Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three Ring Big Top Status

Hello, Dave.

It's been a helluva week. I've done things for a steak and an early end to a shift that I wouldn't recommend to the guy who packs the sausage into the synthetic casing. All on the level, of course. Today was my first official day off in too many, and you know what I learned? I've still got a LOT to do.

Derek and I are SO close to finally putting the feather in the cap of the second draft of our pilot. What this means? We have no idea. We have a couple places that it will be sent for constructive feedback (shredder? anyone?) and then... we the great unknown. We have a vague idea of the plan. I have another spec that I'm working on - mental writing FTW - and we are working on going on vacation.

It isn't going to stop here. Working (the day job) as much as I have been lately has opened several doors for us, one of them hopefully being the door to a plane and an all inclusive resort. It has also threatened to close a few windows. My blogging has been in complete decline. Oh stop it, I know you didn't even notice. My twittering is now coming in fits and starts. Don't believe me? Check out every Monday when I'm off and have Twitterhea, as compared to a Friday, when I'm busy balancing a full tray of hot water and lemon, and my sanity, on one arm.

Balance is a tough game to play, and I'm still learning the rules. It enters into every aspect of my life. Balance between sleeping and running. Balance between work, the other work, and play. Balance between spending and throwing my tips into the black hole of student debt. Balance between our friends and our alone time. I wonder if all of the tripping I've been doing lately is actually a physical manifestation of my mental state? Or maybe I should just lay off the roller coasters and tequila shots.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Six Rules for Dining Out on a Holiday

I am heading out soon to work a double shift, on a statutory holiday. This is part of my quest to become a *Real* writer, indirectly at least. If writing and film making were not important to me, I suppose I would find a real job to pay the bills.

Anyway, since I am going to walk through the firey depths of holiday hell today, I thought I would provide a small list of rules for dining out on a statutory holiday. Most of these apply to every day dining, but they are of even more importance on a holiday when kitchens are busier, managers are frazzled, and a server makes half the amount of tips for double the work. I have been in the biz long enough that I have absolutely no hope of these being followed, but hey, I like a pointless exercise as much as the next person. So here we go.


1. DON'T.

(Now I KNOW you're not going to follow this one, but I will give my reasons and then move on.)

Everyone goes out on holidays. I know, all the cool kids are doing it, but for you it means that your food will be rushed, possibly cold, and definitely of lesser quality since the restaurant is likely over capacity. Its more likely that you will get a server who doesn't know what they are doing, since restaurants are always understaffed, and generally days off on holidays are given to servers with seniority (they are the ones with mad skills). There's more chance the restaurant will be overcrowded, over heated, and that they will run of the one item you came for. People go out on a holiday expecting something special. If by special you mean lukewarm food and sub-par service, you won't be disappointed.

2. Make a Reservation

This can be tricky since some places don't reserve tables on holidays, but please look for a place that does. Especially if you have a large group. Large constitutes anything six and over (sometimes five counts). If you haven't made a reservation, you can expect to wait. For a long time. Don't take your rage at not planning ahead out on the sixteen year old hostess who can barely walk in her three inch heels - she doesn't have the pull to fix your problem. Next time plan ahead. If you simply cannot wait, there is a Fatburger across the street.

3. Order off the Menu

There is NOTHING worse than serving a table who wants to custom build their entrees. We have a menu for a reason. They are dishes that have been practiced and perfected by the back of house staff, with ingredients that we ensure are of a certain quality. I'm not talking about a "No tomatos" modification here, I'm talking about the people who come in and ask for green eggs and ham (yes, true story), or request that we whip up some pancakes for them when we only serve french toast, and then proceed to get angry when we cannot meet their requests. Also, if you have more allergies than should be humanly possible, please call ahead to pre-arrange a dish that is suitable for your needs, instead of causing a back log with eight-thousand ingredient questions, while the chef racks his brain for something to serve you that is free of gluten, shellfish, peanuts, eggs, milk, nutmeg, and general flavour of any kind. We do have plenty of cardboard boxes, which are lovely with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

4. Make a list

When you require something extra from your server, politely inquire as to who else at your table may need that item, or something else. Your server should also do this, and when they do - LISTEN! You are NEVER your server's only table, unless you are the first to arrive or the last to leave (which is a whole different story). When you ask for more cream and the server brings it, then Betty asks for more sweetener, when that arrives just as Uncle Oscar remembers he would enjoy a cranberry juice, which is brought when little Suzie wants extra ketchup, etc. etc., You have just used up seven minutes of your server's time. Seven minutes is like half an hour in server time. Have you ever sat at a table for seven minutes without being greeted? Yeah, YOU just caused that. If you don't make a list of your needs, you can expect to wait a while to receive your items while your server follows their list of other priorities.

5. Control your children.

Servers, as a rule, HATE serving kids. Their entrees cost less, they make a big mess, they're loud, and they disturb other guests nearby. I've served some wonderfully well behaved children who have been polite and caused no problems. This was back in the summer of '07 when the sky was blue and...you get my point. Well behaved children are almost an urban myth in a restaurant. There are a few things you can do to minimize the frustration. If your kids are young, be prepared with their order. Don't make your server stand there while you ask "Jason, what do you want?....Jason, mommy is asking you a question....Jason, grilled cheese or chicken fingers?...Jason, I'm going to count to three". I guarantee your server has thought of seventeen ways to kill themselves by now. Don't let your kids run around the restaurant. This is for their own safety. Servers walk FAST and carry HEAVY trays with HOT items. If you let little Emily run around willy nilly, you are almost guaranteeing a hot-coffee-to-the-face incident. None of us want that, despite the looks you may be receiving from other guests. If your child is misbehaving, take them outside. I understand the tactic of ignoring a tantrum, but you are asking everyone within a five table radius to attempt to ignore it as well. Take the child outside, or to the bathroom, and ignore the tantrum there. PLEASE.

And you knew it was coming....

6. Tip Generously

Servers may be getting paid time and a half today (depending on their location and their establishments rules) but even that adds up to a wage that barely rivals what you made your first year of McDonald's management. I've heard all the arguments against tipping. Restaurant owners should pay them more. They won't. They don't work that hard. They do. A monkey could do this job. A normal monkey, perhaps, but if he was restricted to your intellect, definitely not. Why should I have to pay more than my bill? Because, like it or not, tipping is a societal construct of the country in which you live (I'm speaking to YOU North American residents) and you've bought into that construct by continuing to patronize tipping-as-wage-supplement based establishments. If you can't get on board, don't go out. If you can't afford to tip 15-20% eat at a fast food joint, order in, or HEAVEN FORBID, cook at home. Be fair when factoring bad service into a tip. I know when I've screwed up and deserve a bad tip, and I accept my fate. Don't make me pay for the fact that you thought the music was too loud, or we didn't have lasagna on the menu - I can't control those things. I pay my rent based on my tips, and yes, I know I chose this job - but if I didn't, who would serve you prime rib and pour your wine and compliment your toupee?

Think about it. For Me.