Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Ways to Slow Down Your Waiter

Speed is the key to the restaurant business.  (OK, speed is the key to almost everything).  Many waiters will do what they can to show you the love and patience demonstrated by saints.  But the bottom line is ... turning those tables!  All other things being equal, getting 20% tips on eight tables will not bring as much money as earning 15% tips on 12 tables.  Thus, any delays in service can mean the difference between a good night and a great night; between paying the utilites and paying the rent.

So this could really be called "The List of Things that will Slow Your Waiter Down and thus piss him off."  Why?  Again ... speed.  Everything in the restaurant is subconsciously organized around making orders fast and expediting a quick exit for the guest.  Any extraneous issues require extra time - and probably lots of it.

So, here is a list of things that will slow your waiter down.
  1. You have a coupon: The waiter's world will come to a dead stop while he looks for a manager to redeem your coupon.  He has to search the entire restaurant, including the kitchen and the office, then pray the manager isn't busy doing something else.  Elapsed time:  5 to 10 minutes in real life.  A cumulative 20 to 40 minutes when you realize he's serving four tables.
  2. Lots of Separate Checks:  two friends with separate chacks?  No problem.   Four co-workers on separate checks?  Um ... OK.  A party of twelve with 9 separate checks?  You've got to be kidding.  The waiter will need to be extra careful when taking the order, extra careful entering the order in the Point of Sale system, and his world will come to a crashing halt when the checks are presented and paid out.  Elapsed time:  onother 10 to 12 minutes in real time with the same impact as the coupon listed above.  What happens when the waiter has to deal with coupons and separate checks?  Please consult your Time and Space Theoretician.
  3. You order desserts that have to be made:  no waiter minds reaching in the fridge for a dessert (e.g. cheesecake, carrot cake, etc.).  But if the dessert must be assembled ... he screams like Charlie Brown.  Examples include the Caramel Pecan Sundae at O'Charley's, the fudge brownie sundae at any restaurant, and any ice cream drink that has to be made by the bartender.  What's wrong with the Ice Cream Drink?  The Bartender doesn't like to make them, so they tend to come out after the Barkeep pours out several beers.
  4. Birthdays:  As I told a friend who quit O'Charley's, "Ally, you're going to miss this place.  You're going to miss the mayhem on Saturday nights and holidays.  You're going to miss the Managers ... all of them.  You're going to miss the grumpy cook behind the sautee station.  You're even going to miss me.  But you will never, ever in a million years miss dropping everything you're doing during the utterly insane dinner rush to sing Happy Birthday."  Yep, another 2 to 5 minutes multiplied by every waiter in the restaurant.
  5. Asking for samples:  Over the last 30 years, restaurant-goers have become more sophisticated and more demanding.  Asking for samples is an excellent example of that evolution.  And it makes sense.  Dining out has become much more expensive over the last 30 years.  The risk of getting something you don't like is a real possibility.  So what's the issue?  It's not the same thing as getting a tast of fancy ice cream at Baskin Robbins.  The waiter has to completely dedicate the time to getting the sample from the (most likely very busy) cook.  And by the way, you'll never ever get a sample of any entree item (e.g. steak, fish, chicken, etc.).  That and it will keep the guest at the table for another 5 to 10 minutes total.  This could prevent the waiter from turning the table one last time that evening.
And so you ask, "Russell, do you hate people?  Do you not understand the hospitality industry?"

"No, I don't hate people.  Yes, I understand the industry."

I will never, ever let you know that any of these things sets me back financially.  In fact, if the restaurant is slow, I have everything to gain by pampering you.  These five things really only upset the cart when the restaurant is full and busy ... when there is a 30 minute wait at the door.  Your waiter has to make money, too.  And serving more tables is the only sure way to achieve that goal.

This has been a public service announcement from Russell Britt.
"Thank you for patronizing me."

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