My First Day as a Server

 

During my third campus year, my parents decided it was the time I learn life the hard way. They chopped 80% off my allowance, in a bid to push me to get a job. Well, their move worked, after I had sold almost everything on eBay. I became so broke I even thought of donating my organs. It didn’t help that I needed a tooth implant at the time, and my parents expected me to help pay the copay on that. At that point, I blasted several companies and restaurants with my one and a half page resume. Luckily one employer overlooked my lack of experience and credible referees. And just like that, I was a waitress.

My first day as a server was on valentines. How unlucky, I think I missed cupids arrows that year since I was busy working. Apart from being single, it was the worst day I’ve ever had. That morning, I put on my skimpy black and white uniform and pinned my name tag to it. The tag read “J. Banana.”; my real name is Joy Banana Smith. I often think my parents weren’t prepared to name me, so they saw a banana nearby and named me after it.

That fateful day we had a valentines menu, not the regular one. A customer walked in, and I rushed to him smiling. After I had introduced myself and the menu specials, I asked his order. The statement he made pierced every living fiber in me. He called me Banana and asked if I was serving alone or in a bunch, while laughing his guts out. Other customers around him shared in the tasteful joke. You know how the waitresses on the famous ‘Two Broke Girls’ show speak their minds when offended? Real life isn’t like that. All I did was give a plastic smile as I noted his order for a banana smoothie. He didn’t even tip me for making his day!

The next customers, in my section, were an old couple. As they slowly walked in, I admired the love and support they had for each other. Little did I know that affection and support they shared, would make me want to choke them. They ordered coffee and the misuses requested for powdered sugar, that we didn’t have. Her man suggested I grind some for her lady, which I countered by suggesting they use honey instead. They then went on to rant how the young generation doesn’t understand them, as I stood there. For a moment, I almost asked if they intended on licking the sugar or dissolving it in the coffee. I ended up grinding the sugar since the customer is always right. How I loathe that slogan. She ended up stirring the sugar into her coffee.

The day went on as I served several couples, most of whom were good complainers and bad tippers. I also spilled food and drinks four times; two of the spills were on customers. My hands weren’t steady then as they are today. Around closing time, after I married ketchup, a lady walked in and started crying. I asked her what’s was wrong, and she went on to sob about how she is going to die alone without a partner. She talked on and on before I got her to calm down. I have to admit during the one-hour counseling session, I thought of charging her therapist fees. However, with all her singlehood sensitivities, she had the personality of a wall. Her bill came to $9.50, she gave me a ten and confidently told me to keep the change. I’ve never gotten over my first waitressing day.

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Tales of Washing Dishes

When I was in high school, I held quite a few jobs, but one of them which I particularly had some really interesting experiences at was working at an Italian called the Codfather. Yep, you read that right. I think the guy was a fiery fan of that movie we all know and love. The place was quite nice, not really upscale. You can’t be upscale if your place is inside a mall.

When I first started working there I did it because I heard many beautiful ladies come to eat there and on top of that, I also needed the money of course. I usually worked the weekends, so I’d come about four or six PM and work for about 6 to 8 hours. On my lucky days, I’d be opening up tomato cans for sauce, slicing cases of mushrooms, doing prep work or peeling a huge pot of onions.

 

 

The kitchen’s rhythm

Slowly, but surely, the pace would pick up and people would start coming in and order food. As expected, the dishes would also start to flow in fast, but what really bothered me is the heat generated by a full restaurant. I was sweating like a pig and for 6h to 8h straight all I could see were dishes in front of me. We also had the occasional customer that came in just minutes before closing time. But since we were always tired when such jokers would come in, it wasn’t unusual to slip this guy a “treat” in his plate. I’ll let you imagine what I mean by that. Luckily, by 10:00 PM everything would be declared satisfactory by the chef and we could go home.

Fun with the clients and the waitresses

Washing dishes – I have to admit – wasn’t a fun job, but there were the occasional instances when I’d really feel lucky to be where I was. The chefs, Steve and Vince were real jokers and had a lot of friends who would stop by our restaurant. One of them – the Senator – was always dropping by when he was drunk and it seems Vince and Steve loved making him special dishes. What I mean by that is that they’d add some very hot jalapenos or hot sauces in his dish without him knowing.

