Restaurant managers are a curious breed. Do you think any of them grew up wanting to be a restaurant manager or is it something that just happened? I was looking through an old journal last night and out of it fell a bev nap that was covered in writing. It was dated December 1, 1994 and written while working at Houlihan’s in Times Square. It was mostly about my frustration with that particular job and the managers in particular:
“Is it the right thing to do when I get up every day and come to this dung heap of a restaurant? And looking at the various managers flit-floating around reminds me that the life of a restaurant manager is empty. As empty as my pockets are after a typical shift at this joke of a job.”
I remember that we had a regional manger in the restaurant that day so everything had to be ship shape.
“And isn’t it funny how they think that I care if his silverware is extra clean? Owners and area managers see their restaurants through a cloud of smoke. So sad for them to think that everyone’s silver is as clean as theirs. Or that everyone’s food comes out that fast. Idiots! All of them.”*
I recall ringing in an order for the area manager and having to type in that it was a VIP so the kitchen would know to make it first and to make sure it was perfect. Meanwhile, the secretary at table 72 who comes in every other day has to wait for her salad longer than usual and no one will go through it to make sure that every piece of lettuce is pristine.
“But back to the ridiculousness of the restaurant business: it sucks. But the people you work with usually are very nice. However, the people you work for usually are very stupid. Power breeds stupidity.”
The words on that bev nap were written almost twenty years ago and it tells me three things; Number one: things never change. Number two: I have been a bitchy waiter for a long fucking time. Number three: my handwriting is immaculate.
At a recent “mandatory meeting” at work. I listen to the owner saying things that I could have written down on that same bev nap back in 1994. The corporate-speak and general bullshit that spews from his mouth is making me sick to my stomach and I find it hard it believe that he really thinks that what he says is inspiring to us.
“We all have to be on the same team, because if we’re not on the same team, it means we are fighting against each other. Our cart has to be going in the same direction. If my wheels are going one way and your wheels are going another, how will we ever get anywhere?”
Really? That is supposed to make me want to work harder for you? There must be a high school guidance counselor somewhere who is pissed off because he is missing the inspirational poster from his wall. It sounds like it came from the same people who gave us the image of the kitten hanging from a tree limb with the words “Hang in there!” Managers could do a lot better if they would just talk to us like we are people and not cogs in their food service machinery. We are not stupid. We want the same things they want: plenty of customers, an enjoyable place to work and money. Inspirational quotes are not going to inspire us.
“My number one priority is you guys. I want you to be happy and I want you to make a lot of money,” he says. Don’t lie to us. I would respect you so much more (no, I wouldn’t) if you could be honest and say that your number one priority is that the restaurant makes a lot of money and you hope that trickles down to us. Don’t blow smoke directly up my ass by saying you care about me when every time I make a suggestion you just dismiss it with “it sounds like you need more training” or “well, we have to keep doing it this way in order for us to grow.” Just be honest and say, “It’s my way or the highway.” At least then, I will know that you’re an asshole instead of you trying to conceal it with the touchy-freely crap you wrap up your ego with.
Bitter, me? Sure, I am, because I know that so many other servers have to deal with restaurant managers who are exactly the same as mine. Yes, my job knows I write a blog. Does the owner read it? I don’t know, I doubt it. And if he does, I can’t imagine that he made it all the way to the end of this post. Besides, the beauty part of me having three jobs is that I can always say it wasn’t about them, it was about my other boss. But my friends who I work with who read this will know exactly who I am referring to.
My apologies to the good restaurant mangers out there. I know you exist. It’s just that you are an endangered species.
*Even back in 1994, I was quoting musical theater. “Idiots! All of them,” is from The Threepenny Opera.