Locally Grown

The Great (Complimentary) Bread Basket Controversy
2011/03/02, 5:18 pm
Filed under: Dining Tips



The People Of America: do you really need bread within arm’s reach before looking at the menu to make your dining experience more enjoyable?  Does a restaurant only achieve the lofty goal of success and prosperity when they bring basket after basket of baked goodness…at no cost…and without the diners’ request?

To be continued…


Living The Big Easy (Job)…Waiting Tables
2011/03/02, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary

Yesterday I posted an expectedly childish rant countering the blog-pinion of a person who is most likely sick of my pestering commentary.  This person claimed that waiting tables is easier now than back in the 1970s or pre-calculator times.  Today I would like take the focus away from pointing out the skewed perception of a person who hasn’t waited tables since before the Calcuzoic Age (time of electronically computed check totals) and address the specific issue at hand.

Is Waiting Tables Really Easier Today Than In The Pre-Calcuzoic Age?

Here is the deal: Anyone who has worked in a full service restaurant knows that servers have always enjoyed the best Money Earned to Work Output (ME/WO) within the food service hierarchy.  Most servers can make more in a 4 hour shift than the cooks preparing their food during a full 8 hour day.  This has been true since the beginning of modern full service dining.  This is one reason cooks are generally not “people persons” because the people who are people people have realized that the “easy(er) money” is in the Front Of The House.  The back of the house people who are people people are usually the chefs or other salaried positions (and chefs are still not very “peoply” people on the whole).

A server has to do things like set tables, polish glasses and silverware, re-stock to-go packaging, fold linens, show up for work, look presentable, and give the appearance that they are ready to tolerate the Dining Public.  They also need to know their food (although in some of the lower-echelons of dining this is wholly optional), and be able to describe ingredients to guests upon request.  If you add in order taking, carrying things, prioritizing, multi-tasking, and dealing with the kitchen and guests then you have sealed the deal on what a server does.  THE HARDEST PART OF SERVING IS DEALING WITH THE PUBLIC.  The rest is a hum-drum amalgamation of basic skills which when strung together in serial becomes the basis of the job of waiting tables.  I am telling you, it isn’t that hard when you take out the A-hole factor.  If you can learn to manage the A-hole factor then you are golden.  A decent work ethic, some good hygiene practices, and a quick wit can make you a decent dollar, this all dependent of course on where you work.  This has been the case for, again, all recorded history of table waiting.  Sure, some servers have to make their own deserts or salads, open wine bottles, cut bread for tables, and other time consuming tasks, but how hard is that.

Walk around.  Talk to people.  Spout off menu facts as specified by your chef.  Carry Things.  Handle Money. Next.

This is how it has ALWAYS BEEN.  Now you understand what a server does, let’s focus on the difficulty level according to the time line.

Uniforms in the past were provided by the company you worked for (for the most part) and YES, they were not very cool.  BUT you had your approved uniform in your hand and didn’t have to run around all over town trying to find the right color/size of pants or shirts, shoes, etc.  all of which are more expensive now.  Uniforms have come a long way, but in my experience have cause more stress due to the cost/sourcing/managers and owners changing their minds and sending you out to purchase even more clothing you probably can’t afford.  There is a price paid for the non-polyester less ugly uniforms of today.

Economically speaking people in the income level which is occupied by us lowly restaurant workers have it harder than “back in the day.”  Childcare, healthcare, fuel, rent, food, utilities, phone, car payment, insurance…all have skyrocketed in price over the years, at a much higher rate than pay increases.  Livable wage is like the punchline to a sick joke these days.  The act of serving has stayed the same, but the stress of “making ends meet” has increased exponentially, making the job harder in modern times.  You have all of these bills and stresses in the back of your mind, then you get a table of people who may live a few income levely above you and like to flaunt it, treating you like a serf or sharecropper.  So here you are trying to feed your babies and keep gas in your car to take them to day care so you can make it to your job only to end up with some condescending assholes treating you like you are a piece of human trash for allegedly forgetting their fucking bread basket that wasn’t even an option in the first place.  Did the servers of the past have to deal with the same types of situations?  Yes.  Did the servers of the past have any idea the disparity between cost of living and wages in the future?

