Sunday, 2 June 2013

Stuff Customers Like (besides being jackasses)

Oh you mythical, mysterious creatures, you customers, you! Throughout my studies of your kind, I have learned that there are certain things customers simply love doing! And being a jackass is usually right up there. Here are some other tidbits I have picked up as I delve into the world of the customer to bring you: Stuff Customers Like.

Carrying on like a fucknugget when a food or drink item is unavailable

Even children eventually come to terms with the fact they can’t get their own way. Granted, that’s because their little lungs can’t hold as much air as adult lungs, so they stop screaming sooner. Adults, those wily creatures, can pace their tantrums superbly and will continue whining over a longer period. They are also much harder to throw out a window.

If we don’t have something you wanted, that is a pity and we apologise. It is also the end of discussion. You can order something else, or you can leave. But for fuck’s sake, do not whinge, “But I can make those at home!” or “But I came here especially for it!” or “But we’re in [stereotyped cultural district where a particular food or beverage product native to said culture should be plentiful]!” Repeated whining will not make magic pixies drop out of the sky and zap up your coveted item, nor will not make the staff handling your food and drinks take kindly to you.

Overly Defensive Interrupting

Lady Customer: “Can you tell us what dishes you’ve just brought?”
Me: “Certainly. Now these are your oysters with chilli chutney-”
Lady Customer: “YES WELL WE CAN SEE THAT.”
Me: “-and this is the chicken Tikka Masala…”
Gentleman Customer: “Can you tell me what wagyu bresaola is?”
Me: “Certainly. It is thinly sliced Japanese beef-”
Gentleman: “I KNOW WHAT WAGYU IS.”
Me: “-that has been salted and air-dried.”
Good lord, people, why are you so defensive? Nobody is threatening you or insulting your intelligence by answering your own fucking question. Let us finish our sentences you insecure imbeciles.

Trying to dodge the staff greeting them

The person in uniform who is smiling and welcoming you into their establishment is not a Pacman ghost you have to do a steep turn to avoid lest they eat you. They are here to help, and possess lots of useful information! Such as whether anyone is in the place (to save you wandering around an empty restaurant like a loser), where your reserved table might be located, where the bathrooms are, or whether the establishment is even open. Keeping your eyes fixed to the ground and steering around them in a purposeful I-know-what-I’m-doing fashion serves only to provide back of house comedic material as you become hopelessly lost and slink back to ask for assistance. All you have to do is make eye contact –at least that way you will identify an enraged knife-wielding ex-manager before it’s too late.

Pausing awkwardly while waiting for the waiter to leave earshot

That’s just uncomfortable for everybody. At least hum The Girl from Ipanema or something.

Asking, “Can you make sure our meals are coming?”

What the hell does this type think goes on in a restaurant kitchen, I wonder? Is it something like this?

Chefs: *standing around empty kitchen whistling*
Waitress: “Hey guys, you know how I gave you an order for table 10 a little while ago?”
Chefs: “Yeah?”
Waitress: “They want to know if it’s coming.”
Chefs: “Wait, when people order food, we have to prepare it?”
Waitress: “Yes! And I have to bring it to them!”
Chefs: “Now it all makes sense!”
Waitress: “I myself have been confused about this procedure for some time! Thank God this particular customer brought it to my attention!”
Chefs: “True fact!”
*meals magically appear in a puff of fairy dust*
Everyone: “Thank you, customer!”
*Melbourne spontaneously throws a parade in customer’s honour*

Don’t worry, the Fool Critic is here to pop that little bubble, you strange deluded person. This is closer to reality:

Customer: *is order seven*
Kitchen: *cooks order one*
Kitchen: *cooks order two*
Kitchen: *cooks order three*
Customer: “Excuse me, waitress! Can you just make sure our meals are coming?”
Waitress: “Uh, yeah. Sure.”
Kitchen: *cooks order four*
Kitchen: *cooks order five*
Customer: “WHY ISN’T IT HERE YET?!”

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Hospo Bucket List

So I'm working on a list of all the things I'd want to do during my last shift as a waitress. For a while all I could come up with was "commit assault", but after some soul-searching, I've thought of a few more satisfying ways with which one could kiss goodbye to the hospitality industry.

