Iron

It’s Saturday night and Café Machiavelli is bursting at the seams. Impatient customers waiting to be seated are laying siege to the hostess stand.  Since my section’s closest to the entrance, I get to hear the panicked bleating emanating from the entitled hordes. Aggravated, I remember how defenders of medieval castles repelled besiegers by dumping cauldrons of boiling oil on top of their heads. Now that I think about it, I do have access to a deep fryer.

“My reservation is for eight o’clock!” one aggrieved customer, a fat man with a bad comb over, shouts at the hostess. “It’s already eight-fifteen. I want to sit down now!”

“I appreciate your patience, sir,” the hostess replies sweetly. “But I can’t seat you until the rest of your party arrives.”

“Unacceptable,’ Comb Over, says, tapping the expensive watch strapped to his fleshy wrist. “We shouldn’t have to wait to sit down.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“I want to speak to the owner,” Comb Over demands.

“Sir…..”

“Get him now!”

The hostess picks up the house phone and dials the owner’s extension. Within thirty seconds the owner is talking with the folliclly disadvantaged customer.

“Has everyone in your party arrived, sir?” the owner asks, smiling a broad friendly smile.

“No,” Comb Over says. “The third couple’s gonna be half an hour late.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the owner says. “I cannot seat you until the entire party arrives.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Comb Over snorts. “Who ever heard of such a rule?”

“As you can see, sir,” the owner says, ignoring the man’s question. “We’re very busy. I’ll be happy to seat you when everyone’s here.”

“If you don’t seat us right now,” Comb Over says, “We’re leaving.”

“Then I’m sorry to lose your business, sir.”

“Are you serious?” Comb Over says, looking aghast. “You’ll let six paying customers walk out the door over some silly rule?”

“Yes, sir,” the owner replies, still smiling his broad smile.

“That’s nuts.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“I’m never coming here again,” Comb Over says, in his most intimidating wealthy man’s voice.

Café Machiavelli’s owner is 6’2 and weighs two hundred and fifty pounds. A retired cop, he’s got a semi automatic pistol discreetly holstered underneath his blue blazer. After a lifetime busting down doors and arresting some very bad dudes, he decided to open a restaurant. Somehow I don’t think Comb Over’s intimidating him.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out tonight,” the owner says, unperturbed. “I hope you’ll come back another time.”

I enjoy watching the expression spread over Comb Over’s face as he realizes he can’t push the owner around. Besides, his options are limited. He’ll never get a reservation some place else this late on a Saturday night. He’s screwed.

“All right,” Comb Over says. “We’ll wait. But could you at least give me a nice table?”

“Certainly, sir,” the owner replies. “I appreciate your patience.”

“Okay then,” Comb Over says, slinking back to his wife.

Many restaurant owners, afraid to lose a single dollar, mistake submissiveness for hospitality and turn themselves into doormats. That’s a mistake. Trust me, if the dining public thinks you’re a wimp, they’ll run roughshod all over you. Sure, a restaurateur has to be friendly and accommodating, but he must also possess a core of iron. Well run restaurants consistently enforce rules governing cell phones, small children, partial seating, and customer behavior – even at the risk of lost revenue. That’s the only way to ensure a pleasant dining experience for everyone. And if a customer storms out – good riddance. You probably didn’t want them in your restaurant anyway.

Eventually the night ends and the customers go home. The waiters, post shift drinks in hand, assemble around a back table to divvy up the night’s take.  As we count the money the smell of cigarette smoke and the soft murmur of tired bitching fills the air.  After a few minutes the owner comes over, drink in one hand, holstered gun in the other.

“The money ready?” he asks.

“Almost,” Willem, the manager, replies.

“You guys got any vodka left?” the owner asks, rattling the ice in his glass.

“Want some?” I say, holding the bottle out to him.

“Don’t mind if I do.”

The owner sits next to me, places the holstered gun near my right elbow, and extends his glass.

“What caliber is that thing?” I ask, pouring out three fingers of grain alcohol.

“It’s a forty-five.”

“Well,” I say. “That’s one way to keep the staff in line.”

“Work wonders with the vendors too.”

‘I’ll bet.”

“And I never get robbed.”

“Good to know,” I reply.

As the owner drinks his vodka and sorts out the cash, I covertly glance at the black pistol resting inside its well worn holster. Remember what I said about a restaurateur needing a core of iron? My boss just happens to carry iron too. For a moment, I wonder how I’d act if I was packing heat underneath my waiter apron. After a few seconds of reflection I realize that would be a very, very bad idea. Think of Travis Bickle with an order pad.

That’s okay.  I always have my thousand yard stare.


Comments

Iron — 133 Comments

  1. Travis Bickle with an order Pad.. Genius!

    “My food is under cooked?”

    “Are you talking to me?” Dramatic pause

    “Are you talking to me? Well you must be talking to me cause I don’t see anyone else here.”

  2. I’m always so impressed with the calmness of the retorts you report on, Waiter. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out tonight” Perfect. :-)

  3. Well written once again, waiter. :) I love your blog, as I am currently a server. I’ve given it to my managers and coworkers. They love it! :) I currently work at Olive Garden, and they are so easily scammed. They’ve actually comped entire meals to people because a server was a section away cleaning their section at the end of the night. I really wish that I worked in a place that did what yours does. I hate partial party seating. I only get a three table section, and sometimes two to three of those tables are filled with one person waiting on the rest of their party for a hour! I lose out on so much money because of the economy already. I don’t need stupid people waiting on their party to take the rest of it.

  4. Great post as always Waiter! I’ve been addicted to your blog for the past few months. And I always find myself telling my co-workers how true your blog is. I guess it really doesn’t matter what coast you live on, there are always jerks out there. Keep up the good work, can’t wait for the book to come out.

  5. I waited tables forty years ago, and I still enjoy being reminded how awful some customers can be. As you may have said, waiters are the closest thing to servants some people will ever experience. That’s when the ugly comes out sometimes. Others are angels … probably former servers.

