10:00 am - I'm here to report for my first day of training as a new server.
(NOT me. You'll have to wait to see me...) IMAGE
Typically, restaurant training as a server is fairly monotonous, and especially so if you've already been a waiter somewhere else.
While I totally understand the need to cover all bases with new hires, at some places, it’s quite ridiculous actually. One place I worked, the training consisted of 5 days of the manger reading the ENTIRE manual aloud to us, before we were ever allowed to wait on a table!
"This is the history of our restaurant... These are the presidents and officers of our corporation... Your uniform consists of the following ten items... Guests must be greeted within 2 minutes of being seated...
“You must offer 2 specific appetizers - by name - before proceeding to the dinner order... Salads MUST be brought half-way through the appetizer...
“Never argue with a guest, but go get a manager immediately if any problems arise... Desert menu must be placed on the table immediately when clearing the last entree ... blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!"
-- complete with written tests on ALL of the above, and so much more.
This place however, is like no other I've ever worked.
This is true in lots of ways, really, but ONE is that we don't hire people who don't already have a lot of serving experience. In fact when I interviewed (and this was music to my ears after being told "Not hiring" so many times after moving to Orlando) the manager literally said to me
"Actually we're not hiring, but I'd be stupid not to hire someone with your experience and personality..."
Wowsers, thanks Luigi (not his real name). Orlando's been tough on the Guyster... I didn't realize just how badly I really needed to hear that, until you said it.
And so THAT's how this place rolls. I did not realize however, WHAT a difference this would make in the training process...
10:03 am - I'm introduced to my trainer, Bo (not his real name either) who's been there several years. Bo looks a little sleepy actually, he's looking around for a coffee cup, and he had not yet been informed that he was being assigned "a trainee" today.
"OH. JOY..." oozes out of his eyeballs as he sizes me up. (I've trained before, many times. We all hate it. I understand that he's less than glad to meet me at the moment. Really, I do. No offense taken.) The bad news wears off and he says "Okay, well..." and points, telling me to "Set up the beverage station while I ..."
Wait a minute. Did he not hear me right? I politely squeak out that this is my *first* day here .. thinking that maybe he needs to show me some stuff (!) rather than just telling me to start setting up a kitchen I've just walked into for the first time - while he goes and drinks coffee and works on whatever? Hellll-oohh??
And then I get the wake-up call. He looks at me completely non-plussed, and says one of the best "lines" I've ever heard in over twenty years of restaurant work :
"You would not have been hired here, if you did not already know how to set up a beverage station."
Light-bulb. I'm starting to get this place now.
I answer him mostly confidently, with maybe just a slight question mark in my voice .... "Make coffee and tea, fill up the ice bin, put the soda machine together annnd .. cut lemons?"
"And oranges..." he replies. "We also serve a flavored tea that gets an orange."
And so with that little reality check out of the way, Bo begins showing me around the place, for realz.
Just now with the understanding that he will not be holding my hand through the experience!
Bo's gay by the way, and doesn't mind me saying so here. It doesn't take long to figure out anyways. He's not a flamer tho, more of a manly macho type that doesn't have many gay friends (he's since told me) and the ladies are quite crazy about him, I notice .. I only even mention it to ask you now to re-read what I said above, but now add just a touch of fag to the voice, and especially the inflection ...
"He looks at me completely non-plussed, and says "You would not have been hired here, if you did not already know how to set up a beverage station.""
Makes a little difference in the telling, huh?
So anyways, NOT holding my hand through the process, like I said. Later that evening (yes, a double shift - that's training in our biz!) he has me splitting a table of 17 with him (and by "splitting" I mean I do half the work, he keeps all the tip money - that also "the norm" in our business; that's just how it works. He's "in the weeds" (our lingo for *extremely busy* and tells me to take food and drink orders, and ring them into the computer - before I've even been tested on the menu! (That's a week away still.)
I'm thinking "Okayy... I just hope they don't have any questions..."
They don't. They hardly speak English in fact, so it was cool. And it's not like Bo wasn't there with me the whole time, either.
The point is, sometimes in the restaurant industry, you kind of get "just thrown in" and are expected to start swimming. Or not. It's not ideal, nor what the corporation would strive for, but hey, management "sat him heavy" knowing he had help. In this moment, Bo the trainer/lifeguard is apparently there more for the customers' sake, than he is for mine. If I sink, his job is to rescue the customers from the clueless trainee.
But I passed overall, and will get to come back tomorrow.
The whole vibe of this place is very affirming however. I'm treated like an adult and a professional, with some trust that I'm either experienced enough to already know the right thing to do, or smart enough to ask the right questions.
The clear message conveyed (unique to this place alone, in all my years...) is that I've "already proven myself" to the staff and management or I wouldn't have been hired in the first place.
The trick from here is not to blow it.
Professionalism clearly abounds (down to sweeping bread crumbs off the tables, and neatly re-folding guests' napkins if they leave the table for any reason) but they're not interested in micro-managing or nit-picking my every move, either, which is quite refreshing.
I've worked for large corporations, yes (Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden, The Melting Pot, and of course Cattle Baron for 11 years - and this IS a huge corporation btw) ; but after this first day of training I actually came home and told my wife (The Doxy Lady, for our purposes here...)
"Man, I need to RELAX! I am way too uptight for this place!"
It's Paradise really, compared to every other place I've ever worked. IMAGE
I'm going to like it here.
Guy's Work Blog : Chapter 1 "Training Day"
Stories about restaurant life, from my current & past waiter/bartender jobs. WHAT THIS ISN'T: I'm not here to complain about my guests, job, co-workers or tips. I'm not mentioning names, except positively. I have around 25 years "in the biz," some fun stories to tell, and at times some pretty unique life lessons to impart. Hopefully, I'm both informing and entertaining you as I go.
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