Thursday, May 24, 2007

Notes from A Bartender

Someone, obviously a waiter/bartender, once commented that instead of compulsory military service the world would be much better if everyone had to do "Compulsory Food and Beverage Industry Service", two years after University, full-time none of this "a few weekends Restaurant Reserve" crap. I agree that this would make for a better world, but I don't want to work with the draftees until they've finished basic training.

I copied the following from "Best of CraigsList" - there are some very valid points about life in here.

Notes from a Bartender

Someone once pointed out to me the fact that there seems to be a micro-economy in the service industry. Restaurant workers take their tip money out to bars and clubs at night and give it to the bartenders, who promptly return it to the waiters and waitresses the next day at lunch. The cycle is almost self-sufficient and is mutually beneficial. Knowing the pain of waiting on customers, each group tips the other well and never raises a fuss. These people do not need to be educated. The rest of you do.

Many of us have stood in a noisy, crowded bar and asked, "What's a guy got to do to get a drink around here?" Well, you're about to find out. Here are some Do's and Don'ts that will keep the relationship between the bartender and bar patron running smoothly.

Rule #1: Have your shit together. Not only will following Rule #1 get you served quicker in a bar, it's a good general rule to adopt in life and is especially helpful in Central American border crossing scenarios.


Fail to have your money ready

We're waiting on you. Everyone else is waiting on us. Therefore, by the Transitive Property of Equality, everyone is waiting on you.


This is an absolute No-No. You whistle at dogs and pretty ladies, not people.

Wave money

Oh, you've got a dollar!! I'll be right over!! Hopefully I won't break an ankle in my fevered rush to get you your "curz lite." Well, at least you're not breaking the next rule.

Yell out the bartender's first name

There's something deeply psychologically disturbing about hearing your name called out, turning around and seeing a complete stranger. That's one of the reasons strippers use stage names. Bartender's do too. Mine is Pixie.

Say "make it strong!" or "put a lot of liquor in it"

Oh, you're one of the rare drinkers that like their drink strong! When you say this, you're assuming I make weak drinks (which is insulting) and you're assuming that I'll stiffen this one up for my new best buddy, you. This is the best way to get a weak drink.

Give the ever-expanding drink order

You want a Bud. I go get it. I come back and now you want a Margarita. Okay, no prob. I come back, and (oh yeah!) now you want a shot of Tequila, too. You really could have told us this all at once. See Rule #1.

Pull the redirect (or the bait 'n' switch)

Usually used after the money wave or the whistle, this is when the gentlemen passes his turn to the lady behind him. Yeah, um, don't do that, okay? Chances are she's not ready, and your weak attempt at chivalry just cost you your turn. See you in 30 minutes.

Try the confused, lost look

This is usually accompanied by the question "What kind of beer y'all got?" while looking at all the beers we have. You did know you were in a bar, right? You didn't just appear here, did you? Refer to Rule #1.

Order High Maintenance shooters

Example: "Lemme get an Alabama Slammer, a Red Snapper, two Kamikazes, a Buttery Nipple and a Lemon Drop." Usually followed by a small tip. People, these shooters are fine by themselves, but there are multiple steps involved with each one. Translation: Time Sink. You may get them this time, but you'll probably be waited on last the next time we see your face. Here's a clue as to whether or not you're high maintenance; if two bartenders are working and they see you, and they flip a coin and the loser comes over to take your order, pretty good chance you're high maintenance.

Assume we know you

Unless you've followed the first "Do" rule below, we don't remember you. You are one of a thousand faces for us, and when you point at an empty glass or a beer bottle that's invariably facing away from us, your attempt at a shortcut backfires. Tell us what you want.

Apologize for sucking

Don't apologize for not tipping. Acknowledging that you suck is not the same as not sucking. Oh, and don't say "I'll get ya next time." We know all about you.

Assume soft drinks are free

Are they free at McDonald's? Are they free at Wal-Mart? Are they free anywhere? I blame M.A.D.D. for this myth.

Put pennies and nickels in the tip jar

We don't want that crap in our pockets any more than you do. We don't have anything smaller than quarters. Have you ever ordered a drink that cost $3.17?

