The Server’s Dilemma

Brian Cook | IF YOU DON’T KNOW | Web

Half the guests for your friend’s 12-person birthday party are over 30 minutes late. You’re sweating. The other half is only drinking water. You order a second double and an appy. It’s 6 o’clock and your date doesn’t like the table you’ve been given. You’d rather die than ask to be moved. Your entrée came out cold. You’re overly understanding. The restaurant is swamped and they forgot to ring in your order. You tip 25%.

You are Industry People.

While these scenarios might be cringe worthy for the common patron, they cut like a steak knife for those of us in the industry. We don’t FEEL the same way non-industry people feel about dining. We know too much.

Imagine David Copperfield going to a magic show. He’d know how the tricks work, and if he didn’t he’d be trying to figure them out instead of enjoying the experience. I can picture him, standing at the back all in black with his beautifully coifed hair, palms sweating, knowing which part is going to be difficult for the young performer. That’s me when I see a server clearing my table, and almost dropping a dirty plate on my date. I fall silent, and my heart pounds – I want to help.

There is something about seeing behind the curtain that has ruined the dining experience for me entirely. I no longer have the luxury of feeling entitled to great service. I don’t get the satisfaction of complaining about poor service. Instead, I have empathy. When my server is running around, clearly in the weeds, I don’t feel like another drink – I want to pick up a table for them.

Sometimes, in desperate attempt to comfort a server in distress, I drop the, “Don’t worry, I’m a server too…” line. Is that embarrassing for them? Is the expectation higher now? Have I made it worse? The real questions is, why am I distracted by how this person feels at this moment? They are the ones doing a terrible job.

The worst part is always tipping. I find it impossible to tip less than 15%, even for abysmal service, which leaves me with an acute case of diner’s remorse. If, during the course of the meal, I mention that I’m a server, I’m guaranteed to throw down a minimum 20% tip.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received my fair share of incredible service and delicious meals. In these instances, I still find myself distracted with thoughts resembling, “I wonder who their produce supplier is… GFS?”; “How big are these sections?”; “Is my server going to do quality check on the temperature for me?”. I simply cannot go out and enjoy a good meal without overthinking the entire process from my server’s well-being to the chef’s personal hygiene.

In truth, it doesn’t matter where the red peppers came from, and the steak is cooked perfectly. I’m not David Copperfield, and that drowning server isn’t going to let me pick up that table. I know all of that. But my mind wanders, my emotions follow, and my enjoyment of the dining experience wanes.

There must be a part of you that is expecting me to provide some kind of solution to this problem. Some new mantra you can repeat to yourself the next time you find yourself incapable of allowing yourself to simply enjoy being a customer. Well…I don’t. My only advice is to find somewhere you like and become a regular, or get good at cooking at home and tip yourself well. You deserve it.

 

The Transition

Stirling Griffiths | WHAT’S NEXT? | Web

I have always been enamoured by the food and beverage industry.

Sitting in the middle of a restaurant, hearing the plates being stacked, smelling table 40’s grilled prawns, taking the first sip of a freshly opened bottle of wine.

Each time I enter a restaurant I feel like I am home. There is a comfort level, an understanding, a longing to be a part of what’s happening all around me.

From the day I began bussing tables in a small brewpub in North Vancouver 12 years ago, I knew my life would somehow revolve around the food and beverage industry. To this day I have never felt my job…is a job. I often I have to stop and think to myself…wow I am getting paid for this? I have worked in five star Hotels and small family-owned restaurants. Each place has grown me in a different and positive way.

Once I finished my business management degree at BCIT, I realized that there has to be a way to combine this incredibly exciting world of restaurants and bars into a focused career with longevity and most importantly, equity. As a very close friend and highly respected industry professional said to me one time, “sweat equity only gets you so far.”

Luckily for me, after searching for many years the perfect opportunity dropped right on my plate, pun intended. A small passenger vessel came for sale in Harrison Hot Springs, BC. My father-in-law had been working for a helicopter logging company was also searching for an opportunity to invest. The boat had a been touring passengers around the Harrison Hot Springs Lake and tributaries since 2003, and had positive revenues showing for the previous 5 years. There was a large BBQ, good-sized kitchen, and the ability to host groups up to 36 guests. The creative juices began to follow from my head, Afternoon tea and Champagne receptions on private boat-access-only beaches, intimate weddings.

