The holiday season is finally over but winter is still here slowly eating away at my soul. The past few months have been a whirlwind of sleeping in late, working myself to the bone at the job, then coming back to party the rest of the nights away. Days and weeks have begun to all blend together as the monotony of the job sets in. There are rumors about looking for new careers or even quitting the industry all together among the crew.
As the tensions rose during the final months of the year many of us were pushed to our breaking points one way or another. It was inevitable because normal people are not meant to endure such conditions for so long. We are simply humans and we have needs, emotions and egos too. At times it becomes hard to maintain composure in the face of extreme stress.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Years were all sacrificed this year so I could chase the dollar. Mainly it's because we don't get to choose whether we have holidays off or not- they are blacked out for request offs. Also because I chose a profession where I really don't get all of the perks of a 9-5 job. Although for me it isn't such a big deal because none of my family lives nearby and I am honestly over the whole materialistic ideals behind consumer America's Christmas... It's just another day in my eyes.
The job itself hasn't been too horrible, if you ask me, because I've been through all of this before and it is also the most financially rewarding time of the year. That money doesn't come easy since it is earned with actual blood, sweat and tears. Being a veteran of this trade I know what I'm going into and I mentally prepare myself for the absolute sh*tshow ahead of time. "I've done this before and I'll do it again." I tell myself, "Just another day in paradise, it will be worth it in the end." as I put my head down and just plug away.
You can visibly see the frustration, anger and irritation in the faces and body language of my co-workers on these big holidays. Many of them missing out on family time or a significant other's company yet still having to put the mask in front of their tables. There is something almost sadistic about having to watch someone else have the time of their life while you are making such meaningful sacrifices in your own personal life. Missing out on the experiences that other people get to enjoy and that are so deeply engrained in our culture and childhood memories.
I know what I signed up for and there are no regrets no matter how much it sucks sometimes. The old saying "No pain no gain." is certainly true in more ways than one. The question is how much pain are you willing to endure?
With change comes new experience and with those experiences you will find many lessons. Good, bad or indifferent there is always something to be learned. That is the beauty of life- you never know what the outcome will be but there will always be a hidden message. When you begin to realize that you can transcend emotional reaction to events.
So where did I leave off last time... oh yeah that's right! They had just fired my GM and literally the next day the new GM was there bright eyed and bushy tailed with a fire in his belly. Wearing a nice blue suit and shoes that looked entirely too clean (and expensive) to be worn in a restaurant I have to admit the man looks like he has himself put together. About 15 or so years younger, much faster and, shall I say, sharper than his predecessor I think this man will help turn the place around... eventually.
Many things are easier said than done and with a machine as large as a multi-million dollar restaurant there are certainly a lot of moving parts. Change and progress also takes time- and people. Without cooperation and communication none of this can be achieved. You cannot simply tear everything down and rebuild from scratch however. Effectively the only way to smoothly make progressive changes in this scenario is to do them gradually and methodically over time rather than all at once.
No system is without flaws though. When you introduce new ideas and techniques there will be a learning curve and some growing pains. We are going through that phase right now and it can be a it chaotic at times. When you go in to work each day and have a different curveball thrown at you every time it can be stressful. The dynamic is changing and constantly evolving with each passing week.
This is having the effect of pushing out some people yet drawing others further in as they have found a way to game the system. Almost like some are being rewarded whilst others are being punished. There will always be favoritism in restaurants though- that is without a doubt just like there will always be some sort of drama. That is to be expected so you need to learn how to just make the best of it and roll with the punches.
The only thing that is certain in life is change. Every day presents us with new obstacles that shape and define who we are and what we will become. As humans we value permanence and stability- routine and structure in our chaotic lives. When we experience dramatic changes it can sometimes be quite nerve-racking. The uncertainty is what we fear the most I believe.
On Saturday I learned that our GM was just fired for reasons that aren't fully clear or being discussed at the moment, but I have my suspicions. There was an ever growing mountain of SH*T that was piling up against him. Allegations of misconduct, harassment, favoritism, and incompetence just to name a few. I think the biggest problem was he simply DID NOT CARE about his job nor the people who rely on the place to make a living.
