Jump to content

From the Restaurant Week Trenches


Nadya
 Share

Recommended Posts

[Posted on eGullet in January 2005]

If you like to eat out,

But hate to be on hold when you call,

If you are mostly a restaurant patron,

But have enough imagination to understand what it's like to work there,

Then for the love of Jesus, Mary, and all his apostols and cherubs,

Take some advice from the person on the other end of this phone call,

AND DO NOT CALL FOR A RESERVATION DURING DINNER RUSH OF RESTAURANT WEEK!

Dinner rush happens at 6-9 pm, and lunch rush between 11.45 and 1.30 pm. And especially don't call during dinner rush hours and ask me to read out all the menu choices.

Before you pick up the phone and call during these hours, this is what I would like you to visualize:

I am standing by the host station, smile fixed in place, list of tables in my mind. We have over two hundred reservations on the book.

At any given moment, there are at least eight people lined up in front of me who are waiting for their turn to be seated. Six more are walking into the door and need to be greeted, asked for the names, checked against the list, offered to take their coats, and dispatched to their assigned tables when their turn comes. Four more are walking out of the dining room and want to collect their coats and share their experiences. Ten more are on the waiting list milling at the bar and want to make eye contact every fifteen minutes to be reassured that their tables are indeed coming up.

The second host is taking people to their tables as efficiently as possible without breaking into a trot, collecting menus and wine lists from the dining room, checking on progress of tables, adjusting the tables for the last-minute changes of party of 8 to 6, and trying to respond to a million requests as best she or he can. And we both like what we do and are reasonably good at it. And we need to remain cheeful and composed while we do it.

This is exactly what is happening NON-STOP, without a break, during dinner and lunch rush hours of the Restaurant Week. The phone, meanwhile, is ringing off the hook. When I answer the phone, I usually put you on hold first because there are usually guests in front of me who need something, and I can't very well put THEM on hold while I read out the menu choices to you. This is why you will likely have to wait on hold for minutes on end, and if you don't hang up in frustration, you are likely already stressed by the time I can answer.

Your calling experience is also likely to be "enhanced" further by being put on hold - yet again - in the middle of our conversation - because see above - there are constantly people coming to my station who are right in front of me and they all need me to make eye contact and do something for them - as soon as possible - unless we want to create a Cheesecake Factory-style crowd in the waiting area. And we don't. And oh, you will likely have to speak at the top of your voice. Because don't you know, the noise level near the phone is easily rivaling Gravelly Point.

Now, I have a fabulous manager who sometimes steps in to bail us out with the phones during dinner rush. But that's the exception. Answering the phones is really not what managers do. He's got his hands full. It's Restaurant Week. And it's only Tuesday night!

Is this really something that you want to do? Is this really an experience you want to have?

So please do us all a favor. Call outside of dinner and lunch rush. How hard can it be?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's August 2005.

And looking at the post above, it comforts my little heart to know one can always rely on certain events (such as Restaurant Week) to bring out certain reactions from certain people.

So my phone rings at around 7.30 pm, when we have about 25 people to seat. And the customer wants to find out what our RW menu is. His timing, as you should know by now, is ^&(*&^ impeccable.

"What are your specials for RW?"

"Two entrees, rockfish provencale and chicken l'ancienne."

"Tell me about your chicken."

"It's a sauteed breast with braised leg with spinach, button mushrooms, lardons, dijon mustard and tarragon jus."

"Okay...I'm really not on top of that...let me put my wife on the line, do you mind repeating it to her??"

Loud sound of gritting teeth working my molars into bleeding stubs.

"Why, I'd be happy to. Sorry about the sound, an awful lot of static on this line. Madam? Our chicken is a sauteed breastwithbraisedlegwithpinachshroomslardonsjonmustardtarragonjus."

"Tarragon jus?"

"Tarragon jus."

"Is this, like, the sauce on top of the chicken?"