After an in depth investigation into the financials, a feasibility study, and most importantly, approval from my loving wife, we decided to move forward. Now moving into our second year of operations, we have a liquor license, a restaurant, and a small team of full time staff.

Without all of my hospitality experience I don’t think I would have been ready for this venture. Certain tasks such as hiring staff, creating training manuals, or building menus could have never been taught in a classroom. The service industry needs to be learned on the job, through hours of dedication, mistakes, wins, and dealing with guests from all walks of life.

If you have a genuine love for the F&B industry I encourage you to stick with it. The late nights, intense working environment, and difficult customers will make you stronger and appreciate the other side of the table even more. Learn from the people around you, absorb as much information as possible, and continue to build your menu of skills.

Stirling Griffiths
Director of Sales and Marketing
Shoreline Tours
http://shorelinetours.ca/

 

 

WHAT’S NEXT? Fermentation

With corporate restaurant group expansion on the rise what can independent restaurants do for their menus to differentiate from the pack. From this chef’s perspective, it can boil down to one word: Fermentation. Traditionally we see fine dining restaurants lead the way with menu trends and development and those trends years later are refined and edited to what is accessible and more easily recreated. Fermented foods have been highly popularized by such restaurants as Faviken and Noma and are now becoming a trendy restaurant go to.

Why ferment? Fermentation gives us some of our most craved and desirable foods. What would life be like without bread, beer, wine and cheese? Fermentation also allows us to take the best of the seasons and transform them to not only preserve for use later in the year, but also enables chefs to concentrate and manipulate the flavours into more enhanced versions of themselves and still keep a crisp toothsome texture. As todays population chooses to eat out more and more, you can also feel confident that with fermented foods you are supplying healthier items typically rich in probiotics, with vitamins and nutrients still in tact.

Fermenting does have its risks and downsides, which is why you wont see a lot of “big box” restaurants approaching the subject. Consistency can vary from batch to batch, spoilage can occur, and small amounts of alcohol are a by product of fermenting. A lot of ferments can also take a long time to pull out the sour flavour you desire, such as kimchi or sauerkraut. So planning menu items around fermented foods can be very tricky, you must have the ability to adapt and change your menu. But with risk comes rewards, longer shelf life, big flavour, and acidity which is crucial to balancing the impact of a complete dish.

The beauty of exploring this preservation method is that there are endless possibilities and outcomes. There are also quick ferments and long ferments. To start off easy, try fermenting jalapeno slices with just salt, lime juice and lime zest, after 7-10 days you end up with a floral spice that kisses you on the lips, then smacks you in the face. Cherry tomatoes can take a bath in a salt brine with fresh rosemary for 3 days and transform into a slightly carbonated zingy tomato perfectly paired with rack of lamb. Fresh milk transforms into kefir when treated with a culture and left for a day, which can then be strained and used as a sort of fresh cheese or labneh (strained salted yogurt). Bartenders can benefit from a hit of acidity by making their own fermented tea called Kombucha. Many popular restaurants are already exploring with this flavourful addition in cocktails.

When your restaurant can engage your front and back of house staff with fresh products transformed through carefully controlled yet simple methods and end up with amazing stories and flavours it’s a win for everyone, particularly the customers. Fermentation is nothing new, but as modern techniques and equipment take hold, it’s refreshing to have old school methods like fermented beet kraut also share the plate with sous vide this, compressed that, and fluid gel dots on the side.

Lime Fermented Jalapeños

INGREDIENTS
100 grams Jalapeños thinly sliced into coins
1 Lime – Zested and Juiced
2 grams Kosher Salt *2% Salt by weight of jalapeños

PREPARATION
1. Toss jalapeño, salt, zest and juice together.
2. Place jalapeño mixture into a clean mason jar, press it down and add a ziplock sandwich bag with about ½ a cup of water on top to add weight to submerge the jalapeños as they release their juices. Place a lid on the jar and allow to ferment at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 7-10 days. Make sure to open the container at least every 2 days to allow the built up gasses to escape.
3. After room temp fermentation, place the jalapeños into the fridge where they will keep for at least 2 weeks.