Many of the employees actually moved on because of him in the past several months. His complete lack of responsibility in storewide issues because a game of blaming and finger pointing. If something wasn't ordered he would just blame the chef instead of just going and ordering it himself. If he was unable to complete his paperwork during non-business hours he would hide away in the office during the dinner rush and force us to go looking for him every time we needed a void/comp or swipe for authorization, then blame the company for not giving him enough time to do his job. It becomes so mentally exhausting when you have to constantly play catch up with your tables because your manager simply isn't present when you need them.
Just like many of us servers, I think the job just wore him thin with the long hours and demanding schedule. Eventually it broke him mentally and he stopped giving full time and attention to his career. This becomes noticeable quite quickly and creates a very toxic environment in no time. Instead of trying to improve and adjust things he would do quite the opposite and try to ignore the problems as they kept piling up. I described it to him as "death by 1000 papercuts" and that is exactly what was happening. The obvious solution is to keep trying to solve the problems as they arise rather than ignore them by pushing them off. Even if he only did ONE thing per day that would have eventually added up and got us back to where we should have been but he was too busy trying desperately to maintain the illusion of competency.
Eventually that "I don't give a SH*T" attitude starts to spread and other people think it's ok to stop caring about everything around them too. I refuse to behave like that so I stand up and try to organize and communicate with my staff members what changes we have made as well as the problems as they arise. The only way to progress in such a stifling environment is to take matters into your own hands and become the leader.
SO what now you may ask? We wait- the new GM should be arriving very soon but until then we have one of the strictest regional managers in town from Las Vegas and he is kicking our butts back into shape. The man literally nitpicks the entire restaurant until people are terrified to be in his presence. He is a genuinely good guy though and he is giving us a big fat dose of reality right now, showing us how far off track our restaurant has become over the past year. Will the new manager be a hard-ass or just another jack-ass? We will have to find out soon :-D!
I remember my first day- I was excited, optimistic, fresh faced and naïve. Back then things were beautiful and pristine in my eyes. As time has dragged on that façade slowly faded away and the reality set in. You see the cracks in the foundation... the instability in the structure of the whole system.
When I first started at this job there were 4 of us training at the same time (I will use letter abbreviations for their names). J, R, C and myself. J and C quickly quit within the first month or two. For the following two years my buddy "R" and I worked together- enduring all of the bullsh*t that restaurant work throw at you. Eventually I felt the wear and tear of the job sapping my health and energy. First your physical strength drops from the calorie deficit and constant abuse, then your mental health from the stress and lack of sleep/nutrition.
Almost like a war of attrition we both wanted to be the last man standing. I guess I won, but at what cost? "R" is long gone. Moved onto another job, greener pastures as he described it. During his last month I told him jokingly that he looked like he had escaped from prison, ran through the woods for a week and the threw on a black shirt and came to work- the guy looked ROUGH.
I guess some days I probably look like that after staying up til 5 or 6 am trying to relax and decompress. Dark circles under the eyes and a general malaise the next day. Today I definitely felt like quitting out of sheer hatred for the job, I'm not going to lie. I had to remind myself that people across every sector probably hate their jobs at one point or another and regardless of the career I choose I would still have days like this. This is the life that I chose and I have to deal with it.
How much longer can I endure this path?
When did America become so entitled? I remember when people used to be respectful and have some dignity in public.
Tonight was an eye opener for sure. I don't remember ever getting this worked up about a table- it has certainly been a while since I have even been this mad. Typically when someone insults you or starts to speak in a condescending manner it isn't that hard to get past. Now when that behavior persists and that person continues to abuse and attack you in any way possible then it gets to be ridiculous.
I just had the customer FROM HELL sit in my section and maybe it was for a reason. To be honest she left in (crocodile) tears tonight and I have no remorse for that- none whatsoever because she absolutely deserved it. She got smacked in the face with reality. Nobody else was strong enough to stand up to her in the past and I gave her a full dose of truth tonight.
I am completely used to high maintenance tables and have no problem with them. I love the challenge of a difficult table, in fact I do best when I have a very complicated table with certain needs. I am fantastic at providing for people with special needs and desires... but be SOMEWHAT reasonable please.
This lady tonight was none of the above. She is in a special class of her own- a conversational terrorist so to speak. She takes every opportunity to belittle and berate you as you perform flawlessly. Constantly nitpicking and backtracking the entire table whilst completely embarrassing her company (her husband and friend ) in the process. I did my best to completely ignore her behavior as long as possible until it was no longer an option.
