End of the Season!

Tomorrow is Sunday.  The Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  In my restaurant scenario, it’s the last Sunday of summer.

I work in a seasonal restaurant.  We are open year round.  For lunch and dinner.  However, a good 2/3’s of our business is done between June 1 and September 1.  At the height of the season we’ll do more than 1,000 people a day.  In January, we’ll have days where we only do 25 people all day long.    At the our busiest we have close to 140 employees.  In January we’ll have about 30 and that includes the management team.  In August on any given day we’ll have 12 servers, 5 bartenders, 2 bussers, 2 food runners, and three hosts running the place.  In February we’ll be down to 2 servers, 1 bartender, and me.  It’s a stark difference.

All of this being said, the minute June 1 rolls around we ALL start the count down to Labor Day.  We count down the days to make money, but more importantly we count down the days to reasonable amounts of business, that are much more controlled.  We count down the days to the end of tourist season and the beginning of the locals coming out of hiding.  We count down the days till we can get caught up on our administrative work.  Our cleaning.  Our projects.  We count down the days to normalcy.

And with all of that.  We have 1 day left.  Sunday we’ll be busy.  All day.  Super busy if it doesn’t rain, although it’s supposed to.  Medium busy if it does. Monday lunch will be super busy.  And then Monday night is the beginning of the end.  We’ll have about a 30% drop in business from the week before.  It will be very noticeable.

And with that we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief.   And we’ll know that we’ve made it through another season.

And for all of us that’s an amazing thing!


Dining 101

So Adam and I were chatting last night while he was driving home from work.  It’s our nightly ritual.  He’ll call me as soon as he’s done with work and tell me about his day.  If I’m still at work the conversation is short.  If I’m on my way home or like last night, already home we’ll talk the whole 15 minutes it takes for him to drive home.

Adam works at the best restaurant in town.  It’s not the fanciest.  There are way fancier restaurants in town.  But his by all accounts his is the best.  It’s been featured in a dozen magazines:  Bon Appetite.  Food and Wine.  Maxim Magazine.  In fact the article in Maxim magazine even featured a photo of him.

Any way we were chatting as he drove home and he told me about one particular table he waited on last night.  And I thought to myself as he was telling me the story that I should blog about it.

So anyone who’s read my blog knows I used to do Dining 101.  So for old times sake, here’s a:

Dining 101!

My job and Adam’s job has opened up a new world for me in the food service business.  I’ve learned a lot about running a restaurant.  AND a fucking whole lot about how to run a more upscale restaurant.  I’d only ever worked in casual corporate restaurants.  What I’m about to tell you is not as important when you are dining at The Olive Garden.  If you are dining at your local seafood restaurant, steak house, or italian restaurant it’s VERY true.

You should always, I repeat always order your entire meal at the same time.  You should NOT order your appetizer and then tell your server to come back for your entree order.  Even worse is deciding not to order your entree until you get your appetizer or even worse than that is waiting till you are finished the appetizer.  Here’s why.

In both of our restaurants when you order your meal it’s all put into the computer at the same time, with a course divider.  That way the chef knows what your having for your first course, second course, third course.  The chef immediately calls for your first course to be “fired.”  That means it’s ordered and they want it as soon as they can get it.  In most restaurants a first course will take somewhere between 7 and 12 minutes.

The next part is why it’s so important to order your whole meal at the same time.

As soon as they’ve fired your appetizer course the chef also calls for your entree course to be “ordered.”  In kitchen speak this means that it’s started but not finished.  If it’s a medium well steak they’ll cook it to medium/medium rare and then take it off the heat.  If it’s a fish dish they’ll cook the fish to a little more than half and take it off the stove.  This way when your finished with your appetizers and your server goes to the kitchen and fires your entrees it only takes about 7 minutes for them to be finished and plated.  The food is cooked to your liking, there’s an appropriate break between courses, the order doesn’t back the kitchen up and you don’t wait 30 minutes for your meal.  It’s a win/win for everyone.


If you don’t order your meal at the same time what happens is the server puts your entrees into the computer and it’s now what we call an “order/fire.”  Meaning it’s been ordered and we need it as soon as possible.  Here’s the problem.  Most entrees, in most nice restaurants can’t be prepared in 7 minutes.  You can’t cook a steak in 7 minutes.  You can’t cook a mushroom ravioli in 7 minutes.  You can’t cook a meatloaf in 7 minutes.  You can’t really even cook a cheeseburger in 7 minutes.  ESPECIALLY when there are 30 other tickets on the board all vying for attention in the kitchen.  In my restaurant if you order your entree and it goes into the kitchen “order/fire” you are just about guaranteed it’s going to take at least 20 minutes and more likely 30.  Which considering your food isn’t being microwaved (neither of our restaurants own one) and is being cooked from scratch isn’t that long.  Unfortunately restaurants like The Olive Garden, Applebees and Outback have conditioned us to believe that our food should be on the table as soon as we order it.   All this translates into a guest being pissed off for something that could have been avoided.

