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

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A Bit Behind

Hey, guys, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t think we’d abandoned you.

My birthday was Monday, so I’ve been taking a break from…well, doing anything at all. Besides discovering that I do, in fact, want to pay a monthly fee to play WoW.

Regardless, I will be back with a post tomorrow that will (hopefully, but probably not) be worth the wait! Arina has, of course, been being the amazing roommate/best friend/co-blogger we all know and love, so my couch surfing and much-deserved relaxation was in good company. She, too, will be back very soon with another great addition to our blog.

In the meantime, prepare yourselves for some exciting new developments on our side, including a potential guest piece or two(!!!!!). And since none of you got me a birthday present (no, Aunt Katie, you don’t have to do this since you got me something) I’d really appreciate some extra sharing! You know we’d do it for you!

Alright, sorry again for the lack of posting this last week/end.
Your FAVORITE Server,
Tucker

A Lesson in Virtue

This isn’t a majorly salty rant. It’s more of a quiet “ugh.”  But this week’s griping is brought to you by the people who just can’t wait. I understand that when you go out to a restaurant, you expect to be served and greeted promptly. And Lord knows, in our reviews we focus on greeting times and serving times to an excess. But sometimes, and this is something Tucker and I both understand, it’s just not possible for a server to get to a table in a timely fashion.

When you go out to eat on a weekday, there’s a good chance that there will be only one server on the floor. This is just a fact of the industry. Weekdays are not generally a busy time and having more than one server on is just a waste of money for the restaurant and cuts down on tips for the servers. Generally, this works out okay for everyone.

Sometimes, however, the gods look down upon us and feel like having a little fun. Those are the days when several tables come in at once, and somehow they’re made up entirely of the most impatient human beings ever to walk this Earth. They all have to get to the airport (which, by the way, is ridiculous. If you have somewhere to be please do not go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, you’re setting yourself up for failure) or are on a lunch break or are the VIPs of their own minds.

In cases like this, do not doubt that your server has seen you and acknowledged your presence and is trying their damnedest to scoot their poot over to you. But if you take a look around you’ll notice that there are several tables already sitting down, there’s food in the window, and your server is running to the computer with eight books under their arm. Once your server does get over to you, snide comments about how you’ve been waiting for someone to get around to you are only gonna piss them off and the chances of you getting top notch service will drop. Just keep that in mind.

The thing is, even with fantastic supporting staff like hosts and bussers, a server is one human being. Being a server does not give you three extra arms and the ability to move faster than the speed of lighting (roar of thunder). Just as I’m sure you’ve felt overwhelmed when you have three projects dropped in your lap at once, or when all four of your kids need to be taken to separate soccer practices in different parts of town, our brains get overloaded when it’s busy.

Personally, I get really stressed out when I can’t attend to a table on time. I want my customers to have a really good experience no matter the circumstances. And when I apologize profusely for making you wait, I mean it. I take pride in my work and doing it well. But sometimes it’s out of my control, the only way I can make up your wait to you is by saying “I’m sorry”. Please don’t attack me and make me feel like shit about holding you up. I already feel like shit about it.

Quick shout out to the people that understand though. You don’t understand how much of a relief it is when you trot over to a table breathlessly excusing yourself and receive a smile and a quiet “don’t worry, you’re busy, I understand.” Props to those human beings. Karma has your back.

In conclusion, I guess I just want to say patience really is a virtue. When it’s busy I want to be at your table but I just can’t be. Please understand that and don’t take it out on me. I’m a mushy little human with feelings and you’re hurting them and that sucks.

Much love,

Arina

Old Town

For our most recent review we decided to visit Old Town on Liberty. We were glad to finally receive service worthy of the awesome feedback we’ve been waiting to give. So, without further ado, let’s see what it takes to impress a sassy server(Arina insists I take full claim for this term – Tucker).

The sign inside the door said ‘seat yourself,’ which tends to make us cringe. Luckily for us, the server greeted us not only quickly, but casually and cheerfully. Waters weren’t presented right away, but she made sure to ask us what we’d like to drink right off the bat. Information about the soup of the day was delivered with a side of playful banter, and our server made sure to let us know that one of the soups was only available for a limited time. Of course, that piqued Tucker’s interest and he just had to order it.

As we were ordering our meal, our server proved that she knew the menu inside and out. She provided helpful recommendations, and Arina only got bacon on her sandwich because the server mentioned it. Now that’s salesmanship. After ordering, Arina left the table in favor of an attractive male outside, leaving Tucker to ponder the universe. Noticing that he was alone, the server spent a little extra time conversing and joking with him until the bell beckoned her to the kitchen. The food arrived before Arina even had the chance to charm the pants off her anonymous companion. The server made sure to ask if Tucker needed any kind of sauce with his sandwich before leaving him to wait for Arina. In a display of her prowess, the server dropped off another table’s order as she returned with the requested mayonnaise.

Arina returned victorious, and we dug into our food. It was absolutely divine, and although our server made no move to ask us about it she kept a watchful eye on our table. Halfway through our meal she came over, armed with a disarmingly funny comment about Tucker’s phone case. This set off another round of pleasant banter, further cementing our appreciation. As she left we asked for boxes, and it felt less like we were making a request of our server and more like we were confiding in a friend that we were just too full.

Although we hadn’t asked for the check, it arrived with the boxes. In a different situation, this preemptive strike would have disappointed us. Here though, the bill was split and in the company of an urge that there was no rush. Another nice touch was the “Thank you!” written at the top of our bills. Almost giddy with the prospect of writing a good review, we quickly handed her back our payment. She accepted our refusal for change with heartfelt gratitude, and left us with an encouraging ‘see you soon.’

Dining out is a luxury, and as such should be an experience worth the money you’re spending. While that can be filled by any run of the mill server, a great server can do more. Great service can lift your spirit so much, and that’s what we strive to provide as servers and expect to receive as customers. Our experience at Old Town did just that. Our server never once made us feel like a customer, but instead made us feel like a friend. She did her job efficiently and with talent, yet it never looked or felt like she was working. We have already paid them a second visit since our first investigation and we plan on returning. If you haven’t already, stop in and enjoy an amazing time.

Good Eggs

Although these posts are meant to be devoted to the people at our table, the customers that enlighten us or entertain us, this week I wanted to take a minute to talk about the people lurking behind the scenes with us. Coworkers can be a source of irritation, a fount of frustration and even anger sometimes. But they can also be the best support system, the best comedic relief, the best friends.

I’ve been lucky enough to encounter such good eggs at every one of the places I’ve worked. It seems to me that working in the service industry is a great bonding experience. No one will ever understand you breaking down in tears after some asshole yells at you in front of other customers like the people you serve with. We’ve all been there, and we’re all there for each other. Even rolling your eyes at each other after a brief encounter with an obviously ridiculous table gives a sense of belonging.

And it’s not just commiseration in the face of problematic customers or even your management. Spending almost every day of every week with the same group of people gives you no choice but to get to know them better.While that sounds a tad like Stockholm Syndrome, it’s far from it. More often than not, the people you work with end up being really cool. I’ve met some of my best friends through work. I met my roommates through work. I’ve laughed and bonded with so many of the people I’ve worked with, it’s hard to put the appreciation for that into words.

When I went to get my first (and as yet only but that’s inconsequential) tattoo, one of my coworkers at the time went with me to hold my hand and distract me with funny stories. Whenever I have something I need to get off my chest, I know there’s going to be at least one person at work I can confide in. If you’re looking for a place to live or someone to go to a concert with, there’s no one that will have the hookup quite like the people you work with. Smoke breaks wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if someone else (or four someones) didn’t come outside with you.

I’d like to mention that, especially in the industry, it’s important to become close not only to the people you share a workload with (in my case, front of house staff) but also to those that have entirely different duties (the back of house staff, for instance.) Too often there is a sense of hostility between the kitchen and the servers. Pointlessly so, as both parties can benefit from a good relationship with each other. You never know when it might come in handy, manipulative as that sounds, and in times of stress it’s always better to feel like you’re all in it together.

Whether it’s a quick hug when you come in looking bedraggled or an earnest word of praise when you do something right, coworkers provide bright pinpricks of light in what is ultimately a defeating and exhausting environment. Take a moment to think about the people you work with and let them know how much you appreciate them whenever you get a chance. And if you work or have worked with me and you’re reading this, you know who you are and I love you. Hit me up sometime, let’s hang out.

Mushily Yours,

Arina

Tipping for Dummies

Some of you may be curious as to what the title of our blog, ‘autograt,’ is referring to. Or, maybe I just needed an easy way to open this post… Either way, I’d like to take this second of your life to explain. ‘Autograt’ is short for ‘autogratuity.’ Autogratuity is a tip that is automatically applied to your bill to compensate for the service you received. Sort of like when labor is factored into a bill from a mechanic. Obviously servers are not doing nearly as much manual labor as a mechanic, but you get the idea. Some people understand the need for such a thing, but many feel that tipping is an optional practice. This would be the part where I rant.

The wage in Michigan for servers is $3.10 an hour. It’s less in some places, more in others depending on the cost of living. As any intelligent person can figure out, the amount is decided on with current minimum wage and tips factored in. The reason our wage is so low is because we are expected to earn tips. It’s really not complicated math. Tipping is also pretty simple math. The rule of thumb is 15% according to Google. In the service industry, our scale tends to be:

  • 10% is looked at as a bad tip; one you receive when you know the customer is going to be an ass and purposely make them the last priority, probably because they ordered their drink before you ask how they are or don’t say please.
  • 15% is an okay tip, one you grumble about to your coworkers but can safely guess came from someone that looked up how to tip or have never known someone that worked in the industry.
  • 20% is a tip you get from someone that knows how to tip and thought you did your job, no more, no less.
  • Anything over is a tip from a regular, friend, or customer that you really meshed with and made them feel like family.

All of those percentages, however, are a baseline.

