Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who's to Blame?

Preface:

I’ve classified servers into three categories.

‘The Natural’- People born with the traits to serve. You’ve seen them- easy smile, quick wit, great multitasking skills, and the ability to move quickly while making it look effortless.

‘The Grinder’- People that work hard to make up for their lack of natural talent. They have to force themselves to step out of their comfort zone, but they find a way to get things done, and generally become successful after a little time and practice.

‘Waste of Perfectly Breathable Air’- The final type of server is the one you hate to see on the floor plan. This class of server lacks natural talent, not unlike the Grinder. However, the lack of self motivation and effort renders them practically useless on the floor. No matter how good the management, it seems one slips through and sets up camp in every restaurant.

Who's to Blame?

After a couple months of serving, I’m finally good enough to take care of my tables and have a conversation in a side station without falling into the weeds. It’s really given me an opportunity to learn about my fellow servers. It’s also given me a chance to observe their style, to spot their strengths and weaknesses.

This morning, there are five servers on the floor.

Anita is a natural. Smart, funny, gregarious, and hard-working, Anita usually takes home the biggest tip percentage of any server in The Restaurant.

I’m a grinder. I’ve worked through my shyness, and I’m nipping at Anita’s heels in terms of daily tip percentage.

The Deaf Server is a grinder. She would be a natural, except for the fact that she can’t hear… at all. Completely deaf since a childhood illness, The Deaf Server has worked to learn how to read lips. Now her only shortcoming is that tables can’t flag her down by calling her name, so they have to physically grab her as she walks by. Couple this with the fact that she hates to be touched, and you end up with some interesting confrontations in her section.

The last two servers are wastes. The Penguin (so named because she is cut from the same body mold as Danny DeVito’s character in Batman Returns) likes to park herself against the back wall, out of customer sight so they can’t flag her down. She moves as little as possible. She never helps other servers. Her only redeeming quality is that she’s friendly to her tables and she only smells bad towards the end of a shift.

Angie S (so named because there is also an Angie D at The Restaurant) is similar to The Penguin, except she leans against a wall in full view of the customers. However, rather than making her more accessible to customers, Angie S tends to look at customers trying to get her attention, and then look away. I often wonder if she has some type of mild autism. Seriously.

Today, it’s a busy shift. The five of us have full sections, with Anita, The Deaf Server, and I each taking an extra table.

I’m currently getting refills, pulling down a stack of napkins, and holding a light-hearted conversation with a nearby table, all while trying to remember an order that I have to punch into the computer. Angie S is taking her sweet-ass time at the touch screen. I look at her section. It’s filled with two-tops. Why in God’s name would it take two full minutes to punch in an order?

Now two minutes doesn’t sounds like a long time, but in serving time, it’s an eternity. Just try to hold your breath for two minutes.

When she finishes, she picks up her book and walks away. I jump on the computer and pound in the order before it falls out of my head. My memory is only good for a short time. Too many games of beer pong in college.

I hit the send button, and the small printer next to the computer spits out the chit. I notice an extra ticket when I pull the chit to put it in my book. Angie S never bothered to take hers. I take a quick look: two Chicken Caesar salads, two Diets.

Quickly counting in my head, I figure that she had 7 keystrokes. Nice.

On my way back to the kitchen, Angie S’ table stops me.

“Could you get us some refills please?” a slightly-perturbed gentleman asks. Both he and his companion are down to straws and ice.

“Of course,” I say. I grab both empty glasses and turn towards the kitchen. Angie S is standing against the wall, looking right at me. When she sees me looking, she looks away, ignoring not only me, but her other tables, all of which need something. I can tell because they’re all doing the short-arm wave. This happens when people want to get your attention while not drawing attention to themselves.

I return to Angie S’ table, drop off the drinks, then head towards my section. I get about two steps before a claw-like hand clamps down on my forearm. It’s another of Angie S’ tables. Refills and another ramekin of ranch dressing.

