Friday, October 29, 2010

OMG I made tips!

Are you ready for how much I walked with on my first day making my own tips?

$5.

Oh wait...it was actually $6 because my busser felt sorry for me and wouldn't let me tip him out.

At least my PPA (per person average) was $23, and ya know what, I treated all THREE of my guests like kings and queens.

I rule.
(cue sarcasm)


Oh crap, I just spent my tips and then some on a halloween costume. Ugh. Tomorrow's a new day.


What's up, Abe? 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rigatoni D, here we come!

As mentioned in a previous post, getting 100% on all of my training tests meant a free Family Style Dinner for me and three friends. Felt pretty easy the whole way through, until it came to the wine and alcohol test. Last time I worked for Bloggiano's, this was the test I had to retake. It's easy to memorize the food ingredients, because you have the visual of the dish. But trying to memorize 31 wines by the glass and every kind of alcohol we carry is simply that: Memorizing.


On Sunday night before Monday's test, I texted one of my friends excited for his free dinner that I wasn't sure it was going to happen. I partied all weekend instead of resting (typical) and my brain still felt full of pasta, incapable of retaining any more information.

I resorted to mnemonics and little stories to remember everything...

Pinot Grigio: PECS
Placido
Ecco Domani
Coppola
Santa Margarita

Cabernet:
Woodbridge, Cellar #8, is where Louis Martini, J.Lohr and Coppola live

Don't ask me how these things worked, but I sped through those tests so fast it felt as though I'd blacked out.

The final certification for training meant a 'mock serving' of the managers. I was pretty nervous about this as well, because a table of managers is WAY more intimidating than a real table of guests. Thank goodness it ended up being just our training manager and his assistant, who are both pretty laid back and nice. When it was my turn to serve them, they realized they were starving so instead of using the training mode and pretending to bring items, I actually served them lunch.

My "Controlled Chaos" theory worked, and I didn't miss a single step of service. I refilled drinks when I saw glasses half-full, and my entrĂ©es came out the moment they finished their soups/salads. I felt really confident about how it went, and am happy to report the managers were extremely impressed. In fact, he told me I scored the highest out of the 12 servers in training. Oh, AND I got 100% on my wine and alcohol test!

Ok, so I'm a perfectionist. Could be worse. Rigatoni D, here we come!!!

And if you've never enjoyed Rigatoni D, here it is! Rigatoni pasta, tossed in a creamy marsala wine sauce with button mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fresh basil/parsley...by far, the most popular dish at Bloggiano's. (Thanks Yelp for the pic!)

Controlled Chaos

I think my brain turned to pasta last Friday....

I had the WORST day of training. They stuck me with this guy, Homer (I didn't even have to change that name) who I was originally excited about following. I had heard he's the guy who makes everyone laugh and is great with guests, often singing 'Happy Birthday' in a James Brown style. However, once I started following him, I felt my brain hurt.

I'm sure as a server, he has a rhythm that works for him. But, with three trainees, he's a mess! There were a number of times we had to correct him on proper steps of service, and I really feel like he does things the hard and inefficient way. For example, I needed to put in an order for a two-top (a table for two, for all the restaurant newbs) but he made me stand there and wait while another trainee put her order for 5 in, which took FOREVER because they had fancy drinks and appetizers as well as entrees. After she was done, he criticized me for waiting so long to put in the order that had no apps or salads. What?!?


I was already feeling more stressed than ever when someone handed me the pitcher of decaf coffee to refill my table's cup. See, I like to think of the best servers as having "Controlled Chaos." We're thinking of a million different tasks on the inside... table 2 needs a coffee refill, pay out table 5, table 10 wants more butter, when will this shift be over?? .... but on the outside, we're all smiles, floating around the restaurant like everything's a piece of cake. Homer functions by running around like a chicken with its head caught off, and it totally messed with my chi. I started messing stupid things up, just like him!

So anyway, someone hands me the coffee pitcher, I bring the cup to me in effort not to chance spilling on a guest, and as I pour....coffee starts coming from nowhere! I must have had a look of horror! In slow motion, I saw the white tablecloths become soaked with coffee and I kept pouring because I couldn't even figure out where it was coming from! The damn thing was broken on the bottom!

Thankfully I saved myself by joking with the two old men at my table about the staff trying to sabotage me on my first week of training and they laughed.....but I was serious!


I hate those coffee pitchers now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rose

Regulars.

Every restaurant has them.

