Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
He works downtown. I work at Hooters.
We make about the same in tips.
He thinks my job is cake. I think his is.
The truth is, neither are.
Depending on the state of my hair, I'll spend anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour getting ready for work. Depending on where I am, it will take me 10 to 20 minutes to drive to work and park. I'm always at least 15 minutes early, but I usually get there around thirty minutes before my shift starts. Just so I can, you know, make sure my make-up looks ok in the restaurant lighting, locate a locker for my purse and change of clothes, and sort of mentally pump myself up for the impending shift.
No matter the state of his hair, he'll spend about 5 minutes getting ready for work. This includes the facial hair check and making sure there isn't anything sticking out of his teeth or nose. Depending where he is, it will take him anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes to get to work, depending on traffic. Then, he searches for parking. He allows himself 30 minutes. If it's a good day, he arrives to work 20 minutes early and has a smoke with some work buddies. If it's a bad day, he walks into work with 5 minutes to spare.
During my shift, I have anywhere between 4 and 6 tables before head wait starts sending girls home. I receive a 30 minute, unpaid break in the break room. I'm not allowed to leave at night without a walk out because it's a liability. I dance corporate-approved dances and bring up guests for birthday humiliations and bachelor/ette celebrations a few times every hour, depending on the rush(es). I follow a loose 16 steps that I know secret shoppers are looking for. I must greet a table in 30 seconds, bring their drinks in 3 minutes, etc. I sit down with every one of my tables and even if I'm not, I make it look like I'm interested and having a good time. We are not allowed to carry trays because more girls are needed to carry more food, so the more people there are at a table, the more girls are needed to bring the food and drinks. I am required to smile at and greet every guest within a 5 ft radius of me. This is sometimes more difficult than it sounds if the man is drunk enough. All of my time is given to the guests. I walk around to all of the other tables, making small talk and making sure they have everything they need. If they don't, I will get it for them. Usually, there are a table or two that are high maintenance. If I'm closing, I follow a strict checklist. After I clock out, I am walked to my car.
During his shift, he has anywhere between 5 and 8 tables before it slows down and servers are cut. He receives a 30 minute, unpaid break. He usually leaves and frequents a nearby cafe. He must greet a table in one minute, and bring their drinks in 4. He is polite and courteous to the guests, but not casual. He takes their orders and make sure that they go out when they need to. He carries all the food out on one large tray. He only waits on his section, although a table might call out to him for assistance as he's passing. When his section is completely taken care of, he finds himself with a few extra minutes to step out and have a cigarette. This experience is purely about the food, and so it must be perfect. He has more side work than I do, and closing takes a longer amount of time. After he clocks out, he walks with some friends to their cars.
We are exhausted. I am more emotionally drained than he is. He is more physically drained than I am.
Which would be more difficult for you?
All of this should be common sense but, unfortunately, through waitressing I've learned it's not. I'll start from the beginning.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS!
1. Honor thy hostess. Reservations. Some restaurants take them and some don't. The Hooters I work for happens to NOT take reservations. Getting cranky with the hostess will not help your situation. It is, however, helpful to call ahead to let us know that 40 of your closest friends are coming in. We'll TRY to keep some tables together open, but we wont make any promises. Why? Because nine times out of ten, less than HALF of the people will end up showing up, and most of them hang out for just fifteen minutes. This isn't your private pool house, and we end up losing money while your friends take up tables that could have been sat by people actually want to eat dinner and tip well.
2. Thou shalt not seat thyself. Hostesses seat you at a table for a reason, but we understand if you'd prefer to sit elsewhere. However, let the HOSTESS know before you're sat. You should also understand that, because of this slight disturbance to the restaurant's flow, it might take a few minutes longer for the waitress to get to your table. It's because she has other tables she needs to take care of. (I'm saying she because only shes' are waitresses at Hooters.) Another no-no is asking to move to a different table after you've been sitting at yours for some time. If you must, understand that you will most likely receive a different waitress, unless you move to another table in her section. We have sections because it's easier to keep tabs on tables that are all in the same area. It's a real pain in the ass to have to run to the other side of the restaurant to check on that table that "needed" to move because a booth opened up halfway through their meal.
3. Thou shall drink at the bar. We have a perfectly good bar, and it drives me crazy when a group of two or three strolls in during a rush and sits in my booth that holds 6 comfortably only to ask for two glasses of water and a bud light or two. I don't care if you're just hanging out before a concert or a football game. I don't care that you already ate. You're going to sit there for an hour, racking up your $6.75 tab, while there is a line out the door. Then, for my trouble, you'll leave me $7. I'm losing money. I have to tip out buss boys and the restaurant takes out a percentage of my sales to tip out the hostesses, breakers, bartenders, and kitchen staff. That is what the bar or even the patio is for. You may be low maintenance, but I'd take a high-maintenance high-tipper any day.
4. Thou shalt not monopolize thy Hooters Girl. I have other tables, and while I love a good conversation, I'm here to do my job. Fit in what ever you can into a minute or two, but when I have a full section, that is about all I can spare. It's rude to keep me there, and I'll have to seem rude to leave and tend to my other tables. It's also rude to complain about the amount of time I spend at other tables. I'll be honest with you. They're actually ordering food and drinks, which usually ends in a better tip.