  • Turn up shitfaced.
  • Wear a giant banana costume. With apron.
  • Carry this hamster around while taking orders.
  • Respond to all complaints with, "Shit happens, you boner."
  • Before service begins, use all the empty boxes from food deliveries to turn the restaurant into a fort.
  • Develop a rather sudden case of Tourette's.
  • Release a swarm of bees into the dining room.
  • Suddenly scream, "You're on your own!" and jump through a glass window.
  • Give forks - and ONLY forks - to customers who order soup.
  • Greet each customer with a loud, "Whoa..." and spray them with deodorant.
  • Call last drinks via a nudie run.
  • Bring in a megaphone and announce, "Attention cockshits: fuck you all."
  • Serve meals by tipping the contents of the plate directly onto the table and walking off. Same goes for drinks.
  • Play death metal throughout service.
  • Write "I'm going to eat your flesh" on all the restroom walls.
  • Glue barbed wire underneath the tables as a little surprise for every shit that sticks their gum there.
  • Offer to take customers' coats, then drop them in the deep fryer.
  • Instead of keying in food orders, carefully draw a picture of the meal your customer has ordered and serve the picture to them on a plate.
  • Keep asking customers to hold on while you take a call; use your hand as a phone. Have plenty of imaginary arguments with the caller.
  • Spend the entire shift screaming the lyrics to Summer of '69.
  • Put creepy dolls of assorted shapes and sizes on every chair in the restaurant except for one table. Turn that table over as normal.
  • Set off a flare.
  • Ring up rival bikie gangs and announce a showdown at your workplace. Make sure to emphasise that they would be little bitches if they did not show.
  • Enlist in the help of a punk rock marching band:

  • Blast a vuvuzela at customers that complain about any of the above.
  • ...and commit assault.

What are some things you would do before leaving your hospitality job? 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Customer Review: Miss Piggy's Older Sisters


