Saturday, July 21, 2007

Phil's Server Tip Of The Day.

Be honest about your mistakes.

I had a bad night last night.

I've talked about this before, but I'll do it again for the sake of this line of posts.

I was, as it's known in the restaurant community, 'weeded.' A server gets 'weeded' for all kinds of different reasons. The kitchen is 'weeded', causing you to become 'weeded.' Or, your tables just happen to be particular about their orders requiring extra steps to complete. Most of the time you have been given more tables at once than you can competently handle. When this happens, you have been 'slammed' with tables, and 'weeding' occurs. 'Slammed' and 'weeded' are often interchangeable terms.

Last night I got 'slammed' and 'weeded.' Not as fun as it might sound.

I made a number of mistakes I don't normally make. I delivered a beer that a woman had not ordered. I tried to drop off a crab stuffed shrimp appetizer to that same table when they had not ordered it, plus it took me another wrong table before I found the right table. The one I feel worst about was a group of nice regulars came in with a six-year-old and I forgot the straw they had asked for for him. He had a mohawk and was very well behaved. I also took an order for apple pie from them, discovered we were out, and had to go back and disappoint them.

Everyone has a bad day and mine was last night.

When this happens, I find the best way to deal with it is being upfront. Apologize, admit your mistake, correct it, thank them for their patience and work to make it up to them.

You don't want to be presumptuous and give the impression that mistakes are acceptable, but most people have been where you are.

If you have otherwise been polite and thorough, most customers will give you the benefit of the doubt. They understand and want to feel that you are aware, contrite and working on the problem.


Grant Miller said...

Waiting tables is the most difficult job - by far - I've ever had.

Cruelty-Free Mommy said...

When I used to be a server, I would have sleep-walking nightmares after particularly horrid nights. I would start fumbling around, saying I needed to bring coffee to 51, or water the tables in smoking. Someone (boyfriend, mom, etc) would wake me up, and I'd go back and lay down, but then I would get back up a little bit later and do it all over again. It was terrible. I was never able to rest.

Yesterday, PV and I went to eat at the restaurant where I used to work (6 years ago). My boss and an old friend were both working. I got sort of nostalgic. But I think I am much happier now! At least I learned to be kind to servers and to tip well.

Phil said...

Grant - Agreed.

Cruelty-free Mommy - Welcome! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ah, the Server Nightmare. So very terrible. Those are the most vivid of dreams and do often make you feel that you have never left work.

I agree that servering can create alot of negativity within a person. Part of the reason for these posts is to remind myself of the steps you can take to relieve that.

Megan said...

It's never fun to be weeded!

Years ago my sister and I used to go to this Mexican place weekly. We'd have a couple drinks and THEN order food. One night we waited about an hour and a half for the food - the place was busy and we weren't in a hurry - but right around the time we both decided the waiter had forgotten to put in our order he came by and asked if we wanted to order any food! When we told him we'd ordered food nearly two hours ago he made a big production of checking with the kitchen and then claimed that our ticket had fallen off the line. We never went back. But, you know, if he'd just admitted he'd screwed up we would have been totally fine with it.

Johnny Yen said...

I did one of those last night. I dropped off a salad in front of the only person at a table who hadn't ordered one. As she prepared to eat it, the person it belonged to, the only person not to get a salad at the table said "Will mine be here soon?" I was astonished-- it never occurred to the woman that I'd put the salad in front of her by mistake. I apologized and got another salad. You're right about just admitting the mistake.

But blame it on the kitchen if you can get away with it.

Was the mohawked boy Richard? He's the asian boy that the middle-aged couple that lives near the restaurant adopted.

You missed it when you were in California-- they used to put him on a leash. Kurt, in particular, found that really amusing.

BTW, Megan, I've had cooks lose tickets. But I know when the food's taken too long, and check on it. Your waiter should have checked after about a half hour.

Swanksalot said...

I waited tables in a busy cafe in Austin for almost 5 years, a long time ago - and I still occasionally have nightmares where the restaurant was filling up with new tables (I think there were 29 tables, including the patio) and I was the only waiter. Getting slammed is what we called it too (never heard of weeded), and it didn't happen that often in real life, but if it ever did, whew. You'd look at the clock and the day was almost over.

Nowadays, if I can tell my waiter is being slammed, I'll cut 'em some slack.

Phil said...

Megan - A agree with Johnny, the server should have been more on top of that.

Johnny - The kitchen is always a good scape-goat. Also, people rarely remember exactly what they ordered. I think they pay so much attention to what others are ordering, they THINK they ordered it.

And no, different kid. That family always orders the same thing, despite their special orders, they are almost easier because of their consistency.

Swanksalot - Welcome and thanks for commenting. I have that exact nightmare, though now, since I'm a parent, usually one of my kids is lost as well. They suck. Also, we appreciate the slack. :)

Duff said...

I remember that feeling. Being slammed can become a bad day quickly. They are sometimes also the best. It all depends. You have a great attitude about it.

I cringe to remember that feeling though. Swamped and one thing after another coming up. I used to kinda do what you're saying. I always was honest, and I was as friendly as I could be. I'd work hard to please especially after a mistake. At some point after you just can't do a thing about what's been done, so you force yourself to let it all go and chalk it up to a bad day.

My worst ever story? I approached a table with their drinks on a tray, and a teenage girl with her back to me was stretching her arms over her head. I was coming up to the table just when she flung her arms behind herself and caught the end of my tray on her finger. The entire tray of drinks dumped in her direction. It was awful.

Good times.

Random thought. I remember talking to you about working for walgreens. That seems like an eternity ago.

Have a great day!