Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Soup for You!

     The Restaurant tends to operate more like a Mom and Pop establishment unlike large corporate restaurant chains, who tend to have Big Brother watching over them via the upper management goombahs. We don’t have soup everyday of the year.
     “I’m sorry miss but we stop making soup when the temperature reaches oh… say, fucking hot as shit outside. A HOT tea instead? Not a problem.” Some people are astounded to learn that they are the only individual to have requested soup that afternoon or day or even week. It hot outside, so no soup for you!   
     We are not always properly staffed, which tends to keep things interesting and a bit hectic. Some mornings, meaning lunchtime, we may have our delivery driver out running catering orders to our drug reps at doctors’ offices while other catering orders are causing the phones to ring off the hook.  So our front of house owner is now running around like a mad man throwing food into containers, containers into bags, bags into boxes, boxes into the trunk of his car, cigarette into mouth and keys into ignition and all over again. My brother, chef and crazy “high energy” owner’s business partner, just coordinates getting everything cooked and out of the kitchen. Cool and calm with a little sweat on his brow.
     Other evenings, we may be a server short in the dining room which means those of us working split up the unmanned section. If we fill to capacity you will certainly see us all speed walking with our hands full, all while smiling like idiots. All the servers can handle these crazy busy situations; we just might need a few favors from the owners and busboys, “Hey can you please run food for 12 if it’s up?” We make more money and the restaurant feels higher energy, which I believe many of our customers enjoy. It's that busy restaurant atmosphere that gives our customers that reassurance that they are having diner in the right place that evening.   
     Because we are a smaller, busy restaurant we don’t over order anything for freshness’ sake, so we are sometimes out of certain items. This seems to happen more often than not on Sunday evenings because Sunday morning is the only day of the week we don’t have our delivery drivers sneaking through the back door. We might have to send a hostess or busboy running down the street to the grocery store for a few bags of spinach or lemons. But when it comes to something like veal, crabmeat, shrimp or mussels it makes very little business sense, financially speaking, to spend more money on food that ends up being of less quality than what we source from our food purveyors.
     Late one Sunday evening, after all of the other servers had left for the night and close to closing time, I had a deuce, a table of two, drag themselves through the door. I was a little irritated by having one last table come in so late, as anyone would be; having grown excited to get home after having a long and busy day myself. I didn’t recognize the tired looking couple who had the late night dining room to themselves, because it turns out they had just finished moving into their new home not far from the restaurant.
     After introducing myself to them and sharing their exhausted excitement I offered a few minutes for them to decide on dinner. That wasn’t necessary because the house they just sold was minutes from one of our other locations. Okay, cool, so the girl is really excited to enjoy a nice, big bowl of steaming and brothy mussels with a side of asparagus. In fact, that is all that she’s been looking forward to all day while hauling boxes and dragging heavy furniture up and out, through and back down. She thanks me, having mustered a smile up happy that I would soon be bringing her mussels. And the guy was just excited to have a pizza. I put in the order, only to discover 5 minutes after taking them a couple of side salads that first of all no one in the back had seen the ticket rung in and it had yet to be started. But the kitchen had also so conveniently forgotten to mention earlier in the evening that we had run out of BOTH mussels and asparagus. Fuck me! So, I shove the heavy wooden kitchen doors open and trudge slowly back to the only table sitting in the restaurant at the moment with a lump in my throat, dreading a swift blow to my short, black bistro apron, and revisiting all of the reasons why I enjoy my job so much.
     The young lady gave in to her drained disappointment and her forehead hit the table. Her husband looked at me as if I had just told her that her mom was going to die. I brought a new menu, apologizing again with regret and walked away to allow her time to mourn. I was first of all furious that this was happening at such an hour, as I could have been able to climb into my Jeep on my way home had this table not come in, and second the boys in the kitchen had decided that it was okay to leave the kitchen before 10:00pm. But not telling me “86 conchas negras y asparago” whenever they realized we were out of the damn mussels and asparagus just pissed me off. Yes, it was inevitable that this girl would still come in expecting it, but at least I could have diverted a total disaster.
     After a bit of reassurance that we don’t always suck so badly, the lady decided she would share her husband’s pizza and ordered a soda to keep her going, both of which were on the house, obviously. We see the couple regularly these days and I can always share a little smile and nod with them about the day they moved into the neighborhood.
          What related stories do you have about disappointed diners?


  1. It was so nice of you to graciously wait on them so late in the evening and make such a nice apology after what was, evidently, a very long day that they wanted to celebrate.

    Too bad the kitchen didn't cooperate and let you know they were out of what she desired - SO late in the night, the kitchen must have run out moments before and that is so awful that you didn't know. Wow! The communication.

    You really went above and beyond and I am sure they appreciated it. It is so thrilling to move into a new home - and I bet you made their night extra special.

  2. You definitely did the right thing as far as your late table was concerned. One of the hardest things to do after a long day is treat a late walk in as graciously as you would have any of your earlier tables.

    It drives me nuts when the kitchen 'stops working' right at the end of the shift. I'm sorry but if you work behind the line your eyes should be as trained to spot a new ticket in the window as a sniper's eyes are trained to see someone's head popping out of the bushes at 900 yards. That whole, "Oh there's an order? I didn't see it." does not fly with me. A server doesn't walk into an empty dining room and not notice the lone, new, table that just sat down.