The Perfect Customer

Jordan West | A Pinch Of Salt | Web

As I sit here, wiping the hangover sweat from my forehead, swilling cheap white wine in a dark bar on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I realize that the only thing that separates me from the middle-aged neighbourhood hooker at the other end of the bar is fresh underwear and the overall understanding that only one of us is going to tip the bartender. I glance down at the bill that’s been slapped on the bar next to my computer by the surly day guy. He’s just wrapping up his shift and because he can sense that I work in the industry, he didn’t even bother to ask if I would be willing settle my tab. It’s an unwritten, silent agreement between all of us to never ever, no matter the state of intoxication, be THOSE people. We look after one another. That’s our pledge.

I watch the “entrepreneur” across from me dig through her purse for change as I contemplate what to tip on my $37 wine bill. This guy was a real prick. Our encounter began with him rolling his eyes when I ordered wine as if he doesn’t realize I’m on a seriously important diet, he then forgot about me for twenty minutes as I sat on empty and when he finally chose to acknowledge my alcoholism, he spilled wine all over my phone. So lets see here, I guess this guy deserves… 35%. I slap a fifty on top of the bill as I watch him flirt with the prostie who’s left exact change before she scurries off to her next blow jay.

The bartender nonchalantly shuffles toward me and reaches for my fifty without even pretending to care as I chime, “No change!” with overconfidence.

I look up in an attempt to meet his disdainful stare into outer space as he forces the ugliest and most confusing smile I’ve ever had the misfortune of receiving. “Thanks,” he fails.

No problem, Dahmer.

Why do we do this? I just had the worst service I’ve received since a stripper in Nashville left her socks on during my lap dance, and because of some internal server guilt, I tipped this bastard nearly half the tab. Fifteen percent would have been generous. But that’s just not how we were brought up (by the bitchy, pregnant senior server at White Spot). I honestly wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I only tipped someone fifteen percent. And that’s our plague.

Servers and bartenders feel this uncompromisable obligation to be professional customers at all costs. We will refuse to send food back, there could be a severed toe in my chowder and I’d rather choke on it than complain to my waiter. We would rather eat our spaghetti with our hands than ask for a replacement fork for the one that fell onto the floor. We would rather sit quietly and wait twenty minutes for our wine to be topped off than interrupt our bartender’s awkward attempt to get laid by a professional… because that’s just who we are. That’s who we’ve signed up to be­– the light at the end of that dimly lit, arthritic tunnel that smells like decaying rat carcass. We’re the saviours who will calmly put up with shit-bag attitudes and then tip beyond our means, because we know what it’s like to be in their shoes. We’re fucking angels– drunk, empathetic angels– and as I swallow back my fifth glass of wine, I realize that this article has absolutely no point. I have no advice on how to stop being so wonderful and even if I did, I’d be an asshole with a target on my back.

We’re like small-scale stockbrokers, when we’re up, we share the wealth… when we ‘re down, we can keep calm because we know it’s eventually going to come back around.

Keep fighting the good fight, compadres.

The Ultimate Peeled Path

David Lynch | NOW WHERE? | Issue 4 Peeled Cocktail Festival Path

Now that the Peeled Cocktail Festival is here there is no much to do but so little time. Peeled founder, David Lynch takes us through a perfect path to really put the Peeled Passport to work.

Native Tongues – Dylan, the Bar manager will treat you to Lot’s 40 100% Rye “the Long Drive”. Dylan has been the new Bar Manager for 6 months and plays a large part in supporting Peeled and it’s endeavours. This guys knows what it means to build a community.
Proof YYC – Make your way around the corner to Proof, voted many times, the Best Cocktail Bar in Calgary, where Jeff Savage, voted best Bartender and in our eyes, one of the best hosts will invite you to the Beefeater “Landed Gentry”.

