I was grumbling all afternoon yesterday, absolutely dreading Valentine's. I almost always get stuck with deuce after deuce of awkward newbie diners who ask a million questions about the menu and then order water and pasta. It's a "step up" night, where our regulars go to better restaurants, and folks who can barely afford ours fill the books.
At 4:30 we had 229 reservations (vs. 150 or so for a busy Saturday). The phone was ringing and ringing and the boss had yet to arrive. I was holding my breath, waiting for some form of disaster to occur but it never came. However, no crazy night goes by without a few hiccups:
Flying by the seat of our pants, as usual- The boss' printer broke down, so he came in late with the night's menus- sort of an important item to have ready. A few servers swarmed over the stack of paper, quickly changing out the menu boards, just, just, as the line began to form at the podium.
Also stations weren't assigned yet, another vital element of preparation since the floor plan was completely different with additional two-top tables. Flustered, bossman tried to set up stations as he was getting through seating the line of waiting guests. When he realized he'd left out one of the servers from his plan, he threw his hands in the air, "You guys take whatever you want!" We all quickly conferred with each other and manned our stations, with no interruption of service on the floor. We are good with each other like that, and the boss was happy.
Deluded last minute reservation calls- I was standing at the bar well, asking the bartender about a transfer. The boss' voice came behind us as he veered away from the host stand with the phone. His pitch was a little high and odd, disbelieving: "7:15? No I'm sorry we are booked until 9:30." The bartender looked at the time: 6:50. Without needing to say anything, we started laughing.
Newbie loses his cool- Our very young, sweet day food runner was in to help the night expo. He came flying up the short stairs in the bus station into the kitchen, swearing: "That motherfucker, I'm going to fucking punch him in the mouth..." he was saying. I was a little concerned our newbie wasn't able to handle the stress of a crazy night. But then I found out who he was dealing with: One of my least favorite assholes, the misogynistic prick who I wrote about in the story Where to Shove the Pepper Grinder. I gave our newbie runner an even more explicative-laden description of dude, and he grinned widely with relief. It's always nice to know you are not alone.
Oh, and true to form, the jackass customer tipped the server $25 on a 225 bill.
Our improvements over the last year (remodeling, better chairs and lighting) seem to pay off this holiday. Our "sexy" was sufficient to draw our regular group of customers, and encourage them to rack up decently sized checks. And inexplicably, I kept popping 20 dollar tips on 80 dollar tabs, making up for the usual holiday 15 percenters. I even averaged over 20% tips for the night, which is simply unheard of on what is famously known as a restaurant amateur night.
At the end of the night, we checked the sales and were disbelieving, having hit a new record. Bossman was content and I was relieved.