Friday, September 18, 2009

A tale of two servers

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?


LW said...

I would have to say the emotional part is much harder to handle. It can take days to recover from that.

Rowdy Style said...

i'd pick yours just cause i hate smoking and i like socializing.

Teleburst said...

Well stated, Brit.

Sometimes we "higher end" servers look down our nose at churn-and-burn service. Sometimes "high volume servers" look at "high end servers" as having a walk in the park compared to their own jobs (in some ways, this is true).

While high volume is "harder work" physically, high end work is tougher mentally. When someone is spending a small fortune for their dining experience, expectations are racheted up and there's more pressure to execute and perform (not in the way that a Hooter's Girl performs, of course).

I make a really good living but I can imagine that a good Hooter's Girl makes as much, if not more than I do, as their tips likely have a higher percentage and they wait on a higher volume, even though their check averages are much lower.

Great job comparing the two!


"So You Want To Be A Waiter" blog

Anonymous said...

wow this must have taken some time to write, glad you have so much free time to write to all your fans!! :o)