What’s Your Order? : Shake, Shake, Shake…


What’s You Order is where The Waitress Confessions leaves telling the tales of the service industry up to you!

If you’d like to be part of this segment and share your story,  just write to us!


Dear Waitress…

Okay, so I’ve been hostessing for three years now to make money for college. I’ll have a few more expenses coming this fall, so when offered a second job at a different restaurant as a server, I took it.

Now I’m not new to serving. My mother owned and operated a restaurant for 40 years before she retired. So obviously being around the industry my whole life, I know the difference between good service and bad service. I just needed to learn the menu and any required phrases when I took this job.

So I’m serving one night, and this couple comes in. First off, the floor changed and I was not told this. More so, the floor chart was shoved to the side and not displayed where I could actually see it. So they sat there for a bit before I got to them. I apologized and got their shakes and burgers out asap. I came back multiple times to make sure everything was okay. “Oh yes, everything is good, thank you.” was what I was told. It was when they ordered a shake to-go that things went bad. They waited for-ever for that shake because the shake person was behind. I did everything I could besides going back there and and forcing him to make it. That’s when they asked the manager to come over, and they told him that both the food and the service was horrible. He comped their check, and then after they got their shake, they left – without leaving any tip.

Now okay, I’m not saying I didn’t make any mistakes here. I could have been more attentive to the stations, and I could have asked the manager to make the shake. BUT at the same time, and I’ve seen this countless countless times at my other job too, the couple could have TOLD me their was something wrong with their food BEFORE they ate it all. We are servers, not mind readers. If customers do not tell us there is a problem, then we can not help them. Fortunately my manager was understanding, especially since I’ve been giving great service to all my other customers. However some are not so lucky. Obviously if there’s a complaint on the service then it’s on us.

It just tears me up that full grown adults cannot speak for themselves when they have a problem, and then get upset when said problem isn’t magically fixed. Even if it’s just a small thing, TELL US! Not only will you get a great dining experience, but we will know that you are 100% happy with your meal.

Sincerely,
Angela

 

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How Being a Hostess Taught Me to Be a Better Server

For 4 years before I started serving tables, I was a hostess.  Not just any regular, everyday hostess…I was deemed Head Hostess.  This title pretty much meant that I was in charge of verifying all reservations, seating rotation, setting up large parties, organizing the wait list, and distributing tables evenly among the servers.  It was, in my experience, a difficult job.  The multitasking  and workload, however, was not what made it challenging.  It was handling the customers (along with their complaints) and most of all…dealing with the servers.

In my restaurant, the waiters and waitresses are not allowed to go up to the front desk and bother the hostesses.  Any problems with tables or fairness were supposed to be brought up to the Floor Manager and from the Floor Manager to the Hostess.  However, when the Floor Manager was busy chatting up a storm with regular customers or taking care of a customer complaint with a certain waiter, servers would flock to the front entrance like a bunch of vultures and harass the hostesses.  Why does he have more tables than me? What do you mean my reservation canceled…give me another one! I don’t want any more tables, I want to get out of here early.

On slow days, I would constantly hear their complaints about customers.  They would be all riled up because a table left them $8 on $102 or their table was just having two coffees and sharing a soup.  I’d hear all these horror stories about guests dining and dashing, dishing out impossible demands, and even belittling them as people.  After days of hearing all of these tales of woe, I decided then and there that I did NOT want to be a server.

But, when the time came that I had learned everything I possible could about being a Hostess, I figured it was time for me to learn something a little more challenging.  Knowing what I knew about the difficulty of being a server, I thought that maybe it would be different for me. So, I started learning the menu, how to punch in orders, and the timing of the plates.

As I started learning more and more and watched the best waiters work, I started to notice how horrible some of them actually were.  As I circulated within the restaurant, I was getting stopped by a lot of guests complaining that they had no utensils, were low on water, that their food was taking too long,  and that they couldn’t find their waitress.  Even though I was a Hostess and could have said “It won’t be long, I’ll get your server”, I stepped up to the plate and decided to handle these things personally. I would get the water pitchers and make my way through the whole restaurant filling up glasses.  I made sure everyone had utensils.  I checked with the Expiditor if food was taking too long.  If someone wanted another drink, I took their order and sent off the order to the bar.

Slowly I started to notice the things you need to do as a server…and the things you should NEVER do.  When it came time for my training, I already had a great overview of what was expected of me.  I never neglected filling up water glasses.  I never talked in the back, ignoring my customers.  I always made myself available to them and any other table in the restaurant.  I picked up visual cues and could tell when a customers was ready to pay or was getting up in search of the bathrooms.  Anticipating the guests needs became a strong point for me.

The hostesses loved me because I would never go up and harass them about getting more customers.  They would clear off my tables and reset it and sit more people all because I would watch the door for them when they’d run off to eat something in the back.  It was a give and take relationship with them and because I knew the challenges of being a hostess and how the servers try any way possible to get them to fold and give them new tables, in their eyes I was the best waitress to get along with.  Soon after, I became a bridge between servers and hostesses.  Complaints from waiters about hostesses started coming to me and instead of brushing them off I’d explain to them why their table changed places or why one waitress had more tables (because she had all the tables by the windows – customers love that section).  I took the load off of them for quite some time and I think they appreciated the silence for once.

Being a Hostess and walking around the restaurant taught me how to be a better server.  I was like a fly on the wall, learning the job from only the very best and learning how to take care of neglected customers from the very worst.  Without being a hostess, I’m not sure if I’d be the waitress I am today.  I may have started at a low end restaurant, without a decent training and no restaurant experience.  I could have been one of those servers, the ones who don’t give a damn about customer service…only the money in their pocket.  So, when I’m passing by the front desk sometimes and I see a girl applying for a job as a waitress (even though she has no experience), I wonder why they don’t apply for the Hostess job instead.  Maybe they don’t realize that sometimes that is the best way to get the job you want.  Start slow and work your way up.  Like I did.

