Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Server Plays Manager


This story takes place in The Bar. It happened less than a month ago.

Recently, two managers left The Bar. One got canned for nailing a server after close, while the other moved to a location nearer his home. To pick up the slack, the GM asked my to run some "key shifts" until the new managers arrive. Basically, this means that my responsibility will be to take care of the servers, the customers, and the appearance of the front of the house. No biggie.

-A Description of Zo-

Zo is somewhere between 27 and 35. He is short (about 5'4''), and only slightly overweight. His hair is short and curly. It also seems as though his face is too small for his head. In several years, when osteoporosis sets in, he'll look like the guy on the Keystone light commercials. Bitter-Beer Face.

Zo is a low talker. For those of you who don't watch Seinfeld, a low talker is one who speaks so softly that it is difficult to understand what they are saying. He mumbles. Worse, he talks really fast.

Zo is one of the new managers. He's had the roughest start I've ever seen at The Bar. All the servers hate him, but with good reason- he treats them like crap. Case in point: We're doing a new promotion for our wings. Zo stopped one of our veteran servers to ask where her Wing Pin was attached to her uniform. The server had a tray full of drinks at the time. She almost dropped them while pointing out that the Wing Pin was indeed attached to her apron. Zo's remark as she's walking away, "Good, cause else you'd be in trouble!" In a place where it is difficult enough for servers to show up to work, he decided to pick on one of his best veterans for a pin. Picking battles is not Zo's strong suit.

-The Server Plays Manager-

I hop out of my Jeep dressed in manager garb. In other circles, this is referred to as 'business casual.' I'm excited for the upcoming day. While I'm an outstanding server, I feel that managing people is my best attribute.

It's 11 am, and we've just opened for business. The Bar does a decent lunch business. Nothing like The Restaurant, but decent nonetheless.

I walk into the back to talk to the GM. He's going through his paperwork.

"What's up GM?"

"Hey, Server, you ready for this?" He puts his paperwork to the side and pulls out a manager card. The manager card is the key to the city. I can adjust checks, comp food, 86 items, the works. Only problem is, I have no idea how it works.

"Can you show me how to wield this thing?" Normally, I don't use words like "wield" in everyday conversation. Somehow, it feels right today.

"Sure thing." He hops out of his chair and leads me to a computer screen.

He swipes the card and gives me a two minute crash course. When he's finished, I'm still completely unsure as to what I'm doing.

"Got it?" He's ready to go back to the books.

"Got it." I'll figure it out as I go.

The lunch rush goes off without a hitch. No customer complaints. The only issue I have is the staff's teamwork, which is non-existant. Oh well. Can't fix it today. One thing at a time.

The servers cash out. They all leave except for the late check. She handles the entire bar until the 4 o'clock servers arrive in a few hours.

I use the time to eat, make up the night floor chart, and clean up the place. So far so good.

The first problem arises at 4:05. One of the PM cooks hasn't showed.

Cooks are the backbone for the restaurant. Without a solid kitchen, any restaurant will fall apart in a hurry. This is a problem that needs to be fixed in a hurry.

"GM, one of the cooks didn't show." The GM is packing his briefcase. He's been here since 5 am doing inventory. He's ready to go home.

"Let Zo take care of it." He snaps his briefcase shut and walks out the door. Way to take care of business. I guess the buck doesn't stop here.

Zo walks up. It's his first shift. He's nervous and taking it out on the servers.

"Where's your Wing Pin?" he yells as each server walks in for their shift. I'm already sick of that question. Obviously they are too. One of the servers pulls me aside.

"Dude, I can't take that guy any more. He's such an asshole. I'm going to quit." I agree completely, but since I'm wearing manager garb and I have The Card...

"He's new. It's going to take him a while to get used to things. You know how new managers are. They want to change the world on their first shift. It'll be OK." I can see that she's still pissed. I also know that she's well-liked in the restaurant. If she walks out, I get the distinct feeling that others will be right behind.

"Well, just don't walk out. I'll see if I can't talk to GM and get things squared away."

This seems to placate the server. Whew. Bomb diffused. I've seen a mass staff walkout before. It ain't pretty. That's not how I want my first shift to run.

Six o'clock rolls around. For some reason, we're busy as hell. We're staffed for a Monday night. The place is filling up like a Friday night. SHIT.

