I’ve been working in hospitality for about 20 years (holy crap). Mostly part time, full time for about 5 years and then the desire to sit down took over. At the moment I have a sitting down office job and I also work in a restaurant a few times a week, for money and because I like it.
Hospitality is one of those weird professions. The pay is crap (generally), the hours are long, you end up dealing with a fair number of wankers and, the bit I like the best about it, is the fact that a lot of people just think you’re an idiot. But if you love it, then you love it, and you’ll go back again and again until you’re either committed or your fake customer smile becomes permanently tattooed to your face and your feet fall off. Or you go on a murderous rampage dressed in chefs white, brandishing a cleaver. Not really sure which is the best of those options.
However, I am not here to espouse the wonders of the mind of a re-offending hospitality addict, I am here to rid the world of a few of the pre-conceived ideas about hospitality workers.
Now firstly, I have to make it abundantly clear that I am well aware there are some bloody awful waiters and waitresses out there. And I am the first to not tip if service is shite. And the servers who wander around looking like you’ve shoved a poker up their arse when all you’ve done is ask for a fork should be made to write the meaning of hospitality 100 times on a blackboard. But for the purposes of this article, your waitperson is neither shit nor a pretentious wanker.
Hospitality Myth No. 1 – Waitressing is not a proper job
YES IT IS. End of story.
Hospitality Myth Number 2 – Waiters are stupid idiots who know nothing
Well, to begin with the wait staff know about the food on the menu (well, they should) so sometimes it pays to listen, or else your meal may end up going something like this:
Lady enters restaurant, sits down peruses menu.
Waitress enters (stage left) (pursued by a bear)
“Good evening, and how are you this evening?”
“Is this the menu?” Asks the lady.
See, even at this point, you know it’s all going to be hard work. Because obviously it’s the fucking menu. And although you would love for those exact words to slip out of your mouth, you don’t, because it’s your job to be hospitable to stupid people who ask blindingly obvious questions.
“Yes, madam it is the menu”
“Well it’s changed from the last time I as here.”
‘Yes, the menu is seasonal’
‘I don’t like this menu as much.’
(Want to say: “Well go and open your own bloody restaurant then” )
Do say: “That’s a shame, I’m sorry to hear that”
Customer: “I wanted a steak”
Proceed to point out to customer that there is a wagyu sirloin on the menu (it was those 6 months when everyone wanted to eat massaged Japanese cows)
Customer, “I really wanted a filet mignon”
“Sorry, we don’t have one.” (if we did it would probably be on the menu, wouldn’t it, hmmm? Just saying)
“Wagyu is fatty isn’t it?”
“Yes, wagyu does have a high marbling rating, which means as it is cooked it melts into the meat and leaves the steak incredibly tender, we would recommend that you have it cooked no less than medium.”
“Can you cut the fat out?”
“Erm, not really, it runs through the whole cut.”
“Well as you have nothing else I like on the menu I’ll have that but rare.”
“Well, I wouldn’t recommend that as the fat needs to melt into the steak, rendering it and if it’s served rare then it will be quite tough. Maybe there is something else on the menu you would like? (or you could just fuck off ?)”
“No, I’ll have the wagyu. Rare.”
“No problem, just to make you extra aware, we wouldn’t recommend it to be served rare.”
“I said rare. I would like it rare.” (rolls eyebrows at presumptuousness of server)
So, take chewy piece of meat over to woman.
Go back, ask how it is.
“It’s a bit chewy and there’s a lot of fat”
“I don’t really think I should pay for this.”
Well I do, and I think you should pay for my bail after I’ve stabbed you with a steak knife
Hospitality Myth No. 3 – Waiters don’t deserve a modicum of respect
I don’t know what it is about the job that seems to make average everyday people thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to speak to you in a way they wouldn’t think of speaking to a mangy dog on the road. I think my favourite comment was as follows:
Lady to man: “Aren’t you going to give him a tip?”
Man “Yes, get a proper job”
There are the people who think it’s acceptable to speak to you like a piece of shit because you are serving them. So what if you know everything there is about every ingredient in the dish. So what if you can match the wine to whichever ingredient they choose, so what if you can work a 15 hour shift and still smile at people. So what if you just managed a 70 seater lunch and turned it round and have just served another 70 seater dinner whilst ensuring no orders are forgotten ,the orders aren’t clogging up the kitchen, the tables are set correctly, that each regular’s order is in and remembered perfectly. What does it matter that you’ve been smiling for hours and dealing with the complaints from the customers and the subsequent reactions from the kitchen. So what? You’re a waiter and therefore of a lower social standing.