Rose is an 81 year old Jewish woman who comes in to eat minestrone soup at Bloggiano's about three times a week. I know she's 81 because she pulled me over on my first day of training to say, "You're new" on my first day of training and told me her life story.

I've been informed by some of the other employees on how to deal with Rose.

1) Never joke with her when she doesn't know your name, no matter how many times she's met you. Her response: "I'm 81. I'm not supposed to remember. You're supposed to remember." (I hope you're doing a Jewish New Yorker voice in your head, because that's how she sounds.)

2) Never respond with, "We don't serve minestrone soup anymore" when she orders it. We keep some frozen for the people like her who still come in to get it after it was removed from the menu.

3) Never walk by her table without smiling, or stand around doing nothing where she can see you. She'll claim she's the boss and send you home.

4) If she asks you to sit with her, DO IT. But if you get stuck there, just pull another server into the conversation and sneak away.

In my first experience with Rose, she told me how old her children were and then said she has a granddaughter who has, "a better job than any of you!" Thanks Lady.
While some servers try to avoid her all together, I took another route. I told her I am Jewish and that I lived in Israel last year. Now she loves me.

I choose to be on her good side, just in case.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's in the packet!

I've been a Bloggiano's slave trained for 38 hours this week. Naturally, the combination of early hours and amount of time spent trapped in a room with the same 12 people is starting to get me....well, everyone.

The Old Lady of our group is driving me (and quite a few others) totally crazy. She NEVER stops talking. She calls out answers before the question is even finished, and is hardly ever correct. Carryout Guy tried to list off the ingredients of an antipasti salad and she insisted there were no tomatoes in it. Guess what. There are. And as stereotypical as it may be, she can't use a computer to save her life. I also caught her using the "IN" door to the kitchen as an "OUT," which is not only lazy but also very dangerous. Way to start the first week with bad habits, Old Lady.

I'd like to think the Manager training us likes everyone, but today I discovered even HE finds Old Lady annoying.

At the end of every day, we go through the Food Test for the next day. And every day, Old Lady slows us down because when the Manager announces a question that will be on the test like, "Describe the Chicken Piccata to a guest," and reads the answer, she makes him slow down and repeat it so she can write down every ingredient. This would be normal except that we have a huge packet with ALLLLL of the descriptions/ingredients written out for us to study.

Wow, look at that! A packet with all the ingredients and descriptions written out! Amazing!

At the end of the day, everyone just wants to get out of there and when she's unnecessarily slowing us down, each person has said, "It's in the packet," at some point or another while rolling their eyes and screaming in their heads. Our Manager, who is also exhausted, had enough today and when she did it again he hinted to the group, "Just so you know, this is ALL in the packet!" He pointed to Old Lady and then threw his hands in the air. Just the fact that he brought it up, sent me into uncontrollable laughter. Maybe it was the sugar high from the Pumpkin Cheesecake, Creme Brulee, and NY Cheesecake I ate prior, but I laughed so hard I cried.  The best worst part is Old Lady was still oblivious.
The best part of the story is that the Manager followed in my laughter and joked with me saying, "It's not funny, Lindsay."


Made my day.

I can tie a tie.

I never understand why server uniforms have to be so unflattering.

Seriously. I've never had a uniform I looked good in. How is a girl supposed to use her femininity to get bigger tips (Ya, we do that. And yes, it's completely fair.) if I have to wear a men's oxford white button down shirt that is way too big on me?? And don't get me started on the fashionable shoe designs created by "Shoes for Crews."

Every time I leave a restaurant job, I promise myself I will NEVER have to be a server again. I'm going to get a real job, with weekends and holidays off, benefits, and a desk with post-its in every color and shape. The best way to declare this step... is by throwing my ugly server clothes in the dumpster! It's the most gratifying experience, Office Space style. I can breathe easier once those marinara and olive oil-stained white shirts are out of my sight.

But then, after about a year goes by (or in this case, a year and a half) I find myself needing those Dickie's and non-slip shoes AGAIN and I'm thinking why, why, WHY didn't I keep that stuff??

At least I know how to tie a tie, unlike a lot of guys I know.... (Hi Ryan)



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Peace Out, Idiot Guy!

....Sorry about your Grandma??

Well, it's sad either way. Either Idiot Guy's Grandma actually passed away and he headed to Arizona for awhile...

OR

He realized he was the Idiot Guy and didn't want to wake up at 6am anymore, thus lying about his Grandma's health.

