Thursday, July 26, 2007

May I Take Your Order?

Allison Owings over at the NYTimes writes an interesting reaction to the new movie Waitress starring Lew Temple, Keri Russell and Cheryl Hines. The movie seemed to portray a very unrealistic portrait of what it's actually like working in a diner except for the camaraderie that the characters seemed to develop throughout the film. Owings talks about her years of interviewing waitresses for her book, Hey, Waitress! The USA From the Other Side of the Tray, she talks about the paradoxal pride that restaurant service ignites in the women she interviewed:

"Some examples: I make sure my plates look good. I can “turn a frown into a smile.” I get along with the cook. I tally up my checks fast. My people don’t have to ask for refills. I upped tabs by offering a to-go box for the entree, so they would order dessert. I have lots of regulars. I could make a pyramid with water glasses and never spill a drop.

More examples: I know how to prioritize. I don’t let a customer eat something I wouldn’t eat myself. I can keep children under control. I could carry eight plates. I remember what everyone orders for breakfast. I always serve on the left and clear from the right, properly. I know when to give a free piece of cheesecake to smooth things over.

Some waitresses also said the following: 'I can take it.'"

Owings' thoughts remind me of a post on another blog by Jeff Lebel about hospitality jobs and how they get such a bad rap in our culture…

"Why do we hold this view of the server or bartender in the restaurant, the front desk clerk or room attendant in the hotel? After all, they are the people most responsible for the experience we have when trying to escape to a destination outside of our daily norms. Marc pointed out that in Europe, service jobs are highly regarded and those working in them take pride in providing that experience for their "client". This attitude seems quite contrary to ours in the US."

The pride and the work that goes into serving hungry and sometimes impatient customers is well-deserved and under appreciated most times. From the short time I waited tables in college, I remember not only the physical labor but the emotional as well. But what little experience I have working in a restaurant, while I do remember the sore feet and the customers who didn't bother to leave a tip but I also remember the bond that develops between restaurant servers and even the bond that you form with those who do respect your service, the "regulars" who take the time to know who you are is what helps to develop that great sense of pride that Owings talks about.

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Posted by Rosie Reilman, Internet Sales Specialist

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