5. Thou shalt not block thy Hooters Girl. Some people need help with basic navigating through the restaurant. Your Hooters Girl always has the right of way. Always. (ok, maybe not always, but if she's headed straight for you with 2 plates of 50 wings each, it's your funeral.) Hooters girls aren't waitresses. They're Hooters Girls. If we were waitresses, we would be allowed to give you only the basic service. (Normal service.) So when you see me walking towards you with two pitchers of beer in one hand and five ice cold glasses in the other, MOVE! Step aside. I don't care if you're a chick either. I have a million other things to do, dances to dance, kids to entertain, and beer to pour. I have the right of way because I'm at work, and you're here because you have nothing better to do. (Thanks for coming in by the way!)
*Note: Because of the informality of the Hooters Restaurants Guests are literally EVERYWHERE. At my location, during any type of game or event, it can be like trying to move through the mosh pit at Warped Tour. Not fun when you're, as I said before, carting around platters of wings and pitchers of beer.
6. Thou shalt not whine. Up-selling. I have to do this. It's part of the "16-steps" I've had memorized from day one. Also, the more you spend, the more I can potentially make. I know that makes me sound like a gold-digging hussy, but this is a business, and that is how we make our money. Did you really think we had "hooters girl" at the top of our "What I want to be when I grow up" lists? I didn't, so shut up and smile while I tell you how good our chocolate mousse cake is or about our awesome t-shirt deal going on. If you really don't give a damn, tell me straight up: "I am not a secret shopper. I do not intend to purchase anything other than what I will ask for." I will still make sure you receive good service because I am a good karma-fearing waitress.
7. Thou shalt not refuse to pay for a meal after it's been eaten. That makes sense, right? I don't need to explain this one, do I? If you don't like your food, for god sakes, tell me! I am required to check on you after "2-bites or 2-minutes!" and gosh darn it, I do it! Why? Because I should, and because it is something the secret shopper looks for. So, it is definitely not the time to whine to me about an entree, after dessert and coffee, when I drop off the check. That window of opportunity closed when I asked if everything was ok thirty minutes ago and you said YES.
8. Thou shalt not ask for separate checks after the meal. Need I say more? I always ask if I need to split checks if I'm serving a party of five or more. It's annoying and some people do look offended, but it's something I've learned I need to do. Occasionally I'll forget. So please, if you are not intelligent enough to add numbers and factor in tax, let me know that you'll need separate checks BEFORE you order. Things will flow much easier. (at hooters, we can put ANY amount you ask for on your card, and THEN we'll give you your receipt where you can add in the tip! You have 5 friends and 4 are paying with cards and 1 with cash? Perfect! Tell me how much to put on each card and if your friend is expecting change! Easy peasy!)
9. Thou shall keep a respectable distance between thyself and thy Hooters Girl. I cannot stress this one enough. I've been picked up, hugged, twirled...you name it. And that's fine. But this issue is about the message it sends to other, much more intoxicated guests. It is also the reason why the boyfriend does not receive a kiss (which would be unprofessional anyway) or anything more than a friendship hug when he comes to visit me. And he only gets a hug when he's near the door and out of sight. There is a reason why we ask you to put your hands in your pockets during our delightfully tacky Hooters Hokey Pokey.
10. Thou shall tip at least 15% That's a given, right? I hope so. After all we do for your care and amusement. Coupons? Bring em!! But please realize that the tip should be calculated before the discount. We did serve you the food. The kitchen did prepare it. The bus boy does have more mess to clean because of it. Common sense people.
And that's it for today. I don't mean to sound like I have to wait on complete idiots all the time. Many of my guests are wonderful and entertaining themselves. They're a pleasure to wait on. But I have seen my fair share of the dining-impaired, so pass this indispensable knowledge on to your friends and loved ones. Please, on behalf of your Hooters Girls and Servers.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I am lucky enough to be able to live within walking distance of a (man made) lake where I may run the 6 mile course around it, picnic beside it, canoe through it, or visit one of the many softball/baseball games going on at the ball fields next to it. As a college student, I've learned that every penny counts (for example, that caramel frap at the bux is worth 30 minutes of my hourly wage), so in place of a trendy gym I prefer to make use of the many outdoor "playgrounds" San Diego has to offer. Elle and I used to frequent the lake a few years ago, waking up before my classes to get in a little morning cardio. Unfortunately, directly adjacent to the lake is a golf course. I say "unfortunately" because golfers are some of the worse people I've ever met. I use the term "met" very loosely, and I'm sure they're not all like that, but every morning we were cat-called and harassed by these golfers. It got to the point where we'd rather endure the scorching heat in sweats and long tees just to avoid feeling horribly objectified for that mile we were forced to be within their range of vision. Normally, I don't prefer to run with an Ipod when I have a running buddy, but that too became a necessity. Eventually we stopped running the lake in the morning and took to the nearby mountain trails instead. (They're much more invigorating anyways.)
I walked into work today for my "early" morning shift, poured myself some coffee, and sat through "jump start," ready for what every may lay ahead. Or so I thought. The manager finished his spiel and we wiped down our tables just as guests began trickling in the door.
I walked over to greet my first table of the day.
"Hey guys! How are you this morning?"
"Hey sugar, bring us a couple of beers! We just spent this whole morning golfin!"