So, when I interviewed (Manager B) with the restaurant, my no. 1 concern was being able to get paid enough to support my family. The thing about restaurants is that in tipped positions, you are paid a pittance, with the expectation that tips will supplement (and often exceed) what you'd get in other positions. Problem is, that's not guaranteed - especially with Winter coming and the anticipated slowdown in the industry in our area. (We get 150+ inches of snow every Winter, so it's important to consider.) B literally said, "We'll make it work." (Nice thing to hear at an interview!)
The main way they are "making it work" for me is to have me crosstrain. I've learned hosting well enough that I'm the first one they ask to cover a shift or to help someone else when it's super busy. I'm also learning bartending (one of the things I like best), but the other big thing is what's called Expo.
(About as close as I can come to my restaurant without being my restaurant... Source)
Expo - Plate Garnishing
In Expo, the task is to finish the plates with their garnishes.
- Lemon wedges - on scampi, shrimp skewers, crab and fish
- Cocktail sauce - breaded/battered items
- Ketchup - with chips/fries, kids' meals
- Piña Colada sauce - with coconut shrimp
The list goes on.
I also finish the baked potatoes with butter and sour cream - plus green onions, cheese and bacon if it's a loaded potato.
Then, I try to gather all the dishes needed for a particular table and call out the server to let them know their table is ready. Most servers want to run their own food to give their tables their personal service, making it more likely they will get decent tips.
I also gather refill orders and get those run to the tables as quickly as possible. Those, we worry a bit less about who runs it - as long as the server is informed that it was run for them.
(This is where my post about Toxic Bosses comes in as Manager C wants things run as quickly as possible, circumventing the server's preference to run their own food unless they require assistance.)
Sometimes, I have to yell into the kitchen (not easy for me) to send me a dish or side to complete an order - or to "bump" an order so that I can clear it out of the system.
Finally, I make sure the Alley (where Expo happens) remains clean and stocked as much as possible. With everyone working so quickly around me, there is a lot of mess and a lot of things running out and needing replenishing.
Expo is a fast-paced position most of the time, though I've been able to make use of slow shifts to help me hone my (brand new) skills and "find my voice" (as I'm a naturally quiet person.) There's a lot of movement around me, but even when it gets crazy, I can sort of find my zone and just concentrate on correctly dressing the plates as they come out. It is a team effort and it comes together quite quickly.
I'm still relatively slow, but I'm getting better - as long as Manager C doesn't get involved and try to circumvent my efforts! (He doesn't do this when Manager B is around, from what I can see.) The servers appreciate my work and recognize that I'm an asset who helps them get their orders out faster.
Manager B calls me their Swiss Army Knife, which is super awesome, as I'm able and willing to do whatever needs doing at the moment, whether it's hosting, doing expo, running food, bussing tables, working at the bar... I've not done any actual cooking, but who knows... that might happen too. I'm not likely to refuse. Being versatile is my strategy to command a 40-hour week, even in the slow season - and my ability to feed my family and train for any future restaurant job I decide to pursue. On the whole, I enjoy my job - except when Manager C gets involved... but my plan is to outlast him as it definitely doesn't seem to be a secret that he is our weakest link, not a strong asset - and definitely not a Swiss Army Knife!
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