The people who are the worst at this are middle management for some reason. Who try to amuse and delight their companions by trying to show up the waiter. Because they aren’t a waiter you know. They’re going somewhere in life, they’re middle management (?!?). These are usually the people who get blind drunk and you end up having to throw out of the restaurant because they’re trying to shag Barry/Dawn from accounts in the bathroom with the door open. Classy.
Say please and thank you. I say it to you and you’re an annoying fuckwit who’s had too much to drink and thinks you’re an expert on the wines of the world but manage to pronounce Chenin as Chennin, says Pinot as Pinnott and are affronted when asked whether you want the white or the red ‘Pinnott’. Obviously the red, you say and proceed to raise your eyebrows “how stupid these waiters are!” you say to your companions.
So, not the Pinot Gris, then? Wanker.
Hospitality Myth Number 4 – Hospitality staff don’t care that you’re allergic to ……(insert as appropriate)
We do actually. We appreciate that there are food allergies and restaurateurs need to acknowledge this and the majority do. However, the customer also needs to understand that telling the restaurant before they arrive is a good idea. Psychic ability is not a pre-requisite in this job, unfortunately.
Case in point, a recent degustation.
One of the courses, Japanese custard with oysters. All dined, many liked, some thought a bit weird.
Next course: seafood platter.
Table “oh we can’t eat that we both have a seafood allergy’.
Waiter (blood running slowly from face) “but you just ate the Japanese custard, with seafood in it”
“Oh, well that’s why my companion is feeling a bit funny now.”
“But why didn’t you tell us?”
“Well, we’ve been here once before and we thought you’d have it on record.”
“Did you have seafood the last time you visited?”
“Hmm, I’m sorry, our food allergy detector and record keeper must not have been in that day…”
Seafood allergies are not good. People die. We could have killed them. Which is not only a large burden for a person to bear its also not so good for a business. Just tell us.
However, I have absolutely no patience with people who avoid carbs though. Not coeliac, or gluten intolerant, that’s a proper pain in the arse for the person affected. But those that just avoid ‘for health reasons’
“I’m avoiding gluten, I’m on a diet.”
“Ok, well we have many options without bread or gluten”
“I’ll just have the fried chorizo.”
“That’s has gluten in it.”
“Yes, but it’s not bread.”
“It has about 88 grams of fat in it.”
“Yes, but it’s not bread.”
“Of course, no problem, sir”
(Although I don’t think it’s the bread that’s your problem…)
Hospitality Myth No. 5 Waiters Don’t give a crap how you like your food cooked
We do. The kitchen don’t sometimes. But this isn’t (generally) an indication of arrogance it’s because the people in the kitchen are qualified to cook your food. They know how to cook something so you will experience the flavour properly. They care about your experience. It reflects on them. And they can get a little antsy about it. So, next time you want something well done, just give a thought to the waiter who will be going through something like this when they request your food to be cooked a bit more:
Customer: “my lamb is a bit pink”
Waiter: “Yes, lamb is best served medium rare, it’s how the chef would recommend it”
Customer: “I like it cooked more, can you do that?”
Waiter: “Yes of course, it is your meal after all”
Waiter enters kitchen
“Chef, could the customer please have this with less pink?”
“Why? Didn’t you tell them its served medium rare?”
“Well, are they a complete fuckwit? Do they not know that how lamb is supposed to be served? It’s going to taste like shit if I cook it more.”
“But they would like it cooked more”
“What I am their fucking mother? Why don’t they just go home and cook their own fucking piece of fucking lamb?”
Waiter: “So, shall I tell them to get fucked as they obviously don’t know how meat is supposed to be cooked and they should just piss off and go and go and cook their own dinner?”
Chef: “What are you? A fucking moron! No, tell them we’ll cook it”
Waiter leaves kitchen, smiles and tells customer that’ll be fine. Whilst ignoring clattering of pans and the colourful vernacular resounding from the kitchen.
I would also like to point something out. If you order a well done steak and it arrives at your table in 5 minutes, you have accidentally gone into a restaurant where your steak was cooked 4 weeks ago. Food takes time to cook. Leave immediately. If you are in a restaurant that serves fresh food, pointing at your watch and then pointing at your mouth when your well done sirloin isn’t on your table in 10 minutes is just silly and will probably result in your steak ‘resting’ for an extra ten minutes. On the floor.
And this is where I stop. I could go on, and on, and on, but I won’t.
As far as I’m concerned, whether you’re the CEO of a company or a dinner lady, a bin man or a multi millionaire, until you prove yourself to be a fuckwit, you don’t deserve to be treated like one. And luckily the majority of customers are lovely. However, for those that aren’t, watch out for those people dressed in white with cleavers – they’re after you……