Serving twice

The tables are seated twice in the restaurant where I work, some tables even three times. This is for me one of the hardest part of the job. In the time I learnt some tricks how to make it easier for myself thus improving the quality. Of course I’ll be happy to share these tricks with you:

  • Pre-bussing (taking empty glasses, bottles and cuttery away)  the table (without giving the feeling that the guest has to leave) is essential!
  • You spend most time in the chain emptying the table -> going to kitchen -> emptying your tray -> going back -> redressing the table with middle three steps. So I try to empty as many tables as possible at the same time to save time.
  • The hardest moment is when there are guests who leave and want to pay and new guests arrive and want to give their order. My manager and hotesse won’t be happy to read this but the easiest way to avoid is to wait with redressing the tables untill your station is completely empty (or the guests left don’t have to pay in the first couple of minutes). Of course you stay active and try to empty the tables and put the material on the table (so if they really need it, it’s easy for the hostess to redress it) but this secret method saves a lot of stress. In my opinion being flatseated is more efficient (you take all the orders at the same time) than doing 2 payments and 2 orders mixed. I realize that the guests have to wait longer for their table but I prefer that above confronting them with a freaked out CrazyWaiter!
  • Even if the table isn’t ready for the guests, I try to take care that there is already bread, spoons and glasses on the table. Our collegues seat the people as long as there are two knives, two forks and a napkin on the table but missing items as mentioned cause a lot of stress because the guest will ask for it. Pan and cuchara are the first Spanish words I learned for this reason!

CrazyWaiter’s Framework of Reference for Languages

There’s an Common European Framework of Reference for Languages which is very handy to evaluate your language skills. I made an own version of it. In fact the steps like I experience them are ‘Hello -> Order -> Information -> Complaint’, but I also applied the framework to our work so you can evaluate yourself and mention the level(s) on your CV.

A1 You can say the basic things, e.g. those which are written on the flap of a tourist guide (“I can interact in a simple way“)

A2 You can take an order and give information regarding topics outside your work (“I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities.“)

B1 You can handle a complaint, You can talk about what people have done that day (“I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life”)

B2 People are starting to ask whether you have lived and worked for a while in that country (“I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible“)

C1 You can express fluently (“I can express myself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.”)

C2 You shouldn’t be waiter but translator 🙂

By the way, I think they should have made two top levels of C2: An motherlanguage level and a scientific level. I think most of my collegues aren’t able to ‘write complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points’, while it’s their mother tongue and know most words, expressions and slang.

Saving lifes…. you can do it too!

Today the CrazyWaiter took his two-yearly refresher cours of lifesaving first aid interventions (eg. cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Recovery position). I really think it’s a moral obligation for every professional working in public places, thus also CrazyWaiters!  To motivate you even more to take also a training, these funny videos. But you can’t learn from Youtube how to save lifes, so contact a training programma as soon as possible!

(BTW the two test breathings in the beginning are not done (anymore), at least not in France)


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The real me

Et voila, this is the real me! Seen by Katie.

Sometimes I have real artists in my restaurant 🙂 Yesterday a girl was drawing and I told her:”I need a new Facebook profile picture” and gave her a paper. Katie draw this impression of me.

She’s not the only one who draw the CrazyWaiter in the past so I set up a galery-page to honour all the efforts made by my little lovelyguests.

Magical Moments

Today it’s the start of a new season at my workplace: The Magical Moments Festival!

There are a lot of these for our guests, but they also give Magical Moments to us. I made a new category for it, besides the already existing Favorite posts. But one of my favorite moment ever hasn’t been described until now

It was my birthday in 2007.  A little English girl at table 406 proves that the best presents aren’t tangible. She’s sitting less than a second at table and is already asking a signature from me.  It happens that I give one at the end of the dinner, but never that fast at the beginning. A bit astonished I say very humble:”But I’m not important“. Her answer is very prompt:”But everybody is important” and gives these words meaning by giving a big hug! Maybe one of the best birthday presents ever !


I had a dream… speaking 6 languages

When I came to my current workplace almost five years ago, I saw several maps in different languages. “What would it be cool to be able to understand and speak them all”, I thought- and wished by myself. I started with Dutch (mother tongue), English and a very basic knowledge of French and German.

