It was Wednesday, Mary's live gypsy swing loud from the corner, a 14 top going away party for a JAG friend heading off to Bahrain, Jeremy and I got to talking about service.
I started on the topic earlier, describing the treatment a former World Banker turned fancy restaurateur on TV gives her servers, the browbeaten looks. There's something missing from her model. She pays a secret shopper to tell her the obvious, though, being a paid professional he puts in a way that justifies his own position and the need for it, rather than getting to the root of the problem, which is her own attitude, the suggestion she might develop a fresh respect for her staff. What do you tell people in such a position anyway. "Work with us and you're set for life..." the owner of a meatball restaurant seems to suggest as he tries to boost morale, numbers down. A satisfactory answer only for so long, as I would well know from my own experience.
Jeremy has mentioned a coworker having an off-night, the guy who comes late from time to time, a bit ODC, all over the place, vocal sometimes. "It's very hard to be consistent," I was telling him, "so, you got to come up with a reasoning behind it. It's an intellectual challenge to come up with the will and ability to do it." We talked about the hospitality, the real stuff, that keeps us going. "Yeah, I was a bit off yesterday lunch. (A big customer) came in with a chick he used to date, wasn't so happy with me. He had a gift for her and put it right on the table where I couldn't really see how full his wine glass was... 'Just leave it on the table so I don't have to track you down,' he said." Yup, Monday morning, the blues, the why am I doing this, what's my future going to look like, what should I be doing for a better life, all those questions seeping in, and the putting on of a brave face almost in spite of it all. "It's hard to come back in after a few days off," I mumble, relieved to have gotten the 14 top sat and the bubbly poured. Team work. It's fun working in a busy restaurant with good people.
Later, a good hour or two later, he looked back at me and said, as we stood together in the bar mouth, my taking dirty plates from his hands to wipe the food scraps off with the silverware on them into the trashcan, stack them in some order from larger on the bottom to smaller sometimes in different piles, "There's no short-cut to hospitality(/good service.)"
"Yes, exactly." I smiled and washed my hands in the sink with a squirt of liquid Dove hand soap. Yes, there is a fascinating intellectual issue at the heart of good service, the actual wanting to do it, putting aside your ego sometimes. Putting aside sometimes, the 'why don't I have a social life...' The problems in the mind that stack up like dirty plates.