You better hope these two bitches aren’t coming to any of your family BBQs.
Starring: Miss Piggy #1 (P1) and Miss Piggy #2 (P2), and waitress A.
Scene: Two of twenty guests at a sit-down Christmas function, these two women have eagerly ordered a bottle of (the cheapest) sparkling to kick things off.
P1: *tasting sparkling* Ooh, that’s not very nice at all!
P2: Ooh, you’re right. It’s awful!
A: I’m sorry – would you like to select something else from the wine list?
P1: No it’s fine, we’ll drink it.
P2: Just aaawful!
Before she got her big break on The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy practised her musical acts for her two lesser-known older sisters, who attended a Christmas function at my place of work last December. Things started off swimmingly, as you can see from above excerpt. But the best was yet to come!
As the time came for me to take everybody’s orders, I found myself stuck between the middle-aged Miss Piggies for a painfully long period, fielding questions like what is rillette, is that cold, why, what is parfait, is that cold, why, what is ceviche, is that cold, why, and finally, what was vegetarian.
“I’m vegetiiiiirian,” Miss Piggy #1 snapped, “Vegetiiii-
“Yes, ok,” I interrupted, wondering why the fuck she was asking idiot questions about dishes prefaced with non-vegetarian words like duck and chicken, “well, this and this is vegetarian.”
The set menu had four entrées and four mains to choose from, each section containing one vegetarian option. Limited? Sure. Will you die? As much as I dare to dream, no. So I pointed to the grand total of one vegetarian entrée and one vegetarian main, stopping to explain ratatouille, and wondering if I’d have to do the same with “mushroom risotto”. Instead, P1 jumped on the word mushroom.
“I really hate mushrooms,” P1 spat, looking at me expectantly.
This is why it pays to be nice to the waiter. Had it been a more polite guest, I would have rushed to accommodate a last-minute preference at set-menu function. But when confronted with an obnoxious stank-faced harpy whose sole reason for existing seems to be to waste my time, I tend to change my tune. Why the fuck should I go out of my way, when you won’t give me basic respect in return? You’re not paying the bill – your company is. You’re not going to tip – your host might. You’re not even bothering to speak to me in a civil tone, whereas that nice couple on Table 7 is, and I’d much rather be spending my time accommodating them. I don’t expect you would waste your time pandering to a rude bitch, and so, neither will I.
“Oh dear,” I responded, wondering if a vegetarian who hated mushrooms was committing some form of hate crime. P1 furiously waited for me to gush and apologise and swamp her with sincere offers of delicious vegetarian alternatives for her and her only. I blinked. After an awkward silence, P1 huffed and waved me away in that method so favoured amongst imbecilic customers (“Could you start with that side of the table?” *waves in random direction, unaware that everybody else has ordered*).
Eventually the ordeal of order-taking was over, and we were back to serving the drinks. P1 and P2 expressed constant shock and disgust that the bottom-of-the-barrel cheap shit they insisted on drinking was somewhat unsatisfactory to their refined palates.  Our constant offers to replace the offending sparkling were spurned, as the brave Miss Piggies vowed they would endure the “awful” wine… loudly and attention-seekingly like true Australian martyrs. My colleague eventually just gave up topping up their wine glasses in face of the invariable “This is just aaaaaawful” whenever she did so. Perhaps we should have bottled their cheap wine as a complimentary little eau de fragrance instead, so P1 and P2 could smell as awful as their personalities.
If that wasn’t bad enough, their hysteria appeared to be contagious as another woman chimed in and claimed her glass of merlot was definitely “corked”. I could barely contain myself when I showed her the screw-top bottle from whence it came.
Entrées arrived, and the two Miss Piggies perked up. As I walked away, I heard that all-too-familiar screech of P2. “It’s cold!”she squealed, apparently having tuned out when I was painstakingly informing her of this fact.
As we all know, there is no such thing as cold food, ever, and there is certainly no such thing as cold entrée dishes ideal for group functions. Understandably, P1 and P2 exchanged pearl clutches over their cold dishes, and started searching their handbags for some nice hot Chiko rolls.
The cold entrées were not forgiven come mains, either. As I brought a male guest his main course, Miss Piggy #2 hooted across the table, “Is ya food warm?” before rolling back in her chair guffawing. Clearly unimpressed with P2’s boiled-egg-sharp wit, the gentleman rolled his eyes and awkwardly thanked me.
The light at the end of the tunnel came in form of the company organiser/boss, who arrived after having been held up at a meeting, right as the guests were leaving. He was grey and weary, and politely declined our offers of a glass of wine or late meal. His slumped shoulders suggested he clearly wanted to be at home in his striped pyjamas rather than catching the end of the office Christmas party, and he smiled and thanked us before doing the rounds. The more gracious guests thanked him, assured him the function ran smoothly despite his unfortunate absence, and passed on their warmest Christmas greetings. Miss Piggy #1 and #2 pounced as their turn came.
“The service was good, and the drinks were okay,” P1 reported.
“But the food was” P2 began threateningly, before spying me and lowering her tone. The two women plastered fake thin smiles to their faces as I walked past, and I countered with one of my own. The hospo kid knows this silence all too well: the gap where the customer is waiting for you to leave earshot because they want to say something thoroughly rude. Whether it was a last-ditch attempt at having manners, or a piggy self-preservation thing, you be the judge. All I knew was that the Piggies would be gone soon, and were now the problem of their harried boss.
But let’s end this review on a positive side! These two odious women provided us with our favourite new workplace amusement: quoting “This is just aaaawful! Just aaaaawful!” in the worst, most nasal Australian accent before dissolving into hysterical laughter. It is evidence that in the darkest times, there can be rays of hope, so for that I sincerely thank you Miss Piggy #1 and #2. We hospo kids get bored, you see.
Customer Score
Presentation: 0/5.  Do you know why you should always dress for your age and the occasion? Because often there are other people in the vicinity trying to eat. That means nobody wants to see your leathery old tits at the dinner table, ladies. Spicing them up with a red bra doesn’t help either.
Intelligence: 2/5. I give them each a point for being able to communicate after so obviously being dropped on their faces as children.
Behaviour: 0/5. I’m always disappointed when somebody thirty years older than me hasn’t mastered basic etiquette. Shrill whining and repeatedly calling food and beverages “just aaaawful” as you guzzle them down are not acceptable modes of conduct for guests, and grown women at that. I have a feeling that if two women carried on like that at your dinner party, P1 and P2, you’d be venting your spleen via passive-aggressive Facebook updates the very next morning.
Value: 0/5. They weren’t footing the bill, they’re not coming back (please God), and they sure as hell didn’t tip.
Experience: 0/5. Just aaaawful.
Total Score: 2 tickets to South Morang out of 25. Nearly put me off bacon. Nearly.
0-5 complete waste of human organs 6-10 a distinct displeasure 11-12 what a turdburger 13-14 customer could accomplish something with more manners 15-16 a few mildly tolerable hiccups 17-18 staff could handle as a regular 19-20 a pleasure 21-25 the ideal customer

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Waitressplaining: Knifey-Spoony

A steak knife, in its native habitat. Herd members hover nearby.

