Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Waiting tables is a full contact sport

For those who have never waited tables, you should know that waiting tables is a full contact sport. It is part of being a waiter that you MUST learn to communicate by contact. It's the private language of waiters. There are different types and places for this to occur. In the dining room it is frequently a light touch on another waiter to inform them you are passing by with a 50lb. tray of scalding hot food. Or it is a subtle touch that gets them to move so that you can pass through while they take their order. Or it is an alert that you are there with their appetizer while they are interacting with their customers. This is the soft, almost silent ballet version.

Now enter the kitchen. You move from the ballet of the dining room to something that resembles water polo. Most kitchens are undersized for the volume periods of that particular restaurant. This has a multiplying effect, because it impacts the dish area, the salad area, the beverage area, the food prep area and so on. Each area becomes premium space, linger there and you might get run over. This is also where the niceness of the dining room disappears and it becomes full-on contact. Kitchens are very loud places. The dish room is nearly deafening on it's own, and you add to that 25 servers, 3-5 managers, some food prep people, bussers and whoever else might be there (bartenders doing takeout, trainees, cooks, line preps, managers in training etc.) and it's like a can of sardines. Very loud, pushy and grabby sardines. Think hockey.

We are carrying heavy trays of hot food or dirty dishes. Many times this is at head level of co-workers. I've seen many an incident where someone takes a header on the sharp edge of a tray. A while back we sent someone to the hospital after a tray to the forehead cut wouldn't stop bleeding. 6 stitches and some Advil later and he was back in business. We grab each other to move each other because when you are "explaining" to the cook how the well-done steak you were given that you were waiting on for 20 minutes was supposed to be medium-rare, you don't hear much. We maneuver each other, pull, push, and bump. Someone's leaving without something on their tray and they get grabbed. You quickly adapt to this system, as the din of the kitchen requires it.

It's actually amazing more people don't end up injured. The most dangerous ones are the new ones, the ones who haven't learned our caught onto the system. If you are coming behind me, yell hot food and put your hand on me. I'm a big man, if I turn around, the likelihood is that whoever is behind me looses. The range in size of people I work with further necessitates this communication. We have some very petite ladies, and some very large men, all of whom are very qualified as waiters. I've had people run into me and apologize, and I didn't even notice the bump. It's all part of the game.

I had a theory as to how this familiarity with touching each other leads to servers sleeping with each other. Ask any waiter, and they'll have plenty of stories to back this up. Waiters hook up with their co-workers at rates rarely found in other careers I would suspect. Some of that is age group/stage of life related as well.

At the end of the night, a strange quiet settles in over a kitchen. People are cleaning up, most of the rest of the staff is gone. Little is said this time of night. Our ears still ring with the noise of the earlier violence. We are spent by this time. Nobody wants to break the silence unnecessarily.

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Wireless Messiah said...

If I might ask, what is a blog roll?

Lobster Boy said...

Responded to on your blog!

Lobster Boy

Wireless Messiah said...

Thanks, bro. :-)

Brad #1 said...

Lobster Boy, just thought I'd let you know what's being printed out there, as far as Darden's concerned. After reading about your troubles with them as far as size of section, and everything else, I was surprised to read this.

From Restaurant Hospitality magazine:

Editor's Letter:
(The subject is "An Iron Curtain is not the Answer to Immigration Woes") An excerpt from that article...

Clarence Otis, heat of Darden Restaurants, told summit attendees that full service-restaurants like his company's Olive Garden and Red Lobster have changed their philosophy about hiring. To attract the best, you now have to go beyond offering competitive pay and benefits. If your work environment is not "fun" and you don't make your employees "feel valued," potential employees will look elsewhere, he said.

How much fun can you have when you only have 3 table sections, and how does it make you feel valued??

I'll use Bush Jr.'s terminology on this one, these fuckers are flip-floppers.

SHELL said...