Edited by Nadya
Link to comment
Share on other sites

10:40 pm; saturday, restaurant week.

phone rings.

danny: good evening and thank you for calling notti bianche, this is danny, how may i help you?

caller: we, um, have a 10:15 reservation, and we are, like, lost. can you, um, give us directions?

danny: it would be my pleasure, where are you right now?

caller: um, i don’t know?

danny: ok, well what do you see around you?

caller: um, there are like, um, big buildings on each corner

danny: ok, well do you see any street signs?

caller: um, oh yeah, um, 21st and m street.

danny: great you are just a few blocks from us. are you on 21st or are you on m street?

caller: um, i think we are like on m

danny: that’s great, go straight and make the next you left that you can make. that should be 23rd street. you will pass a ritz carlton hotel on the left side of the street.

caller: um, ok, um, like i see 23rd, we make a right?

danny: no, you need to turn left.

caller: oh, um, like we missed it.

(repeat the last four minutes – four minutes of my life that i will never get back)

danny: where are you right now?

caller: um, like, we’re back at 22nd and m.

danny: can you safely pull over?

caller: um, like, yeah.

danny: pull over. what kind of car are you driving?

caller: a hyundai elantra

danny: great, i will be driving a black convertible. i will be there in two minutes to guide you to notti bianche.

caller: ok.

danny: my pleasure, i will see you shortly.

danny: (to assistant general manager) i will be back in 5 minutes with some lost guests.

agm: ok.

race to lost guest location. slow down, wave heartily to indicate that their personal sherpa has arrived. drive, slowly, back to notti bianche, lead lost guests to valet parking. leave car in driveway to meet lost guests at the door. meet guests at the door.

danny: good evening. we’re happy that you found us.

lost guest #1: um, like, yeah, where’s the bar?

danny: just through this door, allow me to show you.

lost guests #2: tell dude to take it easy on my brakes.

danny: absolutely sir.

five minutes elapse; guests are seated at the bar. no “thank you” has been offered from either lost guest #1 or lost guest #2.

lg#2: (to our female bartender) dude, can i see the menu?

bartender: here you are sir.

lg#2: (to lg#1) this isn’t french!

lg#1: no, this, is like, um spanish.

lg#2: wanna go some place else?

lg#1: like, yeah.

lg#2: (to danny) can you have that dude bring my car back, we’re gonna go someplace else.

danny: absolutely, sir. have a good night.

lg#2: thanks, champ.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dude -- Where's my restaurant?

weed1.gif

Edited to add: Did you hear the one about the lost drunk who called up one of his buddies to ask directions? When the buddy asked the drunk where he was, he looked up and said, "I'm on the corner of Walk and Don't Walk."

Edited by FunnyJohn
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow. I just... wow.

That was above and beyond. If we have an award for Calm in the Face of Suffering, I'm nominating Danny.

"It's like, Spanish."

Dare I ask the ages of these guests? Are they giving the twentysomethings a bad name?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow. I just... wow.

That was above and beyond. If we have an award for Calm in the Face of Suffering, I'm nominating Danny.

"It's like, Spanish."

Dare I ask the ages of these guests? Are they giving the twentysomethings a bad name?

as you all suspected these two were no older than 25. the great thing about experiences like that...ok there is no great thing. but, like, ok, wow, um, like, i have a great story to tell other managers when we all get together to wine and whine about our nights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

as you all suspected these two were no older than 25.  the great thing about experiences like that...ok there is no great thing.  but, like, ok, wow, um, like, i have a great story to tell other managers when we all get together to wine and whine about our nights.

You can always use another good cocktail party story. :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A reservation for two on Wednesday night of this RW. All kinds of special requirements: nice table, celebrating anniversary, birthday, newlyweds, successful lobotomy, 20 years since ratification of SALT II and the kitchen sink. Bring some wine, flowers and card to table (all paid for.) Table for two, I repeat, for two.

The party arrives, dressed to fourty-nines.

"Hi! We have a reservation under XXXX. Oh, it's now going to be four."

"Madam, I don't have a table for four and won't for the next 45 minutes."

"But..but it's my birthday! And I really want to be with my friends on my birthday!"

"Madam, your reservation was for two. I don't have a table for four and won't for the next 45 minutes. It's Restaurant Week."

Glare full of seething anger directed at person at host stand. Attempts to push out a rather generous cleavage trying, in vain, to impress my manager who doesn't care.

Polite smile with no teeth showing blooming on face of person at host stand. Attempts to square shoulders demonstrating perfect posture of Right Is On My Side.

"Okay...I guess we will have to go some place else and my birthday is ruined."

"I regret that, Madam, we are rather full tonight."

Generous cleavage walking away, close to sobbing, in direction of bar, suddenly turning around.