My Guess: He's sitting at home playing online poker as I type this entry. But who will make awkward jokes towards our Vice President of Human Resources now?!?

What's the worst lie you ever told to quit or call out from work?
Show me yours and I'll show you mine!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Servers should never be awake at 6 in the A.M.

My eyes are getting heavy and it's only 6:30 pm. This is ridiculous.

So you guessed it. I'm in training. Woo hoo? Now that the gods of Bloggiano's have decided I'm one of the "Best People" (Damn, their verbiage is already brainwashed into me) I am one of 13 new trainees. Seems like a ton, but it's actually in their best interest: they hire a big group every 3-4 months, train them all at once in a classroom setting (to save money), and then send us into the jungle of the upcoming holiday season as fresh meat.

The newbies consist of the usual suspects on any restaurant staff. We have the Old Lady, the Idiot Guy who will always be the fuck up, the Jailbait Girl, two girls repping the Ethnic Diversity, the Fat Flirty Girl, the Cool Guy, the Small Town Actress, the Nerdy Sweet Guy, the Small Town Guy, the guy moving up from Busser, and the girl who's worked in Carryout for the past six years that FINALLY gets to move up.

The Good News about training is definitely all the free food! At the end of the day, we have a feast trying the items on the menu in order to sell them well. I've learned that pretty much every item on the menu is over 1,000 calories! I might as well go up to the table and say,

"Hi! Welcome to Bloggiano's! My name is Lindsay, 
and I'll be making your ass fatter today!"

The Bad News is our class starts at 7:30am every day this week. Don't they know servers aren't pleasant to be around until 11?!? To top it off, first thing we do is take an enormous test every morning on the food we ate the day before. There are 7 tests we have to pass with a 90% or better in order to get certified to serve on our own.

**Bonus** If we get 100% on all of our tests, we get a free dinner for us and 3 friends...so you KNOW after being unemployed for awhile, I'm ALL about the free dinner. A couple of my friends already called "Dibs" on being my +3, so I better make it happen! (Hi Kyle)


So far I've gotten 100% on the first 3 tests, and I'm pretty sure Idiot Guy is the only one who needs to do a re-take so far...Shocker.

Ugh. Time to make flashcards. I thought I was done with school!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Interview: Third (and last) Course

While waiting for my 11am interview on Thursday, I caught a glimpse of the life I'm walking back into...

A mother comes out of the bathroom, wheeling her stroller with 2 year old son in tow. She makes a beeline to the host stand. She paces and asks the Maitre D how long it will take to make an order of pasta for her son. The Maitre D looks at the clock, and kindly tells the mother that the kitchen will open in 5 minutes (it was 5 to 11am) and then the carry out staff will be able to place her order. The woman insists, "But it's for my son! Can't you order it now?" 
Lady, the kitchen isn't open....which means the staff can't log into the computer....which means you need to wait a few minutes and THEN you can get your pasta. Oh what's that? You need gluten-free pasta? Well then it's going to take 15 minutes longer because they have to make the special pastas to order. 
No, that's not the kind of treatment she received, but I'm positive it's what went through the Maitre D's head. After 5 minutes of discussion (the kitchen is now open), the mother decided she could get home in the same amount of time to make the pasta and cancelled her order. Go figure.

The General Manager greets me at the host stand and escorts me into the bar area. We talk about the Orange County Bloggiano's I worked at (in 2005-2006) because she worked there in 2008. I try to remember the names of managers and staff that she might know in hopes of impressing her, but luckily there's a lot of turnover in management. Rule #4 of the interview: Take an interest in your interviewer. I remembered that at our group interview, she'd mentioned heading to Las Vegas for the weekend, so I made sure to ask how her trip went. Everything went well, and I am sure I sold myself as the friendly, family-oriented server who LOVES Italian food and making big sales. She told me she was sure it would all work out, as long as she received a positive report from OC Bloggiano's. Gulp.

Ok so maybe I wasn't completely honest about how I left OC Bloggiano's. Yes, I did leave because of scheduling conflicts while I was in school. However, I may have quit without giving two weeks notice... I think it was more like 5 days... Ok, it was 1 day! Whatever, I was young and careless! If you're going to judge me for the things I did when I was 21, I have much bigger things to worry about. 

Anyway, the GM told me I would definitely hear back either way by Friday night. Saturday morning, I began to worry. Not being able to even get a serving position at a chain I have previous experience with = Low Point. Luckily, I received the call that I was hired on Saturday afternoon! I am officially a server....again. 