One of the big reasons that many people want to wait to order their entrees is because once again restaurants like The Olive Garden, Applebee’s and Outback and have conditioned us to know that there will not be a break between courses.  In fact as soon as your entrees are finished you’ll find them on your table whether you are still eating your salad/appetizer or not.  If you are in a nicer/upscale restaurant and your server isn’t clueless, and the kitchen even begins to know what they are doing this will never be the case.  My servers are trained to not even fire your entrees until your appetizers are off the table.  This way you get about 7 to 10 minutes between courses to digest, enjoy conversation etc.  This is also why most people dining in my restaurant can expect to be there between one and half to two hours.

The reason this came up is because last night Adam had table that decided not to order their entrees until they had their appetizers.  They still hadn’t ordered when he cleared their appetizers.  Then they became upset when their entrees took so long to get to the table.  As he said, if they’d let him do his job instead of trying to do it for him everyone would have been so much happier in the long run.

So if you are at Applebee’s you behave one way.  If you are at your local upscale restaurant behave another.

No Carbs! No Sugar!

I’ve missed doing this.  I’ve miss this being a part of my day.  I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed a lot about this.  Of course it’s still as difficult to think of something to write as it ever was.  And I find myself sitting here wondering what to write.

So tonight around 8:30 one of my servers came to me with a question about the menu and a meal that a guest was ordering.  It was a guest who was on the Paleo Diet and she wanted to make sure that what she was about to order for him was okay.  Now I’m not on the Paleo Diet.  I’m on a no carb, no sugar diet.  But it’s far from being paleo.  It’s also not the Atkins.  The South Beach.  Or a lot of other diets that kind of play around on the same food plans.  I play too loose with the rules to really say I’m following any of these other diets.  I don’t eat natural sugar, in the form of fresh fruit which is allowed in the paleo diet.  I do however eat carrots and beets which aren’t allowed on a couple of other diets because what do you know…they have sugar.  VERY few if any of the diets allow for alcohol and I’m just not willing to give up wine and bourbon.  I just stay away from drinks that add sugar.  So anyway.

Jess wanted to know if what she was about to order for this guy was okay.  A steak.  Fennel slaw.  Vegetables.  It sounds innocent enough but NOOOOO.  It was not okay.  They recipe for the slaw calls for lots and lots of sugar.  It’s delicious but there is no way in hell he’d be allowed to eat it.  So I suggested to her to have him order what I eat on a regular basis.  A steak.  Grilled asparagus.  Sliced tomatoes.  She went to check it without with him and he was very happy.

Flash forward 20 minutes and the food has landed on the table.  I didn’t think about it when I told her to order the steak, but it comes with a balsamic steak sauce on the steak.  It’s perfectly harmless, has nothing bad in it and easily fits into his restrictions.  But he was having no part of it.  So Jess came to get me to go assure him that it was okay to eat.  So I walked up to the table and said, “Just so you know, as of yesterday I’ve lost 50 pounds on the Paleo Diet and trust me when I say I know every single thing you can and can not eat on our menu.  There is nothing in the steak sauce that’s bad for you.”

The wife then asked, “And your sure it has no carbs and no sugar.”

“Trust me.  I’d know it.  I eat the steak five times a week and it always comes with the sauce and it’s perfectly harmless.”

We chatted a few more minutes and then I left them to their meal.

It was the Paleo guy’s birthday so for dessert we sent him out a couple of pieces of cheese on a plate with Happy Birthday written on it in chocolate.  He very much appreciated the effort.

They closed the restaurant and were the last table to leave.  I chatted with them all on their way out about the diet, the restaurant they own, and their experience at my restaurant.

It was a nice way to end the evening.

The weight loss challenge!

Two days in a row!  WOW.  How long will it last?

So anyone who’s been reading my blog for more than two posts will know that I’ve struggled with my weight since the beginning of time.  I’ve been up.  I’ve been down.  My lowest weight was in 2003.  I weighed in at 181.  I was running 5 miles a day.  Working out every day.  Eating right.  And was in great shape.  My highest weight was in January of 2014.  I weighed in at 308 pounds.  It was the fattest I’d ever been.  I’m not sure how it even happened.  I woke up one day and I was the size of two people.  I was fat.  Miserable.  And unhappy.

