The Games We Play

I said “bored games” not “board games”

One of the interesting topics to come up in my interview on The Dave Scott Show last week was “crop dusting.”  If you haven’t listened to the interview, you can click here and listen to it yourself.  Apparently someone in the chat room of the station brought it up for him to ask about.  For those not familiar with the term, “crop dusting” is similar to a “fly by.”  A “fly by” occurs when you walk by a table to check it out.  “Crop dusting” is a “fly by” where you leave a gassy scent trail behind hoping to encourage the table to leave.

Judging from the reaction I get when telling non-restaurant people about this tactic, most people have no idea servers do this.  Which begs the question, “What else do they not know we do?”  It also makes me wonder what games are played at other restaurants that we do not play at mine.  So today, for a little change of pace, I decided to write about some of the fun games the servers played at past restaurants to entertain ourselves.  Hopefully this will bring a bit more fun to your restaurant as well.

Some games are pretty obvious.  I think every server has at one point or another instructed a fly by on a table with an attractive or outlandishly dressed guest.  Some of the more fun variations of this game start by picking out a particular trait (biggest hair, least matching, etc) at the beginning of the night.  My current favorite is ugliest Christmas sweater.  Then when someone matching this description enters the building the whole staff can giggle with glee.

A couple of non-restaurant friends created a game we like to call “Go Chiefs” or simply “the mullet game.”  One night when visiting a local casino, we were noticing the disproportionate number of mullets.  Instead of shouting, “hey look at his mullet” we began saying, “Go Chiefs.”  This one has spread to a couple of restaurants I have worked at.  While not everyone rocks a mullet quite as well as I did in my youth, those who still do bring a great deal of joy in these establishments.

During the summer we have a band that plays on our patio.  I take credit for most accurately describing their style as “music you would hear at the memorial service for a dead fraternity brother.”  John Mayer, Bob Marley, Dave Matthews, and similar tunes grace us once a week.  This in turn spawned “the dollar game.”  Before the band arrives each server throws a dollar in a pot.  They pick one band or artist.  The first server’s band that is played wins the pot.  This turns dreading hearing the same song again into a sense of excitement.  It also explains why one server always seems really excited to the “Your Body is a Wonderland” for the millionth time.

Then there are the games we play with each other.  I’m sure almost all of you have seen the movie “Waiting.”  While I have never seen a game quite like that played in a restaurant, there are a few others I enjoy.  “Carpet bombing” is a derivative of “crop dusting.”  The difference is the target.  Our host staff remains behind the desk on a small patch of carpet.  They are not able to flee.  Sometimes when you have been double or triple sat, a “carpet bomb” can make the whole world seem right.

My current restaurant uses pitchers rather than pre packaged cups for coffee creamers.  My last restaurant used the pre-packaged cups, which spawned a very fun game.  The rules are simple.  The first step is to secretly drop one of those creamer cup in a fellow servers apron.  Then the next time you see them you smack their apron with a check presenter.  Hilarity ensues.

Bartenders are also fun targets.  On a particularly slow night I started tossing used bevnaps on the floor behind the bar when the bartender wasn’t looking.  The first dozen or so went unnoticed.  Once she did notice, she was out to kill the person doing it.  As soon as she began to suspect me, I enlisted the help of some friends.  As she lectured me about how immature I was being, they tossed used bevnaps all over the floor behind her.

We are not evil people.  For the most part, we actually like our guests.  None of this is hostility towards them.  Serving can be a pretty boring job sometimes.  These games raise the energy level of the room.  When the servers are having fun, the guests are having fun.  A rising tide lifts all ships.

These are some of the more basic games.  I am leaving out some of the classics (daughter or hooker) for later posts.  The list for hazing rookies is also in the works.  What games do you play at your restaurant?  I am always looking for new ideas and it is only polite to share your ideas with the rest of us.  The comment section is all yours.

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5 comments on “The Games We Play

  1. Pingback: The Games We Play | The Hospitality Formula

  2. Pingback: Introducing Restaurant Laughs « Tips on improving your Tips

  3. PurpleGirl on said:

    Ice down the shirt is a favorite at my restaurant. For a while me and a few others were having great fun sneaking disgusting things into peoples’ drinks — straw full of jalapeno juice in the water, for instance.

  4. The servers and bartenders at my various restaurant jobs all had a great time with our games and hazing of newbies. Of course we had code words to describe attractive guests or annoying guests w/o them catching on. One place liked to send the new servers to go get backup stock from the basement , while we all stood around giggling when they came back feeling stupid and frustrated at not being able to find the basement(that never existed lol). Also, having the new guy(girl) “empty” the hot water from the coffee machine. It took one kid a full ten minutes to figure out that it wasn’t a tank and it was never going to empty. You’d think they catch on sooner considering there were usually ten servers standing there choking back laughter. But really, it’s all just a way to keep our spirits up and make it through the shift smiling.

    • David Hayden on said:

      I feel a whole post of rookie hazing tricks coming on. I’ve done the coffee machine one and have a fun variation on the basement trick

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