Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Guide To Being "In The Know", part 1

For as long as I can remember, I've made the suggestion that everyone should work in the food service industry for a minimum two weeks at some point in their lives. Others disagree and think it should be for longer, that you should have to try and live off your wages; but that was never my point, not really. The point is, if everyone had to wait tables, bar tend, host, make burgers, etc; the world would be a better place. Maybe you would notice how your own behaviour towards these service professionals is not up to par. Perhaps you never knew the correct way to tip or how to come up with percentages. [side note: type "how to tip" into google and go to town! There are a million sites dedicated to teaching you the lost art of gratuity.]

Maybe you never tip a la "Reservoir Dogs". Maybe you under tip. Maybe you are frequently rude to your waiter. Maybe you never look them in the eye while ordering. Maybe you talk on the phone while ordering. Maybe you get snarky when they ask a question. Maybe you're ignorant. Maybe you're just rude.

I recently decided I needed a change in my professional life. Sure the security of a regular paycheck and medical insurance I never use (knock wood) is attractive, but it's also soul crushing. Imagine my excitement when I was asked to help out/fill in at my favorite local bar. Ecstatic may be the best word to describe it. It's been years since I worked in a restaurant and I've never worked the bar, but I felt like this was something I could do. So far, my biggest obstacles are reaching things on the top shelf way at the back (I've never felt so short before) and learning to say "let me think about it" before I inadvertently double or triple book myself. Of course, that has always been a problem. Regardless, I now have something I look forward to doing instead of dreading. I hope it continues.

Here are a few things I've learned in the short time I've been doing this:

* People have asked me how I get "hooked up" with things, be it movie tickets or free drinks. Well, I'm keeping my movie connections to myself but here's the secret to free drinks: Be nice. Be regular. Tip well. It's that simple. I go to the same bars not because I'm in a rut but because I'm taken care of there. I'm taken care of because I make friends. The best advice my Dad ever gave me was to "make friends with the three B's: Busers, Bouncers, and Bartenders". It's true!

* I will remember if you don't tip me. Popping a cap off your Budweiser isn't brain surgery but it is a service, so throw me a buck. You should tip a dollar a drink when paying cash or 15-20% on credit. If you really like the service and/or the bar give more. If you hate the service, give the minimum (see above). If you want to become a regular and get free drinks, give more.

* If you get your bill and notice it's lower than you anticipated, congratulations! You have been "hooked up". Tip accordingly. This means you should tip according to what your bill would be. I used to go to this really mellow bar downtown every Sunday. The bartender was really cool and would hang out with us chatting. No matter what I ordered, my bill was $5. Did I tip $2-$3? HELL NO! I tipped $10-$20, every time. No exceptions. It may seem like a lot, a $20 tip, but think about what your bill would have been. Trust me, you're probably still paying less.

* Don't walk your tab. It seems obvious but it happens all the time. We will remember you! This is not how a person who wants to be "in the know" acts. So, if this is a habit of yours, start a tab with your credit card. Tell a friend to remind you to close out. Do what it takes!

Finally, have fun and be kind!

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