So I decided to do something about it.  On January 8, 2014 I started a no carb, no sugar diet.  I did my best.  I didn’t beat myself up when I had a cheat day.  And there were lots of cheat days in the beginning.  I took my time.  And slowly.  And I mean VERY slowly, the weight started to drop off.  More slowly than any other time that I’d tried to lose weight.  But that was okay.  I kept my resolve and kept at it.

There were things I did right.  There were things I did wrong.  But I kept at it.

My work place had a biggest loser challenge and I managed to lose weight that way.  It was actually very motivating.  Each week out of our checks the company took 20 bucks.  At the end of 14 weeks if you’d managed to lose 7% of your body weight then you got your money back and the company matched.  I lost 22 pounds as a part of this contest.  More than anyone else.

And I continued to plug away at.

And so today I weighed myself, which is part of my morning ritual.  My alarm goes off.  I check my email.  I pee.  I weigh myself.  And after 8 long months I’m finally down a total of 51 pounds.  I feel very proud of myself.

I still have a long way to go.  My goal is to weight 189.  I still have about 70 pounds to go.  But I can do it.  I know I can do it.  I just have to keep my eye on the prize.  And soon.  Well actually not soon.  It’s a very slow process.  But soonish.  I’ll be able to wear a 32 inch pair of pants.  For that matter I’ll be able to shop for clothes in the mall again, instead of the big and fat section at J.C. Penny or Casual Male XL.  I’ll be able to walk into the Gap and buy a pair of jeans.  Or J. Crew.  Or Banana Republic.  Or Brooks Brothers.  I’ll be able to fly without worrying if the seat belt will fit around me.  I’ll be able to fly without worrying that everyone in my row hates me.  I’ll be able to walk up the stairs to my apartment without getting winded.  I’ll be a normal person.

And that will make me very happy.  The app on my I-phone says I should get to my goal weight sometime around June of 2015.  It’s not as soon as I’d like.  But as long as I keep moving forward that’s all that matters.

I’ll keep you posted!

Maine continued!

Okay.  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  A very long time.  A lot has happened since then.  Mostly good.  I won’t go into it all but I will tell you some of it.

First.  Adam and I are still in Maine.  We love it here.  It’s been an amazing time for us, and neither of us miss NYC at all.  NOT AT ALL.  We’ve been back down to the city for a couple of day trips and we both get anxious about it just as soon as we drive back in.  It makes my head hurt, my heart beat fast, and I find myself angry at the world.  Nothing feels better than getting back into the car to start the five hour drive back toward home.

We have our next trip scheduled down there in mid October.  My boss is an award winning chef and he is competing in NYC for a very prestigious award.  Adam and I are going down to eat the meal he prepares and to cheer him on.  We are very excited about being asked to attend, as well as getting the chance to eat in this highly prestigious location.  We are going to make a trip out of it.  We’ve bought theater tickets and plan to do some Xmas shopping while we are there.  I’m actually excited about this trip.

Did I mention that I have a boss.  Back in February of 2013 I interviewed as a “working” manager of a new restaurant that was opening in a coastal town in Maine.  I would wait tables, but also serve as the dining room manager.  It was not my ideal job but after being unemployed for 5 months I was desperate.  In fact I’d become so desperate that at the same time I was interviewing to be a desk manager at Sam’s Club in Portland.  I hated my life.  So I interviewed for the restaurant job and then immediately flew to Iowa to do a show.  It was the last show I’ve done.  While I was there, the owner of the restaurant called to discuss the position with me.  He wondered if I’d be interested in the General Manager position instead of the dining room manager position.  There was a long pause while I considered this.  He spoke first asking if I was worried that I couldn’t do it.  I assured him that was not the problem at all.  I was just surprised by the turn the conversation had taken.  WOW.  General Manager.

I started the position on March 26, 2013.  As General Manager.  I was tasked with opening a brand new restaurant in a little more than six weeks.  I knew I’d have my work cut out for me.  It’s been a wild and crazy ride but I’ve been on top of the wave and I think doing a pretty good job at it.  They haven’t fired me yet so I guess that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, Adam and I have plugged along.  His job is going very well.  My job is going very well.  We are saving to buy a house.  We have two cats.  Life is great.  I’ll tell you more the next time I write.  Hopefully it won’t be two years from now!