Sunday, October 08, 2006

"If someone as blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?"--H. Ross Perot

I work hard, side by side with my staff. Greet the same guests, take the same shit [often worse], serve the same food, clear the same plates, bus the same tables, sweep up the same glass and spilled get the idea. On top of all this, I have my own service job to tend to as well as being the restaurant's manager. This is not a small restaurant, nor is it a slow restaurant. I am well compensated, and earn every single penny.

What I want and demand from my staff is no secret. I run the restaurant like a business, not like a restaurant--I treat everyone as a professional and insist that they act accordingly. A part time server at this restaurant--part time--can take home nearly $50,000.00 a year. Full time servers often make much more than those they are serving. They are well caompensated, and I expect them to earn every penny. That opportunity alone justifies my high expectations, and I am unyielding. There is plenty of non-judgmental help for anyone who needs it, and I understand and accept that everyone--myself included--is going to make mistakes. I also understand that honest error and simple disregard are two different things, much like a pimple and a tumor are two different things.

My natural serenity will falter when members of this staff decide to cut corners, let their attention lapse due to sloth, or try to get away with something improper. In these cases I have little patience. I also hate to repeat myself, and have an excellent memory. The first slip usually elicits nothing beyond an internal note, the second transgression a brief, polite verbal mention. The third time someone does the same thing wrong I will make my point again somewhat more gravely, remarking on the previous instances. If the thing, whatever it is, happens again there will be two possible reactions--if it is early in the evening, the server will have their evening cut short, a penalty of anyhere between $100-$300. If the offense occurs toward the end of the evening they will forfeit their next shift, a $150-$400 penalty.

To the uninitiated or the less disciplined, I am sure this policy seems rigid and overwrought. After all, what difference does it make if the drinks come by hand rather than on a tray, or if the steak knife shows up a few seconds after the dinner does? A small tear in a tablecloth probably won't even be noticed, and not having a lighter for a birthday candle is no big deal when everyone else carries one, right? Actually these mercurial little things, and there are thousands of them, are often the difference between a 10-year anniversary and an "everything must go" auction. When dinner for two can cost more than what most people paid in rent for their first apartment, everything matters. Getting a steak on a plate and down someon's gullet does not constitute success for us--we need to transport people to The Land of Steak and Wine, and we have to take them there first class and bring them back spent and dying for a return trip.

Knot your tie correctly, starch your shirt [and spend more than $12 on it while we're at it], press your pants, make sure your apron is black from pigment rather than grime. Shave, fix your hair, drop $8 on a dozen decent pens and carry more than one of them at a time. Have a crumber [we supply them for free] and use it often, not just at the end of the meal when the table looks like a field after the final game of the World Cup. Double-check you orders before you send them and then use a tray to deliver them. Clear empty glasses--they aren't trophies, they are debris. Bring bread, ask if the guest wants more, clear the empty plate if they do not. Pour water, refill it if necessary, do not be insulted or personally affronted if someone drinks alot of it while eating their $75 dollar lobster or enjoying their $12 cocktail. Know when your food is coming up--and I DO NOT GIVE A SHIT if the kitchen forgot to beep you--you keep the time and you should know your food is ready. If you are buried, ask for help--there is plenty.

Do not lie to me, I will find out. We used to have a cocktail server who was the lounge trainer, and invariably her new charges would ask her about how to slide, how to scam, what corners to cut, where the back doors were, etc. Her answer was always the same, "You do what you want, but I play by the rules because in this restaurant all roads lead to 'Last One Home'". She meant that sooner or later, usually sooner, I will find out about everything.

There are no cliques here, no politics, no secret codes. All the policies are posted, all the guidelines well known. If you agree with them then stay, work hard, and be successful--one of the family. If you don't agree, let me know and we will part with respect and good feelings. Try to subvert me, and you will find yourself down the street offering someone their endless salad bowl or worrying that you don't have enough kitschy buttons for your suspenders. I am not that manager in the office dozing, or on the phone with his bookie--I am on the floor, constantly moving, like a shark.