  6. thank you for giving me a reason to smile through every “office-hell day-everyday”, waiter. somehow, your posts enable me to “just get up and go” all the time.
    i once worked as a parttime cashier/soda jerk/counter person during my last sem in college. beats me how you’re able to tolerate those guys you’ve been serving all these years.

    ps. do you also have a cape or a bat mobile somewhere? that and your thousand yard stare.
    have a good one! take care, always.

  7. Heh. When you said the owner came over after closing, drink in one hand and gun in the other, I was half expecting a joke stickup. “Gimme your tips!”
    But, that would be lame, wouldn’t it?

  8. Your owner sounds like a guy I wouldn’t mind working for. Core of iron indeed!

    The one time I begged and pleaded to be seated I was feeling faint from hypoglycemia. I had taken my diabetic pills and insulin shot before leaving home and it was acting too quickly. It happens rarely but when it does I need somebody handy to catch me when I topple.

    The hostess was playing dumb so I asked for the manager. He turned out to be fresh out of high school … if he had already graduated, that is.

    I went a couple rounds with him to no avail. Sure enough, I flopped over. My wife tried to catch me and wound up under me. Those two kids acted like total idiots.

    Fortunately there was a medical doctor also waiting to be seated. The hostess was about to call an ambulance when the doc told her to get me a glass of juice and some candy.

    Needless to say that after the juice and mints I was back on my feet but still shaking like a chihuahua in a cold draft. The doctor told them to get me seated and see to it that my order came as quickly as possible.

    Drastic needs call for drastic actions. However, I do not like fainting in public. Going into shock and turning pale while shaking and quaking might be attention getters but I don’t like feeling like that at all.

    Keep up the good work, my friend. I hope your tip jar runneth over.

  9. Fantastic post as always. Your boss sounds great. There are a few people around here that carry a gun. Funny enough, the legal carry conceal people are the calmest, most level headed people in the office.

  10. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Each and every person should take one year out of their life to work in retail, a retirement home, and somewhere in the hospitality industry. Do you think that Mr. Ego has? Yeah… not so much.

    This midwest chic is waiting with great anticipation for your book. Best of luck to you.

  11. I love managers and owners who enforce rules. If there was a reason besides impatience for the man to be seated prematurely, I could understand, but the guy was a jackass and congrats to the owner for not backing down. As a hostess/bartender/server/whatever the hell else they ask me to do, I hate it when I enforce a rule and then the managers/owners just role over for the person and make me look like an ass. If they want us to enforce rules, they should as well. keep it up, and I can’t wait for the book.

  12. As a person who always packs heat legally, it does give you a certain calmness and confidence. Of course you hope to never be put in a situation where you must stop someone from committing an unthinkable act, but you know you could.

  13. Another great post, Waiter. Sounds like you have a good owner who is strong enough to not allow a customer walk all over him. There are few customers who are very understanding if a situation arises. I find there are too many customers that feel they are important and must make a show of it. As the saying goes the “the customer is always right,” well this is not exactly true. We do as much as possible to please a customer, but sometimes there are some that are just not worth it even if it cost losing them.

  14. I have a lot of sympathy for a server and restaurant owner who doesn’t want a fraction of a party taking up a table while twiddling their thumbs, but I also think partial-party rules are those best enforced with a little discretion. Five out of six people there, and the last’s stuck in traffic? Letting the first five start paying for drinks and apps keeps everyone happy and probably boosts the final check. Two of six made it on time? No way.

  15. I love it when manager/owners back up their staff. It makes for a much more secure and consistant environment. Not to mention the look on people’s faces when they can’t push people around… It makes my disgruntled self so happy.

  16. MHA – And if the five want to wait for the sixth to arrive before ordering? Sorry, if it’s busy, it’s all or none.

  17. Wait a minute! Is this the same owner who wouldn’t stand up to his dufus manager?

    I managed a private resort. The dining customers felt universally “entitled” to preference over all of the other equally-entitled dining customers. Enforcing equality was interesting. Enforcing the club rules was just downright fun!

  18. Excellent comebacks as always, waiter.
    I’ve noticed a lot of the chain restaurants are hyping up their “customer is always right” policies and telling people they can order any whackadoo thing they make up. Well, they can have these customers just fine and leave all the restaurants I like to people who can act like adults.

  19. Just remember waiter, if you do ever decide to carry that the rule is always “Never draw unless you intend to shoot, and never shoot unless you intend to kill.”

    Course, I guess that goes with the thousand yard stare too. :)

  20. Wow, Im before comment 100 for the first time. amazing.
    Uhm waiter, you rock. I wish I had the comebacks of your staff. I hope that evening turned out well tip wise. I cant wait for your book!
    I added you to my myspace top friends list and my friends were like, “wtf is that?”
    I was like, “the best blog is the world, dumbhead” Now a few are hooked. I tell you, this writing is AMAZING.

  21. The advice for restaurant owners may apply to people going dating too. Re-phrased for guys going out dating (no offense to the ladies, just rephrase as neccessary too to fit your reading needs). Enjoy.

    Many guys going out dating, afraid to lose a single date, mistake submissiveness for hospitality and turn themselves into doormats. That’s a mistake. Trust me, if the dating public thinks you’re wimp, they’ll run roughshod all over you. Sure, a guy going out dating has to be friendly and accommodating, but he must also possess a core of iron. Well run men consistently enforce rules governing cell phones, small children, partial seating, and girlie behavior – even at the risk of lost dates. That’s the only way to ensure a pleasant dating experience for everyone. And if a date storms out – good riddance. You probably didn’t want them in your life anyway.

  22. Ok, here’s the version for the ladies. :-)

    Many ladies going out dating, afraid to lose a single date, mistake submissiveness for hospitality and turn themselves into doormats. That’s a mistake. Trust me, if the dating public thinks you’re wimp, they’ll run roughshod all over you. Sure, a lady going out dating has to be friendly and accommodating, but he must also possess a core of iron. Well run women consistently enforce rules governing cell phones, small children, partial seating, and boyish behavior – even at the risk of lost dates. That’s the only way to ensure a pleasant dating experience for everyone. And if a date storms out – good riddance. You probably didn’t want them in your life anyway.