As you’d expect, the guy didn’t complain much then, but on one occasion he came back the next day telling us he wasn’t fond of breathing hellfire through his rear end, so if we could not make him extremely spicy dishes when he comes drunk at our restaurant, then he’d appreciate it. Honestly, we had a good laugh about this, especially because he has a funky voice that makes everything he says sound really funny.

Another fun thing we used to do was called the laughing spray. The thing is, there was no spray and no laughing involved. What we would do is drop very hot sauce on an extremely hot pan, so when the hot sauce touched the pan, it would immediately vaporize. I actually had this happen to me on multiple occasions when I failed to properly wash some dishes that the customers eventually complained about.

The thing is, Steve and Vince would play this trick on everyone in the kitchen. I can’t even imagine what the customers were thinking when they’d see our staff come out of the kitchen crying. My guess is that they thought the staff cut too much onion for the day. Hehe, I have to admit those days I worked at Codafther were very fun indeed!

 

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Tales of a busser-the problem solved

I once worked at a sandwich and soup cafe for two years while I was undergraduate and for a year afterward. Nice work and easy money is all I thought before graduating. We used to offer quick breakfast options such as breakfast sandwiches & burritos, bagels & cream cheese, hash browns or grits, a quick two egg breakfast with toast, etc. Besides, we offered a $2 small cup of coffee since Starbucks was two blocks down and my boss was just like that. We broke on the coffee not even hoping to profit by trying to get customers in the café and serve them with a quick, good food.
In due time, a yoga aged soccer lady started coming in each and every morning to purchase a coffee. On coming, she would bring in her cream cheese and bagel. She would buy the coffee and later ask us to toast the bagel and put her cream cheese on it for her and expect us to run the food out to her like we did for every other paying client. While she was buying her coffee, she would ask us to put on new and clean gloves while preparing her food. Okay, fine. It was not a big deal for the first couple of times since the owner who was a working manager tried to keep his customers happy all through. However, this budding cafe had started to expand exponentially regarding business.

This Bagel lady started coming in every other, single day. The manager grew a little tired of her request since after all, he was not seeing the benefit of selling her a $2 cup of coffee and have us prepare her food for she didn’t tip at any single day. However, because my manager always lived by the fact that the Customer was always right I kept being submissive to every customer.
The lady once came in on a Saturday morning thinking she had special treatment since she was a regular customer. She decided to skip the line and put her bagel on the counter near the register. She waited in line and after purchasing her $2 coffee, she noticed that her bagel was right where she had left, untouched.
“Excuse me sir; I expected this to be toasted and ready when I purchased my coffee. I come in all the time, you should have known me by now. I am one of your daily customers.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I did not see it, I am sorry. Here is your coffee; I’ll bring it out to you in a minute.”
“Sometimes I just don’t understand you people – very incompetent and rude to your customers. This is the kind of behavior which brings disease and even sickness in restaurants.”
I didn’t realize my manager was standing right over my shoulder during such encounter. He pushed me out of the way, grabbed her bagel with ungloved hands, took a bite, went straight to give it to her, dropped it and asked her to leave with a mouthful of bagel. It makes the story even better if I add that this guy was clearly not a big fan of going to the dentist, and he chewed with his mouth open just to upset this lady, showing off his mouthful of stained (and a couple of missing) teeth.  He went to his office and closed his door still chewing the bagel. A minute later, he came out and said “Coffee is now $ 4” and the lady’s problem was solved.

 

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Stories from the Kitchen: How Being a Cook Prepared me for Fatherhood

Tales of a cook: A good cook can be a good father

When I had my first kid, I got very scared. I always wanted to be a great parent and after watching her it seemed to be like a mission impossible. She was so tiny and delicate; and she kept on shaking and screaming all the time. However, I had only a single skill and that was cooking and dealing with tables. But at this stage what could be done, sell her the drinks or clean her bib and face in between the courses. When we started her weaning diet then in the beginning things were very struggling and it was like a war between me, my baby and the food. At the end the splashes of food were seen here there and everywhere. It was then another job to clean the spills. But it is very surprising that after few weeks’ things got very easy and all my cooking and waitering experience was enough to successfully deal with my baby. At the end, she was just a crying, egocentric and weepy human who only needed my attention and time throughout the day. Following are some lessons that you can use for handling your baby by using your cooking and waitering skills.

