This blogpost might save your hands

I see it all the time, collegues who clean and dry wineglasses without putting the foot in the corner of the towel. And nobody instructed them ever to dry the glasses in a safe way. Following your old habit can be very dangerous! Why?

  • The foot (purple arrow) can have sharp edges because a little piece of glass broke off. While turning the glass to dry it, you’ll have thus a nice scarf in your palm or fingers. Aarrghhh!
  • The stem (the piece you hold in your hand) can break. Mostly it will break near the foot (orange arrow) or at the button (yellow arrow) and because you put some force on the glass, it will be launched and work like an arrow which will damage your hand. Auwww!!!

Don’t forget: We CrazyWaiters need our hands more than anyone else!

(thanks to dear collegue P. to take the photos. And to my other dear collegue S. to give me the urge to write this blogpost after planning and postponing so many times)

B = C x O x M

Most readers know that I like reading about scientific research, but a lot of knowledge can be explained very easy. Today we have the formula

Behaviour = capacity x opportunity x motivation

  • Behaviour is what people do, or what you want them to do
  • Capacity is what people can do. You can give trainings for that. But never forget that you also have to work on the other two factors in the model!
  • Opportunity is what people are able to do. The management has to create enough (human!) resources, good conditions, tools and materials to make the work possible
  • Motivation is what people want to do. I start to believe that most people are motivated, but are demotivated by the management. Motivation can be stimulated, however by (1) making clear what’s in it for them, (2) being involved, (3) providing rewards, (4) giving feedback and (5) stepping into the other person’s shoes.(*)

The formula is originally from Lilian Ripple (Chicago) in her 1955 paperMotivation, Capacity, and Opportunity as Related to the Use of Casework Service: Theoretical Base and Plan of Study.” . The image is taken here.

100 skills every Crazy Waiter should know (part 1)

Inspired by this list our own list! Take it as serious as you think it should be! How many points do you have?

  1. Holding 3 plates with food in 1 hand and one in the other (1 point)
  2. Taking orders in 3 langues (1 point)
  3. Taking orders in 4,5 or 6 languages (2, 3 or 4 points)
  4. Handling complaints (2 points)
  5. Inventing your own lyrics on existing songs (1 point)
  6. Singing a song with a random word (1 point)
  7. Flirting with beautiful young (not too young though) Italian girls (1 point)
  8. Flirting with ugly old woman (3 points)
  9. Pre-bussying (clearing) a whole table of four in one time (2 points)
  10. Stop young children who cry and if possible make them smile every time you pass (2 points)
  11. Opening a wine bottle with a opener (1 points)
  12. Changing a beerfust (1 point)
  13. Serving the plates together with a collegue in a synchronized way (2 points)
  14. Make a Margherita (2 points)
  15. Knowing the difference between the production of red and white wine (1 points)
  16. Knowing the difference between sparkling and not sparking wine (2 points)
  17. Influencing the hostess, so you get the best tables (1 points)
  18. Influencing the hostess so you won’t get the latest tables so you can see your ‘girl friend’ (2 points)
  19. Debrassing 10 plates in one time (2 points)
  20. Cleaning invisible the knives while they are already on the table (2 points)

(the other 80 skills will follow in part 2, 3 4 and 5)

La vista

A foreseen problem is a problem less

One of the targets in our work is to foresee problems at the moment that they aren’t there already. To do so, there are (at least) two techniques which you might already use and makes the difference between a bad waiter and a good waiter. I also teach them to trainees who are eager to learn. Instead of speaking of technique, try to see it as a game to make it more fun.

The first one is that you see in one single second if everything is all right at a table and in the restaurant.  This is called La Vista by John Vincke, a dutch maître-d’hôtel who died in 2007. In fact you take a global glance and you see what happens on a specific table, a station or in the room.

Related to this, the second game is that you have in your head in which phase the tables in the restaurant are, how many people they are, what they ordered etc. The guests at table 1 are eating main course, those at table 2 are waiting for the dessert, the german people at table 3 is have received the bill and are waiting to pay etc. Sometimes I ask the trainee backstage to close his eyes and tell me in which stadium the tables are. It’s difficult in the beginning but practice makes perfect!

