Since this was originally posted, I have learned that this particular Bennigan’s has closed down. Pity, because it was such a joyous and inspirational company to work for… My ass, is still on vacation (at my parent’s house listening to screaming nieces and nephews and dying for a frozen margarita) so you get to read it again.
15 Minutes or It’s Free!
There are lots of ways that servers can feel demeaned whilst slinging hash. Most of the time these feelings are thrust upon us by the wonderful people who sit in our station, but on occasion it comes from the restaurant itself. Bennigan’s in Houston, Texas on FM 1960:
Someone at the top of the food chain, Mr. Bennigan I presume, came up with a wonderful plan to let people order food and then give it to them for free if it wasn’t on their table within fifteen minutes. “15 Minutes or it’s Free!” they called this promotion. Mr. Bennigan stayed up late one night and thought long and hard to come up with that name. The man is an utter genius, I tell you. This was a lunch promo and it sucked. Maybe they still do it, I dunno. If they do, I feel for the poor bastards who still work for that crap. But hey, then they have a job which is more than I can say so kudos to them for finding a restaurant that manged to stay open for business.
For each table in your station, you had to wear a stopwatch around your neck. So you potentially had nine of these things swinging around as well as all the “flair” crap you were supposed to wear; suspenders, stickers, buttons, whistles, butt plugs and flags. After the table ordered you had to re-read what they wanted and once they approved the order you took a stopwatch from your neck, placed it on the table, and started it. Then you ran like holy hell with fire under your ass to make sure this shit came out on time so it didn’t come out of your tips. If anyone else was on the computer, you’d knock their ass down to get to it first. And people thought they would be all cute by ordering very well done steaks and burgers or anything else they thought would take a long time. No one ever ordered a side salad because that would be too easy. Plus it was Texas and people there don’t really understand the concept of salad. Unless it’s fried.
There was a routine you had to deal with when one of these orders came up. You had to alert the kitchen so they knew it took priority. And you had to give them updates. So every five minutes you had to run to the kitchen and give them a time for each order and then when it was three minutes before FREE FOOD happened, you had to “red flag” it or some shit. It was a real pain in the ass because all you did for lunch was run around to tables and check their fucking clocks and freak out. If you failed to give all the updates to the kitchen then it was not their fault if it went over time. It was the server’s fault. And we had to pay for it. That sucked. If you did manage to give all the alerts and it was still late, then the restaurant would pay for it. I never had to pay for it. I made sure I gave every fucking alert because if it was late and I had done my part, I didn’t give a rat’s cheap ass who paid as long as it wasn’t me. I ignored tables if I had to in order to keep track of the clocks. I remember one time, I was seconds away. I had a huge tray of food practically running to get to the table before the timer went off. I pretty much threw the plates at them but it made it on time. The customers were so pissed when that happened. They actually rooted for us to drop a tray or for the computer to jam or whatever else it took for them to not have to pay for their $6.00 burgers.
God I hated that place. I always felt like if they needed food that fast, they should have eaten at Taco Bell or brown bagged it. Just don’t make me pretend to be a fucking race horse.
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