This is the type of person to look for any reason to complain or get an edge on the establishment. First when she DEMANDED a certain table, after seeing it being cleared, and was told that it was reserved by another party she said that we were "discriminating against her because she is fat". The host responded by saying "I never said anything about your weight ma'am and they reserved that table before you came in."
She pulled the discrimination card again after my manager had already told her she wasn't welcome here anymore. This time it was us "discriminating against her food allergies" which seemed to pop out of nowhere. She told me she was allergic to "poppy seeds and alcohol".... when her husband's dish showed up with some balsamic glaze on it she immediately grabbed it and sniffed it for whatever reason. I assured her it had no alcohol or poppy seeds- yet after stealing a few bites from her mate she complained that she needed to see the ingredients in the balsamic glaze now. I brought her the bottle of balsamic glaze which says it was made with vinegar... she proceeds to tell me she is now allergic to vinegar which can make her sick. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO TELL ME THIS SHIT BEFORE I PUT IN YOUR ORDER NOT AFTER!
At this point I was so frustrated with her attitude I took the bottle and walked away. Upon my next visit to the table she says "Why did you walk away in the middle of me talking to you?" and that is when I responded "Are you always rude to strangers or just the ones who are helping you?" and she was in absolute shock because nobody has ever stood up to her it seems.
Even her friend and husband we cowering in fear of her at this point- she tried to say "Now you are yelling at me?" yet I never raised my voice- I was just chastising her for her inappropriate behavior. I replied "I am not yelling. I'll have your check right out." At this point I told my manager and gave the check to another server to deliver. Of course they ask for the manager when the other server goes by the table and he was dreading every moment of it. I walked back to the table with him and didn't have to say a word. He had my back completely because he is very familiar with this lady and her shenanigans. In so many words he said "We would appreciate if you don't come back." and her immediate response was to act shocked and ask why- as if she didn't understand how her actions would cause this kind of reaction.
He had to explain how she has a literal rap-sheet of notes from us, ranging from how rude she was the hosts to her particular "allergies" and habits. She mistreated several of our members already and really didn't deserve a second chance but our manger is a very nice guy. When she disrespected me and both of the hosts repeatedly though it was the last straw. This lady even went so far as to lie and say she has never talked to this manager or seen him before when she has had several interactions with him and our staff... all of them very disrespectful.
This person likes to pull the Angry White Woman tirade that has worked so well for her in the past. All you have to do is exaggerate and lie and you can have anything you want in America (if you're a white woman that is). Most of the time it works, in fact most of the time especially where I live. Today I gave this woman a full dose of reality: You aren't special and you aren't going to walk all over me. I am a human being and I will be respected.
The most important lesson my father ever taught me wasn't with his words. It was with his actions... I saw him working himself thin, day in and day out at jobs he probably hated. Eventually he decided that enough was enough and that he would try to form his own companies. Through trial and error he inevitably found his niche and has been able to eek out some level of success without having a "boss". Through his experience I learned that you don't want to work hard in this world, you want to work smart!
Not to say that working hard won't get you anywhere because it certainly will, up to a point. After that you need to become more creative and inventive to really have an edge. Sure, working hard will help you to get by. But is simply getting by ENOUGH? As humans we always desire more- more comfort, more money, more happiness, more freedom. The list goes on and on. Working a 9-5 job simply wont cut it these days while most people are living paycheck to paycheck.
You need to be different, you need to think outside of the box to really have a competitive edge in today's economy. For most people, my co-workers included, this means getting a second job and working yourself into a lifeless zombie. It doesn't have to be that way anymore! In this day and age there are many things you can do to earn a second source of income rather than selling your time to your employer. That is just the "easy" way out (mentally not physically). Personally I invest, write and play poker on the side for supplemental income.
Part of the reason why I decided to stick with the serving industry for my profession is because of the freedom and flexibility it can offer. Short hours, daily cashflow, set schedule times with no graveyard shifts. Moving into fine dining was obviously a very huge jump from the casual dining jobs I was experienced with but the job is essentially the same at its core. The main difference being the cost per plate which equates to more dollars in your pocket. Attention to detail is a must at this level since people will be very critical of your performance.
The better you execute, the more highly you are paid. This is especially true at my job since people are already spending so much money they expect a certain standard of service. Not all customer service jobs are created equal- in retail you get ZERO reward for exceptional performance, other than a pat on the back. This puts fine dining at the top of the list for food service jobs by far! Most nights I only have to work 6 hours and get paid more than triple what I used to make at one of my old jobs.