  23. Ok, here’s the version for the ladies. (Fixed a typo, please delete the comment with the previous version.)

    Many ladies going out dating, afraid to lose a single date, mistake submissiveness for hospitality and turn themselves into doormats. That’s a mistake. Trust me, if the dating public thinks you’re wimp, they’ll run roughshod all over you. Sure, a lady going out dating has to be friendly and accommodating, but she must also possess a core of iron. Well run women consistently enforce rules governing cell phones, small children, partial seating, and boyish behavior – even at the risk of lost dates. That’s the only way to ensure a pleasant dating experience for everyone. And if a date storms out – good riddance. You probably didn’t want them in your life anyway.

  24. “The Customer is Always Right” is pure BS and that goes for more than the restaurant business. Too often the customer is flat out wrong and lying to him and yourself that he is right is just stupid and usually counter-productive. I dated a girl who worked at a department store. Their policy was to take back almost anything if the customer insists. Many times people “returned” things that the store didn’t sell and never did sell. I thought that was just dumb. That’s the kind of customer you want to lose.

  25. Excellent post, Waiter!

    You know, the more I read your insights into signs of a well-run restaurant, the more I realize that I’ve spent the last thirteen years working in shitholes. But I suppose it goes with the territory. After all, how many casual-dining restaurants do you know of that are well-run?

    Thanks again for the great post.

  26. Actually, the original translation works out to “The Customer is Never Wrong.” This actually allows the merchant to also not be wrong, and gives both parties the opportunity to seek resolution without losing face. Jabba is right that “the customer is always right” is a load of BS. Many people hear it and think it’s the 11th Commandment, and so refuse to break it.

    The successful restaurants are the ones who understand the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the A-holes. They put their staff before their customers, and their pleasant customers before the jerks who ruin it for the rest of us.

    I think Combover’s mistake was arguing with the owner on a busy Saturday night when the place is bursting at the seams and people are waiting to get a table. “We’re never coming back” is hardly a threat, when there are hundreds of people who will. When there’s a waiting list at a poplar restaurant, the loss of a six-top won’t be noticed by anyone save the six who had to settle for Applebee’s appetizers at 9:30.

  27. *ZING*!! I wish everyone was like that to horrible customers! I’ve worked at too many places where the manager lets the customer walk all over you all for an extra meaningless penny. He’s a good guy.

  28. nice of the boss letting you drink the vodka and not pay for it.
    I used to work for a place that charged us if we drank any of the liquor – 1/2 price, but still.

  29. FLIP SIDE of this: A friend of mine made a reservation for a group of 14 women at a restaurant in Tampa called Sangrias about a month before the Girl’s Night Out. We arrived early with our entire party and all prepared to pay cash because we knew a party that big with separate checks and cards would be a huge pain in the ass. We are a considerate group of ladies (some of which were waitresses, bartenders and/or hostesses at one point) who all wanted a rare night of all of us in one place. The hostess was inordinately rude and told us we would have to wait. We decided to stay because it would be next to impossible to land 14 ladies at any restaurant without at least an hour plus wait. I don’t even recall how long we waited standing in a hall way without so much as a peep from anyone in the restaurant. No one even asked if we would like drinks while we waited. At one point after waiting over an hour, one of us asked the hostess when we could be expected to be seated. In my humble opinion I don’t think she cared one bit because she knew others would take tables when they were available. We were all still very pleasant to our server and I think she was rather nonplussed when we all paid with cash. We never complained because there was no point, but I have never returned to that restaurant in the 5 or 6 years since that happened.

  30. The customer IS always right … but they aren’t a ‘customer’ until the money is on the table.

    Your owner knows the distinction and doesn’t confuse the two. Bravo for him.

    I have made ‘reasonable’ accommodations for a customer, but Mr. Seatme Now might have some information that you & your boss did not … that the other 5 had canceled for the evening because they had changed their minds about dining with a jerk.

    Bravo for not seating that clown.

  31. BillinDetroit-

    DEETROIT BASKETBALL and The Red Wings !! Lets see what happens this year with both teams once again being in the playoffs. And if they both win, I hope Detroit doesn’t burn to the ground in the process!!! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

    Heather

  32. Holy hell – a forty-five is a serious weapon! It’s a good thing that I don’t bring my firearm to work; I might have some troubles when customers try to give me hell about not seating them quickly enough.

  33. Hmm… if I’ve got a reservation for 8 o’clock, I’d like the table at 8. Irrespective of whether the other guests are with me. I’d walk out if the owner of a restaurant spoke like that. I’m not pushing people around, I’m just asking to be seated because I took the trouble to make a reservation and land up on time.

  34. Ajeya,

    I respectively disagree. You have booked a table for XX at 8.00. If you’ve booked a table for six, and only three are there, then you haven’t really kept up your end of the arrangement, have you?

    You have said to the restaurant that if they keep a table seating six free for you at 8.00, that you will have six people there at 8.00 to sit, order drinks / meals etc.

  35. Great post as always Waiter, Keep ‘em coming.
    At my restaurant, we always start people who arrive early or are waiting for the rest of their party to arrive at the bar. Boosts our bartender’s tips, and he is highly entertaining, so he manages to get them all in a lively, happy mood. It sure makes it easier on the staff when people get to the table with drinks in hand and laughing at one of Billy’s great stories.
    Can’t wait for the book, can I pre-order?

  36. BillinDetroit – Even if the money is on the table the customer is NOT always right. They are right in insisting they get what they paid for but demanding anything beyond that is wrong. However, too many people think because they pay something that they should get everything. Accomodating special requests is different, especially when the customer ASKS for something instead of demanding it simply because they’re the customer.

  37. Ajeya & Aussiesmurf,

    Well I think there’s no right or wrong in this matter. It’s just pure economics.

    If it’s a seller’s market, which probably means the restaurant is packed (like the case in this article), then the restaurant would be ABLE to demand all parties arrive before being seated.

    On the other hand, if the restuarant is empty, then the owner (even our Iron dude here) would probably be more than happy to seat ANYBODY at ANYTIME regardless of their reservation.

  38. This is why I try to eat out weekdays (if ever…) and in places with plenty of empty seats. :P

    Also, second to last paragraph: “I wonder how I’d act I was packing heat underneath my waiter apron.” needs an “if” in there?

