Arbor Brewing Company

Around the time we went into hiatus, I began work at Arbor Brewing Company. ABC just celebrated it’s 20-year anniversary in downtown Ann Arbor, and rightfully so.

For our first ‘endorsement’ post, I’m going to be shameless and promote my workplace.

The brewpub has been a huge deal in the Michigan beer scene, not just for it’s amazing beer (I didn’t even drink beer prior to working here) but for it’s amazing work being eco-friendly and locally supportive. The owners are probably the kindest, most dedicated people I’ve worked for in the restaurant industry. Their hearts are just as invested in the business as their finances, and I’ve found that to be a rare occurrence in this line of work. They are constantly looking for ways to innovate and expand their reach, and they do it all with their many workers at the forefront of their minds. Their most recent announcement to renovate the restaurant came with a full-staff meeting and an open door for ideas and opinions, which was met with a more positive response than I’ve seen from any staff I’ve worked with when such an announcement was made.

The management team that has been chosen to lead the staff is just as amazing. The group of women that run the day-to-day functioning of the brewpub are all huge-hearted and just as dedicated to the cause as the owners. Seeing a functioning management staff is just as surprising to me as the owners are, and I can’t express how refreshing it is to work with competent individuals that actually take the time to interact with their customers – whether it’s a complaint or just a curiosity, there is no doubt that a manager will take time out of their day to ensure your needs are met. And beyond the actual managing duties, they shine in their capacity for compassion. I’ve witnessed more hugs and one-on-one chats between managers and staffers than I can count, and the follow-ups that display the true depth of their love for their workers. I’m so used to taking care of myself – on the floor and off – that I’ve had a hard time accepting the managers for what they are, and have only recently opened up to their support, but it’s been an eye-opening experience. Is this what good management really looks like? Can’t say I’m disappointed.

As for the servers and hosts I work with, I don’t have a single negative thing to say. Though it’s a bit difficult to establish yourself among them, once they befriend you they take care of you. I’ve been shown so much support and kindness by my colleagues…it’s outrageous. And every single one of them takes their job seriously. So many beer experts in the ranks, it’s crazy. Everyone is so eager to learn more, too. I can’t even tell you how many questions are asked when a new beer comes up, or how many opinions are offered when we update menus. The way they handle customers is just as passionate – the beer savants can recommend a brew to a new guest that will almost always be exactly what they want, and they’ll have no problem explaining it to them in depth. And the pride everyone shows for Arbor Brewing is wonderful – everyone really does their best to represent it, from staying up to date on the goings on to making sure that everyone is recycling properly.

Honestly, before working here I had no idea just how wonderful of a place it was – I knew the food was good, I knew the servers seemed like ‘alternative’ people, but I just couldn’t know the depth of passion behind that. I really do recommend everyone give it a try, whether you’re a beer snob or just have weird dietary requirements (we accommodate vegan and gluten-free like no other) you’ll find something to make you smile, from a staff that strives for that smile. Employed or not, I support Arbor Brewing Company from their rooftop solar panels to their soon-to-be renovated basement bathrooms.

Shamelessly Yours,
Tucker

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AutoGrat 2 : This Time It’s Personal

Guess who’s back…….back again…..Shady isn’t back, but your two favorite service industry bloggers are!
That’s right, folks, we’ve decided it’s time to bring AutoGrat out of hiatus. Not only that, but we’ve brainstormed and come up with all new ways to bring you your weekly dose of server antics.
What does this mean for the future of AutoGrat? Well, for starters, we’re going to be more consistent with output, as well as expanding the scope of our blog.
To get a little more specific, we will be continuing our service reviews, but we’re going to be placing a little less emphasis on those – they get expensive and our schedules don’t always allow for a night out together. To fill the space, we’re going to be offering an inside view into establishments in the area with management and owners that we think are worthy of your financial support. We’ll be gathering information from fellow workers to get the scoop on the best and worst bosses around, as well as businesses that are supportive of both the environment and the local economy. On a similar note, we’ve decided it would be fun to take a deeper look into some of Ann Arbor’s ‘staples’ and explore their stories from past to present.
Among these new ventures we’re exploring, we plan to pepper our blog with content aimed directly at our fellow servers – from job listings in the area to our picks of the best server-related articles and posts we’ve stumbled across. In addition, we’re looking for guest writers to feature on our blog, so if you’re interested get in touch with us about getting involved. Our contact information is available below (as well as on the ‘Contact Us’ page), so feel free to use it to submit your ideas or any opinions, suggestions, etc.
Along with the new service industry related content, we both feel that this blog is an excellent outlet for getting a little more personal with our writing, so look forward to really getting to know your servers!
We hope our return post has whet your appetite, because the meal before you promises to be a filling one.
Recrudescently yours,
Arina & Tucker
autogratblog@gmail.com

Hiatus

Hello, all!

A quick update for those that are curious about the status of AutoGrat.

Currently, Arina, myself and our roommate Lexi are in the process of finding a new home! With that being our top priority, not a whole lot of dining out has been happening. We’re all trying to save as much as we can in as little time as possible. That also means that we’ve been working our little bums off. Six days a week at work does not leave a lot of time for anything but necessary home upkeep (which we’re also slacking on, admittedly).

In addition to the moving process, I have recently quit my job at Heidelberg and started two new jobs. Being a new employee in the service industry is not an ideal thing – I have very few regulars, I don’t get the best shifts and I’m exerting as much energy as humanly possible to impress and prove myself to my new bosses. Not to mention the new POS systems, menus, policies, etc. that I’m having to learn…it’s not the best time to be Tucker.

And to top off this delicious stress cake, we have a locally made no-wifi frosting!

So, for the time being I regret to say that the AutoGrat Blog will be on hiatus until things calm down for us and we have more reliable wifi access.

We sincerely thank everyone for supporting us thus far, and we will be back as soon as we can! Please stay tuned for our next review and subsequent posts.

Thanks for Dining with Us,
Tucker

Just Sick About The Whole Thing

I’ve recently been sick, hence the lack of posts by yours truly. My illness, while exhausting and completely gross, did however make nice subject matter for this post. One of the most frustrating things about working in the service industry is that you have to be physically present to make money. There’s nothing I’m more jealous of than paid sick days and paid vacation time.

When your income relies on daily take-home cash, more than one day out of commission can be incredibly crippling. This is why you’ll often find your server with a case of the sniffles or surreptitiously coughing into their elbow as they bring you your coffee. We don’t like being there when we’re sick, only in very special cases is it rewarding to sneeze in the general vicinity of a customer’s food. Not to mention trying to keep yourself bouncing around from table to table with a smile on your face is a million times more difficult when you feel like your brain is wrapped up in cotton. Unfortunately, your measly 10% tips make up a vast portion of our rent so in we trudge, armed with painkillers and Mu***ex.

I’m lucky enough to work for and with people that are very understanding and would much rather you felt better than showed up to work dripping with snot. But we’ve all heard horror stories of people getting fired for being sick for a couple of days. There’s a surplus of people wanting your job, if you’re not there to perform it why bother keeping you around? And there’s always environments where your coworkers cherish their days off far too much to cover for you.

When I went from being a full-time student to being a full-time server this change in attitude toward being sick was a little disorienting. Never before in my life did I dread getting sick. And of course, as a nice little taunt from fate, never before in my life have I gotten sick so often (although that may have something to do with the fact that I’m young, dumb and full of…well…point is I don’t take care of myself very well yet.) When you’re working on a final project and you need a work day, you can fake being sick. When you’re on the verge of giving up the ghost, you need to go into work because you have to pay the water bill this month.

The other problem is that if you’re a server, your work probably doesn’t offer health insurance. Unless you’re a young ‘un like me and your parents still have you on their plan, chances are you’ll have to pay exorbitant fees for medical services (there’s a can of worms Arina doesn’t need to get into, health insurance and attitudes toward illness in this country.) Which sets you back on your money situation even further.