I head back to the kitchen. All hell breaks loose.

The ticket machine that prints each server's order is spitting out chits like a Gatlin gun. There is a pile an inch thick behind the printer. The cooks already have a full kitchen. There is no place on the grill for more burgers, no free basket in the fryer. The cooks are staring at the machine, mouths agape.

I spring into action. I track down Zo, who's chasing servers around with the Wing Card, which is supposed to go hand-in-hand with the Wing Pin. For every order of 10 Wings, a customer gets a Wing Punch on their Wing Card, which could earn them a trip anywhere in the continental U.S. Wing-derful.

"Zo, the kitchen is in bad shape. Can you help them out?" We need a kitchen manager directing traffic. Since no one can understand what Zo is saying, I figure it's best if I stay up front and deal with the customers.

"Make sure they're doing their Wing Punches!" He ambles, hobbit-like, back towards the kitchen. I watch him go, shaking my head.

No time to dwell on that now. Servers are lining up with myriad problems.

"Can you take off this guy's steak? It was cooked too well-done."

"Can you check and see if the guys at table 110 are ok for another round?"

"Can you buy this drink for my friend?"

"Can you put this tab onto this one? I messed up and..."

Time flies by. Not cause I'm having fun, but because the place is busy as hell. People are standing in the aisles because there is no place to sit.

Soon I'm sick of my own name. Each time I hear it, there is five minutes of computer work ahead of me. I soon realize that I should have spent more time learning how to use The Card. Oh well.

Finally, I get some time away from the computer. I use it to mark down the 4-drink calls. Servers write down a description of the customer, what they've had to drink, and how they're acting. This prevents us from paying a huge lawsuit if some drunken yuppie has a few too many and wraps his Beamer around a telephone pole.

As I'm filling out the chart, I look up. Bedlam. It's a rowdy crowd. Guests are standing on chairs, shouting to each other across the bar. I see two college-age guys having a chugging contest with $6/pint beer. Then my eyes settle on a middle-aged couple eating dinner. My heart goes out to them. Here they are, trying to enjoy a decent meal and a nice glass of wine while all around them, hell is breaking loose.

I turn to the host.

"Turn down the music." He looks at me like I'm nuts. But he's a friend of mine. He does what I tell him.

I walk across the floor, pulling guests down from chairs as I go. I finally reach the older couple.

"Hi folks, how is everything tonight?"

They look up at me. "It's a little wild in here for us."

"Yes, things are a little crazy tonight. I promise that it's not normally like this. Tell you what... I've got some coupons here for a free meal. I'd love it if you would come back and visit us again on a night when things are a bit less... hectic." They smile and thank me.

Feeling pleased with myself, I am walking back to my 4-drink sheet when a server stops me.

"Hey, there's blood in one of the stalls in the men's bathroom." She's gone almost as quick as she came.

This is just what I need. I grab the spray bottle of bleach and some paper towels. Hopefully this will be quick.

I open the door to the men's room. Immediately, I realize that this is going to require a bit more effort than I originally thought. The sharp, coppery smell of blood assaults my olfactory sense. I can't see it yet, but I sure can smell it.

I open the first stall door. Clean. Same with the second. That leaves the handicapped stall. Opening the door, I choke back the bile that rises in my throat.

It looks like someone had a knife fight in the stall. Blood is everywhere. The toilet seat, the floor, the walls are all covered in quickly drying blood.

Closing off the restroom, I am grabbing cleaning supplies when Zo comes up to me.

"mumble...mumble...Wing Punches?"

"What? No, I haven't done any Wing Punches. " I can't believe he's asking me about this shit now. The servers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and I'm about to clean up a bio hazard. Wing Punches are the last thing on my mind.

"Well, you should be doing those. Hey, we're almost out of napkins. I know you were supposed to be off an hour ago, but could you run to the other location and grab a pack for us?" I looked at my watch. 11:00. I was scheduled to get off at 10. Oh well.

"I'd be happy to," I say, grabbing my keys. "Oh, by the way, there's some blood in the bathroom. Would you mind taking care of that while I'm gone?"

As I'm heading down the highway toward the nearest sister Bar, I reflect on the night. I remained calm, made at least one customer feel special, kept a server from quitting, and saddled a bastard manager with a horrible job. All in all, not a bad first shift. I wonder how many Wing Punches Zo has done....


southerngal said...