Ox de Tapas – Move onto Ox de Tapas for a Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned, simple but in the eyes of Jason Wankel, it’s an important staple for any cocktail-savvy drinker.
Ricardos Hideaway – Afterwards, jump on over to Ricardo’s for a Mount Gay Pineapple Daiquiri. Roman, the head Bartender prides himself on being the top Tiki Bar of Calgary.  With delicious bar snack and lively patio, this is must for all lists.
The Bank & Baron –  Home to Peeled, it is there you will find the Grand Event activities and more. Pop down for Craigs’ Dictator “Baron Smoke”
The Derrick Gin Mill  Just around the corner and home to some of the largest Gin Collections in Alberta. Serving Park Distilleries finest Gin, Shelby will delight you in “The Roughneck”
Milk Tiger – Famous for reinventing the cocktail scene in Calgary taking it away from larger hotels and more established restaurants, they quietly set themselves up on 4th Street to serve great cocktail to everyone. Jordan Whiltshire’s Patron Shaft Tomb is an absolute beaut!
Raw Bar – Franz Swinton at Raw Bar is one of Calgary’s most renowned names to be behind the Stick. Pop in and see what Flor de Caña and himself have been up to…
Last Best – No honour Among thieves they say, or at least Ray burton says at one of Calgary’s most celebrated breweries and distilleries, Last Best. Need I say more?
Model Citizen –  a hidden gem sits atop it’s sister Milk Tiger. If you haven’t been here, you are missing out. Dustin, the Bar Manager will delight you in a Michters  122 shillings.
Klein & Harris – The new kid on the block but not the owners. Rebekah Gotzke is a household name around Calgary. Creative, Inventive, her Summer Creamsicle Mimosa with Cointreau is not one to miss.
One18Empire – Finally, settle on that night cap at this gem. Put your feet up in their whiskey lounge and enjoy Canadian club Chairmans select in David Borsato’s Chairman of the barrel.
FIN – Call a cab GO HOME>

Your Favourite: Tabatha Stahl

Tabatha Stahl | YOUR FAVOURITE COOK’S FAVOURITES | Web

  1. What are three things that you run on?

Coffee
Chocolate
Pizza

  1. How would you describe a cook’s lifestyle?

Busy but Fun. You must be passionate about what you do and love who you work with as you will see them more than your family.

  1. Who’s your favourite person in your kitchen and why?

My whole team, I have hand selected the staff so they must be great! Our owners are great and they keep me focused and motivated.

  1. What’s the dirtiest joke you’ve ever heard?

Ok, so how about this:
Q: What is it like when grandpa eats-out grandma?
A: Have you ever tried to pull apart a grilled cheese?

  1. After Chef calls out the order, how does the line respond where you work?

Repeats the order or Yes Chef

  1. What’s a usual staff meal for you?

BYO Salad with Smoked Beef Brisket or Pork Sandwich Add Avocado.

  1. If your team had to sum you up in 3 words/small phrases, what would they be?

Crazy, Fun and Energetic

  1. What’s something you wish servers understood about BOH?

Our team works as one. But most kitchens they act as separate entities and that is why they have so many staff issues. For me, it’s important that each team member works both sides FOH and BOH so they respect each other.

  1. What’s something that you could cook blindfolded?

Fettuccini Alfredo, Pancakes, Cookies.

  1. What’s the worst injury you ever got on the job? Tell us about it.

Burnt my entire hand with hot grease, searing short ribs. My lovely dishwasher took over and got me an ice pac. So sweet!

  1. How do you feel about popular chef culture?

Not sure, I don’t really follow. Anthony Bourdain and Thomas Keller and the two chefs that I follow. I like that we have more exposure now to cooking and the younger generations are learning about food and nutrition. It’s so essential and it was lost for some time. Not everyone had an amazing grandmother that taught them how to can, bake, butcher, grow and sew.

  1. Would you ever compete in a cooking show? Why/why not?

Maybe, I used to be shy. Now I am the face of our company and I love to be on TV.

  1. What’s your favourite style of cooking to eat? To cook? Why?

All ethnic foods are amazing. I love new flavours and textures. I am still finding my favourite.

  1. How many hours do you work per week?

60-90, dependent on what is going on.