Then I had to take orders in Spanish, so I started to learn that language. Later I got Italian friends, thus I wanted also be able to speak with them in their mothertongue. It’s still surprising how fast you get rapport with people -at work or in privatelife- when you speak their mother tongue.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela

I did it all with the colleagues, guests and of course my fantastic friends from all over Europe. They even started a Facebook group:”Also I have corrected the CrazyWaiter at least once in my life”.  I also used magazines, music and a lot internet resources. (start with hospitalitywords.com of course!) I didn’t really work hard for it (in the sense that I closed myself in the library to learn lists of words) but it didn’t go automatically neither.

Today my manager handed me a little pinboard with four flags. (French isn’t given because everybody speaks it. And unfortunately they don’t have it for five languages – so my mother tongue is a separate pin ;)). A very tangible prove that my wish of 2006 has been fulfilled and yours will also become reality as long as you work hard for it and wish enough.  Hey, didn’t I work in a place where dreams come true?

Steakfrit

The CrazyWaiter spent his well-earned weekend in Brussels. He ate in three restaurants but was surprised by Steakfrit‘. There’s no need to do always fancy things in life, sometimes you have to keep it stupid simple but do it f#cking fabulous. The menu is with traditional belgian dishes for very reasonable prices especially in Brussel where the brasseries ask higher prices in general.

The most popular plate (ordered by 70% of the guests) is of course the steak:  Angus primebeef, specially imported from Ireland. The steak is a cut of the finest and tastiest part: the Sirloin and tasted very well. It’s accompanied with belgian frites, stoemp (mashed patatoes with vegetables) and a salade.

The service by Morgane and her coworkers of Steakfrit’ Grand Place was great (BTW I loved their shirts) and one of the many things that made this restaurant special was the unlimited refill (‘la repasse’) with the steak, frites and/or stoemp.  This is not usual and makes that you always eat warm food. (and let’s be honest, it costs a little seen the fact that only 20% takes something extra but it gives a great hospitality and ‘value for money’ feeling for your guests). Other remarkable choice of the restaurant is the fact that they only serve three wines to keep life simple: red, rosé and white for one price €18 for a bottle, also very reasonable. Also pretty unusual is the fact that kids up to 8 years dine for free and up to 12 for 50% of the price.

Last but not least : my former qualitymanager-heart started to beat a bit faster when I saw that they gave a questionnaire with the bill. Not too extensive (if I remember well only three questions: what was good, what wasn’t good, do you have suggestions) but it shows again the focus on quality by Steakfrit’ ! It looked like a make-easy-money-tourist trap, but it was GREAT!

If you understand Dutch it’s worth looking at the videos Foodinspiration.be has taken about Steakfrit. (page 3)

CrazyWaiter – the movie


In the cinema this summer: CrazyWaiter the movie. I won’t spoil the story already, but I can tell you that it starts as a tragicomedy and will end as a fairytale with a beautiful, lovely princess and a big castle “Once upon a time…” 🙂

Of course this is a gimmick for my facebookfriends, but the question which inspired me to do this was:’If you’re life is a movie, how would it be like?’ It’s an interesting one to think about your history, see the present and dream about the future. What do you want to happen.. and what above all not to happen? How? When? Where? It’s widely known that visualizing your goals is a good technique to reach them. Life is a movie and you are the director!

Je m`excuse

I’m appologizing to…

  • The guest who ordered a jug of tapwater and got hot water. 50% chance with a single handle mixer and not checking (busy busy busy). Yes that was very very stupid of me. (no irony intended)
  • The guest who complained to my manager that he saw me twice when ordering and bringing their drinks. They walked away without paying, but luckily for me, we tracked them.
  • The baby who I spilled a single drop of hot teawater. The crying was hurting, luckily it was more of shock and tiredness than from pain
  • (a bit) The lady who got pissed of because I didn’t empty the table enough -according to her- when the birthdaycake arrived. I still hear her in my mind “It just isn’t right“. Although the table was well emptied IMHO,  I blew off the candles, and stripped the table completely (even the sets and napkins) and started the ceremony again. I really had to do a big effort not to smile or laugh when she asked with a little voice her napkins and half-full glasses back.
  • (not really) The man who ordered a 60 euro bottle, but claimed afterwards he ordered a bottle of 26 euro “I’m also working in the hotelbusiness and you’ve got a lot to learn“, he told me afterwards. Yes I do, in any case making the guest speak out loud which bottle he wants if there’s any chance of a doubt. But I tracked down his hotel (I think) and when I see the reviews on the internet I think my guests don’t have a lot to complain…. compared to his.. (no no, however it’s very tempting, no link, I want to keep my job)

And in all openess I think these were all the unsatisfied guests I had in 5 years time. Not too bad for a CrazyWaiter…

Playing with accents

Today I was seater. I take the guest to the table and explain the buffet:”et voila, l’entrée, l’entrée, plat chaud, dessert“. She:”attendez monsieur je vais le traduire pour les autres… l’entrée l’entréé plat chaud dessert“. WTF!!!