This is going to be a problem. Angie S’ section is between mine and the kitchen entrance. I can’t get to the kitchen without going by her tables, and I can’t go by her tables without being asked for something.

“Angie, I think your tables could use some refills,” I say as I pass. I try to keep my tone as non-confrontational as possible.

I refill the drinks for her table and grab the ranch dressing from the line. As I step back out onto the floor, I’m surprised to see Angie S still standing in the exact spot she was when I went into the back.

I shoot her an inquisitive look.

She rolls her eyes and looks out at her tables. “They’re fine.”

“If they’re fine, why have I gotten refills for half your section?” I can feel my blood boiling.

“Don’t worry about it. They’re fine.” She shrugs and settles back into doing nothing.

Fuming, I fly back to my section, which is now in dire need of attention thanks to Angie S’ apathy.

I spend the rest of the shift waiting on my tables as well as getting refills and pre-bussing her tables.

Towards the end of the shift, I’m finally caught up. I walk up to the host stand to see if I’ve been cut.

Kathy, the high school hostess, asks me how it's going. She's probably just trying to be friendly, but I haven’t had a chance to vent to anyone about Angie S.

A torrent of profanity flies out of my mouth, momentarily shocking her. That’s what she gets for trying to make friendly conversation.

Kathy, recovering, laughs and says, “You know how there’s two Angies, right?”

“Yeah?”

“Know how I learned to remember which was which when I first started?”

“Tell me.”

“Well, Angie S' tables would always come up here, asking if they were supposed to pay up front because she took so long to check back after she dropped off the check. I just remember thinking that "Angie sucks", hey... "Angie S!”

I laugh and walk away. I do my side work and head to the back to cash out. I get all my chits in order, cash first, then credit cards, then any special coupons or comps. I face all my bills, count out what I owe the house, and get ready to hop into the office.

Angie S comes around the corner and steps in front of me.

“Ladies first!” If anyone else had said it, I would have laughed. I debate on asking her why she thinks she qualifies to be called a "lady", but I decide not to push the issue and sit back down. Cashing out doesn’t take more than about two minutes. I’ll be going home in four rather than two. Angie S heads into the office.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m still waiting outside watching the fruit flies buzz around the overflowing ashtrays on the counter. I poke my head in the door. Angie S has all her chits spread out in front of her, and she’s still organizing them. Unbelievable.

I stand there, waiting for her to finish. When she’s finally done, she counts out her money.

“I didn’t make shit today. People are such cheap asses!” She complains loudly. She waddles towards the front door.

“If you’d get off your fat ass and hustle a little bit, maybe they wouldn’t be so fucking tight, you dumb bitch! Get your head out of your ass. How the hell do people like you make it through life without an illustrated guidebook?”

Ah, the things we think but do not say.

When Angie S is out of earshot, I ask the manager why she keeps Angie around when it’s obvious she doesn’t work very hard.

“She’s got good availability. It’s too much trouble to hire and train a new server.”

Hmmm… I see people come in almost daily to fill out applications. I know that there has to be at least three applicants each week that would do a better job than her. Makes you wonder who to blame- Angie S for being a waste of perfectly breathable air, or a manager that’s afraid to spend some extra money and sacrifice a little time to strengthen the staff in the long run. My vote is for the manager. Angie S can't even get out of her own way.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you back blogging. Good writing, as usual. Hope you get better soon.

Waitergripes said...

Yes, there's always at least one Angie S. on every staff, and for some reason, it never fails, a manager favorite.

Anonymous said...

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They print on T-shirts what waiters and waitresses think.

kevinc said...

Waitergripes is exactly right...it also seems that the "Angie" in each restaurant seems to be of the larger variety. Not to say that larger people typically make bad servers by any means...I've met many far more capable than myself (after 2 months I feel like a grinder...hopefully that's how my coworkers see me) Does anybody else feel this correlation is warranted?