where you are concerned about turning tables quickly, you should simply write them off as a candidate for flipping. Normally, business tables spend more money anyway, so don’t begrudge them their time. They usually aren’t concerned with the cost of the meal and some business tables spend a lot of money because a. it’s not their personal money to begin with and b. sometimes they are expected to spend a lot of money to achieve a business goal.

This brings up a good point. Now is not the time to worry about suggesting a big wine or upscale liquors. I wouldn’t pick the most expensive bottle on the list, but I’d definitely start at the upper end. It’s always good to have a go-to pricey wine in the major varietal categories. make it something that you know well and are comfortable in selling, and would be comfortable in buying yourself if money is no object. It’s easier to sell something that you believe in.

Finally, don’t necessarily expect 20% even in the face of flawless service, even if you usually get it. It’s probably not you, it’s probably a company guideline.

In part two, we’ll talk about the large business function (Christmas party, awards dinner, pharmaceutical dinner, etc.).