SORTING OUT ‘THE UNKNOWNS’
Ruling out unpredictable variables can be half the job sometimes. The ukns are what you can’t anticipate on any given day, such as, which dish will sell better, or how many daiquiris will be sold in one night. But one can learn patterns overtime, and the best preparation for ukns is to be ready for anything at all times.
So give yourself this little piece of homework everyday. See if you can identify the particular patterns of your establishment. There are seasonal, weekly, and daily patterns to any operation. One day computers will help sort this out, but for now, try. And then SHARE IT.
If you prepare for everyday as if you are gonna get destroyed, you’ll get destroyed a little less, or at least feel that you had more of a fighting chance. It’s a small thing that will do much for your sanity.
So a good mise en place (‘a plan to have things ready,” in french) is key. Have all of your items, like sugar bowls, polished cutlery, etc., ready to go. That is why the house makes you do it, it’s not work for work’s sake. Get ready ahead of time and save yourself!
DIET RESTRICTIONS, TRENDS AND HANDLING
Dietary restrictions, handling them and your sanity.
Granola Crunch: The ‘Flexatarian’ to ‘no honey’ spectrum and what’s what?
Vegetarianism is an interesting ethical / moral / lifestyle choice that people in North America and Europe are embracing more and more. Baby Boomers getting older seem to do it for health reasons, X’s and Y’s adopt it for fashion or ethics. Millennials have been recently embracing it too.
Why people choose to become vegetarians is a lengthier conversation.For now let’s say that they do come from all walks of life, but my experience has shown a particular demographic embracing it much more than others:
Educated, middle and upper-middle class, centre and left-of-centre, interested mainly for the health benefits. Anti-aging and all that is highly touted. Treatments of animals is also a strong reasoning.
Another peculiarity of the Granola-crunch crowd is that not everyone goes angry and preachy (an unfortunate correlation, it seems). From more conventional to radical monk lifestyle, we have:
FLEXITARIANS (flexible about what they eat, meat is not a feature all the time)
NO MAMMALS (will eat all other things but no mammals —like cows, pigs, etc.)
PESCOVEGETARIANS (will eat fish, seafood in general. Butter and cheese ok)
BACON VEGETARIANS (will not eat animals, but make exception for bacon and random delicious meat treats they choose, no rhyme or reason to this)
OVOLACTO VEGETARIANS (will eat eggs, dairy, etc. but still no meat)
VEGETARIANS (will eat almost everything but meat; butter and cheese included)
VEGAN (no to anything animal product, no even delicious cheese ;_; )
‘NO HONEY’ VEGAN (they believe that exploiting bees for their honey is not cool)
FRUITARIAN (only eat fruit . . . no nuts or seeds. . . coconut is popular, I hear. Not so sure how real this is)
So each of these groups will have a different take on what’s acceptable and how far they will flex on their food choices. Also be aware that, for whatever reason, people on the no-honey side of things seem to be more demanding and harder to please. Know your menu, roll with what they want and make them happy.
Veggies are cheaper than animal protein, so putting together something for a vegan shouldn’t be that much of a loss to an operation, even accounting for the extra labour. You will be also pleasantly surprised at how many amazing dishes you can make from classic cuisines (Mexican, Indian, Italian, Ethiopian).
For the record, I do say Granola-crunch with endearment. My mother is a vegetarian. I am in the no mammals camp (and more vegan these days). So I don’t really judge people for what they eat.
Classic lines that charm.
Every waiter and bartender should have a repertoire of classic, snappy, and witty lines that charm. It’s basic wisdom for those who interact with people everyday. Why are they important? Because they make people smile, feel special, and maybe even chuckle a little. It means that someone cares. At least in North America it seems to have become a standard and expected part of the kayfabe of most interaction in restaurants and bars.
Tame the caveman instincts that people have and you will have much more rewarding social interactions.. By this I mean that people, instinctively and unknowingly, may react against certain behaviors and gestures, like proximity of someone unknown, removal of food, casual physical touch or eye contact and other situations that may put people on edge or make them uneasy or uncomfortable. This is very culturally determined. That is why charm comes very handy.
I suggest having lines for all of the occasions I have mentioned, from the greet to the farewell. Ask old timers, or pay attention next time you go out.
Ideally you will develop your standard lines, like every comedian. What matters is that your lines make sense coming from you and that they are appropriate to where you work. They can’t come as too stiff or canned, they should be honest reflections of your personality. So if you are chirpy, be yourself. Just say something that matches you and the kayfabe of the place.
Think about them as something nice you would want to say to someone you know, like an older uncle or grandparent.
Puns are great —though people will groan, I don’t know why! White jokes are good. Avoid any blue humor or toilet jokes…. Unless it’s that kind of a place.
Dad jokes are my bread and butter. Pun intended.
Like every good comedian knows: ALWAYS TRY NEW MATERIAL FIRST WITH COWORKERS, AMIABLE GUESTS, FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Not on a Saturday night with a grumpy couple.