The greatest kick of both ‘games’ is when you act in a way that the guests don’t have to ask for something. Not easy but a nice challenge!

(PS: The original quote is “Un problème prévu est un problème en moins”M. Dantec)

Remarkable CrazyWaiter… part 2

Also this year your CrazyWaiter is one the employees who are cited the most as remarkable. (I believe ca. 60 certificates out of >5.000 employees, 2 in every restaurant.) It’s always nice and inspiring to get some appreciation, even when it’s for the second time. It shows that you’re doing something well…

Although I hope there will be a hattick (also one of the most cited for the third time next year), I won’t be sad when another colleague will get this honour next year because there are so many nice, friendly and good waiters in my workplace. (no names… you know who you are 😉

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!

Handling complaints for CrazyWaiters

This blogpost on the very interesting blog of Steve Curtin made me realize what I already knew secretly: Most people don’t complain because they like to complain, want reduction or to try make your life difficult. Instead of that 95% of the complaints are because the guest experiences something different than what (s)he expected on the basis of the price they pay, the image of the restaurant or what (s)he has heard or read on the internet. In fact this is the very basis of all ServQual models. A well know formula is Quality = Perceived Service – Expectations.

If you keep this in mind, it’s much easier to handle complaints and to solve them. Let me remind you of some basic (well-known) rules

  • Don’t take it personal and don’t be too defensive
  • Paraphrase (repeat in other words) to see whether you have a full understanding of the problem
  • Show comprehension:’I understand that you..‘. Use the I-form as much as possible to show that you feel responsibility to solve the problem. Apologize if applicable
  • Ask what the guests expected/expects or wants. Often this little question (what do you expect me to do) is the beginning of the guest’s satisfaction
  • Solve it yourself! If you receive the plaint, it’s yours and your responsibilty to solve it. Of course you can give the problem to another person (a collegue if you don’t have time or your manager if it’s beyond your limits) but it stays your responsibility and checkback if everything is allright at the end
  • Use the complaint as input for improvements in your service, food or procedures

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 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?

Expert Translation… or not?

This improvisation can also be done with real guests (or collegues), with real conversations. You “translate” what the other says by using you’re fantasy, in a real language or not. A lot of variations is possible, also depending on your own knowledge of the languages and inspiration. You can add up fun with non-verbal signs and face-expressions!

I do it also with collegues who speak Arab or Hindi in our break. Nobody understands them (included me), but I’m so kind to ‘translate’ for my colleagues. Ofcourse you use similar sounds, so when somebedy says ‘tingelingeling’, you translate it as ‘bell’ or ‘phone’.

Take care, not everybody likes to be fake-dubbed 🙂 That’s why it might be safer to do it with colleagues (warned or not warned by you) in front of the guests.

Here somebody speaks ‘Swedish’ about a Volvo and the other has to “translate”. It comes from Whose line is it anyway and the game is called expert translation.

This idea is also used in one of my favorite films ‘La vita è bella’

Flavour styles

Romanée-Conti 2003 & 2005 for only €10.000 !

Normally you’d describe a wine by his taste or terms on a flavour wheel. Peter Klose, a luxury restaurant owner and founder of the Academy for Gastronomy has desscribed a new flavour theory to describe wines and match them with food. In this blogpost I describe this system very briefly. Maybe too briefly, so when you’re interested, I advice you to read the extensive English summary which can be found here or even better the original thesis (which can’t be found online, but maybe in the university library nearby).