  1. What’s your favourite part of a shift?

Break, food!

  1. Where do you spend most of your paycheck?

Food and Beverages.

  1. What’s your favourite brand/style of knife?

I love my Mac knife, it’s a 6-inch utility, light weight, low maintenance and durable.

  1. What’s your favourite post-shift cocktail?

Bourbon Sour

  1. Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

Bike Ride, Hiking, Swimming, Camping, Drinking, Eating, Friends and Family Time.

  1. Would you rather: Dice 1000 onions in an airtight room or cook for a party of 60, a la carte, where every guest has a different food allergy and the new server is taking the order?

60 a la carte party with new server and food allergies galore for sure, I enjoy a challenge.

A Special Place In Hell Story: DJ Physik

DJ Physik | A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL | Web

There is a special place in hell for

…self entitled millennial clubgoers and their antics surrounding their cell phones in nightclubs.

From jamming their brightly lit screen into our faces as we’re mixing, only to request the most popular song of the moment that we’re guaranteed to play anyways.  To trying to hand us their aux cords to play some terrible quality trap remix that their friend’s brother made using VirtualDJ.  To asking if our DJ booth has a charging station.  To pushing us out of the way so they can get the perfect Snapchat for their 17 followers from behind the turntables.  We’ve seen it all before, and our thick rhino-like skin helps deflect the majority of it.

For the most part us DJs love our jobs. We love music, and get paid to play it.  However, we’ve all had those moments where we encounter a partygoer that makes us rethink every decision that has lead us to this moment in time.

One of my most recent experiences was all of these things rolled up into a shitty-person tortilla, and then deep fried for extra crispiness.

I found a phone in the club, and knowing how much trauma losing a phone can cause I always try to return them to their rightful owners.  I’ve searched people on Facebook before and found them, answered calls from drunken owners and drove to them at 4am to deliver them, etc.  It’s a good feeling to help people out and make them happy, and sometimes you even get a tip.

So I was preparing my set, about to go on and DJ in about 5 mins, the phone starts ringing…I run over to a side area by the washrooms where I can hear and answer it.

Girl: hey, do you have my friends phone?

Me: Yes, I’m the DJ. Come get it from the DJ booth. I’m in a red shirt

Girl: Wait, wait. Don’t hang up *mumbling in background* Hey, actually just come to coat check, we’re here

* coat check is in a completely other part of the club.

Me: I’m about to go on now and DJ. Come to the booth.

Girl: No. Just come to coat check.

Me:  Sorry. I can’t. You’ll have to come here.

Girl: No no.  Just come…

Me: *click*

Phone rings 14x while I’m DJing, I ignore it.  They start texting the phone “come to coat check”.  I text them back from my phone (I’m not sure why) “im djing now. Come to the booth”

Now there’s ID, cash, and credit cards in the phone case.  So you think they’d be a bit more proactive.

Finally, a group of girls march up to the booth like they were on a witch hunt, and demanded their phone from the other DJ.  I see what’s happening and hand the girl her phone.  She didn’t even look me in the eye, let alone give thanks.  She proceeded to check her messages, skim over her social media, turn around and disappear into the dance floor.  Some people’s children.

*feature Image courtesy of DJ Physik

Sexual Harassment In This Industry

Colleen Christison | IF YOU DON’T KNOW… | Web

Life as a Service Industry Employee Should Not Mean a Lack of Human Rights: The Customer is Not Always Right

It was 2:30am on a Friday, the last homeward stretch for club staff, I was wiping down tables and fantasizing about my bed. A young man walks up to me, gets down on one knee and looks up imploringly. I play along, as is my role as a server, reaching out my hand to accept the fake proposal – every girl’s dream, right? Abruptly, he flips my skirt up and makes eye contact with my panties.

It’s an open secret that sexual harassment is rampant within the hospitality industry. Sexual innuendo, touching, and inappropriate jokes are steeped within restaurant culture, often it’s a good-natured, mutually respectful exchange between co-workers. Occasionally we have a rapport between guests as well since much of our job depends on friendly human interaction. That being said, when your salary is largely paid by the consumer and we live and work in a world that incessantly repeats the mantra “The Customer is Always Right,” we become vulnerable. We make allowances for shit behaviour from people because making our rent depends on a 20% tip average. I’m here to tell you something we all already know, the customer is not always right. I wish I could say there is no amount of tips that are worth the autonomy of your body or your soul but, as you already know, it’s a little more complicated than that.

In its very nature, the service industry is guilty for abetting sexual harassment. We work closely with the guests, our job is to satisfy and exceed customer expectations all the while plying them with liquor. Now, “customer expectations” is an arbitrary term, and terms without clear definition can be dangerous. For example, when the guests expect that it’s alright to slap a servers ass because they’ve been encouraged to believe that “the customer is always right” we can see the direct, negative impacts. Our self-worth is undermined, and the implication that the customer is always right results in us, inadvertently, being wrong.

While actions as aggressively sexual as ass-slapping are (I hope) a rarity for most hospitality establishments, there are many subtle ways of tiptoeing up to that line. Relentlessly hitting on your server, staring at your server in an unwanted, sexual manner, grabbing their hands, touching their waists, telling them how hot you think they are.. I could go on. Experiencing harassment as a hospitality employee appears to be accepted as par for the course. Often it’s us ladies who have to develop a thick skin but, before we cry gendered harassment, let’s take a minute to sit on a Rodney’s bar and watch the cougars circle.

The reliance on tips to pay the majority of our wage can result in a “how much are you worth” mentality, it forces you to reconsider your personal boundaries of comfort and when you make allowances, your self worth is damaged in the process. The onus is currently on us to reexamine our levels of tolerance, which normalizes the harassment and takes the blame away from the perpetrator. The blame is then placed on the victim for feeling uncomfortable. Our tolerance level for ourselves and our co-workers regarding harassment should be zero. That goes for the bosses too, if someone’s being a creep we have to know that our manager will go to bat for us.

Life as a Service Industry Employee Should Not Mean a Lack of Human Rights: Sexual Harassment Within the Ranks

While it’s easy to vilify the customer as the common enemy, it’s much harder to pin down harassment from within our own ranks. Most, if not all, of the places I have worked have run on a survivor-like dynamic. The bar is an island, if you’re not working well with the team then you’re voted off. In some ways, this we-are-our-own-HR-dept has worked; we have each others backs against creepy, grabby customers and will apologize when we know we’ve crossed a line of some kind. We look out for each other when we’re late and we cover each other’s shifts when we’re sick. But, what happens when it fails?

Without an HR department someone can’t always be protected, victims and perpetrators alike. Perhaps if there were consistently upheld rules in place, lines wouldn’t be crossed and a poorly received, well intended joke wouldn’t cost you your job. I understand that having these rules in place would change the lighthearted dynamic that we often work in, but we need to seriously consider if it’s worth it not to. Do we continue to treat the hospitality industry as somehow exempt from the labour laws afforded to every other worker in Canada? What message does this send to industry workers?

The facts and stats are there. Tipped workers have a sexualized work environment and experience sexual harassment at higher rates than non-tipped workers. In The Glass Floor, a recent study done by The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, over 50% of women restaurant workers have stated that depending on tips has “led [them] to accept inappropriate behaviours that made [them] nervous or uncomfortable” (7). If you have a staff of ten women, five of them have reported compromising their internal morality so that their wages don’t suffer. Men are included in the report, although at a lesser rate than their female counterparts.

So, ladies, gents and everyone that falls in between or outside of traditional genders, you do not have to deal with anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Social change starts with us at the ground level; the less tolerance we have for shitty customers is going to help not only yourself, but our entire industry. We have to start enforcing human rights on a basic level, whether it’s telling a customer to get the fuck out of a bar when they’re harassing your coworker, letting your colleague know when they cross a line (that takes courage – you have to work with these people) or, as a manager or employer having a zero tolerance policy in place and a safe, confidential form of communicating with your employees. While I don’t have all the answers, I know one thing for sure: we’ve got to look out for each other. That’s what family is for, right?

*The Restaurant Opportunities Center United, et al. “The Glass Floor, Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry” 7 Oct, 2014.

Colleen Christison Byline Image