Being a polyglot isn’t easy, you have to fight against your accent because they don’t understand you. French is a very sensitive language in this matter and the Frenchies in general aren’t the most patient people (in contrary to Italians for example). But even in my motherlanguage I have a kind of accent (“You speak it perfectly, but where do you come from”) so maybe it’s me. 🙂

But as CrazyWaiter you can also play and improvse with it to amuse your guests. Amy Walker is doing 21 accents. After the jump she explains how to do it.

(via spanish-podcast.com)

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Notable guests

Tips for tips  is talking about notable guest in the restaurant. (Thanks BTW for the plug for my CWSQKB last time!). Since I work in the flagshiphotel of our resort, they are also passing by in “my” restaurant. In fact there are three groups notable guests

  • Celebrities
    Sometimes they are invited by the company for press events, sometimes they visit the restaurant in their free time with their families. Since I’m not grown up in the country I work and seldom watch television I don’t recognize most of them. My collegues do, I have a feeling of  shame when they ask for photos and signatures, especially when they’re there in their freetime. Hey, we’re professionals aren’t we?
    And when I recognize them, I try to pretend to do like I don’t know the celebrities, trying to avoid every subject related to their work and give them a service as usual (which is already at a high level, I hope)
  • Hot spots of the company
    Since I’m working in a large international company, we have a lot of hotspots. Everybody in the local hierarchy is nervous about them, because they can make or break their career. But I think it’s rather hypocrit to show only the good sides and mask the bad ones. For example, once I worked in a restaurant where we had to clean the chairs before the PDG came to visit us. Not remarkable, but we’ve never cleaned them in the four years before!
    Also in the light of service quality it is very bad to do things like that: most “errors” are due to systemerrors, and if we take them away just for them, how do you want to give them an impulse to improve the system by not let them see the truth for all the other guests?
  • Sick children
    Now we’re talking! I work in a place where children with a life threatening disease are invited by the company. Who is the real VIP:  somebody who can play well piano or football or a little girl who’ll never see Eyeore again? That donkey reminds me always of her and her little sister. For me they are the real Very Important Persons and they are always getting a service like that.
    By the way, I also do volunteery work for Make A Wish. Look for your local chapter and see what you can do for them. For me it’s very useful time spent.

(Foto by George Biard, 2007, published under CC BY SA 3.0. The persons on the photo are for illustrational use only and don’t relate directly to the (first part) of the post)

The name of the citrus

It’s fun to work in a workplace with guests and collegues from all over Europe. One of my first targets was to learn the six most important languages. I calculated that I can communicate with 95% of the guests in their motherlanguage. Ofcourse you don’t learn only the standardphrases but with the influence of your collegues you learn also the language of the street -and the bed.

Today Italian guests at table 305. At a certain moment they point at a citrus and ask me:’Do you know how it’s called in Italian?’ “I don’t know, I’ll ask the kitchen.” “No no, si chiama pompino, puoi anche dire pompa”.

Mmm.. the guest is not ALWAYS right 🙂

Foto by Martino Franchi under CC2.0

The CrazyWaiters pockets

Let’s dive today in CrazyWaiters pockets. Everything he carries has his sense.