You are an awesome, funny writer.

Becky said...

Wow sounds like a wild night. Glad you pulled it off. Ok so I am the only one wondering about the story behind the fired manager nailing a server?

ravyn23259 said...

hahahaha...i want to hear that story too! Great writing, I'm glad I found you via Waiterrant.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Great writing. Great job all around. I'll visit your site again.

DaveR said...

oh my god! just reading that story made my chest tighten with anxiety. I would have lost it completely. Maybe it's time to visit the cardiologist.
I'm quite stumped about the bloody bathroom. Did nobody notice anyone in the bar covered in blood or at least looking like they were down a quart?
That Zo sounds like a piece of work. If I was a server and he kept bugging me about a damned pin when the place was in chaos, I would have stuck it in his eye. Obviously he wasn't doing anything productive with his time if that was his biggest concern. I was kinda hoping the blood came from him. hehehe

Alyssa said...

Yeah seriously did you ever figure out what the blood was? I mean I've had some nasty bloody noses before that could do that kind of damage but shit...

The Server said...

I've seen a couple comments about the blood. Actually, I went around the entire restaurant checking for anyone who looks like they dropped two or three pints. I only saw three band-aids in the place.

The source of the blood remains a mystery. I even asked those sitting near the restroom. Everyone maintains that they saw nothing. Kitty Genovesi syndrome? Perhaps. Or maybe the Underpants Gnomes dispatched one of their bretheren that didn't meet quota? The world may never know...

Dacross71 said...

Ug, I understand about bastard new managers. We got a new cook manager where I work. He was an up-front manager who did so-so work, and after we lost 2 FPM's, and 2 line managers in a short time, he got sent back since he had previous cooking experience. He's always asking me about when my last off went home (i'm the grave) since he's so worried about labor. I always get the look of "he should have left earlier" regardless of when he actually left or how busy we were.

Anyways, he's the new 6am cook, and after a crap night where the clock seemed to move at double time, he keeps trying to bust my chops. I've asked around in the restaurant about exactly what is required and what is optional (for when you are getting your ass kicked) for clean-ups. I was told floors, dishes, stock, and everything else is just appreciated.

The guy gets in and I'm doing the dishes. He tells me that I should have sent home my last off earlier (even though he went home almost 2 hours early anyways), then gripes I haven't deep-cleaned the grills, but I wasted time doing the broiler again since I did it earlier that week. (we have a steak promotion running and it is destroying the broiler. It has to be deepcleaned at least twice a week since the new grill brushes THIS manager bought suck monkey balls)

As I'm doing dishes he comes around the corner and is like "did you stock?" I told him i got to most of it but never got around to the last area because I got busy, and not 2 minutes later comes back and says that he's short on 2 items (both in the area I just told him I missed) and in the time he took to come around to the dish pass, he could have just grabbed them. Then he calls me up to the line to stock breads and bring him a new pack of bacon, since he's busy with his WOW 2 tickets. I get caught up with dishes and he's like "triple sink" I remarked that I forgot he's the one who likes the triple sink filled, and he tells me it's mandatory. So I go and stand there watching the sinks slowly fill up (i have offered to just start them if he would check back in 3 minutes to turn the water off, but he says he wouldn't remember it). I get all 3 sinks filled and go up to tell him I'm gone, and he just goes "plates?" I'm already 40min late getting out, and I have a bad back. I've had it since before I started, and the rest of the kitchen staff knows I can't lift more than a few plates, or take out the overfilled garbage bags. I tell him I can't bring plates up because I've got a bad back and he starts to grill me on my back condition. I messed it up 2 summers prior doing industrial work and have had problems since. 15 vertibra in my back from the base of my skull to my tailbone are slightly out of place, inflamed, or pinching, but not bad enough for surgury or anything, just for regular chiropractor visits. He asks me if I have a doctors note for lifting restrictions (the first I've heard of it. everyone else seems to understand that bad backs means don't lift heavy stacks of plates up over your head) and proceeds to lecture me on how when I was hired it was in the job description that I be able to lift 40lbs, blah blah blah (And I never heard anything about having to lift during orientation or in the batches of paperwork I kept from when I was hired last year). Sorry, just got back from that and I'm still a little pissy. That fucking prick.

Ken said...

EVERY restaurant has a Zo, and the Zo NEVER knows it is him/her.

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