Thursday, February 02, 2012

Server Secret Weapons - the shoes

Remember the "It's Gotta Be the Shoes" commercial for Air Jordans? Anyone want to buy me these shoes so I can be like Mike?

While it isn't the shoes, it kinda is. At least in serving.

Early on in my food service career* I used basic black tennis shoes.  I'd run to Kohl's or JC Penny's when they'd have a sale (both had all black or nearly all black shoes at that time, I grew up learning that you wear black shoes to work).  They were never all that comfortable, and they'd quickly breakdown due to various harsh cleaning chemicals and food grease (I was a cook at that time).  Plus, they didn't get shit for traction on the line with various foods/greases/body fluids underfoot.  I suffered through more years than I care to admit with crappy shoes, all the while endangering myself, and punishing my body.

After I moved into serving food rather than cooking, I worked at a bar that required we wear non-slip shoes.  I initially thought it was a pain in the ass requirement, until I really began to notice the difference in traction.  In those days, I'd just run to Wal-Mart or wherever I could find that had cheap non-slip shoes.  They were never of good quality and they were often birth-control ugly**, but the traction was worth it.  I again suffered through quite a number of pairs of these kinds of shoes over a number of years, including my early years with Red Lobster.

Then my work shoe buying world was turned upside down.  I don't remember for sure when, but somewhere along the line I was introduced to Shoes for Crews by one of our assistant managers (about 300 managers ago...).  He tossed me a catalog one day when I was complaining about needing new shoes while on break.  He said he had been getting his shoes from there and that it was a good quality shoe - better than the local crap I was using.

I thumbed through, gave a call, and a few weeks later my new shoes arrived.  Back then, the shoes came pretty slow - but now are much faster to arrive.  I had them shipped to work, and when they arrived I put them on thinking I'd wear them over the lunch rush to break them in (it was a slow day) and then return to my old pair later so I wouldn't blister or be hurting from the new shoes.  I never put back on those old shoes.  In fact, I threw them away before leaving the store that night.  I was impressed by the comfort, fit, and workmanship of my new shoes.  Shoes for Crews had a new long term customer.
(keep reading after the break for details on how you might win FREE SHOES!)****

I can't quite say how many SfC shoes I've ordered now, but it is a surprisingly low number given the fact that A) I work a shit-ton of hours and B) I'm not a small man at 225+lbs most of the last 5 years (up to 245 at one point - insert fatty joke here...)  Of the styles that SfC currently have I have owned one pair of Cambridge which were my least favorite of my SfC shoes because I have an odd shaped foot and they never got "just right" on me - though they were still better overall than store brand crap.  I currently have two pair of the Aristocrat II's that I LOVE.  Yes, 2 pairs.  I rotate my shoes every other day, and sometimes between shifts.  Keeps my feet dry and happy, and it triples the lifetime of the shoe.  By letting that leather dry out, it extends the life by a good bit.  Yes I'm a cheap bastard.  Except for with Scotch.  I did have what I think was the predecessor to the Metro II a few years ago and loved them as well.  I moved away from that style wanting something a bit more classy looking, and the Metro II's have a pretty tall heel on them, and being already above average in size I didn't want to add to that in any way this go-around.  It is possible that there was one other pair in there in the early days, but for the last 7 or so years I've been wearing shoes exclusively (at work anyhow) from Shoes for Crews.

This isn't an infomercial for SfC.  I promote their stuff with all my co-workers (especially my trainees) because they A) make good quality shoes B) have good customer service and C) Shopping in shoe stores as a man is located somewhere in the 7th ring of hell.  I've always gotten what I've ordered, and with my last pair a few weeks ago, they arrived within 6 days of ordering, so it was quite quick.  Plus, if you work for Darden you can order through our work system while actually on the clock.  That's friggin' genius.

