Thursday, January 19, 2012

Entertaining the Wait Staff

Over the years I have developed a stern approach with restaurant wait staff when it comes to providing them with entertainment.  I was hired by management to entertain customers, not the restaurant staff   So, I take the approach that restaurant staff should not be entertained, that they are getting paid by the restaurant and are there to work, not play.  I often hear restaurant staff say “He’s mean”, or “He’s not nice. He won’t give me a balloon”. It is not any of these things. I have come to the realization that restaurant staff turn out to be greedy and want you to make them something every week.

Restaurant entertainers normally entertain once a week. Because of this schedule, the restaurant staff can burden you each week with a new request.  Better to interact with customers or learn about upcoming events than spend time and balloon materials entertaining the wait staff.

Over a decade ago I started working an Aurelio’s restaurant. By now I have laid the ground rule that the wait staff doesn’t ask for balloons.  I explained to them that “I was hired to entertain the customers, not the staff.” Or my most popular line, “You haven’t worked here long enough.”  The person will ask, “How long do I have to work here?”  At this point one of the regular staff will usually chime in with “I’ve been here two years and he still hasn’t made me a balloon yet.  You can’t get something until I do.”  By me establishing a waiting time, I now control who gets a balloon and how long they wait.  I explain to the servers that “I make many different designs that you haven’t seen them all. And if I make you a balloon now, next week you are going to see something cooler and want that.  So just watch and find something you really want.  Once the novelty has warn off, I let the staff know that if they need a balloon for a special reason, like a little siblings birthday or grand parent’s anniversary, I’d be happy to make something for them.  But I’m not going to make them a balloon every week.

One night while entertaining, the owner’s ten year old son approached me and asked for a Daisy Duck.  I asked him, “Why Daisy Duck and not your normal Spiderman or Motorcycle?” He told me it was for his cousin.  Per his request, I made a Daisy Duck. Ten minutes later, I walked by the phone girls station and one of the girls was holding the Daisy Duck. She was taunting me saying “See, I got my balloon.”

Minutes later, the owner’s son came to me looking for another balloon, and when he asked for his Spiderman, I told him “No.”  When he dragged his mom over to me, I explained to her that the phone girl had her son lie to me and request a Daisy Duck for his cousin.  Since he lied to me, he was not entitled to a balloon.  I told the boy if he wants a balloon, take the Daisy Duck back form the phone girl and it’s yours.  The mother had no problem with the logic. She didn’t want her son lying. Minutes later the owner’s son was now bugging the phone girl for “his balloon.”  When the owner stepped in to correct his son, he then learned about the deception, looked at the phone girl and told not to do that again.  Needless to say the phone girl was not happy with me, but as I told her, “You had a little kid lie for you and you got caught. Don’t ever expect me to make anything for you.”  Word quickly spread around the restaurant about the deception and everyone agreed that using the owners’ son was not right.  That was the only balloon she received in the eighteen months that she worked at that restaurant.

Other entertainers have told me that they do requests for wait staff all the time. That it is no problem, they enjoy doing it.  These are the same entertainers who will accept food as payment.  They forget that their time is money. You charge the restaurant a fee for your time, but will stay the extra fifteen to twenty minutes and entertain staff for free.  These are the same wait staff who when its closing time, can’t prepare you a meal because they just cleaned everything or are leaving early. But they still want you to make them something before they leave.  They are now dictating your entertainment time which decreases your customer’s time, profit and prevents you from what management has hired you to do, entertain restaurant customers.

I had a bartender request balloons for her kids one night and, not thinking, I made her two balloons.  She gave me two dollars and that was it.  Next week the restaurant was busy and I was working the floor.  I was entertaining at the bar and the bartender interrupts me to tell me her kids were here and they needed a balloon.  I looked at the customers, then I went to look at her and she was now as on the other side of the bar taking drink orders.  I cracked a quick joke, “Wow, did my wife enter the room?  I could have stayed home and gotten orders like that.”

I finished entertaining the customers and went to the hostess station to remove my supplies.  I was nearly finished with my two hour shift and was going to take a needed bathroom break.  When out came the bartender screaming that I didn’t get her kids a balloon, that I always skip her kids, that they have been waiting all night for me, and on, and on. She went on raving like a lunatic.  This immediately put me on the defensive, “Hey, I just taking a quick break to hit the bathroom.”  That didn’t mean anything to her; she wanted her balloons now for her kids. She went back to the bar ranting and raving something about “I always tip you….”  The manager looked at me and said “What is that all about?”  I told the manger how she interrupted my entertaining and “I had just stopped in to remove my stuff and visit the restroom and next thing I know, a crazy bartender is saying that I’m not making balloons for her kids.  This is the same bartender who told me that ‘the bar is too busy and she could not buy back my singles’.  This is why I have you (the manager) buy back my singles at the end of my shift, because she too busy.

Not two seconds later the bartender’s husband and kids are standing outside the hostess. The manager looks at me, “Are you going to make balloons for these kids?”  “Yes, once I use the bathroom.”  The husband and the kids were cool and waited the extra minute while I use the restroom.  Each kid received their balloon and went on their way.

Needless to say the mangers were not pleased how one staff member could treat another. I’m not sure if they said anything to that bartender, but I have promised myself that if this woman ever asks for a balloon, the answer will be “no !”