    And “Trust me, if the dining public thinks you’re wimp, they’ll run roughshod all over you.”

    “A retired cop, he’s got semi automatic pistol discreetly holstered underneath his blue blazer.”

  39. as a cooperate restaurant manager type guy, I know what it’s like for a lot of you fellow commentators of My favorite blog. I know that there are many out there doing what I do, that will cow tow, and comp meals at the drop of a hat. I once ran a restaurant, outdated concept, and it was not far from a metro stop. On saturday nights lots of people would ride the metro to come to our restaurant, knowing that if they bitched enough, their bills, including all the liquor would be comped. I started this job after many before me had programmed and actually enforced this behaviour. After a few weeks, it dawned on me what was happening. It took me a very short period of time, maintaining a stringent line in the sand, that “cheap-o” saturday nights, when no one wanted to sling drinks, became one of the best tipped nights for any of my servers. . just wanted to share, because I know many of you out here in the cooperate trenches feel that managers don’t care, and are scared of confronting guests, well .. not all. . . not all
    Take Care and God Bless

  40. Opening my favorite blog and finding a new post “waiting” is like someone leaving me a freshly baked chocolate cup-cake on my desk!! As usual, great post and just love the mental visuals of this taking place. Now, if I can just go home and open my mailbox and finally find your book in there, this will be a perfect weekend!!

  41. “Wait a minute! Is this the same owner who wouldn’t stand up to his dufus manager?”

    If you’re talking about the post two back where Willem was giving both Waiter and the busboy a hard time, I think that the owner *did* stand up to his dufus manager. Whatever happened between the owner and Willem that Waiter didn’t tell us, the end result was that Willem backed off of Waiter. Also, I’ve never worked in a high-end restaurant where the manager willing worked any tables (which Willem was doing at the end of that post.) He was weeded, but he was working tables.

  42. Does Cafe Mach. have a sign posted that incomplete parties will not be seated until all have arrived? What if 7 out of 8 are there? What if the reservations are for 6 and a 7th person shows up?
    I do find this confusing. I realize that the customer was trying to Big Dog everyone, but how in the devil are you supposed to know?

  43. Being submissive makes a single customer or party of customers happy, but almost inevitably makes the people around them (or before or after them) unhappy. And that’s what iron is about—ensuring the happiness of the many even when the few are whining in your face. Many restaurants have a policy of not seating a party until everyone has arrived, so it’s hard to understand why he’d freak out so badly over that.

  44. A couple of years ago my son and I were in a restaurant we frequented often. One of “those customers” was giving the hostess a hard time when the chef/owner came out. My son leaned over and said “Watch this.” The owner asked what was the problem, listened to the woman complain in a haughty voice then said “Well you don’t have to eat here if you don’t like it, in fact, why don’t you leave, I’d rather not have you in my restaurant.” Needless to say she left in a huff. The regulars who were close enough to see and hear what was going on gave him a round of applause.

  45. I like rootbeer. Rootbeer is my favorite drink. I like the way it fizzes in my mouth. My mom likes rootbeer. My brother likes rootbeer. My sister likes rootbeer. But not everyone likes rootbeer. Sometimes when I drink too much rootbeer, my pee smells sweet, and then I worry that I will get diabetes, experience pancriatic failure, and then die. All because of rootbeer.

  46. I’ve never had a job where my boss backed up the employees! I always hated when a rude customer would say, “Let me speak to the manager”, because I knew the manager would do whatever the customer wanted, going against the very policies that she TOLD me to enforce. I left the service industry a long time ago and I’m never going back, unless I’m the manager!

  47. What people are missing here is that if we seat a table of 8 and there are only 3 people who have arrived and the other 5 cancel after the party has been seated.It means that we now cant move you to a smaller table, that would be rude, and we might have to turn away another party who are a 5 or 6 and need a bigger table. The 5 or 6 top now looks at you like youre an idiot for seating 3 people at a large table. Its not about the money all the time, its making sure a restaurant can accommodate people on a whim as well as a reservation. Imagine it from the flip.

  48. Heather (the first one, who posted about the 14-top)-

    Your party wasn’t denied seating at the reserved time because you came as a partial group. Rather, the establishment in which you were dining was run by piss-poor management and probably just didn’t give a shit if you spent your money there. While sad, it is a common occurence in the service industry for an entire restaurant to get into a pattern of bad behavior and service st the hands of shoddy management, and when that happens even the good customers suffer.

    What happened to your party was unfortunate, and you response entirely appropriate. Mr. Comb Over, however, was just being a pompous, entitled asshat and that’s never appropriate.

  49. Another fantastic post, Waiter. Machiavelli’s owner sounds like a pretty downass guy, aside from the fact that he keeps that lame manager around. Good thing the ho didn’t call the manager, huh? I love the rule against seating partials. What is wrong with people that they make reservations knowing full-well that half the party won’t be there on time? That’s why God created the bar. ANd half the time people, especially priviledged suburban folks, reserve too many seats and screw you that way too. And if you do seat them they try to run you for bread and crackers for their kids anything else they can get for free.

    Also, don’t forget the utility of the winetool, which has both a corkscrew and a knife, should the 1000-yard stare one day not be able to get the job done. It always made me feel more secure. That and my taser for little kids that get in my way. Just kidding, but I do carry a taser.

    Finally, I got a FLAS so I don’t have to wait tables this summer! I just have to take Italian class and pay for my health insurance. More money for you, I hope. I pre-ordered a copy of your book. This is the only hardcover book I have ever bought anywhere but Half-Price Books and garage sales. I know it will be worth it.

  50. Oh, and I forgot to add that you’re absolutely right that jerks like that guy are never a real loss to a restaurant. They’re the same kind of people who run their servers at the expense of everyone else’s dining experience and who dream up outlandish reasons to try to get stuff for free, and who send back perfectly good food just to be difficult.