The Interview: Part Deux

A week had already passed since I re-applied at Bloggiano's. My interview with one of the managers is called a "pattern interview." Um, I have no idea what that means. No, I did not prep for it.

Well, it turns out the "pattern" is a series of open ended questions about yourself that the manager reads off one by one. Rule #3 for the intervew: MORE is better. When they ask you for a few ways you'd like your co-workers to describe you, just rattle off adjectives until he/she cuts you off.
Hard-working
          Dependable
                       Friendly
                                   HOT
                       ...Wait, no. Don't use that one. The managers are well aware of the co-mingling.

Fifteen minutes of tooting my own horn while also patting Bloggiano's on the back for being such a pleasant work experience, and I was out. When I "passed" that interview, I was scheduled for a final meeting with the General Manager two days later. Thank GOD it's almost done!

The Interview

I've been interviewing for full time "Big Kid" jobs for a while now, but who would've thought the Bloggiano's interview process could rival a desk job?? Oh ya, that's right. I decided to apply for work at the birthplace of my restaurant career, only this time at a location in Los Angeles. I worked there before, so piece of cake, right?? NOPE.

I went in to apply for the job on a Monday. Little tip for the newbies to the restaurant world: Even though it's a serving job, you should still dress up in business attire. Trust me.

On Thursday night, I received the call to come in for a group interview on Friday morning.

Ohhh the group interview. Amongst the 12 potential employees, I knew I had it in the bag.
Rule #1 for the group interview with the General Manager: NEVER speak ill of your current/past restaurant job! Even more importantly, do not blame the management for your discontentment. Hellooooo, you're speaking to the General Manager, and unless you've ever had to manage a bunch of restaurant staff personalities, you have no idea what they are going through.
Rule #2: Be over the top, but in a likable way. For example, in this interview we were asked to show our abilities as salespeople by selling a random object to the group. My random object? A jar of crushed red pepper flakes. My pitch? "So you could easily go the whole meal without crushed red pepper flakes, but this could change your world! Add a pinch for a little kick, or be like me and dump it on in fistfuls which may result in drinking at least 4 glasses of water! At least you'll be hydrated??"  Yeah, that went over much better than the girl who banged the glass candle holder onto the table to show it as indestructible... The candle holder broke.

After our group therapy session, we were asked to complete a 200 question standardized test. SAT's for servers!! What does that entail, you may wonder... Well it's basic math skills even though you'll be using a computer and calculator to do all your work, language questions, and then a personality test. You know, to make sure they aren't hiring a psycho who feels happy NONE of the time, and ALMOST ALWAYS disagrees with management decisions.

I'm pleased to report that I was the first to finish the test even with the 40 year old lady next to me using her cell phone calculator to save time... Not that I'm competitive or anything!  ;)

Oh, and I passed! ...which meant a 2nd interview one-on-one with a manager.

Your table is ready

Welcome to "Gratutity Not Included!" My name is Lindsay, and I'll be your server for this blog. Would you like to hear about today's specials?

I hate to admit it but, I love the restaurant life! I'm not a morning person, so a shift starting no earlier than 11am suits me. I have quite a bit of experience first working at a well known family style Italian restaurant whose name rhymes with... Bloggiano's. Hired as a hostess simply for having a personality boobs that appealed to my manager, I quickly became the girl who was always getting yelled at by every guest. No no...I was a GREAT hostess, but Bloggiano's likes to overbook their reservations, and no one likes to be told they'll be sat at around 7:45pm for their 7:00pm reservation.

After fleeing the corporate restaurant world, I joined the "Crazy Ones," as the owner called us, at a small family-owned Italian Kitchen in Orange County known for its over-the-top friendliness, making every guest feel right at home. Sounds cheesy, right? Like extra mozzarella on my baked ziti cheesy...but it's remarkably comforting. With around 15 employees, it is truly a family...though a dysfunctional one, and I will always remember my time there.

So what's up with this blog? Well, I am officially putting my non-slip shoes back on to re-enter the world of a server. It's not exactly where I thought I'd be at nearly 26 years old, but hey... I get to blame the economy, right?

While restaurant folks tend to bitch and complain about bad tips, bad schedules, and permanently smelling like garlic (maybe that's just me), I prefer to see the pure comedy in all of it. The restaurant life is crazy, but at least it's full of good stories!

Bon Apetit!
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