This is a steak knife.

Featuring serrated blades, pointed tips, keen sharpness and distinctive handles, steak knives are a much beloved member of the dinner setting family. You may remember these items from steak knife activist Tim Shaw's Demtel informercials circa 1993, or from your latest domestic dispute. 

But wait, there's more! Here are some useful facts about steak knives.

Things a steak knife is not for:
  • Buttering your bread
  • Your entrée (even if it has the word "steak" in it, in the case of steak tartare)
  • Passing salad to your companion
  • Spearing olives
  • Gesturing with
  • Oysters (how did you even do that?)
  • Spreading dips (or dishes with dip-like consistency) on toast
  • Stirring your latte
  • Dislodging ear wax

Things a steak knife is for:
  • Steak

If you come across a steak knife in the wild (or order a steak) and can't remember all the items on list 1, just try to remember list 2. Because not using a steak knife for what it is meant is like using a diamond ring to pick all the crusty stuff out from under your big toenail. You are demeaning that little knife. You are holding it back. You are standing in the way of that steak knife living up to its full potential of carving effortlessly through beef. You are a destroyer of dreams.  You bastard. 

Remember, if ever you are in doubt about what cutlery to use in a restaurant, take that sterling advice from Titanic: "Start from the outside, and work your way in."

Or look it up on your smartphone, I mean, Jesus. 

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Waitressplaining: Waiting for a table

"Thirty minute wait? What LIES."
Oh, customers! You have always been so helpful and kind to me, that I am determined to return the favour. In particular, you are always teaching me so many new and wonderful things that I, a mere waitress, could never in my wildest ladybrain dreams could ever have hoped to figure out on my own. Like when you big strong men see me approach the table with a wine bottle and a corkscrew and bravely snatch the bottle off me to explain how to open it (and when you subsequently struggle with the bottle until I have to take it off you and fix the cork you just mangled – why, I assume you did this just to show me what NOT to do. I AM SO GRATEFUL!).  Or when that very kind lady informed me that “people always have their coffee WITH dessert”. Even in the Republic of Congo or Burkina Faso, I presume! And the amount of times a helpful customer has suggested I “tilt the glass” I was already tilting when pouring beer, why, I just couldn’t possibly express my gratitude.

Allow me to humbly return the favour, friends. Many customers express confusion or distress about certain aspects of the hospitality industry; in this small series of Waitressplaining, I may be able to be of some assistance. Today’s big question:

“Why is there a wait time for this hip new eatery? And why is it taking so long to get a table?”

So you’re in line for a restaurant/bar/café. You don’t like lining up for things, but longing glances through the restaurant windows reveal shiny décor and laughing young people having fun of an unspecified type like on Strongbow ads, and you want in on that. The queue isn’t moving quickly like the one at Hoyts, though. After five minutes of inaction, you leave your companion to guard your position, and stride to the front of the line to enquire how long it will be. The host gives you an approximation of say, thirty minutes, and directs you to the bar to wait.

To your astonishment, it actually takes an hour to get a table. You bristle quietly as your date drops passive-aggressive hints about standing around in high heels. How has the sacred concept of exact time been thwarted thus by some dude in an ironic fedora?

I couldn’t help but wonder,” you write anonymously the next day on Urbanspoon, tendrils of cigarette smoke curling leisurely about your perm, “Why did they lie about the wait time? They could at least be honest about it!”

Why, nobody’s lying to you, sweet customer. Well, maybe a little, but it was at the “Enjoy the rest of your night!” part, not the wait time part. Let’s break down the maths behind the hospitality wait time, shall we?

The equation, if y represents wait time, is this:

y = (number of customers currently occupying tables) + (which stage of their meal they are at) + (current kitchen capacity) + (speed of current wait staff)

When you are given a wait time, it’s an educated guess based on these factors.

Now as you enquire about how long a table for two will be, we scan the floor, and think, Ok, the table that is most likely to leave first is the couple who are waiting for dessert. But, the apprentice chef normally lumped with dessert orders is swamped doing sharing platters for that table of eight. Assuming that desserts take ten-fifteen minutes, it takes another ten-fifteen to eat them, plus afterwards the couple want to chill out before asking for the bill, and if Janine clears and resets the table ASAP, that’s about a 35-minute wait.