  51. My manager, also the owner, packed heat & everyone knew it. He was from Alabama and didn’t take any crap from ANYONE. I liked the fact that he backed us up & miss him dearly. BTW I am in Florida where the crime rate is skyrocketing. I no longer work there (a veritable “roadhouse”), but we stayed friends after I quit for a “straight” job about 13yrs ago. He just died this past year from cirrhosis, that funeral was jam-packed with employees and customers who respected his way of doing things.

  52. I just stumbled upon this today! Well written! I love it! We are partners in a restaurant, and I will share this with the one who has to interface on a daily basis with the public… she will get a kick out of it. Thanks!

  53. Waitress,

    Your are correct. It was quite apparent poor management was a factor when their “I don’t give a #$%t” attitude was present. It’s their loss. *btw, our entire party was there- they couldn’t use that as an excuse. Don’t ask me how we got 14 women to one place on time. Miracles can happen.

    My friends and I go to several other nice restaurants around town and we’ve gotten to know many of the people that work at the restaurants. I like walking into a place that I think of as my “Cheers.” Everyone has a great time.

  54. I didn’t know that partial seating was such a PITA. Around twice a year, my friends and I have a huge get-together; around 13 people in a high-end chain restaurant.

    The way we usually do it is get seated as we arrive, but the early arrivals never wait for the rest of the party–two or three of us are really flaky and might not show at all. The bar isn’t much of an option, as only about four of us drink anyway.

  55. I just read this blog at the recommendation of a friend, and I am rather offended by your reference of your “thousand yard stare” with regards to waiting tables. The “thousand yard stare” is used to describe veterans suffering from PTSD after being in battle. I greatly doubt that your experiences are equivalent to those who get shot or watch their friends die in combat. I would hope that you would be more deferential to our troops and not try to liken your experiences to theirs.

  56. I had to comment because this particular entry was a perfect piece of writing. The thoughts just flowed from one to another in the smoothest way I have ever seen you write. (And I’ve read all your blogs.) If that little story had gone on for pages, I would have never put it down. You were just “in the zone” as you were writing this one.

  57. Well done for not taking any nonsense from the “entitled hordes”.

    I really cannot imagine ever living in a place where you have to walk around armed to feel safe though. That just sounds like an awful way to live.

  58. So well written, what a relief to know that there are great waiters in the world. Your owner sounds like a really cool guy, packin’ heat!

    In Seoul, where I currently live, no citizen is allowed a gun, but as Koreans are extremely generous and kind, they are quick to tell you where to go if you are in any way loud and obnoxious. They “shoot” with their eyes, for real. Ha!

  59. most of the time, if the person has a concealed handgun licence (as i imagine a cop would) he or she can carry where ever they happen to be, *ESP* in their own establishment, liquor licence or not…but i’m from Texas, EVERYONE darn near has a concealed handgun *lol*

  60. I really admire waiters now…or anyone who works in retail/’public service.’

    Jamie–I doubt his use of that phrase was intentional. And waiter, great post (to this one and the ‘Semper Fi” one.

  61. I was going to come on to say something, but looks like Lillyannya already said it. Olive Garden is run like a shithouse. Customers get whatever they want; you can make out with a free meal for your entire party for practically nothing (Oh, you’re extremely upset that your meal took a twenty-five minutes to arrive on a packed Saturday night? WE ARE SO SORRY!! Here’s a comped check, then go call our corporate office for a $100 gift card, followed by a write-up for your server, who had nothing to do with the issue. Now go have a goodnight, and tell all your impatient asshole friends to come again soon!).
    The part where you said, “Well run restaurants consistently enforce rules governing cell phones, small children, partial seating, and customer behavior – even at the risk of lost revenue.” is especially poignant. Olive Garden has none of these sorts of rules. I get a three-table section, and a table of eight requires that two tables get pushed together to accommodate that party. If just one customer is there, (s)he might sit at that table all by her lonesome, chitchatting on her cellphone for over an hour, until just four of the missing seven show up. Meanwhile, customers with full parties already arrived wait in the lobby, and I lose serious money as I’m only serving one table. BS.
    No wonder 34% of the guests that come to our restaurant leave unhappy. 34%!!

  62. Jamie – Read past blogs before opening your mouth. Waiter has had, and probably will always have, the utmost respect for members of the armed forces, I’m sure. Way to go, reading one blog and jumping to conclusions.

  63. A gun is not an intimidation factor. Its a do or die tool and not a prop for a lack of balls, guts or self worth. Going through licensed training and accepting that when you pull that tool out you better be ready to use it and not wave it around like a magic wand of power should be had by all. Being prepared to pull that trigger and accept ALL consequences is a life changing experience if you ever have to stand between a rabid wild animal or a person in God knows what circustances. It’s fun to play dirty Harry with your friends and talk big, but in reality accepting responsibility for your actions is life changing and can give you tolerance for a lot of peoples bull shit.
    Guns have a place in life and society and if there was training beyond voyeuristic movie glorification of violence, perhaps the world would have more polite and understanding people. It’s a matter of training.
    This comment isn’t for you waiter, but for your readers.

  64. I’m confused as to why the man has to wait until the entire party arrives. If the last couple cancelled, would he lose the reservation altogether?
    What if it were a giant party? If 2 out 30 people got sick and couldn’t come, then the whole party at the restaurant is cancelled? The man can’t control when the last couple arrives, but he would likely at least order drinks until they did. Not giving him a seat is just bad service. I am neither rich nor entitled, but I would have just left and told my friends not to make any reservations there. It’s fine that you wouldn’t miss me, but I have a right to forgoe shelling out tons of money for a place that won’t offer a seat to someone who made a reservation. It’s not a matter of “rights” but simply decent service.

  65. Yeah! Customer, bad guy! Owner, good guy! Packing heat to clean up the mean streats with cold iron and balls of steel!

    That’s it Waiter, keep the story niiiiice and simple, black and white. Wouldn’t want any confusing ambiguities. Fat slovenly rich customer (probably stupid, too) – bad. Waiter and anyone who agrees with him – good. Right.

    Your blog used to be pretty good. Now it’s fluff, and not even proof-read fluff.
    You used to talk about morality, wrong and right, and imponderables like what it means to do something not for the money, and how it feels to serve people who never have. Now it’s all about ‘surges of white hot anger in [your] asophogus’ at ‘rich whiny yuppies’ and ‘rich fat people,’ who you then ‘dispatch with your thousand yard stare.’
    Stop Sucking! Go back to being readable! start writing from the heart again!