 I recently ordered a pair for wearing outside of work - the Milan's.   I was in the market for a good sturdy dressy shoe in black, and when I shopped locally and saw most that fit my interests were $150-$300 I nearly soiled myself.  I think there are people in China making those shoes living on less than that for a whole year!  Yes, let me repeat myself, I'm cheap. So rather than going that route, I was able to get exactly what I was wanting via SfC with the added bonus of not having the slip-and-fall-on-my-ass leather sole that many of the other shoes I was looking at had.  Leather soles might be durable and are replaceable but they suck on every surface that isn't dry concrete.

When my Milan's arrived they were wrapped in really cool purple cloth protective bags.  The shoes looked great and fit great and literally - within 30 minutes of wearing them around they were comfortable and mostly broken in.  Love it.  I won't wear the Milans to work because I A) don't want to kill them with the scent of fried seafood and B) they don't have laces - and I've learned that I want laces in my work shoes from previous shoes.  I have a foot shaped like the letter "V" and need laces to keep my heel from flopping around at work.  In a dress shoe that I'm not walking a thousand miles in I don't need that though, so slip-ons like the Milan are sweet.

One other thing of note is I use special inserts in my work shoes/running shoes - Superfeet insoles.  I used to run - a lot.  And the result of that constant pounding was a plethora of foot and shin problems with the worst being a wicked bout of Plantar Fasciitis that almost put me out of the serving industry.  I'd wake up in the morning and almost not be able to put my right foot on the floor - seriously like a knife was stabbing me in the heel.  As in "kill me now" levels of foot pain***.  These insoles were like magic in helping me heal, after suffering for the better part of 2 years and nearly giving up serving and running both.  Well, I technically gave up running (thus the weight gain) though I do still jog and am getting back to it a bit more on the treadmill.  Gotta stay sexy or my old lady might boot me out and find a younger man.  So as a preventive measure I have continued on using these inserts long after my pain left me.  Though for the Milans I just got I won't put the Superfeet in, because again I'm not planning on doing a ton of walking in them, they're my dress shoe.

Now comes the really cool part.  A while back I was contacted by Shoes for Crews and asked if I'd like to give some free shoes away here on my blog.  That's cool.  Yes you read that right - FREE SHOES.  I'll be posting the details for how to qualify for those free shoes from Shoes for Crews tomorrow****.  Shoes for Crews have given me up to 5 pairs of shoes to give away to readers of my blog.  See you tomorrow! :-P

*(Yes, damn it, I've been in food service long enough to call it a career.  Piss off if you think 
**(Birth-control ugly = you're never getting laid while wearing these.)
***(My old lady threatened to take my gun out of the night stand for fear that one day I'd either shoot my foot off or my face off due to the pain in the morning.  So-not-kidding.)
****(Yes, I suckered you in to reading the rest of my rambling by promising to tell you how to win free shoes.  Come back tomorrow.  Complain and you're out of the running.  My blog, my rules.)
*****(There really isn't a 5th footnote.  I just wanted to keep the gag going.)


ServerSteve said...

I agree completely. I was born and raised in the restaurant business, about 37 years now, and I have been wearing SfC products since 1992. At that time, there was no mandatory requirement for wearing slip-resistant shoes, but I really hated sliding all around the kitchen. I was a manager then, and I have been a server for the last 17 years now at Darden-owned concepts, OG and now RL. I used to demonstrate their worthiness to my staff by having my largest line cook (who came in at 300+ pounds) try to push me across the soapy floor while they were hosing down at night. If we were wagering, I would have won every bet. He slipped and slid, but you could literally see the footprints from the shoes on the floor, they were that good. They also last what seems a lifetime, I get about 14-16 months out of a pair, and I serve 6 days a week. And you are absolutely right about feeling broken in, I would never hesitate to wear them for the first time on a busy weekend night. My personal choice? The Explorer. Good heavier sturdy shoe, great support, and built to withstand even the worst quarry-tile floors. Anyway, I sure could use a free pair. Been wearing mine continuously since September 2010. Put in a good word for me??

Jena Branch said...

It is absolutely true that one weapon that a server should wear while at work is the right kind of shoes. It is more of the safety and comfort rather than style. Accidents on areas they work are inevitable. Something that needs proper attention.
I got some good server shoes suggestion from