So, my advice to anyone looking to get into the restaurant business for the first time is this:  take any job you can get.  Most places ask for a minimum amount of years of experiences in order to be a server, but can take you with no experience in another position.  You’ll have to work hard and prove yourself to the managers and owners, but from my experience a lot of restaurants like to hire within the restaurant.  We need new waitresses.  Well, how about Kayla over there? She’s been working hostess for 3 years, maybe she can handle it.

Any experience you can gather up will only improve your service later on.  You could go from dishwasher, to kitchen, to bar, to waiter and then… Voilà!  Your a waiter who knows how everything works and how things are run in the restaurant.  Are you in one of those positions now? Don’t sell yourself short, it may just be a stepping stone to yet another experience…serving tables and serving them well.

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True Story: The Horrible Hostess

[Hostess job description at The Hot Spot:  answering the phone, greeting and seating guests, bussing tables, and saying “Goodbye” to guests]

About a week ago, I was getting into work and had just put on my apron and was heading into the Front of the House when I saw the morning hostess rolling cutlery for the day.  For the sake of this post, let’s call her Cher.

The problem: she was blasting her own music from the bar’s radio at top volume and singing and dancing along with the song.  None of her Opening Tasks were done and she had her cellphone next to her and was texting.

The rules: First of all, cellphone are prohibited in the Front of the House at all times.  Waiters, bartenders, and hostesses are to keep them in the staff rooms.  Secondly, the restaurant was opening in 5 minutes and she seemed completely unaware of that fact and seeing as how she’s in charge of unlocking the front door, it didn’t seem like she was going to do that any time soon.  Also, the radio in the bar is for bartender use only, so not only was she breaking that rule, but also the volume level should be kept to a minimum so as not to bother other employees and customers seated nearby.

The story: The Ass. Manager was MIA so I assume she was taking advantage of the fact that our boss wasn’t there and was taking some time to do whatever she wanted before he came in to work.  So, I took it upon myself to walk into the bar and turn off the radio.

“Hey!” she said.  “I was listening to that.”

“Well, the restaurant is opening in 2 minutes so we need to turn on the regular restaurant radio and unlock the front door.” I explained.

“Oh….yeah. I forgot.”

Nice.  Way to do your job properly.

So throughout the day, other employees strolled in and started to work.  As soon as on of the bartenders, Lancelot, came in, the hostess left the front desk, went to the bar to chat with her back to the door, and continued on as if what she was doing was okay.  It was a Sunday so there weren’t too many tables at that time, but I knew customers would start coming in at around 1:00 pm.    At that moment, I noticed a couple walk through the door and glanced over to Cher chatting up a storm with the bartender, completely unaware of the fact that two people were now looking around for a hostess to seat them.  I waited to see what she would do.  She never even looked towards the front once.

“There are people in the front.”  I told her.

She dropped what she was doing and went to the front to seat them, only to come back and continue gabbing away.  Then four people came through the door and Cher still didn’t notice them.

“Hey, Cher!” I yelled at her. ” Get to the front, there are people there!”

This continued on like this for another…oh let’s say 4 times until I started having to answer the phone for her because she was too distracted to hear it ringing. I finally went up to her and said “Cher, I’m tired of doing your job for you.  Stay in the front and do your job.”  That lasted for all but 15 minutes.

Imagine you’re a waitress, in the middle of taking and order and have to say “Excuse me one moment” to your table so you can answer the phone for a hostess who is doing nothing that talking all day.  It’s infuriating.  You could say “Just don’t answer the phone”, but if the boss calls and no one answers, everyone is responsible for not answering.

If the hostess can’t answer the phone, then the manager does (if there is a manager present).  If the manager can’t answer the phone, then a waiter answers.  If they’re all busy, then someone in the kitchen has to answer.  With a limited number of staff on Sunday lunches, it’s a very short list of people able to answer the phone. Plus, with one cook in the kitchen, he can’t just drop everything and answer the phone while in the middle of cooking 6 table’s food, now can he?

How terrible will it look to customers if their waitress runs off to answer the phone in a middle of an order?  Well, I can tell you now it looks completely unprofessional, especially with the hostess standing there yapping instead of doing her job.

What I thought about doing:  Honestly, I thought that a way to get her to stay in front was to get my cellphone and force her to stay in front by continuously calling the restaurant, but with the amount of tables I had there was no time for doing something like that, but I have to admit that schemes like that did cross my mind (doesn’t everyone think like that from time to time?).  It would have been sneaky and a little bit evil, but may have taught her a lesson.

The solution: So, what did I do?  I told The Boss.  Yeah, I know.  I felt like a snitch, but seriously…enough is enough.  He was extremely unimpressed.  They took her off the schedule for Sunday lunches and put a competent, hardworking hostess who will do her job and do it well.

The importance of a hostess: This kind of “I don’t care about my work” attitude should not be taken lightly, because the first impression a customer gets is when they are greeted by a hostess.  There’s nothing worse than walking into a restaurant and having to wait for 15 minutes while staring at a sign that says “Please wait to be seated” thinking How much longer do we have to wait?  The hostess’ priority is The Door and any employee who can not understand that should be given the boot.

The Waitress Confessions

Restaurant Terms:

Front of the House – the front end of the restaurant, the dining room and bar where the customers are served and wait staff, bartenders,  and dining room managers mostly work.

Opening Tasks –  A list of tasks that need to be accomplished before the restaurant opens for the day.