  66. Crazy I was just about to write the same thing.

    This post is a rehash of past ones. Oh a whiny customer! Boohoo!

    Give us something new already

  67. Jamie-

    I am quite certain (I probably shouldn’t speak for Waiter) he had absolutely no intention of making a comparison of his stare to that of the veteran experience you explained. He has explained his “thousand yard stare” countless times in this blog never once making any mention of veterans, and I realize you only started reading, but perhaps you should reserve judgment before you know the actual facts. It would take you quite an extended period of time to read archived blog posts and learn what I have just explained about Waiter. He may or may not be aware of your definition and ignorance is certainly not bliss in this case, but I assure you our guy here wouldn’t trivialize the experience of a soldier especially given his background in psychology. It is nice to know how much you care for our veterans though. You should spread some of your passion for their cause in California. Just remember you can educate a person without taking them down a few pegs.

    Heather
    *** A strong supporter of our troops and veterans . . . We have our freedoms today because we fought in a war for independence not because we sat around a campfire and sang Koom Baya. Remember that on 4th of July and Veterans Day.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    T. Roosevelt

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  69. I enjoyed the post. Thank you.

    I’m sure the owner isn’t a perfect guy — why the chronic shortage of floor staff otherwise, and the less-than-good floor manager.

    But you have to admire somebody who can leave a long career in law enforcement, turn around and then start a successful restaurant. That’s not so common.

  70. As an Englishman I don’t want to dent a hole in our ‘special relationship’ with the US but carrying a gun whilst working in a restaurant?

    How can anyone justify that?

    What sort of situation could arise in a restaurant that would warrant shooting another person? I presume that’s why he has the gun, y’know, to kill another person over, say, a table reservation.

  71. Wow, Del Boy, you don’t think a situation could ever possibly arise in a restaurant that would require someone to use a gun to defend themselves or someone else? Read the US news about how many criminals fire guns in restaurants every year. It’s a lot. These things don’t happen because of “table reservations”, they happen because people walk in off the street and try to rob the restaurant, or else just start firing at patrons. In that situation, an employee with a concealed weapon would be very useful, especially if the police take several minutes to arrive. A lot can happen in several minutes.

  72. Jamie,

    I’m a combat vetern of the Vietman war. My wife knows the “thousand yard stare,” she is not offended. My kids know it,and it stops them dead in their tracks to this day, and they are in their late 30′s.

    Point, it’s not just veterans who have this stare. My Mom had it, and if turned on me, I knew I was in trouble. She can stop me dead in my tracks to this day also. Very effective. (“What’d I do now,Mom?” Or, “Oh Sh@t.”).

    Go, Waiter, go. You are tops. Your book is going into my permanent library, to be reread like the favorite I know it will be.

  73. Del Boy, that’s why your English. Has nothing sunk ino that skull? It’s to keep from being ROBBED by thugs with GUNS. You have the Right, here, to defend your self and property. (unless you have folks like Hillary, Shumer, and Bloomberg, et al, trying desparately to take away that right.)

    I understand that when they outlawed most guns in Britan, crime jummed to where even some Bobbies are armed now. Hmmmmm.

    “An armed society is a polite society.” I don’t know who said it, but he’s right.

  74. Del Boy,

    What you forget is that once you take the gun out of your house, and are carrying it, you can’t leave it around for some kid to find. So the point is that you probably don’t need it in the restaurant, but you probably do need it for traveling to and from the restaurant.

    And in this scenario, the owner must have had the gun locked up in the restaurant, because the holster was loose and not on his belt. He probably had it out to take the day’s receipts to the night deposit box at the bank.

  75. Veteran said: I understand that when they outlawed most guns in Britan(sic), crime jummed to where even some Bobbies are armed now. Hmmmmm.

    Uhm, no. It’s entirely legal to own a gun in the UK, it’s just that most people don’t feel the need to carry one around with them. I’m constantly hearing the same tired old story from Americans about how awful the crime rate is in the UK – well, I actually live here, and I really can’t see much of a problem. I live in a city of 750,000 people, and there is *nowhere* in the city I wouldn’t go at any time of the day or night. Perhaps the crime figures seem bad if you read the rabid right-wing tabloids. If you believe the crime figure stories, do you also believe the usual “I got pregnant by an alien mushroom” stories they run too?

  76. @Tom: I’m with you! These posts are nothing like the one with Louis and Shlomo – the Oompa Loompa one about how God is like Willy Wonka…

    Its really too bad Waiter left the “Bistro”, considering how good his stories from there were.

    Now its pretty obvious he is making them up, since his customers & co-workers now all seem to have Cream of Wheat for brains and couldn’t provide a decent conversation for Waiter to relate if their lives depended on it.

  77. Don’t worry, *some* of us understood that “holstered gun in his hand” meant that he removed the holster and was carrying it around, with the gun still inside.

    Also, guns function very well as deterrents. Whenever I glimpse one, I immediately know that I will be quite polite for the next few minutes, though I usually would have been that way anyways.

    And lastly, from ANYTHING I’ve EVER seen, being an ex-cop gives you a pass on many many things. You probably never get ticketed for anything less than BLAZINGLY stupid, and I rather doubt his drinking buddies who are still on the force are going to do ANYTHING about him carrying a gun around, though he very likely has a pistol permit and it’s perfectly legal anyways. It’s almost that way for EMS/firefighters too. And yaknow what? Despite the whole saving-lives-hero perception that they encourage (and probably mostly deserve), a lot of firefighters can be MASSIVE tools sometimes.

  78. “I’m confused as to why the man has to wait until the entire party arrives. If the last couple cancelled, would he lose the reservation altogether?
    What if it were a giant party? If 2 out 30 people got sick and couldn’t come, then the whole party at the restaurant is cancelled? The man can’t control when the last couple arrives, but he would likely at least order drinks until they did. Not giving him a seat is just bad service. I am neither rich nor entitled, but I would have just left and told my friends not to make any reservations there. It’s fine that you wouldn’t miss me, but I have a right to forgoe shelling out tons of money for a place that won’t offer a seat to someone who made a reservation. It’s not a matter of ‘rights’ but simply decent service.”