Some favorite lines:
“Smoking or non smoking?” (this is great for older guests, nobody smokes indoors anymore)
“Good evening and welcome, I’ll be your tour guide here”
“I’m your personal concierge”
“Let me give you quickly the highlights”
“Good evening, looks like you found your way to the thunderdome! . . . Oh, wait, that’s tomorrow. . . Welcome in any case!”
“Good morning, can I offer you an eye opener? Coffee, espresso?. . . shot of Tequila?” (great at brunch)
“Anything to drink, perhaps a pint of gin? It’s not only for breakfast anymore you know?”
“Welcome to Willy Wonkas’ factory!” (kids might love this one, also sets the hint & tone that bad behavior is not tolerated here)
“Good morning, let’s get you a coffee or 5 to get your day started?” (great for brunch)
“This on the left, that on the right, and I’m here for whatever you need”
(While taking the order)
“No problem,we are here to make you happy”
“You’ve got it!”
“Right away boss” (careful here)
“On the double”
“I’m happy to help”
“That’s what we are here for”
“I’m all ears”
“Yes sir / ma’am / miss” (can’t go wrong being too polite, don’t be sarcastic about it though. Especially with older crowd)
“How fancy/elegant, eh?” (For something with great presentation)
“I’ll bring you a spoon, it’s better than a fork for soup” (or a variation as you put down the spoon)
“If you need anything please let me know”
“Bon appetit / buen provecho / itadakimasu etc.”
“Here you go boss”
“If you need anything, don’t hesitate, any of us would be happy to help”
“Delicious, wet, and fits in every glass. Can’t go wrong!”
“Just to be social”
“What you need. But not too much”
“Enhances the pleasure of living”
“Better than water, for sure!”
“It evaporates on its own! amazing!” (as you top up someone)
“Makes everything better!”
Lines about Food:
(when asked about a particular item) “It’s Terrible, but very popular!” (careful with this one)
“So good you’ll tell your children / grandchildren about it”
“Hang onto your socks, this is stellar”
“Wildly delicious, one of our best sellers” (this is classic, influence by popularity)
“It’s pretty silly”
“Sharing is caring”
“It’s small but fantastic”
”Let’s have a little indulgence”
”So small it hardly counts”
”Its gluten free / organic chocolate”
“The house is generous and will only charge you for what you had”
“Thank you, and I’ll be here all week!”
(Things along those lines)
This is one of the most important skills to have. Knowing when to approach, serve, and clean is absolute basic.
- NEVER INTERRUPT A CONVERSATION UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST. Stand nearby, they will sense you and stop at some point.
- If it seems like an intense conversation, let it cool down a bit.
- If you are pouring don’t expect recognition or thank you.
- Try to make eye contact with the guest, but avoid glaring or staring too hard.
- Never join the chat, however amusing it may be, unless they are involving you, and you already have a good vibe going with the table.
- Specials? Always give a little “ladies and gentlemen, I have delicious news you’d like to hear . . “ once you get at least some attention. Stand by the side, stand proud and graceful as if you are delivering an important speech.
Wait for everyone before starting to recite specials or menu rundowns. Eye contact is key. And remember, it is your job, but it’s not a State of the Union kinda speech. Throw a joke in there, a positive comment, make them comfortable. And do it QUICK. You have other tables waiting.
- 30 seconds to a couple minutes max, answering questions included.
If you must interrupt
Sometimes you will have to interrupt. Nothing wrong with it, as long as it’s done with grace and a soft touch. Imagine you are a surgeon getting rid of unwanted bits or extras. You have to get in, get it done, and get out on your way. See below.
Explain and Address
This is another silly trick, but it’s very effective. You don’t always have to, but it’s polite and most guests seem to enjoy it (unless they are the impatient types). If the conversation is very intimate or the flow may be interrupted if you interject, then don’t. Some restaurants will not be into this technique. That’s ok too, but it is useful to have it in your back pocket.
Wait for a pause in the conversation and explain to people what you are about to do, for example “If I may . . . I’m bringing fresh glassware / taking the finished plates out / or sugar,” etc.
Ever seen those TV shows where they explain the features of a dress / chair / shoe? Even though it may seem obvious that the item is pleated / broken / worn out I still encourage you to describe and explain.
Add a little hand flourish before you do, pointing with extended arm and your palm out towards the items in question (adapt as needed in tight quarters). Simple, but it looks great.
Why is this good? My methods work because they make people:
- Pay attention to your actions, which may temporarily make you seem more important in their mind.
- Notice that someone is doing something for them at some point of contact.
- Notice that the efforts you make have an impact on their immediate surroundings and on their well-being while asking nothing in return, unlike relatives, friends, or lovers.
- Justifies you “being up in their grill,” as they say. Why are you interrupting otherwise, you perfect, charming stranger? It’s another subtle caveman appeasement move.
We agree out here that upselling is key to any enterprise, and sales are crucial especially in these days. It is a fine art and Shawn Soole has some short and sweet tips on how to engage and make that sale !
Thank you Shawn, looking forward to the next one.
As always, not paid to post, not affiliated, etc etc. The mission is #helpingtalentrise
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