We give out lunch cards, with a free lunch as the prize for completing it. The reason for this is in part to bring back customers. The other intended purpose for these cards is so that even those that don’t tip on our discounted lunches will feel a little more comfortable leaving a tip on the free lunch day. As of late, I have been refusing customers that did not tip on their free lunch card a second card. Not necessarily ethical, but let’s analyze why I made this decision. First of all, the lunches you are eating have been discounted as it is. The fact that you’re leaving no tip, or even anything less than two dollars, is absolutely offensive. Second, you’ve gotten eight of these discounted lunches to fill your card and I couldn’t even afford my own lunch with your lack of tipping. Finally, your lunch was free to purchase for you, but for the restaurant, and all of its employees, it cost time, money and a fake smile. So, no, you DON’T get a new lunch card.

I used to work every Tuesday at a place that did $1 Taco Tuesday. You would cry if you knew how many tips I didn’t get, or worse yet, how many tips were the table’s coin change. Okay, your taco is a dollar. How much do you think it costs to make a taco? I’ll let you in on a little secret… More than a dollar! And let’s not mention the line of people out the door or the understaffed servers running around like roadrunners with Alzheimer’s. You got six tacos, all of the sides, five refills on your soda and at the end of the check you give me seventy-eight cents?! Get out of my restaurant.

People do not seem to understand that while they’re enjoying whatever discounted food they ordered, their server is in the kitchen tossing salads (and not in the fun way), baking and plating your dessert, filling and running sodas to their other five tables and literally thinking of seven (at the very least) things they need to accomplish within the next two minutes. Let’s not forget that they also have to clean up the salsa your messy child dumped on the floor or the sugar you couldn’t aim into your coffee. And guess what? Groupon does NOT cover the tip.

You’re asking yourself, “Well, golly, why doesn’t poor Tucker just use that handy autograt thing all the time?” The answer is that I am not allowed to. Autogratuity is handled differently at every restaurant, but the rule tends to be that it is only allowed on tables of six or more. Some restaurants don’t even allow using it in the first place. The reason it tends to be used for large tables is because such a large amount of work goes into big parties. Set up, using other servers/food runners to carry out multiple trays at once, entertaining large numbers of people at one time, clean up and everything in between those things that you ask for on top. And if autogratuity is added, awesome, you’re guaranteed 18% of the final cost of the meal. Not bad, until your table argues with you about it and you have to ask the manager to remove it. Thanks for that blank tip line, hope to see you soon.

The point? While I’m writing my rent check, I can see every single face of every single bad tipper from the last month burning in my brain. Good luck next time you sit at my table…assuming I haven’t refused you. Always tip on the full price of food, always take into consideration the extra work you’ve made your server do for you and always, ALWAYS remember that $3.10 does NOT pay rent.

Clocking Out for the Night,

Tucker

Sava’s

Everyone knows Sava’s. It’s where you take your parents when they drive up for Parent Week. It’s where you have your baby shower and celebrate your engagement. But does it live up to the hype? As the self-proclaimed townies that we are, we’re familiar with Sava’s. We’ve eaten there once or twice, but never really taken the time to analyze the service. We embarked on our quest in full review mode, notepads at the ready.

Instead of the warm welcome we expected, we received a brief glance and no other recognition. Once we requested a table for two they again disregarded us to discuss where to place us. The hostess that led us to our table surprised us with light, friendly conversation before leaving us in the server’s capable hands. He arrived fairly quickly, considering how busy it was, and promised that he would be with us shortly. After doing a quick round at his tables, he returned to us and asked for our drink order. Arina’s inquiries about the house drinks were met with an expert recommendation. Our drinks arrived promptly, accompanied by the evening’s specials. After we ordered our appetizer, he informed us of the 86 list (for those that don’t speak server, an 86 list is the list of unavailable items). He returned to get our entrée order and further proved his knowledge of the menu by helping Tucker decide between two items.

The appetizer came and went pretty quickly, and although he didn’t ask how it was he made a point to keep our table clean and clear. Like a seasoned gardener, he cleared the weeds but kept us watered. Our food arrived with a smile and tasted delicious, but our server seemed to lose interest in tending to us until we requested boxes. Tucker’s soda did not receive the same attention as our waters, but the server offered dessert as he cleared our table. He apologetically let us know that the pudding we had chosen was no longer available, so we went with our second choice. As he left to put in the crème brulee, we had to call him back to request coffee. Though we declined cream and sugar, he brought it anyway. Whether this was intentional or not, it worked out for the best as the coffee was a bit bitter for our tastes.

He graciously accepted that our checks needed to be separate and presented them lickety-split. The checks hung out with us for a minute, but after they were all taken care of he wished us a good evening and thanked us for our business. We left the table overall pleased with the service, but were once again disappointed by the hosts’ lack of concern as we departed.

The experience was by no means exceptional, but we had a nice time. We recognize that the evening was a busy one for our server and he did his job as well as he could under the circumstances. The only real qualm we had with our outing were the hosts. With the reputation Sava’s has, we expected that the staff would strive to make our visit pleasurable from start to finish. Even so, we would say give Sava’s a try if you haven’t already.

Your Humble Servants,

Arina & Tucker