Here comes the kicker, folks:

"Am I still going to get my OpenTable points???? Even if I don't dine here tonight? All you have to do is press the button, right??"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm addicted to the Waiterrant.net blog but I thought he was indulging in a little "literary license." Not that I minded, it's such a good read.

After reading this thread I'm convinced no invention is necessary. :P

How do you keep from bitch-slapping these people? No jury in the world would convict you of anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm addicted to the Waiterrant.net blog but I thought he was indulging in a little "literary license."  Not that I minded, it's such a good read.

After reading this thread I'm convinced no invention is necessary. :P

How do you keep from bitch-slapping these people?  No jury in the world would convict you of anything.

In Texas, there is a defense to murder that is well recognized. It is called the "he needed kill'n" defense. On the facts as presented, I would say that an analogous "she needed bitch slapp'n" defense could seep into the law.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here comes the kicker, folks:

"Am I still going to get my OpenTable points???? Even if I don't dine here tonight? All you  have to do is press the button, right??"

100 OpenTable points = $1. I would have handed her a dollar. Or maybe slipped it into her generous cleavage.

This thread makes me want to buy all my favorite waitstaff giant bouquets of roses. Or even gianter bottles of Scotch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here comes the kicker, folks:

"Am I still going to get my OpenTable points???? Even if I don't dine here tonight? All you  have to do is press the button, right??"

Speaking of pressing buttons, doesn't OpenTable let you add comments to a diner's profile? I suggest: "Notorious nympho. Major thing for busboys. Don't forget to tell your guys."

That should ensure memorable dining experiences going forward.

Edited by Stretch
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A reservation for eight arrives on a Thursday night, busiest of all RW shifts.

"Hi! This is XXXX, we had a reservation for eight."

My time-tempered ears know to perk up at the sound of Past Indefinite, "had" instead of "have." What's up?

"It is now going to be, like, eleven."

Folks, we have only four tables that sit large parties, a maximum of eight. They do not expand to nine, ten or eleven, unless the ninth person is a wee child who can be painlessly shoved under the table to suck on his bottle there. It's also lots of fun when the wee child starts banshee-like shrieking from under the table and everyone in the dining room looks around trying to locate the source of noise. But I digress.

"Miss, your table sits a maximum of eight."

At this point they always give me a wide-eyed, incredulous look normally reserved for newlywed husbands who just heard the line "I have a headache" for the first time.

"Aw, come on."

"Miss, your table sits a maximum of eight."

"But my friends are on their way!"

"We'll be happy to sit your three additions at a table for three, if and when it becomes available."

More pouting. I can feel various strategies of Scoring the Table Despite Vile Hostess Behavior turning in between this person's wee brain cogs. Typically, flattery, humor, quivering underlip and frosty manner make the top of that list, depending on the age of the expanding party.

"Can I see the table?"

"You most certainly may. It sits a maximum of eight."

"We are all, like, very skinny! We like each other! We don't mind being uncomfortable! I promise! " - note vague attempt at coquetry.

"Miss, your table sits a maximum of eight. It's been here for close to six years and always sat a maximum of eight."

"So...like....if we made a reservation for ten, where would you have seated us?

"We would have planned your seating in advance. There is also a chance we wouldn't have taken a reservation that large during Restaurant Week."

All eleven sorority-girls lookalikes are now present. The scene that ensues, if filmed, could have provided ample fodder for all manner of psychologists and social scientists who are interested in the workings of sorority GirlMind, as the crowd selects three unlucky ones who will be shoved away to a table for three. From the corner of my eye, I observe the previously monolith crowd of eleven splitting into Princess Bees, Ladies-in-the-Waiting, Unpopular Wallflowers and Scheming Seaters.

I never get tired of this. What's not to love about my job???

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's not to love about your posts??!!  I feel terrible that I'm getting such pleasure out of your displeasure.  But not so terrible that it stops me from saying, "more!  Give us more!"  :P

You are sweet! It's not really a displeasure for me as I delight in all things ridiculous. I will keep my eyes open for more, although RW is usually followed by a long lull. But rest assured, the dining world is full of fuckwits who tend to make themselves known in one way or another.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"more! Give us more!"
Amen! As someone who once (many many moons ago) toiled in the trenches, I'm also getting immense enjoyment out of these tales of "doh!"

