First let me start this off by saying that I work in the restaurant service industry. This is a rant, and it's going to probably not make sense in some parts. Signing up for a position anywhere in this world, is basically signing up to be the average person's bitch... So I had a moment on Saturday, around 845pm in the end of a rush period:
And I basically reached the end of my tether. After having to explain to a customer the very easy to understand idea of "First come first serve" and that she was more than welcome to wait but "it could be a very long wait for a table on the patio." I realized just how much of a shit hole, where I work really is.
It's a rooftop restaurant, that likes to pretend it's a speak-easy. Meaning, it's hidden inside two other establishments (owned by the same group) with limited advertising, and no signs inside as to where it is, until you get there. This equals confused, hungry (and in the summer in Chicago) hot and angry customers.
They've been walking up and down the street looking for the place that refuses to tell people "Inside and to the back." Anywhere in either establishments guests can use to enter.
Fine — this is fine. As the hostess I know that I have to deal with people who are hungry, and annoyed and just want to get in somewhere for a meal. Out system though is set up to make this more difficult than it needs to be. In addition to having a patio we have an open-air dining room, but there's no mention of this on any of our sites or listings. We just say that seating is first come first serve for the patio and that is it. There's no pictures of the patio or the interior dining area taken by us. Just snaps of the garden (one of our big attractions as we are farm to table, organic, certified green, sustainable, etc) and then customer pictures of the rooftop.
In addition to this error, there is the option to request patio seating which kind of negates the first come first serve mention, in the customers eyes. Which sort of makes sense, if it's first come first serve does that not mean by reservation and request? So I have to start out our relationship with these customers already on a bad foot. I do confirmation calls for reservations, and usually 80% of the customers inquire about their request to be seated outdoors. This results in the defensive/argumentative "But I requested to be outside and I have a reservation. Can I just come early then so I can get a spot?" I am instructed to tell them "We can only seat completed parties at their reservation time." Which usually gets a cold silence or a hesitant sigh and "okay well, thank you I guess. We'll just see when I get there."
In addition to this, no one has bothered to count the seats outside so we know exactly how many we can fit. It doesn't help that management changes the layout regularly because our awning is more decorative than useful, more on that later.
So attempting to be pro-active I start making mock floor layouts just for me and the other host, this spreads... and finally is taken up by management as an accepted practice. Only, she likes to change the layout and server sections mid-service. Sometimes making one server juggle the entire inside and their section outside. Rather than just not seating the bloody inside and accepting that we're at capacity. We get word just to stop seating a certain section outside because of this... which then puts customers in a snit because they can't go out there as we no longer have the tables.
We always seem to be short staffed, even on days when we have 6 servers and 3 food runners on. If it's slow for the first hour ( you know 5-6pm isn't prime going out hours in Chicago on a bloody fucking Wednesday) she sends a server and food runner home. Like clockwork, we get slammed at 7-8pm with walk-ins and reservations and then it's pandemonium. "I need you to space out seating for 10 - 15 minutes per table until (insert server here who can't handle more then three tables) gets out of the weeds." Which would work, if I didn't have 30 covers coming in at the same time. And when your line builds up. You start putting waiting times upwards of 30 minutes once three groups are in line.
This is where people's impatience gets disgusting:
"Why do I have to wait? I have a reservation." A woman asked me at 8pm on a Friday.
"Ma'am there are just a few parties ahead of yours, once the other hostess gets them seated we'll get you up to the roof."
"I don't understand it's usually immediate when I get here."
What I am trying to project:
What I am actually thinking: Well excuse the fuck out of me Duchess Who Gives a Shit. Buy some bread sticks and a vodka and pipe down, you'll get up there just as fast as I can get this PARTY OF 10 ahead of you to their table... Oiy.
In order to avoid these situations (like an uneccessarily long line at the door for seating and tables not turning when needed) I've tried suggesting the following:
1 - Why don't we extend seating times for tables from 90 minutes for parties of two and 2 hours for parties of three or four and 3 hours for parties of six or more? By extending them I think we would decrease the unneeded stress we put on our tables to turn and our staff to basically rush their meal.