If the table in that equation decides to shake things up by ordering a cheese platter as well, or if their order was messed up, or if they want to keep drinking after dessert, or if they just simply take their sweet time and spend another hour chatting over a forkful of cheesecake*, or if the waiter assigned to that section suddenly storms out… That we can’t control, and so the wait time increases.

Good hospo staff can predict wait times fairly accurately, while allowing for the variables above, and still fall within a twenty minute margin of error. That does not mean they are lying to you. It means the place is FUCKING BUSY, DICKHEAD.

My advice, my darlings, is don’t waste your precious energy (and the staff’s precious time) throwing a hissy fit over the wait period when there are fifty other places within walking distance you can choose from. Don’t start pointing out that this joint “needs a better system” when you don’t know the first thing about running a busy restaurant, let alone turning over or making a profit. They will not listen to you, even if you think you and you alone hold the key to abolishing wait times at restaurants worldwide. (You don’t.)

Basically, wait times for restaurants/bars/cafés exist for the same reason there are wait times for any old thing. And while losing your shit at the staff over wait times successfully demonstrates your ignorance and penchant for violent outbursts, it achieves little else. This is Melbourne for fuck’s sake: if you can’t wait, or can’t tolerate the walk-in system, or whatever else is getting your goat, go somewhere else. The offending establishment will lose your business and you will get fed more quickly – win-win, right? Or is that too logical for you to comprehend? I will stand here quietly and wait for you to catch up, if you like. After all, you’ve always been so kind to me, customer.

*Fun fact! Have you ever felt rushed out of a restaurant/bar/café by “rude” staff while you were happily gasbagging with your companions? Given the bill as soon as your latte was finished, et cetera? Revelation: the reason this happened was because this situation came full circle! That is, there were Whine Lovers like yourself – perhaps your evil alternate universe twin who is hell-bent on destroying your life – hanging around the door like bad smells waiting for your table. The staff were sick of being yapped at every time they walked past the queue, and gave the bill to the nearest-to-available table. Chat outside, motherfuckers.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Amuse-Bouche: "Is that red?"

Tasty bite-sized doses of customer stupidity.

Starring: Function guests with a set menu
Scene: Gentleman has selected the steak option

Me: “Your sirloin, sir.”
Gentleman: “Oh no, um, I ordered the um, the meat.”
Me: “…your meat, sir.”
Gentleman: “Thanks!”

Starring: Young couple in late twenties
Scene: The couple are hovering at the bar, the bartender attends to them as per social norm.

Bartender:  “Hello! What would you like?”
Lady: “I would like to be able to sit down first.”
Bartender: *backs away*

Back the fuck down, random. You’re a chick in a pub, not Anna Wintour.

Starring: A gentleman paying the bill while guest is in bathroom
Scene: I have led him to the POS to complete the transaction

Me: “I’m sorry sir, we are no longer listed in the Entertainment Book and do not accept Entertainment Cards.”
Gentleman: “Oh! But… this is last year’s Entertainment Card. And you were listed last year.”
Me: “I’m sorry, we were not listed last year, either. Even if we were, your card is still expired.”
Gentleman: “Oh. So, no discount?”
Me: “I’m afraid not.”
Gentleman: “But… maybe you ARE listed?”
Me: “No, we aren’t.”
Gentleman: “But if you were, how much would the discount be?”
Me: “We aren’t.”
Gentleman: “I understand, but what if you ARE?”
Me: “We aren’t.”
Gentleman: “But supposing you ARE?”
Me: “We aren’t.”

This went on for some time.

Starring: A function of 10 people
Scene: I am offering new arrivals a glass of wine

Me: “Would you like a glass of red?”
Lady: “Hmm, what is it?”
Me: “A 2010 pinot noir, selected by your host.”
Lady: “Is that red?”

Lady, if you ever want to see a picture of yourself, just look up the word “idiot” on Wikipedia.

Starring: Two ladies perusing menu
Scene: After demanding to know why we serve beef “eyes” (perhaps a trans-Atlantic interpretation of eye fillet), American Lady has asked me to explain sirloin

Me: “I believe it’s from what you know as short-loin, it comes from the upper-rear of the animal-”
American: *appalled* “You don’t have to be QUITE so graphic.”

Ok. Sirloin is the one that looks like a rectangle and is made out of sunshine and rainbows and definitely didn’t involve bucket-loads of blood spilling from a bovine getting its head sawed off. Moooo.