Friday, February 23, 2007

Idiotic corporate policies

I'm going to rant for a bit. If you don't like my rants, skip this (and most) posts.

The Red Lobster 3 table policy.
We, as RL Servers, are limited to three tables max at any given time. It can be three 1-tops, or three 7-tops, but only 3 tables. It makes no difference if one table has been sitting in your section for 3 hours, you cannot take another table. If you have two one tops sitting in your section reading books all afternoon, you will only have one table that you can wait on. If some people are working on business, a couple buying a house for instance, are sitting in your table all afternoon looking through paperwork, you cannot take an additional table. If a guy decides he wants to read the whole newspaper during rush in you section you cannot take another table. If your tables want to sit and watch the game (if you are in a RL with Bar tables and TV's) you cannot take another table. During the World Series, we would have tables sit for hours. Think we made any money? It is an asinine policy. It has cost each and every one of us money, except for those who make these kind of decisions. Did the Corporate leaders loose money when we made this switch a year and a half ago? Nope, they certainly didn't. It's easy to screw with things when it's not your livelihood you are screwing around with.

The 3 table policy does not take into account server skills. We have some people that I would testify before congress should never have more than two tables. We have a couple of middle aged women who between the two of them would struggle to maintain 3 tables at a level I can hand 5 or 6 tables. It's less about me being good and more about them sucking BTW.

Another thing that pisses me off is that if a mid-afternoon person wants to leave after their guests have paid, but while the guests are still seated in our restaurant, they can have another employee watch/clean up that table. So now the other employee can have their own 3 tables, and be babysitting 4-10 tables depending on how many sitters and servers we have that day. But could that employee watching 8 tables actually take a 4th table, certainly not. Do those tables that sit there for the next two hours still require service - yes, though admittedly a diminished amount. This is the case every single day of the week. This same scenario plays out at the end of every shift. Come in late at night and you might see 10 tables in the restaurant with guests, but only 2 servers in the store. Red Lobster only applies their policy when it is to their advantage. By letting those other 2-4 servers go before their tables leave they save labor hours, they are getting servers off the clock. I understand the servers wanting to leave early as possible, that isn't the issue. The issue is the double standard employed by Red Lobster.

Another place this 3 table rule makes no sense is in the bar. Bar Tenders do not have the same limits as do servers. A bar tender might have 12-20 sitting along the bar on a busy night eating and drinking. Plus they have at times other tables they are responsible for. In addition to that, they are supposed to be making drinks for the servers. If their choice is to take care of their own guests eating the 2 Ultimate Feasts and drinking a few cocktails (likely netting them a $10+ tip) or getting the drinks for the servers, they are going to choose taking care of their own guests at the expense of the server. They are likely to only make $10 all night for their service to that server. So the servers get to stand their waiting while the bar staff runs around taking care of themselves. Further, the bar tenders do not have the table service training that servers do. Watching a bar tender take a table is painful. They don't have table approaches. They don't know the menu. And this is our long tenured bar staff, not even the new people.

Splitting large parties
If a table has 8 or more guests, two (or more) servers are required. A table of 4 adults and 4 sets of breast feeding twins (12 people) requires 2 servers. If 16 people come, only one orders a meal and the rest just drink water 3 servers would be required. If a retirement party of 22 people comes in for drinks and appetizers you have to have 4 servers. Not only does this policy jack us as servers, it causes increased wait times for virtually every table of 8 guests or more during a busy period. Now not only do you have to wait for tables to open up, but you also have to wait for all the servers involved to have an open table before the table can be seated. So when a table of 15 people shows up, they have to wait for all 3 servers to have open tables. Our large party wait times have increased substantially the past year and a half.

The further insanity is that if you are just starting your shift - this happens frequently on weekends - you can come onto the floor an be sat a party of 6 or 7, and two four tops simultaneously. But you cannot take that 8 top by yourself. We have sections where when servers aren't on in adjacent sections it is possible (and it happens) that people get sat two 5-tops and a 4 top all within two minutes of coming on the floor. Do you think it is harder to deal with 10 people at one table or 10 people at 3 tables? At the 10 top everyone can listen to the same table presentation, everyone is going at the same general pace. Not so at three separate tables. Do you think Red Lobster is going to go on a wait to give you enough time to take the order of the 7-top before they bring you the other two 4-tops? Nope. In spite of their idiotic 3 table policy, Red Lobster DOES NOT want to go on a wait. They will seat overly busy bartenders instead of asking guest to wait in the lobby with empty tables in full view. They will allow guests to seat themselves at the bar rather than make them wait for a server with an open table.