Is anything really easier than it was in the past?

The Cook

Servers, Critics Think You Have It Easy.
2011/03/01, 10:09 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , ,

Ahhh...life without Locally Grown has been picturesque for many of you...

Welcome back, Awesome Tens!  I trust that your one week vacation was relaxing, maybe even invigorating.  But all good things, as they say, must come to an end, and this is the end of your good thing.  I am back from my not-vacation and ready to pollute your eye-streams.  Hank the Chimp has fired up the popcorn popper, Bathory has brewed the World’s Third Worst Pot Of Coffee, and the tiny keyboard of The Thing On Which I Write This Blog has been properly warmed up by a thick layer of hot towels.  Vacation is over, it’s time to get back into the swang of thangs.

What Do Critics Know About Waiting Tables?

Yes, Tens!  The Datebook Diner has doped done it again!  Winni’s Wisdom regarding working in the restaurant industry overflows its thimble-sized vessel every so often, and this time her vast experience working as a county club server in the (judging by her polyester uniform) Late 1070’s has inspired her to belittle the servers of this century with a piece titled “Why Waiting Tables Today Is Better Than It Used To Be.”  Servers Of This Century should take great offense at being told by someone who hasn’t seen the “other side of the counter” for a few decades that what they are doing today is a far easier profession than in days of old.  But HOW is it easier? Let’s take a look…

5. Computers have made everything easier.  Yes, modern day computer systems have made handling large amounts of menu information and ticket computations much easier, but in using a computer or POS System you have invited in a larger number of new problems such as printer failure, credit card systems going down (not like that), system failure, improper programming, mis-priced items, and the classic, “still life with server standing in front of the computer trying to figure out how to key in special order.”  Now, when used properly and in working order a computer system is “better” than the old way, but I work in a place with handwritten and computed tickets and we have an incredibly low rate of mistakes. I think that computer systems aren’t worth the headaches in full service restaurants.

4. Automatic Tip (for large parties).  I agree.  One luxury afforded to the modern server that cannot be argued with is the “Auto-Grat.”  I spent 8 year in front of the house positions, managing, bartending, and waiting,  and would say that the large party automatic gratuity saved my ass from angry servers (and a few days of financial ruin).  BUT I have also seen the AG policy allow lazy servers to give diners a less-than-tip-worthy experience.  Auto-grat is a policy that will be debated until the day servers become obsolete.

3. Respect.  People are just as demanding and demeaning as in years past, and more so in the upper echelons of diners.  Maybe the general mystique of working in a restaurant has been elevated a few steps, but people are still assholes.  The level of respect for CHEFS has definitely been transformed into a cushy cloud, but those who deliver the food are looked down upon almost equal to their peers from the past.

2. Tipping Percentage. So normal tipping percentage has gone up from 10% to 20%. Cost of Living has increased WELL beyond the 10% increase in tip percentage.  Do servers make decent money?  They make liveable wages most of the time, but they are still at the mercy of the Owners, the Customers, and the financial climate of the time.  During the financial crisis of 2009 many of my friends who were waiting tables felt the crunch of a failing economy as much as, if not more than, the general “9-5” public.  When times are bad, people cut out expenses such as eating out in a full service environment, which eats away at the financial stability of restaurant owners and staff, most notably the tipped employees.  But that is worthy of its own diatribe.

And Now To Bring You the #1 Reason Why Waiting Tables Is Easier Today Than It Was In The Past:

No More Ugly Uniforms.Evidently she hasn’t eaten at Noah’s Ark recently.  Suggesting that the quality of workplace life due to lack of polyester content of the uniforms is a tad ridiculous.  Not totally baseless, but a bit ridiculous.

Personally, I don’t think Winni looks bad at all in her old polyester, in fact she looks adorable.

you can see why they need that fire extiguisher handy (photo via Des Moines Register Datebook Diner Blog)

I invite you to go to her blog and read for yourself. 

Well, yes.  That is it for now.  Welcome back from your vacation from this blog.  Time to get back to the ocular toil of belonging to its readership.

The Cook