I'm having flashbacks to that hotel dining room in Louisville, in the late 80s, where we had the joy of hosting such groups as the "National Nostalgic NOVA (as in the car) Convention".

OR even more 'fun' - the group of 30 Frenchmen who were making the rounds going to garden shows across the U.S.

I, the eager young French major, got stuck waiting on the whole group - alone. Half of them ordered the "Sole Veronique" which no one EVER ordered...the line cook, who was 'in charge' that night as it was a Sunday, had to make up another 10 orders since we only kept a few on hand. Sadly, he slipped on a wet mat just after taking them out of the oven. While he was not badly burned, it was quite a long wait for that part of the order to be remade and finally make its way to the table. Didn't quite turn out to be the opportunity to practice my French that I had hoped for. :P

But I digress... all I can say is Nadya (and Danny):

"more! Give us more!"
Edited to say: Woohoo! Now I'm a clam! Edited by goldenticket
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's not to love about your posts??!!  I feel terrible that I'm getting such pleasure out of your displeasure.  But not so terrible that it stops me from saying, "more!  Give us more!"  :P

I'm thinkin' this defines "guilty pleasure." What's the point of suffering if you can't entertain your pals with it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A reservation for eight arrives on a Thursday night, busiest of all RW shifts.

"Hi! This is XXXX, we had a reservation for eight."...

I never get tired of this. What's not to love about my job???

Tales like this of other diners' idiotic behavior never cease to amaze me. And then, of course, these dim bulbs are always the ones who get so wound up over problems that they were the cause of to begin with.

I wonder if your little party girl would try to fit all 11 of her sorority sisters into a mini-van that seats 8? Where would she stash the other 3 - the roof rack?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

in the interest of reciprocity (we speak of the stupid things that our guests do) i shall now share the dumbest thing i have ever said to a guest.

last night a party of three arrives for a 7pm reservation. i greet them at the door and notice that one of the gentlemen in the party is blind. i change thier table assignment to place them at a table that has the fewest obstacles leading to and from the table. i am very careful to lead him to the table and discreetly let him know that his chair is right in front of him. after everyone is seated, i distribute the menus. i am very careful to alert this gentleman to the fact that his menu is right in front of him. he very wryly replies "i am sure that it is, but i still don't think it will help me much".

telling a blind man where his menu is...easily the dumbest words ever to pass my lips in a restaurant. i am glad that he had a sense of humor about it.

Edited by starfish
Link to comment
Share on other sites

in the interest of reciprocity (we speak of the stupid things that our guests do) i shall now share the dumbest thing i have ever said to a guest.

last night a party of three arrives for a 7pm reservation.  i greet them at the door and notice that one of the gentlemen in the party is blind.  i change thier table assignment to place them at a table that has the fewest obstacles leading to and from the table.  i am very careful to lead him to the table and discreetly let him know that his chair is right in front of him.  after everyone is seated, i distribute the menus.  i am very careful to alert this gentleman to the fact that his menu is right in front of him.  he very wryly replies "i am sure that it is, but i still don't think it will help me much".

telling a blind man where his menu is...easily the dumbest words ever to pass my lips in a restaurant.  i am glad that he had a sense of humor about it.

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act require that you stock menus in Braille?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that was, i assume, a joke.  but i am actually looking into what it would cost to have braille menus.

I actually had the very same question a couple months back and promptly forgot about it before I could ask my gub'mint lawyer friends. I'm assuming that there is some cutoff for accessibility based on the other resources available to a blind user. In a restaurant there is a waiter available to recite menu choices, and in a CD store you can ask the clerk for a selection, but in an elevator or at an ATM there is no such expectation (the two examples that I can think of immediately where braille text is almost always present). Anybody here have an actual clue about this in place of my rampant speculation?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually had the very same question a couple months back and promptly forgot about it before I could ask my gub'mint lawyer friends.  I'm assuming that there is some cutoff for accessibility based on the other resources available to a blind user.  In a restaurant there is a waiter available to recite menu choices, and in a CD store you can ask the clerk for a selection, but in an elevator or at an ATM there is no such expectation (the two examples that I can think of immediately where braille text is almost always present).  Anybody here have an actual clue about this in place of my rampant speculation?

Reminds me of a dinner I had the other night at Pazo, in Baltimore. The room is so dim that the waitress hands you a mini-flashlight to read the menu, from a pocket full of them she carries in her apron.