This is getting a bit repetitive. Suffice to say that illness and working in a restaurant are not the world’s best couple. If you’re a new server and haven’t had to deal with this yet here’s a few quick tips:

  • If you feel yourself getting sick, immediately shut down your social life and go to bed early
  • Fluids are your best friend
  • Make sure you have the phone number of everyone you work with, get your shift covered as far in advance as you can
  • Don’t take pain killers on an empty stomach and switch out your coffee for tea
  • Don’t get sick if possible

Very basic stuff, probably not very helpful, but there it is. Essentially, the job where you’re exposed to a million germs a day is the same one you can’t not go to if those germs start taking over your weak little body. If you have awesome coworkers like I do, they’ll bring you soup and send you nice texts with kissy face emojis. That’s pretty much the only upside to being a sick server.

Thanks for bearing with me,
Arina

Brown Jug

The scene: Memorial Day in Ann Arbor. Two renegade bloggers wander the eerily deserted streets in search of an unsuspecting restaurant to review. Their quest leads them to the corner of South University and Church Street. The sky darkens above them and unleashes a relentless downpour, urging them to make a dash for the nearest enclosure. As if the weather itself was on their side, they find themselves in the Brown Jug, a staple among the University students.

Although we had not planned on critiquing Brown Jug, we slipped into review mode effortlessly and automatically. There was no sign indicating a seating policy, but an informal holler from the bar maiden hinted that we were to seat ourselves. Squelching our way over to a booth by the window, we waited patiently for someone to tend to us.

A server popped up and dropped off menus, but scurried off to take care of tables that had entered before us. We took the opportunity to escape to the paper towel dispenser, attempting to dry off from the sudden rain. Upon returning to the table, however, we remained untended. A second server was visible on the floor, but they moved at incomparable speeds. The Tortoise and the Hare racing before our very eyes.

Eventually the Tortoise arrived at our table, slow and steady and losing the race. Tucker, hungover and in desperate need of water and coffee (also an orange juice, he was feeling needy) had to wait for what seemed an eternity to re-hydrate. The orange juice lagged behind the coffee and waters, along with a prompt for food orders. Moderately unfocused and not at all ready, we requested another minute. He gave us five. A quick glance over the restaurant gave us no indication as to when he would return, as he was nowhere to be found. Once he did reemerge, we burdened him with any and everything we felt we may need in case of another prolonged absence. Our forethought proved necessary when he vanished until the pre-meal soup was delivered.

Tucker’s coffee running low, a cloud of impatience engulfed our heroes (or villains, depending on which side of the story you’re on). The kindly bar maiden seemed to sense the toe tapping, as she appeared to check on us in place of our Tortoise. The obviously more adept Hare swiftly rectified our worrying lack of caffeine and hopped off with the empty soup bowl. The Tortoise ambled along with our entrees, dropping them off with a smile and politely accepting our request for a box and silverware. The silverware appeared in a flash, but the box arrived fashionably late.

As seems to be the unfortunate trend, the food was good but our server had no idea. Our penultimate meeting with him featured the disappearance of our empty plates and our check. The check was presented together and to Tucker, the “man” of the pair who should obviously be paying. Obviously. The rest of the experience was short and sweet. A quick parting with the Tortoise, a pleasant exchange with the bar maiden (the Hare was busy stirring up wind as she sped through the restaurant), and we were on our way.

All in all, our time at Brown Jug was not harrowing, but it certainly wasn’t mind-blowing. Our server was kind and of good intent (he even let Tucker charge his phone at the POS station!), but obviously serving in between semesters or while searching for a job in his chosen field. Everyone was pleasant, and we’d recommend stopping in for some good food and the chance to interact with the more impressive staff.

Your Humble Servants,
Arina and Tucker

Our Retraction Policy

We would like to make it known that we will not accept free food, or any other form of bribery, to remove or alter a review. As we’ve stated before, we intend to be fully honest in all reviews to give the costumers of Ann Arbor actual insight into where their money would be best spent in town.

However, we will return (of our own volition and without informing said restaurant) to give a second chance. The restaurant industry is known for heavy turn over rates and notoriously bad management, so we understand that perhaps a restaurant was understaffed or just poorly scheduled.

If you own or work in a restaurant we’ve reviewed, please feel free to let us know when things have improved and we will be more than happy to give you another chance to impress us.

We would like to stress, however, that when/if we decide to re-review, we will NOT be informing prior to our return visit. Giving any sort of heads up will only taint the experience and result in a biased review.

