Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Art of the Auto-Grat

You know this already, but there's a thing in the business called an auto-gratuity, a restaurant policy that says if you have a party of six (sometimes eight) or more, an automatic gratuity of 18% of the bill will be included in the final total. It's printed on the menu of any restaurant that enforces this policy.

It's necessary because large parties occupy a waiter's time, and, as in almost any other business, time is money. In fine dining, when you are part of a six-top or more, you're likely the only customers a waiter attends to from the time you arrive until the time you leave. The automatic gratuity ensures that the waiter will be compensated fairly for dedicating their service to your party. The busser and bartender share in this gratuity; it's a team effort for certain. If you're especially pleased with your service, if you really believe it was over-the-top, there's even a line on the final check that allows you to add onto the 18% gratuity.

To be honest, few hosts add to the 18% gratuity; it's appreciated, even celebrated, but not at all expected. However, it would be shocking if someone actually subtracted.

So, it was shocking and insulting to the entire front-of-house staff when a party decided to strike through the auto-gratuity line on a sizeable check Saturday night, adjusting the auto-gratuity down, bringing it to 15%. Their waiter was delightful and attentive, and was hurt by the crossed-out and clumsy notation, so of course she shared her copy with the entire front-of-house staff, as we gasped in sympathy.

Why would a customer feel that they have the option to adjust the price of the service they have received? This patron never approached a manager (or a bartender, they usually come to us first looking for a manager; it's how we end up so in on all the dish) to complain about the quality of the meal, service or experience. With his pen, he changed the amount and final price of his evening, because he thought he could, and why not, I guess. It's the first time I've seen it, and it's one of the most arrogant things I've ever experienced in a dining room.

If a customer can change the posted menu price of the service he received, what's to stop him from changing the price of the Veal Picatta to something more within his budget and preference? When did the American restaurant become a haggling bazaar?

On an unrelated note, this song has been in my head all evening, probably because one of our hostesses was humming it throughout dinner. I'd like to thank her for planting it in my head.

Kathy, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

- Simon and Garfunkel, "America"

Friday, November 24, 2006

Joyful and Triumphant

I'm not sure what it is about the holidays that gets me down so much. While everyone else seems to flit around, joyfully shopping, planning parties and mirth, I just sulk and pray for New Year's Eve to come quickly.

It's probably because I'm in an industry where we actually have to work on the holidays, and help support the entire season of holiday merriment. We're part of your merry-making; in fact, we manufacture your merry. I'm not bitching... actually, I am bitching, and I'm jealous. I'm certain people that aren't in the bar/restaurant/entertainment industry get a bigger kick out of the holidays than we do. And I can't even begin to feel the pain of my brethren in the retail business; just thinking about them getting up at 4:30 am to greet the rush of holiday shoppers the day after Thanksgiving fills my heart with sorrow. Best of luck to you all... hopefully nobody gets shot.

This time of year always makes me think of the night before Thanksgiving when a thoroughly wasted woman threw her drink at me when I refused to serve her again. Isn't that funny... she had at least three more sips in that glass before she chose to discard it onto my face. Merry Christmas!!!

Happy Holidays. Be mindful of each other, and gentle. And tip well, even when we're cranky. 'Tis the spirit of the season, and we appreciate it now more than ever.

I'm seeking girls in sales and marketing
Let's go make out up in the balcony
Your business dress, so businesslike and I'm
Tossing the blouse over a chairback and
I can hear the bells are ringing joyful and triumphant and I can
Hear the bells are ringing joyful and triumphant
You snooze, you lose
Well, I have snost and lost
I'm pushing through, I'll disregard the cost
I hear the bells, so fascinating and
I'll slug it out, I'm sick of waiting

- Mike Doughty, "I Hear The Bells"

Technorati Tags:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Un Fiasco

We had a minor disaster in the kitchen tonight that developed into a major fiasco, something involving the server entering the wrong order. It amounted to nothing in the end, of course, but the back of the house can be dramatic, and it makes for an interesting shift when they're feeling a little irritable.

