We were all rookies at one time. We walked in confident the first day at a new restaurant only to end up with a deer-in-the-headlights look by the first rush. I’ve worked at plenty of restaurants over the years and know the feeling all to well. I have most certainly been “that guy” as well. There is something unnerving about being a rookie at a new restaurant.
I have also been the veteran at several restaurants. I have been around long enough to see countless rookies come through my restaurant and make the same mistakes. Most of them are incredibly well meaning. I try to be patient with all of them. Sometimes I even bother to learn their names after a couple of months.
But then there is “that guy.” For sake of readability let me point out “that guy” can also be a gal. The fundamentals are the same. There are certain rookies that start at restaurants that don’t seem to care that they are being “that guy.” They assume that their first few months will be like training. They take forever on the computers and ask the same questions countless times. All of which would be forgivable if they understood some simple basics of coworker relations.
It is not fair to “that guy” for veterans to expect him to know the unwritten laws of the restaurant. Learning the various personalities and alliances of the veterans can be difficult. I have learned most veterans are patient with most rookies, but not with “that guy.” So I have compiled a list of ten statements to avoid at all cost by rookies during their first couple of months at a restaurant. These should serve as a guideline of the worst offenses a rookie can make to become “that guy.”
10) “I have an idea”: As Lou Grant would say, “You got a lot of spunk kid. I hate spunk.” It is good to want to make the place you work at better, but first learn how things are done. They have probably been done that way for a while and are part of everyone else’s routine. If you want to force everyone else to change his or her routine, it must be a pretty strong idea. Give it some time. If it is a good idea your first week, it will still be a good idea in a month. Just learn the system we all follow first.
9) “I am too sick to work”: Serving is not a job where your desk can just be left empty for the day. If you call in sick, someone must work instead of having the shift off. When you are legitimately too sick to work, send a mass text offering the shift to anyone who wants it. Only after that should you call a manager. On your next shift back, find out who had to work and apologize to them. You now owe this person a favor. If you are not really sick or are simply hungover, expect swift and severe retribution from your coworkers.
8) “Can I get a follow with that third plate?”: On my first night as a server I was told by my manager that if I could not figure out how to carry three plates by the end of the shift I was fired. I am not sure if he was serious because I learned to carry three plates by the end of the shift. A server who cannot carry three plates is like a cabbie who cannot drive. It is a basic job function and one that you should have down in your first couple of weeks.
7) “Can I use your…”: By the end of your first week out of training you should have made some investments. These should include a lighter, several pens, and a wine key. By this time you should not still be borrowing these things from coworkers and making them chase you down to retrieve them. Everyone forgets his or her lighter from time to time, but not routinely. These are part of your uniform and the tools of your trade.
6) “We are out of…”: We probably aren’t. You probably just didn’t see it. Which is understandable because the average servers vision goes to about 20/80 when it comes to looking for something that will cause more work for them. I understand this. I will reply by telling you with incredible detail where to find it. If you return and say we are out of it again, you must walk with me to the place I told you to look. If I find it in the place I told you it would be, I am then allowed to throw the item at you.
5) “Can you carry this”: As part of the sidework at most restaurants you will be asked to lift and carry heavy things. It can be tiring to do so. That is why it is called work. Just because someone else may be stronger or taller does not mean it is any more fun for them to do it. Unless you want to be called upon to carry everything that is light or on the floor, you should carry it yourself.
This is incredibly therapeutic. Unfortunately, I know “that guy” does not have the attention span to read over 1000 words. This means that I will have to conclude the list on Monday. The upside of making this list into two parts is that I will have plenty of space to address the four most egregious statements a rookie can make. The downside is that you will have to wait until Monday to read it.