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Trish said...

at the OG i work at, you can get away with stealing an 8 top by yourself or occasionally taking a 4th table. Sometimes in our cafe area they'll only have one server; the bar is supposed to be up the other 3 tables, but usually if you're quick enough you can get all 6 tables to your ownsome. Too bad the cafe only ever gets that full on weekends, which they have 2 servers in there so back to having 3 tables. And usually, you're stuck to having mostly 2-tops and the occasional 4 top in the cafe. Your best luck is to turn them over so quickly their plates are still hot when you take them back to the DMO... but if they're going to camp, they are going to camp.

At least you don't have to deal with 10-tops that get ALL YOU CAN EAT SOUP AND SALAD. You just have to keep checking up on biscuits and soda refills. We have to run to the kitchen 12 times in a row just to make sure our one table is happy, while our other 2 (even tho it is just -2-) are trying to catch our eye to get a ras lemonade refill...

so. grass is always greener, eh?

OldSchool36 said...

Amen to every word. I hate when people get hired because of their impressive business degree but don't know anything about the people or industry they're in. These people think just because they read Sun Tzu's "Art of War", they can do anything.

Trish said...

Hey lobster boy, is RL so numbers driven as the OG? We have to print out our weekly sales - which include how much alcohol per person and our add-ons per person that we've sold - and if we don't reach the goals (usually 150 at lunch, 2 at dinner for alcohol and $5 any time of day for add-ons) we get shitty comments from our managers like "well thanks for coming in today" or "at least you were on time and smiling today" .... In other words, "you were completely useless for making us money today."

I know i'm a great server. I get told by my customers all the time: thank you for great service, we had an excellent time today, etc etc. But if i don't sell a few glasses of wine or a daiquiri i feel like my job is in danger because of the darden corporate greed policy... i know when i move out of state i'll do everything i possibly can to find a place that values me for giving their customers great service (and therefor keeping their customers coming back time and time again!) instead of selling a few appetizers...

Fred said...

I can't emphasize enough how positively I mean this post. I have dragged my ass through the corporate restaurant machine.

The cream rises, folks. Get good, leave Red Lobster/Olive Garden, take more tables, make more money. The restaurant business is by nature transitive--the grass is indeed ALWAYS greener and most restaurants in the country are hiring all the time. Get your game-face on, put on a suit and get a new job so you can make a ton of money. 3 table sections???? jesus--i'd be there less than one shift.

seriously--i love this industry but that feeling didn't come until i left the corporate world behind. find a nice, privately-owned place with a good kitchen and go to work being their most valuable asset, and you'll double your income in a month, i guarantee it.

Love the blog and I dont want this to sound insulting at all--i just know that your professional life may improve if you leave red lobster. it's where most servers get their start, not where they pay their mortgage.



Lobster Boy said...

I hear you, and that would be my next step were I willing to remain in this industry long term. Right now, that is not in my plans, so I'm biding my time at RL. Meanwhile I'll continue to vent here.

As for you pour souls slaving in the OG mines, that is the VERY reason I serve at Red Lobster. Much larger ticket totals, no endless refill torture. There is no way I would've ever considered OG for employment when there is usually a RL just down the street.

Lobster Boy

Cheyenne said...

Rarely do corporations make decisions that actually help or make sense. It's all about the bottom line.

It's too bad they just didn't leave it up to each individual store to decide who can handle how many tables.

Another thing that would be nice is not having to have a blogger account to comment ;)

ktlee said...

Oh no, I can't believe it. Who would ever think 3 tables is adequate. Um, how are you supposed to make any money?

stupescommaruth said...

hey there---
to use your verbage, "i am by no means a red lobster apologist," either, but from what i hear, the managers (i mean the good ones, the competant ones) are more easily fired over letting servers take more than 3 tables than something as serious as sexual harassment, fudging the numbers, or just being a dolt in general. i know this because my brother happens to be one of the "infamous" managers (let's just say we had more than a passing interest in your entry on kay guild---LOVED IT!!!! and have been a fan of yours ever since)
i just find that sad and hilarious. it's like they say, "you can know absolutely nothing about the kitchen, bar, or managing in general and we'll keep you in place, but if you leave the back door for 2 seconds or let the servers take more than 3 tables, YOU'RE OUT!!!!!"

what a bunch of idiots.

Lobster Boy said...

I hear you on management incompetence. I have a post on that in the wings. But as you state, RL will turn it's back on wonderful managers in a blink and yet incompetent morons remain as managers. It is a sad way to run a company.

Denise said...