Every decision you make can open or close a door in your path. Sometimes you make these decisions by accident and other times by choice. Every once in a while you get lucky and stumble into a fortune or a fantastic situation. Other times you may be destined for failure or defeat automatically from the start. We can only learn from our mistakes and move on...
There are often times when I look back and say " Why didn't I see the red flags?!" or "What in the hell was I thinking? Was I even thinking???" Being human we are all prone to mistakes and faults. We must own up to these mistakes and move forward- try to make amends. Pointing the finger of blame only creates more problems instead of solving them.
I became a server out of necessity for a better job- a different KIND of job. Something that wasn't nine to five or some sort of cubicle corporate bullshit. I was frankly tired of working retail and doing hourly work in general. I had even managed at a few places but the responsibility and bureaucracy eventually wore me thin. I was lucky enough to fall into the serving industry by chance... one of my exes was a server for YEARS and explained it all to me. I was sold after I learned I could make DOUBLE what I was making before in LESS HOURS.
Flash forward 5 years and here I am. Being a naturally observant person of course I would absorb and learn everything there is around me. I have learned the ins and outs of this job without a doubt. Sometimes it can be exhausting beyond belief, mentally, emotionally and physically. We are performers so to speak- presenting a fake version of our real personality. Be it friendlier, less timid, more exciting, or MORE REFINED. All the while executing your job perfectly.
If you aren't acting you aren't making the most you can while serving. This industry is about presentation not reality.
All the while I have to maintain my own sanity behind the scenes among a crowded, hot and often uncomfortable crew of servers, cooks, dishwashers, bussers, hosts and managers. The show MUST go on- we can't have it any other way! The stress is the first thing that gets to people. The constant emotional and mental drain will break you down must faster than the physical strain. It is a job for sadists in a way.
I have seen many people come and go and it doesn't even phase me anymore. I am used to the chaos, the panic, the drama and antics. In a sick way I enjoy the absolute anarchy that ensues while we are working- I thrive in this this environment.
The trade-off is clear. Money today for your soul tomorrow. Such is the way of life.
I guess I have no excuse other than I really didn't give a shit. I know I have a website, I know I'm supposed to update it and all. Hell I even pay for it every month and keep saying to myself- I'll do it later. Well I guess later is finally now.
It has been one hell of a year! SO many things have changed in my life yet surprisingly I am still at the same job. Still serving tables- but everything around me has evolved.
I spent much of time and energy over the past year studying, researching and investing into cryptocurrencies and I was rewarded greatly. I was lucky enough to be there before the big rush and be able to position myself to profit on the masses buying into this space. I took a few vacations and was even able to help out my friends and family with some of that money.
My obsession came at a cost however. I am no longer with the girlfriend that I was with for over 2 years. The one who was also a server at a local place- living the same daily struggle that I was, and still am. The one who saw me create ServerLyf and was there to support me all along. I became so intensely involved in my work and writing that I completely neglected my personal relationship with her and many of my other responsibilities.
I was not unproductive, in a literary sense, and continued to write throughout the entire year. I took things in a different direction and began to write about cryptocurrencies- Bitcoin specifically. While in the back of my mind I was continually thinking about topics I could write and post here, I focused mainly on my other passions. I just came back from my yearly Vegas trip and have been spending a tremendous amount of time and energy playing and studying the game as well.
As far as my restaurant is concerned it has been PURE CHAOS. Where I left off last I was describing how things were slowly falling apart. It has only gotten worse over the past year to the point where people are completely fed up with the situation and everyone is always casting the blame on other people. "It's the manager's fault" or "It's corporate's fault" or "It's so and so's fault". Nobody wants to step up and accept the blame in order to move on and create a more productive environment. The workplace has frankly become toxic...
At least several times a week I ask myself "WHY THE HELL DID I CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?!" There are no real benefits other than the short term ones- short hours, getting paid daily, and (somewhat) flexible schedules. In the long term you get a worn out body, alcoholism and a general hatred for humanity. You would not believe how pretentious and entitled some people can be, and this includes the SERVERS.
The money is good- and I mean DAMN GOOD. So I keep my mouth shut, for the most part, and just do as good of a job as I can and get paid. It takes care of the ridiculous rent where I live and covers my car payment and student loans each month.