Later in the evening, I asked Chef about the word, "fiasco." During my past life as a music student, Italian music vocabulary was crucial, and I always understood a "fiasco" to mean "disaster." You only whip that word out if some opera singer hits the wrong note, and everybody notices, for example.

Chef explained that in Italy, a fiasco in that sense refers to the kind of Chianti that comes in a straw-wrapped bottle. He then said it might mean any bottle.

"So how did that come to define 'fiasco' as we know it?"

"I don't know. Maybe because it's just bad," he said, referring to the quality of wine that fills a straw-wrapped jug of Chianti.

I like to think that all Chianti is good, straw-wrapped or Riserva, but nonetheless, word origins are fascinating, aren't they?

Maybe we should just empty those bottles and use them for candles, once and for all. I'll help with the fiasco.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It Was A Beautiful Day

Image hosting by Photobucket
Jim Borgman, Cincinnati Enquirer

Now, there are so many political blogs out there that I really try to leave that kind of stuff out of this one.

But how can I resist, on a day like today?

Winning the House is the cake, winning the Senate is the icing, but getting rid of Donald Rumsfeld is the cherry on top.

Sure there were some election shenanigans, but one thing I'd like to remind all my liberal friends is this: There was no October Surprise. No November one, either. They took their lumps, and I'm impresssed that they did.

There is hope again in this country, hope that we can negotiate some kind of peace and/or withdrawal in Iraq. Hope that we can finally raise the minimum wage despite the Millionaire Congress Persons who have often stood against it. Hope that we can now have a meaningful national dialogue about access to affordable health care for all Americans. Hope that the wave of right-wing religious extremism has been stopped, as South Dakotans defeated the abortion ban, Arizona became the first state to defeat an anti-gay marriage amendment, and Missourians supported the stem cell initiative. And, it's pretty clear that Pennsylvania hates Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum. A lot.

There is hope. It's a beautiful day. The people have spoken, democracy worked, checks and balances have been restored, and regardless of what side of the aisle you consider yourself to be on, no matter if you're blue, red or ambivalent, that's good for America.

Don't let it get away.

You're on the road
But you've got no destination
You're in the mud, in the maze of her imagination
You love this town
Even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over
And it's been all over you
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

- U2, "Beautiful Day"

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Image hosting by Photobucket

We were hosting a Surprise Birthday Party tonight in the banquet room. It's an open bar situation and required a lot of prep, stocking the room with cold beer, bad wine, and well liquor. We had strict instructions and since we get a kick out of these kinds of events, we complied more merrily than usual.

Problem is, Birthday Boy arrived at the bar a half-hour before the festivities were to begin. I asked him if he wanted to see the menu; he replied that he was just meeting some friends for dinner, and he was early.

Isn't there supposed to be a decoy in these surprise situations? What kind of friends organize an elaborate Surprise Party and yet forget that one of the friends is supposed to accompany the soon-to-be surprised?

They meant so well, really, but they dropped the ball. We were all a little down when we saw the sad-clown look on their faces, when they arrived with cakes and helium balloons, only to see their subject already enjoying a Ketel One, up, olives, watching basketball at the bar while waiting for his friends.


In musical news, and in reference to the photo above, days are growing cold as the nights are long, and, as always, the best way to kick off Bar Season is to celebrate amazing live music. If you're local, for example, go see Will Hoge and opening act The Elms at Southgate House tonight, Saturday, November 4th. Here's a great link if you've never heard him. Let's all live a little, be kind to each other, and celebrate autumn; Will Hoge is the perfect tonic to pre-holiday grumpiness and grey-season adjustment.

Who knows? You might just be surprised.

Sweet promises of springtime turn the brown lies of early fall
Orbiting around a love that I once called my own
Never have I felt so small
And maybe it's the wintertime come to make me feel so cold
But there is just a slight chance that this pain comes

From watching smiles fade away
They fade away

- Will Hoge, "King of Grey"

Technorati Tags: