Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Keeping My Day Job

My parents have a restaurant – it has been an ‘establishment’ in the neighborhood it’s in for over thirty years. It started as a restaurant and lounge, and through various renovations and changes in smoking laws, has finally transformed to a full bar. There are pool tables, dart boards, gambling terminals, and big screen TVs. Imagine your local neighborhood pub, now replace their crappy food with the best pizza you’ve ever had, and that’s what our restaurant is like.

My sisters and I basically grew up in that restaurant where we would answer phones, wash dishes, do any kind of food prep, bus tables and when we got older, actually be responsible to ‘manage’ the restaurant when we either opened or closed on weekends, giving our parents some much needed time off.

What we have never done though, is actually wait tables. I don’t know for sure but I imagine my parents’ motivation from keeping us from being actual servers was threefold. The first reason was that school and university were always the number one priority, and if we worked at the restaurant, we’d need to work late nights and wouldn’t be able to manage both. The second, reason was that none of us could hold a tray to save our lives, and would in reality be horrible servers. And finally, the most important reason we were never waitresses: if we started waiting tables, we would likely never stop because we’d be millionaires, and would never get a ‘real’ job!

This is something I always believed to be true, and now I know for sure.

Oh my God! Never feel sorry for the waitress who’s fifty and still working at the diner – she’s loaded! I understand there is a tradeoff – crappy hours, hard job physically, no benefits, etc. BUT! The tips – oh, the glorious tips! I discovered the money train that is the service industry when our bar tender quit because they were making the jump from bar tender to project manager at an oil firm. Which I've learned is code for, 'I have a drug problem and need to leave the city'. Because we were short staffed, I stepped into the role of bartender. I had done it numerous times before assisting the main bartender, but I’d never actually worked a shift on my own. Now I love it – I work on the slow nights – Mondays and Wednesdays, and my parents were right, if I had been doing this from the time I was in university, I’d never get a real job - the money even on the slow nights I work, is amazing - and I'm just the bartender. We have a waitress who actually went to school to become a teacher, but she has since left her day job and waitresses pretty much full time – I understand her motivation. Before there was judgment, now I’m in awe.

I worked again last night and that’s when it happened. The underbelly of bartending reared its ugly head. Somebody ‘walked out’ on me. Nooooooo! A regular came in and had a ‘date’ (and I use the term loosely) with him. He was ordering drinks, appetizers, food, he was having a great time at the bar. Then his bill comes and his credit card DECLINED, debit card DECLINED. I was so annoyed. He assured me he would be back to pay for his outstanding bill ($50.00), and I know that he’s good for it – he’s there every day practically, but the devastation of having to cover that bill to my own restaurant, was a weird feeling I’ll admit. So yes, although the money is good, you have to actually ensure that people can afford to pay their bill at the end of the night, otherwise you as their server are on the hook for it. Which brings me to my next question: why would anyone want to be a waitress?


PS - I made the creme brulee. Pictures and blog post to follow this week!

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