I intend on opening up a merch shop pretty soon so I can do shirts, pens, wine keys and other stuff for servers so stay tuned for an update (EVENTUALLY)!
Sometime I actually forget that I have a website :-D I told myself that I have to start doing more updates so I am going to make that a focus the next few months to make sure to put up more Blogs and memes. I have been very busy lately messing around with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and countless others. The market has seen a recent surge in investment over the past few months and I think now we are finally entering that sell-off phase that I've been predicting for a while. Anyways, enough nerd stuff, back to the ServerLyf.
We are definitely in the BUSY SEASON now!!! Yesterday was ridiculous and it was only a Wednesday... We were running out of stuff left and right which just slows everything down. Ran out of prepared bread trays, no halibut, no strawberry ice cream, 86'd whole fish and we've been out of lemonade for over a week. Not to mention the cases of wine they forgot to order along with more supplies for the servers. They told us last week that they don't have any more server books and this week we are out of paper pads to write on so people are using receipt paper instead. This place is literally falling apart before my eyes.
Honestly I think it all began when our head chef quit. This location only has four designated manager positions: A head chef, a sous chef, front of house manager, and General Manager. Each person plays a very critical role in the system and all of the managers who were there when I started were very well seasoned and comfortable in their positions. Once the head chef decided to quit I think that it put more pressure and responsibility on the remaining three positions. The next person to quit was actually our GM and I know that was partly due to the fact that we have to work on EVERY major holiday, which isn't the case at some restaurants, go figure.
For a few months during the lull of the off-season the remaining two managers were visibly being worn down, slowly but surely. As the daily volume began to pick up however you could see the stress really begin to break them down even faster. Working 12+ hour days for salary whilst watching everyone around you (even the dishwashers) making more money per hour doesn't seem like my kinda job either... especially not when they are shoveling a bunch of extra responsibilities onto your plate because there literally isn't anyone else there to do the work.
The last two managers coincidentally put in their notices around the same time. Meanwhile the company was already struggling to find replacements for the head chef and GM, and now they really have their hands full trying to fill all four positions at the same time. This all happened in a matter of 6-7 months...
So where does this leave us now? Read my next blog to find out!
This is an article I wrote for www.steemit.com a new social media site where you can earn money for your posts... follow me at steemit.com/@hotsauceislethal
Of course as most Americans know tipping is customary in our society. This is not the case in all societies however as it would be considered rude and improper in some places, but here in America there are certain industries that rely almost entirely on the tipping economy. There may have been a time in the past when tipping guidelines were not so clearly defined as they are now: with the plethora of tipping guides and even phone apps available at your fingertips this day and age if you ask anyone who goes out to eat regularly about how to tip they will undoubtedly reply "15-20% depending on the service". When going out to have a few drinks it is not uncommon to leave $1 per drink as a rule of thumb especially if you are only drinking beer or wine. Even people who have never worked in the service industry know that you should always tip, even if they don't always tip the appropriate amount.
Now lets introduce this other very integral part of the tipping economy which is called TIPSHARE. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant, bar, or even club knows about tipshare. For every single dollar that you make in tips you are expected to tip out a certain dollar amount or percentage to other employees. Tipped out positions include bussers, hosts, bar-backs, etc. Often times this tipshare percentage is determined by food or alcohol sales and not necessarily on actual tips received. This means that every time someone sits down in a restaurant they actually cost their server money through tipshare regardless of if they tip or not.
In the past I have worked at restaurants where the tipshare was only 2% of your total sales, which is paid out to the bussers and bartenders. So for every $100 in food/alcohol that a table orders I would have to pay out $2 to the house automatically. Not all restaurants are the same however and the place where I currently work has a 5% tipshare rule, meaning for every $100 spent by guests I would now owe $5 to the house. This drastically changes things because when a table forgets to tip (which happens more often than you would think) or simply does not tip enough I end up having to fork up the difference. Simply put when you go out to eat you are costing your server money!
With this being said it is not acceptable to leave a 5% tip or less on your tab, no matter where you are going out to eat. Sure, if your server was HORRIBLE and RUDE then sure a crappy tip (or no tip) is to be expected. However if that person brought you everything you needed and got your order correct then be considerate and compensate them for their hard work. At the end of the day they have bills to pay too. In most states servers make minimum wage and even as low as $2.13/hr so keep that in mind the next time you leave a Fiver on $100.