From an Office of Civil Rights website:

Q. What special services might restaurants and bars provide to customers with vision impairments?

A. Customers with vision impairments may need orientation to their seats. It is customary to offer a person with a vision impairment assistance to his or her seat. If he or she accepts the offer of assistance, the service person should offer his or her arm to the customer and guide the person to the table, alerting him or her to obstacles along the way.

Menu information must be accessible to people with vision impairments. The best way to provide access to the menu depends, in part, on the type of restaurant and its resources. One method is for employees to read menus and daily specials to customers. Large print menus are another inexpensive method for providing independent access to some customers with limited vision. An inexpensive magnifier is also useful to some people with vision limitations. Braille menus are an option, but not everyone who is blind reads Braille. Providing audio cassette tapes of the menu and a cassette player will provide effective communication with many individuals with vision impairments.

If a restaurant uses low lighting for ambiance, it could offer a small flashlight for use at the table.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that was, i assume, a joke.  but i am actually looking into what it would cost to have braille menus.

I did not intend it as a joke. The question immediately popped into my mind after reading about Danny's gaff. I believe Crackers asnwered the question succinctly.

Now we have to wonder what a restaurant must do with regard to eating utensils.

Edited by Jacques Gastreaux
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tallula was recently received the All-Access Award from the Arlington County Disability Advisory Commission. During the application/interview process for the award, I spoke with a gentleman who suggested having a few Braille menus on hand. Supposedly they aren't too expensive...we're looking into getting a few, just in case.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

True story. In a restaurant that I managed the owner had braille menus printed "just in case". The menu changed about once every three months, and the first three printings of the menus never saw the light of day.

Then one day, my assistant came up to me ecstatic because he finally had the opportunity to use the braille menus on a couple he had just seated. Unfortunately, the didn't need them, as they were deaf.

Idiot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of sense of humor, this one has had enough.

For those of you who have seen the inside of Bis:

There is a king-size poster with a black-and-white photograph of a nekkid lady with a shadow of a wine glass artistically imposed on her back. Well, to be more accurate, on the crack of her bum. But artistically.

At least once a night, somebody will inquire:

"Is this you in the picture?"

I am running out of smartcracks.

What should I say that doesn't involve expletives?

And what should I say when that somebody is a part of the couple and his very own lady is right next to him obviously grinding her teeth behind her tight smile?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of sense of humor, this one has had enough.

For those of you who have seen the inside of Bis:

There is a king-size poster with a black-and-white photograph of a nekkid lady with a shadow of a wine glass artistically imposed on her back. Well, to be more accurate, on the crack of her bum. But artistically.

At least once a night, somebody will inquire:

"Is this you in the picture?"

I am running out of smartcracks.

What should I say that doesn't involve expletives?

And what should I say when that somebody is a part of the couple and his very own lady is right next to him obviously grinding her teeth behind her tight smile?

"No comment."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What should I say that doesn't involve expletives?

And what should I say when that somebody is a part of the couple and his very own lady is right next to him obviously grinding her teeth behind her tight smile?

"Yes, but I'd only been on hormones for about six months when it was taken."

"No. That's my mother."

"Would you please sign here? We keep a register for everyone who asks me that."

"No. It's Mary Leakey, before Olduvai."

Edited by LoganCircle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Yes, but I'd only been on hormones for about six months when it was taken."

"No.  That's my mother."

"Would you please sign here?  We keep a register for everyone who asks me that."

"No.  It's Mary Leakey, before Olduvai."

"No, she has an outie and I have an innie. Wanna see? >wink wink<"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And what should I say when that somebody is a part of the couple and his very own lady is right next to him obviously grinding her teeth behind her tight smile?

I'd just give him a little giggle, and say, "you're always kidding around like that."

And then turn to his date, smile, wink, and say, "he knows very well I have a tattoo there." :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd just give him a little giggle, and say, "you're always kidding around like that."

And then turn to his date, smile, wink, and say, "he knows very well I have a tattoo there."  :lol:

Rocks,

That was beautiful, but please remind me never to piss you off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And what should I say when that somebody is a part of the couple and his very own lady is right next to him obviously grinding her teeth behind her tight smile?
Look past him, smile and say to her: "Don't men say the most juvenile things when they are feeling insecure?"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...