Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Waitress in Distress

Those who know me know that I worked as a waitress (or server for all you p.c. people) for about two years. Not that I made it a very prominent fact-- I only complained about it every other minute of every hour of every day. Let's just say that I have enough to say about this particular area of the food service industry to fill a hundred blogs. Today, just to give you a "taste" of what I mean, I'd like to offer you some insights on: Garlic Bread.

For some reason, garlic bread is like elixir to people-- they HAVE to have it, and they have to have it IMMEDIATELY. This poses a few problems to the server, problems caused by the same ignorance that creates the exasperating situation in which customers argue menu prices with the poor kids. Once and for all, I'd like to make clear that servers are quite low on the hierarchy of restaurant business, which looks something like this:

Owner -> General Manager -> Dining Room Manager -> Supervisor -> The Special of the Day -> Servers

Therefore, servers have absolutely no authority to change anything for you. They can't change company policy. They can't turn water into wine. And they absolutely, under any circumstances, cannot turn your chicken parmigiana into a non-fat, no-carb, low-sodium miracle. So arguing prices with a server will not get you anywhere, unless you want to make one of them cry, in which case carrying on with it for about 6 minutes should do the trick.

Anyway, back to garlic bread. It is amazing what an effect it can have on somebody's order. To give you a better idea, here is a conversation that I had to have many times:
Customer: "I'd like the Santa Fe Chicken Salad."
Me: "Alright, and would you like to add some garlic bread to your order for a dollar?"
Customer: "WHAT!? It doesn't already come with garlic bread? Olive Garden gives you free breadsticks! What is this place?"
Me: "Well, we're considerably less expensive here..."
Customer: "Forget it! Then I want the BBQ Chicken Pizza Dinner."
Customer's Wife: "But honey, you don't like BBQ chicken. And you're lactose-intolerant."
Customer: "I don't care! It comes with free garlic bread!" (Usually a conversation like this gets the customer so upset that there is a tip decline of 5%.)

The other problem is, people think that hot, crispy garlic bread can be whipped up instantaneously, as if there is a secret recipe for toast that can sit in a mountainous pile all day long and not get stale or soggy. I remember countless occasions in which I would finish taking a table's order, take one step away, and... "Hey! Can I have my garlic bread NOW?" When I tell them that it will be about 5 minutes, they stare at me as if I have the IQ of a charcoal briquette. Sometimes they try even harder. "But we're hungry RIGHT NOW. Can't you do anything?" And that's if they're nice. At this point I'd like to list the process for you to illustrate exactly why it takes 5 minutes to get hot garlic bread to your table:
1. The server walks to the computer. He or she inputs the order. Depending on how long the order is, this may take anywhere from 20 seconds to 3 minutes.
2. The computer processes the information (approximately 15 seconds).
3. The order prints up in a little printer in the kitchen.
4. Someone in the kitchen has to notice that a little piece of paper has printed up in a little printer, which may take a few minutes if they are playing fling-the-pizza-dough-at-the-new-guy.
5. We wait for the next lunar eclipse, or Halley's comet, whichever comes first.
6. Finally, somone in the kitchen puts some bread through the bread oven. (Kitchen people don't really care about getting food to you promptly because they don't get tips.)
7. 3 minutes later, the bread comes out of the bread oven.
8. Someone in the kitchen has to stop flinging pizza dough long enough to notice that bread is ready. He or she puts the bread in a cute little basket and puts it in the window.
9. An expediter sees the bread and takes it to the table, hopefully the correct one. (Ta-da!)
So here we see that by 5 minutes, we mean if you're lucky. So please stop harassing your servers. They are only trying to work their way through school so that someday they can have a job where people don't treat them like low-lifes.

Anyway, that's my "tip" to you for today. And no, it doesn't come with free garlic bread.

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