No matter how worst it is, do not lose your cool

Always remember that it does not really matter if your POS machine is out of order or stuck or table number 13 has just found a fly in their plate; you do not need to panic. The same staying cool thinking I applied on my fathering experience. Being a cook and waiter has taught me to ignore the noise around you. Like, my baby is crying at the moment but I am writing my tale.

Your bladder gets very strong

At our jobs, it happens to us that we need to go to the bathroom but there is no one around you to cover your duty. So, you have to wait and seal up your bladder like a bag and then you have to wait even for hours. You will glad to know that this strong bladder is going to help you a lot when you will become a parent. It is a fact that none of the parents would like to wake up their baby in order to maintain the peace around. Sometimes, it also happens that your baby is sleeping on your chest. In such situations, you need to wait for long to go to the bathroom.

You will only get friends that are in the same position

Thanks to the job of the cook and waiter, I do not find enough time to hang out with my friends. So, I only have friends who do work with me or who are in the same industry. Same is the situation with the parents, after having kids they are hardly left with any kid free friends. Even if they hang out with such friends they would never understand what they are talking about. The only thing cooks and waiters talk about is food, customers and service. Similarly, the only thing parents talk about is changing diapers, putting their baby to sleep and making them eat.

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Tales from Restaurant Management

Managing a restaurant in addition to WORKING in that establishment can be rewarding of course but more often than not it’s just tiring. This is especially true when you deal with the type of customers that I do on a daily basis! This “tales of a restaurant manager” is where I share with you some of my horror stories from waiting tables. Even though I have to have the mindset that “the customer is always right,” as you are about to discover this is not always true.

My first story happened a couple of years ago now but it’s still as fresh in my memory as the day is happened. A middle aged-elderly couple came in one day and were rather flash with their cash. Those in their fifties usually tend to stick to the early bird special menu but not these. They both ordered the most expensive meals on the menu which I believe was lobster and steak respectively. In addition to this, they were ordering wine by the bucket load. All seemed fine but then the complaints came rolling in. The lady first complained that her steak was not cooked enough, we rectified this quickly. I then recall the man running to the toilet and retreating back to his table quite flush in the face before putting on one hell of a performance. He called me over the exclaimed that I’d fed him bad lobster and he had the “shits”. I told him that we sourced all our ingredients fresh and this could not have been the case (which is true!) He would not let up and demanded a discount on their meal to which I offered them 20% as a goodwill gesture.

This was not enough for them and they continued to scream and shout loud enough for the customers to hear that we had given them food poisoning. To get them to let up and leave, I gave them a 40% discount even though I now realized this was the plan all along. What was a $300 bill, now amounted to around $180 and furthermore they didn’t tip, not a damn dime. The couple left in hysterics and I caught the man grabbing an ice cream as he left, miraculous recovery, eh?

So many more things happen when you work as a waiter and most of the time you have to just smile and take it. I have had drinks thrown at me, I’ve had to clean diarrohea from the toilets amonst other horrible things. 90% of customers that pass my doors are friendly, respectful and offer no trouble but unfortunately the same cannot be said for that 10%. One thing I’ve learnt from my years working as a server is that some people will do ANYTHING to save a few dollars. I’ve had customers plant items in their food that definitely didn’t come from our premises. They don’t always get what they want of course but those nightmare diners rarely return for a second time (thankfully!) The best day of my life will be when I can hang up my uniform and retire but I have a feeling that I will have a few more stories to tell before that time comes!

Check out this video for a look behind the scenes of restaurant life. It’s only funny because it’s so stinkin’ accurate.

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Don’t be These 10 Customers

This video is dead on accurate. Take note if you ever plan to dine out again. Ever. No, seriously.

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