Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Um... How many?

Big Tops

OK, Restaurant lingo 101... the big top. What is a big top? A big top is group of people, who come in, and are larger than one table will accommodate. For example, when all tables are set to normal layouts, the biggest table can take a party of eight. So, in turn if a group larger than eight enters the building and wants to all sit together, we in the industry call it a "big top." If you have an exact number in the group (let's say it's 12) , then the number of the group replaces the word 'big'(in this case we'd call it a 12 top). It's great for the restaurant when we know how many... it's often a pet peeve of the entire staff when people don't know how many are in their group. You are already inconveniencing everyone (including other diners who are waiting along with you, because your large party is effecting their wait time as well) by bringing in a huge group. We all have friends, I understand... but it is an inconvenience none the less. On a busy night this a great source of frustration... often earning people names like moron, ass clown, jack ass. etc. I'd ask for forgiveness for being so brash, but people who are called these names earn them.

Here's an example. One night we're very busy, the quote time for a regular table in the restaurant is 30-45 minutes. A man walks up, half heartily says "There's gonna be like 15 of us." Immediately I know where this is going. "Sir, it helps if we know an exact number, since we need to round up enough tables to accommodate the group." He looks half shocked, and half stoned. "Just set it up for like 15... we'll figure it out." Normally, I'm a laid back guy and don't care. The trouble is, I'm going to pull together three tables for this guy. The three tables are going to fit 16 chairs around them MAXIMUM... twenty minutes after I seat him... his whole group is going to show up and there are going to 18. Now we have a situation of either 1.)morons rounding up loose chairs and blocking access to servers at this table and those around it. 2.) 18 show up and someone inevitably comes up to the host stand and says "um... we need two more chairs.""There aren't enough chairs..."Etc, etc. 3.) A waiter/waitress (who is most likely at their wits end from dealing with other people who don't read the menu, stagger orders, send food back they order... these are all different topics for a later time) comes up complaining about the situation. All of which are not needed on a busy night. The host staff have their own issues to deal with.

That was ONE example of why it is frustrating to deal with big tops. Look for the most part, people are nice. We're in the hospitality industry for a reason, it's to take care of those who come in to our places of business. We feed families! That's what we do! We're there to show you a good time, and when you're spending your hard earned money... we appreciate it! WE REALLY DO! When you tip, it pays our bills! This post is more of a "what not to do" if you are a big top. We don't hate all our customers... just the mentally inept.

Here's a few quick pointers if you are a big top:

  • Know the exact number in your group. By giving this information accurately to those helping you, it benefits you, your group, the staff of the restaurant, the kitchen. and the other customers there as well.
  • Understand that when they tell you it's going to be a while... it's not to upset you. It's not to hear you wine and to hear you complain. It's not even so we can punish you for having a freakish amount of people. It's because everyone is now waiting for one, two, three, or more other tables (who were there first) to finish their meals, pay out, and leave. Then for some of the staff to go and clear those tables, and clean them for you and your group.
  • Order all at once. It doesn't help your server when someone orders a beer, and then someone else in the group says "I'll order when you get back." This now creates multiple trips back and forth to and from your table. This is inefficient and costs you (and us) time. Even worse, it now puts your drink order behind other tables in the section... because we're not coming straight back to you... other groups are eating too. Furthermore, your waiter is not slow, or incompetent... your waiter has been raped of precious moments of their time due to your inactivity.
  • There are so many more things to list. The bottom line is to be aware. Be helpful to the restaurant staff. PAY ATTENTION! We don't like getting to the fifth person and explaining the sides again for the fifth time. It's annoying and again... very inefficient.

Do go out. Bring your friends (after all, if given the choice we do like 20% of a tab for $100... than a tab for $25!), have fun. It's really not a problem if it isn't made into one. It's not always the customers fault either. There is bad service out there... but be aware of the source. Is it really the restaurant or is it the customer. I know it's not always one sided, I would be stupid to think that way. This is just a view from our side. We do thank you for going out though. Please don't take this as an attack, just look at it as some things to think about.

Have a Merry Christmas all! (Or happy holidays)

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