  • Winekey To open winebottles of course. The knife is multifunctional. My preferred one is the Cellini of FarmItaly.
  • Pen To write the orders and sign the creditcard slips. Bic Cristal because they don’t leak inkt when it gets warm (read: in your pocket). Of course two because pens are there to loose.
  • POS card to have access to our POS computer. We use Micros
  • Crown cork opener It goes more quickly with a simple one like this than with the one on the winekey.
  • Matches To lighten the candles on the birthdaycake. In France it’s prohibited to smoke in the restaurant, so it hasn’t sense to give a light to the beautiful girl at table 501 🙂
  • Stickers To reward kids who have eaten everything. Or to put on the adhesive bandage to make an exclusive one.
  • Adhesive bandage For ourself, the colleagues or guests.
  • Needle and wire To fix buttons and perform other little reparations to our clothes or others. Also to adjust princess-dresses which are a bit too big. EDIT 24-11-2010 I ruined a dress today after I made it shorter with safetypins… ooops.. so I won’t do it again
  • Faceshield To protect yourself and the other when performing Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The one of Leardael is the best according to my CPR teacher. By the way, I strongly believe that knowledge of First Aid and CPR is a moral obligation of everybody working in public places as restaurants and hotels.
  • Gloves To protect yourself while cleaning vomit and stopping bleedings
  • Earplugs There is a lot of noise in the restaurant where I’m working. Now I have Alpine worksafe but I’m waiting for Clear EAR 20 who will filter more the hightones and less the lowtones (eg. the voicerange). This type of earplugs is very discrete, you don’t see them if guests are looking to the front of your face. The new ones will even be more discrete. (EDIT: view a review on the 3M Clear Ear here
  • Wallet To collect the creditcardslips, tips and the most of the stuff listed here. Fixed with an wire to my trouser because I’m too afraid to forget it somewhere or loose it.
  • Handwipes To give to the guests after eating shrimps. (To give them opened half torned is a nice gesture because the guests hands will be fatty) Also useful to clean tables, shoes and spots on the wall. (NB: Not on the picture)
  • Hotel- and parcinformation To answer all the questions about opening and closing times of shops, sauna’s and other nice things we have to offer.

And what do you have in your pockets what is not listed here?

Give them!

Those who follow my weblog know that in general I adore my (little) guests and that I have a positive attitude. (enough weblogs about waitress who hate their clients) But today I really got mad. I was making a booking and the woman who was with the person who reserved told me:’The candies. Give them‘. I told her:’Please don’t talk like that to me‘. The first lady asked me:’What should she say then‘. If you don’t understand it, you’ll never understand it. I grabbed some candies, put them in their hands, said ‘It’s oke, have I nice day‘ and I turned away… I remember also a five-year old boy who told me:’Take my plate out‘. I was shocked by this impoliteness and walked away. Pff… On my nametag isn’t written Pluto !

(Don’t worry about me, luckily I had 10 tables today with only nice guests… )

Ready.. or not

Today I’m going to teach a very important lesson. As well for our beloved guests as for my collegues all over the world. How to indicate and see if the guest is ready or not (and want to take some more sidedishes or whatever).

This because I had some pissed of clients who almost scream:’I’m not finished yet’ (and almost slap your hand like teachers did 30 years ago) or complain about the slow service:’It took ages when you took my plate out’ while their fork and knives said otherwise. So print out and put it on the wall at the entrance!

P.S. It’s also possible that the guests puts his plate aside, which may be usual in the USA like this post says at point 2. That’s obvious ofcourse 🙂 Also a pile of plates indicates that somebody is doing something wrong. (and normally it’s not the guest)

Souvenir

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel

Today I ate with my collegues in another partnerhotel. While walking to our privatized area, a young girl was waving to me. “You work at x, don’t you”, her mother said. “Yes I do, why?”. The girl answered:”You draw a drawing for me. It’s now hanging in my bedroom to remember that nice evening.” 🙂  #the-fantastic-side-of-my-job

New daddy

Sometimes even the Crazy Waiter is speechless. Some weeks ago I was talking to a couple of  kids between the two restaurants in the hotel where I work. We had a lot of fun with joking, dancing etc. At a certain moment the mother came to take the kids for their dessert.  It was a very friendly and beautiful lady in my age. “Mamma, mamma, we found a nice prince for you”, her son said. “So you want me to leave your father for this man?”. “Yeah, that would be great….” 🙂

(Foto by jcoterhals / CC BY NC ND)

Proactivity


I will tell you one of my secrets of being an above-average-waiter. The secret word is proactivity, anticipating on (un)expected situations. The biggest fun is when your guest doesn’t expect this.

Some time ago I had a family with a girl who had an allergy of gluten. It was her birthday so we woud celebrate it with some music and all the waiters clapping etc. In all the cakes we have there are gluten, so the family was thinking about cancelling the cake. However they ordered it because of the little ceremony we perform.

In the kitchen I got suddenly a image of everyone eating the cake but the birthdaygirl who was looking sad to everybody eating her cake. So I managed to bring the cake and a fruitsalad for the girl. Needless to say that the family was very happy with this!