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In the Weeds: Perfect Storm

April 15, 2009

If you ever wondered if your server is sizing you up as he approaches the table, he is. But don’t worry. It’s nothing personal. We analyze everything and everyone and we won’t remember much or any of it by the end of the night. See, servers depend on the perfect storm to make money. And like a ship captain, we are constantly checking and rechecking our controls to see if it’s in the clouds.

From the minute I walk in the door, I’m sizing things up. I’m looking at my coworkers, where their sections are, making sure they didn’t steal a good section by paying the hostess or claiming a party has requested them. I’m studying my section, praying I get juicy section number four with its two booths and large round table that seats ten people. I know I’m cursed if I’m in the “armpit.” We call it the armpit both for its shape (a small u), and because it stinks. It’s two small deuces and a four top that nobody wants because it’s out in the middle of traffic.

Then it’s on to the reso book. I scan the names and hope for someone recognizable. I don’t mean a sports figure or local celeb. They are notorious for high demands, slow dining and low tips. I want a regular guest, someone with experience, someone who understands that we serve much better fare than just shrimp cocktail, Caesar salads and medium well filets. I’m happy if the reservation notes say something like “previous number of reservations –92.” If they say something like, “first time guest, celebrating grandma’s 80th birthday, need 2 highchairs, split checks, gluten allergy,” then I start rummaging through my pockets for a crisp bill for the hostess and I make sure to tell her how much I love her hair fixed like that.

Your server finally lays eyes on you. We will form opinions immediately but you should understand we are often surprised and easily manipulated by kindness. So even if you are vegan and want split checks, throw me a little eye contact or ask for my opinion on what to order and I’ll fawn all over you. Just make sure you don’t sit there for an hour after I drop the check. I like you, but my perfect storm is still forming on the radar. And I’ve got a mortgage to pay.



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