I just want to take a minute and think about where we all were 8 years ago today. I was awoken by a telephone call from a frantic girlfriend’s mother. We turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit. My life and our country was never the same. That day and the years following, many lives have been lost in the name of freedom. I believe it is important to remember those that have given their lives so that I may sit here and write my babble for anyone to read. Death is certain – life is not. Take this day and everyday to live life for yourself and those that gave theirs.
Now on to a more fun subject – Restaurants, I love restaurants, go figure! They come in all shapes, sizes & flavors – they act as time capsules that take us away from our everyday realities, or they imprison us in a shitty casket while we count the minutes until we are freed. Most diners don’t realized how much goes into the daily operation of a restaurant – there are so many moving parts that it’s no wonder most people in the industry are a bit “off.”
Now in a restaurant typically there are 2 camps: the front of the house (FOH) and the back of the house (BOH). I have had the pleasure of experiencing both sides of this coin which is why I feel comfortable sharing this information with you. The BOH is where the magic happens! This team, usually entirely Latin American comes in well before the first diner is given a menu, they receive the day’s deliveries, prep, set up the “line,” clean equipment, develop specials, etc. These are the unsung, under paid heroes of the industry. They do grueling work for long hours and basically get paid shit. Yes, I am biased toward the kitchen – let me explain why.
Have you ever gone back to a restaurant that you had amazing service and terrible food? Yeah I didn’t think so, but I would guess if you had great food and mediocre service you’d be back in a heartbeat. Thus we arrive at The Wait-Staff. If you are ever in need of an easy job that requires little to no skill and want some fast cash, be a waiter. These people are paid (rather well in high-end restaurants) to simply carry plates from the kitchen to your table. When you ask them what’s good, 9 times out of 10 they’re going to tell you the three most expensive dishes on the menu. Chances are if it’s on the menu it’s good. Chefs typically don’t throw bad dishes on the menu – because they have pride in their work unlike the FOH bottom-feeders. And know this, when your table’s food comes out and there’s a dish missing, it’s not “the kitchen’s fault.” Chances are the waiter forgot to put the order in! Food doesn’t leave the kitchen until the order is completed, that’s just the way it works.
So let’s talk about wine. Generally the most expensive part of your meal. Now with wine there are a few guidelines I like to follow. Unless the waiter specifically steers me to a particular selection I do not tip on the cost of wine. Why in the hell would you tip 20% to some asshole that went grabbed a bottle and opened it for you? That’s not a difficult task! Also since we’re talking about tipping, you do not need to tip on the tax again why pay someone extra for nothing?
I’m not a cheapskate by any means, in fact I’m a big believer in tipping but you have to tip for the right reasons. If a waiter does a bang up job, is attentive and personable I’ll tip the shit out of him/her. But if the waiter is slow, unfriendly, too cool, doesn’t know the answers to simple questions on the menu…then screw’em! If I suck at my job, I don’t get paid. Gratuity is simply that – a gracious offering for someone’s service. It is not mandatory nor should it be expected.
Now you should also know that in 99% of restaurants, the kitchen sees none of your gratuity! In fact the only thing they’ll usually hear is if somebody doesn’t like something. So if you are out and have an amazing meal that you feel compelled to show your appreciation to those that made it for you, there are a couple things that you can do. Say I have an outstanding piece of fish, not overcooked or cold and tastes great, I’ll ask the waiter which cook made my dish i.e. sauté, grill, pantry, hot apps cook, etc. I’ll then ask the waiter what that cook’s favorite drink is, buy him one and have it sent back to the kitchen. Now you’re saying “well what if he doesn’t drink or he’s not allowed to drink on the clock.” That’s bullshit. All cooks drink. Chances are their chef will be so pleased the cook got that compliment from a guest he’ll let the dude enjoy the beverage right then and there or at least while he’s cleaning up his station at the end of the shift. This may seem really insignificant to you but trust me, this will make that dude’s fukn night! Now if you’re not down for sending a drink back, take 5 or 10 bucks and go back to the kitchen (this works best w/ “open kitchens”). Ask who made your dish and then hand over the cash. Like I said earlier, cooks take a lot of pride in their work and being paid such a seemingly minor compliment by a total stranger really means a lot! If you’re too cheap or don’t have the cash on you – just go up and say thank you, DO NOT EVER add extra money onto the check b/c the kitchen will never see a dime of it. Your waiter will buy him & his cronies a 12-pack after the shift with that money. Along these same lines if you have a busboy that really busts his ass and you see him/her more than your waiter; slip them a few bucks cash too. These guys are almost as underpaid as the kitchen for the amount of work they’re required to do!
I do not hate waiters or the FOH; it just kills me that a waiter in a 5-star restaurant can make upwards of $80K a year and the Chef is working 80 hour weeks making about $50K. Do the math; it’s a flawed and ridiculous system that, unfortunately, won’t change any time soon.
By the same token, too often I hear people say they went to a restaurant and their food didn’t come out the way they ordered it. Yet, most people seem to just eat what they’re given – again bullshit. You ordered something and you’re paying for it. Therefore, you should get what you want. So send that shit back and tell them again how you want it. There isn’t really any reason to fear somebody spitting on your food or anything like that. That is unless, you’re eating at Chili’s or some other terrible chain (which you shouldn’t anyways)! Remember, you’re paying for it – get it the way you want it. Cooks make mistakes sometimes, don’t accept this as bad luck on your part – this keeps them honest.