In the middle of the work week (for me it’s typically Friday night around 7:30) it’s easy to forget why I do what I do. In the midst of server issues, guest complaints, and the kitchen giving me grief over seemingly menial issues, it’s pretty easy to forget that I do this job because I love it.
I do, though. Even on the worst days, it’s still better than any other job I’ve had outside of the restaurant industry. I could speak at length on this (I wrote a novel about it), so this probably won’t be the last entry about the restaurant business. So why do I love what I do?
There is the basic stuff like it’s good money, fast paced, and I get to meet a TON of people. I’ve thought about it a lot over the 15 years doing this. It all boils down to this:
Life happens around food.
|I used food to propose
Think about any party you’ve ever been to. I’d be willing to bet that there was food there, whether it was a bowl of chips or a 7 course meal. So many memories are formed around dinner tables, kitchen counters, bar tops.
One of the most memorable days that I worked at Tutta Bella was a Saturday filled with celebrations. It was in the middle of soccer party season where it seemed like 1 in 4 phone calls was to book the loft for an end of the season team party. This was a day that we had circled on the calendar and a separate floor map drawn out for, because it was like tetris trying to fit all of the parties for the day in our loft space.
‘Tis the season, day starts with a soccer party. They get the space, 2 hour window, a bunch of cheese pizzas and lemonades, handful of salads and grown up pizzas for the parents, pass out the participation trophies… hour and a half later, party is over. check is paid. Dirt, grass and mud from cleats swept up, table rearranged… time to reload!
Party number 2 is a funeral luncheon. Mostly family. Funeral parties are always a little delicate to serve because you don’t want to be insensitive to those who are mourning, and you want to give great service without being to intrusive to the family atmosphere. This party I remember was in joyful remembrance of the deceased, a few tears and alot of laughter, remembering the old times.
Party number 3 was a Baby Shower. We’ll call her Susan (for anonymity) was going to be a grandmother,very polite at first, and had a ton of questons. This was almost 4 years ago, and I still remember the host’s name. We met with Susan at least twice in person, exchanged a string of emails and had at least half a dozen phone calls with her. Every possible detail was covered. She knew that she had the loft for 2 hours, we finalized the menu, she wanted appetizers and food out on the tables as her guests were arriving. Not a strange request. She asked if she could show up 2 hours early to start decorating. We informed her that we had another reservation occupying the space and that would couldn’t accomodate that. She showed up 1.5 hours early and was chomping at the bit to start decorating. As soon as the last of the funeral party left she was upstairs hanging streamers and baby onesies. As she was decorating we were rearranging tables and cleaning up and the servers who were taking the party started to ring in the food and set up the buffet-style table. This sounds like madness, but at Tutta Bella we embraced “organized chaos” (which to this day is one of my favorite ways to describe the restaurant business) so this was just another day in the park for us. About 30 minutes into the party I get a call from another Tutta Bella location asking if we had a reservation for Susan. We did. Turns out Susan had set up almost the exact same party with another location. Strange, but not unheard of. Sucks for them, because they had all of the food on the table for a party that is dining at my restaurant.
So they played baby shower games, asked to borrow toilet paper for one of the games, we obliged. They made a HUGE mess, also not unheard of for a baby shower. I get another call from a different location. It turns out that Susan had made 3 different reservations. So… yeah. that’s special. By the time her 2 hours were up they hadn’t even began opening presents and we were already on a 30 minute wait downstairs. I let it slide, decided to be gracious (It’s the first grand baby!). After about 3 hours, we began to start breaking down the buffet. At 3.5 hours we started to clean as much as we could, and I talked to Susan about how we needed to start using the space to seat guests upstairs. She seemed understand, but started to demand us help her load presents into her car. It was odd, because we would have helped anyways, and now she’s taking a really weird tone. So I get one server to continue to clean the upstairs and the other server and myself are loading cars with car seats, diaper genies, cribs, and etc.
We didn’t do auto-gratuity, and most of the time it didn’t matter, however this time it bit us. She tipped something like $5 on $500. It hurt. In the moment I was just glad to be done with that party and be off a line-out-the-door wait downstairs.
Once I let it sink in, I was really angry that she didn’t take care of the servers, because they worked really hard. I got angry that she screwed over 2 other locations on a Saturday night. I got angry because we showed her kindness and she didn’t appreciate it. I stayed angry until I got off. When I was driving home, I took some time to reflect. We celebrated at least 4 life phases around our tables (I can almost guarantee someone downstairs had a birthday dinner). We are a part of those people’s stories now, and that is a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.
|Middle of lunch rush: Kevin leaps through the front door, to propose to Thais.
We provide servers to guide you through a (hopefully) enjoyable experience. We provide a table and chairs, bring the food, and dim the lights. You get to make the memories. You get to blow out a candle of a free dessert. You get to collaborate with your server or a manager on how you’re going to propose, or surprise your partner by returning home from a tour overseas. You get to have your first family meal together as the adoption was just made official.
These beautiful moments. These stories. These memories. To have the honor/privilege to get the front row seat for these… that’s one of the reasons why I do what I do.