    If part of the group had canceled, it would be a different story. And while it’s possible to lie, most people don’t go that far, because the restaurant could run out of tables or seats.

    I don’t see why not giving him a seat is bad service. If it’s policy to do this to him and to every other customer and it’s made clear to the customers, as it looks it was, then that’s just the way the restaurant chooses to operate. It probably helps make for a better dining experience for everyone, as others have suggested. Of course, some restaurants, particularly bigger ones, don’t do this.

    If some couple in the group had canceled, it would have been a different story. The seating could have been adjusted, and the entire process of the meal, from drinks to the actual food, could have started. It wouldn’t have held up other guests.

  79. Brian: Indeed. If the restaurant is busy, then it’s just plain rude to sit there for half an hour not actually ordering food but still taking up a bunch of tables. Some customers seem to think that restaurants are run purely for their benefit, and the other customers are just window dressing…

  80. I’m not sure that I would find a gun to be necessary in a restaurant myself- not when there are men with large sharp knives and heavy skillets and hot oil nearby. But maybe that’s just me.

    Never fuck with a cook in his kitchen.

  81. Hi, I want you to know I never been to a fancy place like where you work, but I tip good every time I go out, which is not too often, just to the Asian Buffet 2X a month, because tipping is good, it is karma-based, and people ought not to be so tight, they ought to share, it’s the right thing to do and for those who are ugly to you, they are trash no matter how much money they think they got. Sometimes I sell my plasma before we go out to eat b/c I want to leave a real good tip. I like your blog.

  82. This is a great blog. In waiting tables 10 years ago I came across many pain in the a** customers. It’s funny to hear your stories. Good work.

  83. Occasionally, a customer at the Bar makes me wish I were carrying a concealed firearm… but that’s probably just as good a reason as any that I shouldn’t ever have one.

  84. Hol,
    I feel the same way about tipping. It absolutely is good karma. How wonderful to be able to help somebody so directly.
    If I can’t afford a tip for a fancy coffee drink, I’ll get drip coffee so that I can give a good tip.I also like to tip a little extravagantly. I feel as if I give the standard tip, it’s not really a tip, because the owner anticipates that and has already docked the person’s wage anticipating it.
    I think it’s awesome that you are still going out even when times are as tight as they are right now.
    Be careful with the plasma donating, though. You don’t want to compromise your health.

  85. Love the site, found it yesterday and have spent the last 24 hours reading all the archives. I never knew less that 20% was a rubbish tip, I must fix my karmic tipping. The next restaurant I go to will have a very happy waiter. Happy posting.

  86. Heather wrote on 04/24/08 at 10:16 pm : “We arrived early with our entire party and all prepared to pay cash because we knew a party that big with separate checks and cards would be a huge pain in the ass.”

    Actually, It’s much easier to deal with credit cards than it is to deal with cash. Especially in places where the bartender is also the cashier and the bar gets slammed. If you’re the first table someone’s had all night, they’re probably not going to have change for 14 people.

  87. Ajeya:
    “Hmm… if I’ve got a reservation for 8 o’clock, I’d like the table at 8. Irrespective of whether the other guests are with me. I’d walk out if the owner of a restaurant spoke like that. I’m not pushing people around, I’m just asking to be seated because I took the trouble to make a reservation and land up on time.”

    You’ve obviously not worked at a restaurant. It’s a huge pain in the ass when half of the party has been seated and the rest haven’t arrived. The second half of the party is guaranteed to arrive immediately after you’ve been seated with another table. This slows down the entire process, and the other table is going to bitch because you didn’t leave immediately to get their drinks. (Good) restaurants have this policy to ensure a pleasant experience for everyone.

  88. Wow….very cool owner. It really is great when you get someone like that who realizes that standing behind his establishment/associates is so much more important than one check or table-turn. Pity more people don’t get that. The simple phrase, “I invite you to take your business elsewhere” could save so many people so much time and trouble….

  89. My god I was told about this site from a Guest in the resturaunt!!!

    wonderful stories!! and I cannot beliece how easy it is to relate..

    crap man I would love to work with that kind of a boss… and have a after shift drink!

  90. I really want to print this up and show it to my owner…It would make my job so much easier if he didn’t let the customer run all over us. I work in a nice restaurant in a college town, and we just had graduation weekend where we were reservation only and we were swamped. We had a table of 15 that was 45 minutes late, and he still gave them the table (even though it messed up the flow of the rest of the night’s tables AND made it 100% harder on the servers…) Seriously…I want to show him this! Congratulations on your book. I’ve been reading your blog since I started serving. It’s funny, but it’s real and it’s nice to know that this shit doesn’t just happen to me…!

  91. I normally really enjoy this blog, but I have to say, this post turned me off a bit.

    Perhaps I’m reading it incorrectly, but “combover” said the third couple was late in traffic, so presumably, that meant 4 out of the 6 were there waiting to be seated at 8:00 and had waited 15 minutes to be seated. Is it really going to be such a huge problem to seat them? People give all kinds of examples about how if you do and the others cancel then you lose the chance to seat a larger party, but in this case, isn’t this just a 6 seater vs. a 4 seater? Sure, it’s a risk I guess, but chances are the other people are going to show up after the other 4 have been ordering drinks while they waited.

    I’m with the person who posted earlier and said they would likely leave if this happened. Most of the commenters here appear to be service staff at restaurants and gun toters, and I realize you may not miss me, but the point is, you didn’t have to lose my party’s business at all.

    To me it’s not about entitlement, it’s common sense. I understand you need the majority of the party to be there to be able to sit down, but once you’re sitting down, it’s time to start spending money.

    As to all the people who are so impressed about the gun toting owner – you scare me. Ironically, he doesn’t.

  92. At the risk of sounding like a complete dork… as a 20-year veteran waitress and a former police officer, I find it a little odd that anyone with prior law enforcement experience who is still licensed to carry a gun would

    a) be drinking while carrying the gun, and

    b)take it off their person (holstered or not) and leave it within reach of other people who are drinking.