Be "The Microbrew Aficionado"

Usually a pseudo-hippy who can't tip a quarter but can't bring himself to drink "schwag," and who has to sample some new berry-wheat-harvest-ale that he heard about at Burning Man. "Do you have the new Vernal-Equinox Special Welcome-Fest?" "Does Anyone?" Here's your Newcastle. Go.

Be "The Daddy Warbucks"

Dressed in classic day-trader wear, this loud, boisterous guy smokes cigars and orders Martinis and generally exudes an air of money. Until the tip. We hate you.

Be a "Whiney Baby"

Under no circumstances should you ever whine to a bartender when asked to see your ID. Our jobs depend on them, and when we spot a fake/expired ID, don't argue; we've seen and heard it all a million times before, and it will get you absolutely nowhere. If you "don't have one" or "forgot it," forget it; you don't belong out on the town in the first place. That's the law, plain and simple. If we don't have the law, the terrorists win. You don't want the terrorists to win, do you? Bring your ID. Remember Rule #1, from a minute ago?



Tip heavy right off the bat, and you're the first person we aim for every time you come up to the bar. Did you get that? Go back and read it again. The word will spread to the other bartenders and you'll be treated like a prince. It will pay off in better drinks and the occasional free one.

Be patient

All you really need to do to get waited on is make eye contact. We see you, and we'll get to you before the guy right next to you waving money and whistling. Remember, this isn't insulin we're passing out here. If you really need the drink that bad, you've got a problem to address, Jack. The meek shall inherit the bar.

Be an attractive female

As in life, this goes far.

If this comes across as a little petty, remember: bartenders are a jaded lot.

As an afterthought I would add: Do say "Please" and "Thank You", those two phrases, plus 20% of the after -tax total, will get you a long way.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Waiter Wars Storm Brewing, and a couple of nice California Reds

The other night,over an R & B Red Devil Pale Ale, our restaurant manager and I were discussing the upcoming explosion of restaurant openings in Vancouver's downtown core.

Sometime over the next couple of months five or six new "fine service" restaurants will open, among them Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, The ShoreClub, TransContinental, Player's Chop House, "Metro" ? - a 225 seater from the boys at Rare, The Italian Kitchen plus a new Earl's and a 2 story Keg in Yaletown a bit further down the line.

I did some quick math: the first six places listed will account for about 1,200 seats of dining per night, a good experienced server handles 20 seats a night so these places are needing 60 waiters per night times seven nights a week. So that's 420 server shifts per week divided by 4.5 (lots of servers only work 4 nights a week) which equals 93 waiters, toss in 2/3s of that again for lunches (less business means less servers) and a 10% leeway factor (illness, conventions etc) and we are at 170 servers needed.

I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, there are not 170 good experienced servers out of work in Vancouver.

Perhaps the unthinkable will happen and restaurants may be forced to start treating servers as valuable commodities, rather than as "dime a dozen"s as they have for so many years. Probably not, they'll go the safe route and hire "personalities" and let the service standards go for a crap, it is Vancouver after all.

On another note I had two good California Syrahs last week, both in the usually forgotten $15-$20 price range. First up was the 2004 Bridlewood Syrah- CSPC#659730 $16.99 and widely available. The winery is in the Santa Barbara area and this wine is sourced from various vineyards in the Central Coast appelation, the wine is soft and fruity but had enough tannin to carry the grilled Leg of Lamb we had on Sunday night. Flavours are full of blackberry,raspberry, plum and a bit of spice with a nice mouth feel and good long finish, highly recommended.

Monday night was roasted pork loin chops in sage, vidalia onion and apple and another California Syrah, this time labelled as Shiraz, Rex Goliath 2005- CSPC#551184 $13.99 (discounted for May from $15.99) widely available . This winery gained cult fame for their Pinot Noir a few years back and provide quality wines for the price across the board, currently the Shiraz and Pinot Grigio are available in B.C.. The Shiraz is not as refined as the Bridlewood but is varietally true with the same raspberry jam, plum, spice box characters with a touch more pepper and the fruit is a little jammier. At the discounted price this is a very good value and something to grab a case of for the fast approaching backyard grilling season.