One of the better decisions that my restaurant made was to avoid a table limit, and instead impose a seat limit based on the skill of the server.

You start out handling a 8 seat section (typically it is just 2 tables that may or may not end up with the full 8 seats filled, but if we get busy, you can take extra tables as long as you don't have more than 8 people in your section). Also, as I noted, this is based on skill, so you get promotions up to 16 seats.

I'm at a 16-seat level which means in the early part of the dinner hour before a lot of the other servers(we staff 35 for a dinner rush) walk in, I can have 8 tables going.

I'm not sure why you would have to share an 8 top with anyone- we give 8 tops to our green servers. Moreover, if a party under 20 walks in, a server can take it on her/his own.

This, of course, does have downsides, but overall, it doesn't keep a great server from getting tables and it doesn't allow a new server to get too weeded.

d.a. said...

We generally have 8 table sections, minimum, in the place I work (big Italian chain in the UK). On a weekend night every table can easily be occupied. Big parties are served by the person on that section, no one else. It works pretty well and I cope fine with 8 tables. Enormous parties (such as a group of 30 I served in the summer) are a rarity anyway, and the manager on the floor tends to help out. He is without doubt the best manager I have ever worked for.

The thing I love most about my job is the constant activity. Three tables would drive me mad, I think.
Damn company policy.

riva0060 said...

ummmm I must take exception to part of this post... for the most part I agree with what you are saying about the three table policy. But as a bartender, I will say this: you are wrong, granted I used to be a server too, but all of our bartenders are required to do server training in addition to bar training and I swear most of our bartenders are amongst the best servers in the store. Furthermore, we still are required to do the approach ("promise" and all as lame is it sounds at times) and are held to it, our GM does "server audits" and will monitor us as well and will call us out if we aren't doing the right approach. In addition we take tables, serve people at the bar, do take-outs, and I personally always have the service printer in sight and more times than not, no matter how busy it is I make sure the servers get their drinks in a timely manner, I will tell a customer that I will take their order in a minute, make the often times very impatient server's drink, and return to my guest.
Now here's my complaint to you. WE KNOW YOU ARE WAITING! Keep in mind usually your wait is a lot longer in your own head than it might seem because all you are doing is staring at us while we take a guests order. Please don't interrupt us while we are speaking to guests, to tell me you rang in a bud, I don't come up to you and tell you to walk your drinks while you are at a table; don't shove a twenty in my face expecting change immediately while I'm making the five drink orders that came up at once; don't flag me to the other side of the bar to ring in your food while I'm greeting my guests at the bar!!! Bottom line don't expect me to drop what I'm doing or put on hold the five or six other things I've got going on because you feel like you need immediate assistance because more than likely you are only going to wait another minute or two anyways!
Do this, be a bartender at your store one Saturday, from open to close, you will start to see some servers (not all of them, some are great, like the ones who recognize a busy bartender and actually offer to get salads or something, they can make the difference between a good and a bad night, but from my experience that is not the majority of servers) in a whole new light, then write blog ripping on, often times, the busiest person and greatest multi-tasker in your store.
Wow, years on venting there.
Thank you. I'm Tim "R" and I not only approve but wholeheartedly endorse this message. And may God bless America...

Lobster Boy said...

Tim R,
I appreciate your comments. There are certainly some good bar tenders. For years we had good ones, but we've had some turnover and that has really hurt our store. I don't disagree with what you said, bar tenders are extraordinarily busy, and that is a flaw in our system, not a problem with the bar tenders. When you have to answer a phone, make drinks, serve tables and guests at the bar, ring in food, make salads, change kegs, stock, clean, seat tables and make change all at once you are too busy to do a great job at any of it. Thankfully, not every moment is that packed, but some certainly nearly are. Back in the day, before the 3 table section, our bar tenders never took tables. Period. They didn't want them. The tables cost them more money than they were worth.

Also, for the record, I have 4 years of bar tending under my belt. Not at the Lobster, but at a place with a lot more booze sales, booze sales which kept the rest of the joint open for the most part. I know what it is like behind the rail.

Lobster Boy

Jonathan said...

oh man you should be glad they do that at your red lobster cuz in mine they dont give a shit about you and they just sit you like 6 tables if they have to i hate my job and im quitting as soon as i get a chance i hate everything about my stupid job and i hateal the stupid managers there they are retarded i hate people cuz of this job before i didnt hate people but now i hate them all every body that eats at red lobster should die or get killed i had a bad day at work today thanks a lot for this page some stuff you say its true i feel better now that i know that theres someone out there who hates red lobster as much as i do
take my advice and quit man get out of there