    Both of these actions are completely against policy, and while I know your boss isn’t a cop any more, he should know better.

    - M

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  94. This article exemplifies the new order of doing business these days. In the new order, the customer, who was once positioned at the top of the pecking order, is now positioned at the very bottom.

    Retailers, whether they sell hospitality or shoes, have created this box of rules, responsibilities and practices. Each person employed by them also have their own little boxes. As long as everyone stays within the confines of that box and fulfills their requirements as laid out by the content of that box, everyone is happy – everyone, that is, but the customer, the one group that has no idea what’s in those boxes.

    You guys remember the customer, right? You remember the group that everything depends upon, as without them, there would be no business, no paycheques and no tips.

    I would bet good money on the possibility that the person who took this guy’s reservation didn’t say to him, “Ok, Mr. So-And-So, your reservation is for 8 o’clock and as soon as your entire party of six arrive, we will seat you as quickly as possible”. A statement like that would bring the customer into the loop, the one thing that all these boxes of rules and requirements do not cover.

    Thinking about why this particular customer wasn’t seated until his entire party arrived, I can understand the owner’s dismissal of his request. After all, the four would tie up a table until the last couple arrived, which is not good business practice. What the new order of business has decreed is that the customer should know this. Allow me to inform all of those that have applauded this owner’s ability to control his customers – its not the customers’ responsibility to know how you guys run your businesses.

    My suggestion to the lot of you is to no longer state that you are a part of the “Hospitality Business”. It has become a misrepresentation of what you guys do as your little boxes of rules, regulations and responsibilities have defied the true meaning of the word “hospitality”.

    Oh ya, if I ever found out that the owner of my favourite eatery was carrying a gun, it would be the last place I would ever frequent.

  95. Andrew (119): Why is that a rule? Sounds like the owner was being a pedantic idiot

    Because this party would take up those six chairs and sip water for the next half hour while other parties who are ready to be seated and dine wait and the owner loses half an hour of revenue.

    Mitchell(117): So you understand why the party wasn’t seated, and you agree with the reasoning, but you still have a problem. I don’t understa…

    You’re not Comb Over, are you?

  96. I love your blog! I think that what you wrote about your boss and the admirable iron spine he exhibited also applies to good parenting. So many times today I see the children running rough shod right over their parents – kids need boundaries, too. Of course, I’m great at this kind of advice seeing as how I have no children and 3 yorkshire terrierists that literally run all over me. :)

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  98. I am a bartender at an Atlantic City casino and know that if I carried a gun I’d run out of bullets!!!…. But I would know where every bullet was.

    Another reason bartenders can’t carry guns is beacause we would keep leaving the bar to go to the bullet store.

  99. Great story and great writing but I disagree with the owner. If two out of three couples were there I truly don’t understand why they couldn’t be seated and ordered drinks. Personally if that happened to me I’d leave, wouldn’t make a fuss but leave nevertheless. In fact that’s never happened to us and we have on occasion had to wait for someone in our group to appear. Sounds like your boss is on a bit of a power trip, must be the gun. By the way, here in Canada nobody carries a gun, it’s against the law…ciao

  100. Mitchell 117,

    Great post.

    The thinly (sometimes not thinly) veiled dislike of guests by people posting to this blog must be very disheartening to restaurant goers who view it.

    I hope those restaurant goers reading this realize this attitude is not the only one present in the restaurants you visit. These restaurants do have exceptional employees that do care about hospitality.

    These restaurants have great people who care about their guests a great deal.

    They do not ridicule guests on anonymous blogs.

    They do not insult your appearance to help justify their handling of guest complaints.

    They realize when a guest has a complaint, there is often a very simple solution to fixing it correctly.

    There are customers out there who are pushy, demanding and basically next-to-impossible to satisfy. Good restaurateurs make a point of improving their product and service to impress even the toughest guest.

    Just because a server, host, manager, chef, owner bends (or breaks) ‘the rules’ does not make him/her a doormat. Sometimes, each of these people must make decisions on what is best for the business, and just enforcing ‘the policy’ mindlessly may not be the best thing. If it were, accountants would be the best people to staff your hospitality business with (no slight meant to accountants, they are just good at following rules).

    I do not know whether the owner handled this situation correctly or not. I do know if you tell enough people you do not care about their business often enough, eventually they will get the hint and not return.

    just my $0.02

  101. I think the owner handled the situtation correctly. The establishment had a rule. Period. If you let one demanding jerk get you to break that rule, then why have rules? Customers are always trying to get their way and they are NOT always right.

  102. Suppose the rest of the guy’s party was more than a half-hour late? Suppose they show up an hour late, and then want drinks and appetizers, and then send back an entree, and then complain that they want a free dessert because of the fact that their entree wasn’t right?
    There goes that table for most or all of the evening, that’s what. Guests who had reservations and whose groups all showed up on time may not be seated; they might get so irritated that they never return. The waiters lose tips. The restaurant loses business. And those of who seated near the inconsiderate boors lose some of the evening’s enjoyment as we listen to them kvetch loudly about the lousy service and inferior food.
    I agree that you’re better off WITHOUT customers like that.
    If you are informed of the restaurant’s policy that only complete parties will be seated, then you have a choice: Eat there or don’t. But if you decide to eat there, then you are agreeing to abide by the rules.

  103. Wow! This is my favorite post so far! Kudos to the owner for standing his ground and not caving into combover and looking like a sap. Guarantee if you stick by the rules and not let people walk over you you will get so much more respect and I’ll bet combover deep down respects the place. So many owners run around like a scared rabbit with no balls so afraid to lose any customer but like waiter said many very well run restaurants have rules which is why they’re so well run. Very very good

  104. i’ve worked places where the owner carried a pistol somewhere on their person. seems like they were always italian restaurants. and those guys didn’t deal with ass-holes either. every single one of them told me at one time or another that the customer is not always right, and fuck-tards like that can go over to maggiano’s and eat jersey italian with all the other shit-stains who think a plate of noodles and ketchup is real italian.

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