Thank You for Your Time,
Arina & Tucker

Meet Your New MisManager

Today’s rant is brought to you by poor management!

 

But, seriously. We’ve all dealt with it, service industry or otherwise. We’ve all had that manager that just completely ruined a job for us. Personally, I’ve had more than my fair share and I’m about tired of it. Is it really that difficult to hire a manager that doesn’t just generally suck?

 

I didn’t encounter my first awful management experience until I had my first serving job. The restaurant was owned by a local dude, and he did most of the managing himself. He had a couple of lackeys, but they served the sole purpose of dealing with floor problems (discounting, taking complaints, closing shifts, etc.). This particular owner/manager liked to attach emails to our schedules that listed the many, many things he disapproved of over the previous week. Sure, I understand trying to let everyone know what they need to work on. Is it impossible to add some reaffirmation and back-patting amidst the blatantly rude, negative commentary? As an employee that directly handles the people paying your bills, you probably shouldn’t piss me off too much.

 

“Oh, wow, all of these servers look so miserable!”

“Hi, I’m not telling you my name and I’ll be handling your business today……Do you want something to drink? By the way, I hate my job.”

“Goodness, I won’t be returning to this establishment, everyone was so disgruntled!”

 

Like, why would you make it your personal goal to make sure the faces of your company were consistently painted with disdain?

 

After about a year of this, the restaurant was sold to another family. Hip-hip-hooray! Oh, wait, here comes THEIR version of bad management. Get this. The manager they bring in has never worked in a restaurant. Ever. Not as a server, cook, busboy, nothing. At least the last guy used to work in a kitchen.

 

So, new guy, never been in an eatery except to eat, promotes someone under me to manager. Great first impression. Next comes the overall disregard for the fact that I’ve been there longer than anyone, combined with the piling of meaningless tasks to quell my anger. No, running the Facebook and creating the specials menus because you’re a.)lazy and b.)unable to use proper grammar or even spelling (PEOPLE SEE THIS PAGE!!!!!!!!!) are not promotions, and sure, I’ll do it for free to make myself feel important. Meanwhile, said manager is standing in the kitchen eating a quesadilla and distracting the workers from the fourteen tickets waiting in the window. Oh the tacos for table twenty-three? They can wait another half hour, whatever. Keep joking with the line cooks. And the table that had to wait an hour for cold tacos (because instead of running food like a decent human you decide ringing the bell incessantly will get the job done) doesn’t need their meal comp’ed. Good thing I have to wait for you to finish your meal to void it out.

 

And, like the rest of us on the floor, you’re wondering why this other manager he promoted isn’t helping. Wanna know why? Because she is also the acting bartender and her rail is full. Not to mention I’m also waiting for her to muddle my lime and mint for that mojito I put in twenty-five minutes ago. Why, why, why would you make literally the only person not able to leave their post the floor manager? What the hell is wrong with you?

 

Moving on to the next restaurant. Three managers, plus the owner’s over-involvement. Wow that sounds so efficient I can’t wait for this! Wait, I have to wait until Sunday to find out if I work Monday morning? Oh my.

 

Finally quit the first restaurant due to the manager forcing us to serve people that had been kicked out (for good reason) and went for broke(r) at the second place. At least I like the managers on a personal level. And they treat the staff like family. But, wait, families don’t run businesses. Again, for good reason! Cue dysfunction, constant spats and still no schedule until Sunday! What is going on, seriously?

 

Now it’s time for the new general manager to take over. We imported him (from Chicago!). He used to work in restaurants, works in advertising or something of that nature. Actually has good ideas and a relatively high level of motivation. So, why did nothing change? Let’s revisit the owner’s overinvolvement. Did you not hire people to run this business for you? So why are you not letting them run it? Sit back and collect the cash like a real business owner! Ugh. Oh, wait, you’re gonna fire our promising new GM and replace him with the manager I quit my last job because of? Bye!

 

In short, the last two years of my life have been managed very poorly, and if that doesn’t taste like soy sauce I don’t know what does. It’s a ‘salty’ reference, laugh. I need it.

 

I Quit,

Tucker