The central part is mouthfeel. There are three parameters to describe food and beverages in this system

  • Contracting mouthfeel
    Acidity and saltiness trigger a contracting response in the mouth. Also drying (roughing, puckering) effect in the mouth caused by tannins (red wine) and other bitter tasting elements (as in coffee, tea or unsweetened chocolate) is also characteristic of contracting mouthfeel.
  • Coating mouthfeel
    Creamy, fatty substances and those containing a significant amount of dissolved sugars coat the mouth. In other words, they leave a layer of fat or sugar behind. In beverages, alcohol and sugars are viscous, coating elements. They coat the mouth, and this coating may influence the way in which the mouth perceives the next mouthful of food it encounters. Proteins also produce a coating mouthfeel, especially amino acids and some chemical substitutions like gelatin.
  • Flavour richness
    How more taste, how higher the flavour richness

Flavour profile

Foods and drinks can be classified with the three above-mentioned parameters. Contracting mouthfeel, coating mouthfeel and flavour richness can all be scaled from low to high.  Combining these parameters give 8 combinations, which is visualized in the three-dimensional model below: the flavour styles cube

flavour style primary flavour factors
contracting mouthfeel coating mouthfeel flavour richness
1. neutral Low Low Low
2. round Low High Low
3. balance fresh High High Low
4. fresh High Low Low
5. powerful/dry Low Low High
6. rich Low High High
7. balance ripe High High High
8. pungent High Low High

Practical use
Flavour is what wines and food have in common. Thus, the same descriptors can be used. This leads to new guidelines for the paring of food and wine. Basically, good combinations are found if the flavour profile of wines and foods resemble one another. In other words:

  • Contracting wines go well with contracting foods
  • Coating wines go well with coating foods
  • The flavour richness of wines and foods should be about the same
  • The rule of thumb when composing a menu is to progress from contracting to coating foods and wines, and from lower levels of flavour richness to higher levels.

Culinary success factors

The research of mr. Klosse also showed that there are six characteristics for a successful combination of product characteristics of a restaurant dish. (‘palatability’). When applied to the recipes in a hospital in Danmark, the patient satisfaction with regard to food has risen very much.

  • the name and presentation must fit the expectation
  • the aroma should be appetising and appropriate to the food
  • there should be a good balance of flavour components in relation to the food
  • the savoury, ‘deliciousness’ factor, umami (also called the fifth basic taste), must be present
  • the mouthfeel of the dish should offer a mix of hard and soft textures
  • it must be characterised by high flavour richness

Source and copyright: Peter Klosse: Food and wine matching – a new approach, 15 Oct 2008, retrieved at at 11 March 2011. Outline by the CrazyWaiter

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!

International Hospitality Words

We all know that speaking the guests language is THE way to get rapport with him or her. Especially to make contact with the children it’s good to speak some words of their mothertongue. That’s why I’m started to learn the basics of several languages. I love to share my knowledge, thus I’m proud to present the

International Crazywaiter’s (&friends) HospitalityWords

Thanks to my lovely friends who added translations and proofread what I had, I can present my readers words to use in your restaurant in 9 languages. More languages and functionalities are to come quick! (follow us at Twitter of Facebook).

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…

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)

CrazyWaiter’s ServiceQuality Knowledgebase

It might not be a surprise that the CrazyWaiter is interested in Service Quality. So much that he collects scientific articles about this subject, which he has put in a database over the years. There are also articles about tipping and other hospitality related subjects.

Yesterday he read a discussion where somebody told that there is no research about hospitality. “One couldn’t be more wrong”, he thought and skipped a night sleep to build a webbased shell around the database and altough it’s still under construction it’s  ready enough  to proudly present…

CrazyWaiter’s Service Quality Knowledge base

Use the search function to find what you’re looking for or browse a bit. Features will be added in the future!

The phantom of the restaurant

No no!!! Don’t touch that table! Underneath is the phantom, who will escape. He lets everything fall down. Don’t you see the little broken glass on the floor? It’s his work! No no! Don’t look underneath the napkin! It’s the spirit of a waiter who died from love hurt. His girlfriend, a beautiful Italian waitress fell in love with a chef and left. All the waiters will drop glasses if he’d escape from underneath!

Yesterday I had a lot of fun with a couple of curious kids who wanted to look underneath the napkin of a gueridon. And if you tell kids NOT to do something, yes you know, they’ll try to do it. Of course inspirated by the Phantom of the Opera

(Photo “Spook” by Rob Boudon, used and adapted under CC 2.0)

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