Response: "I don't think that will help." That was it, nothing else. *shrug okay*
2 - New guy who's hosting til he moves up to be a server, who's also a supervisor at a restaraunt in the burbs realizes the issues. Both of us suggest making it so we don't have reservations at every 15-minute increment, resulting in a big line downstairs if you include reservations and walk-ins.
Response: "Mm that may help but there has to be a way to avoid these complaints and to get everyone outside."
Anything changed? Nope. Just told about the many complaints we get at the host stand, and them canning the newest hostess for essentially doing her job. Oh and then idle threats from the chefs as well.
All of this in addition to my managers ability to keep her shit together when stressed. Talking to your staff (some of whom are 15 years your senior) like we're teenagers, and stupid teenagers at that isn't going to work in your favour. And Chefs with piss poor attitudes. I get it people get stressed and kind of pissy when busy but this is kind of beyond the normal realm of clipped, curt speech. This is flat out rude. Screaming at me to shut up in front of staff and another chef, I don't give a fuck why... not okay.
So finally — back to this past Saturday — after a woman is seated inside, explained the patio is full it could be a 30 - 90 minute wait if not longer for a seat outside. This woman comes downstairs to start the questions up again. We literally talk in a circle for 15 minutes.
"Can we just wait for a table outside?"
"You're more than welcome to ma'am, but it may be an extensive wait as we still have reservations coming in."
"I don't understand, I had a reservation."
"Yes ma'am but your party opted to be seated inside, so I have to service the reservations I have still coming in."
"But we just wanted to sit down, we want to sit outside. Can't I just wait for a table."
"Would you like to wait at the bar for a table, miss?"
"No we already have a table we want to go outside though, I don't understand. I'm not trying to argue, but I really wanted to eat outside and we had a reservation for outside."
"I understand ma'am, but we explicitly state both in the confirmation email and on the open table website that seating is first come first serve and once we reach capcity we have to seat you inside."
"I'm not trying to make this a thing, you're not listening. I just want to enjoy some part of my meal outside this evening."
DID I NOT JUST SAY YOU CAN WAIT AT YOUR TABLE IT JUST MAY BE A WHILE?! Holy sweet baby Jesus I cannot.
She goes upstairs, whines to my manager who then takes her out to the table that just opened (that I'd just told a customer would be going to) to this table on the patio, doesn't check them in in Open table, doesn't tell us... and now I've essentially lied to a customer and have no idea what tables are open or done.
After that fun circle of stupidity and poor communication, when I am speed walking through the dining room (not enough to move hair but enough to get through quicky and back to the other hosts) I spot a table open and ready for a four top I'd had waiting at the bar. As I am turning around, I see the husband sipping his scotch and basically staring at the table. I bee-line back toward the stairs to clock this into OT, inform my hosts and then run back to seat them (90sec process) only to be stopped by both him and now his wife who launches in on me.
"There's a table outside for four that's ready, why haven't we been taken to it? Did you forget?"
"No ma'am I was actually on my way to come seat you. We were waiting for that table to be ready for service."
"I don't know why this is so hard, we just want to sit outside!"
"Ma'am I'll have my manager come seat you. I don't think I am doing service properly for you."
Husband:"No no, that's alright. We're just hungry." (You couldn't order a fucking app while sitting at our FULL SERVICE BAR that has menus on it?! Oiy.)
"I understand that sir, but I don't feel that I am doing my job properly. My manager will be happy to come a seat you guys." And I walked away.
Fuck yuppies. Fuck this place. Fuck the poorly plotted out everything. Fuck people who can't wait longer the a pube for essentially an effort free dinning experience.
I am so done with this brand of service. One more yuppie broad in 6inch heels she can't walk in condescends to me and I am pushing her in front of a Lyft.
ETA : To add that after Saturday I've had this bad feeling I'm going to get shit canned for how it went..