Today’s an off day for me, so I thought I’d take the time to educate you on a few rules regarding carryout etiquette. This post is part 1 because I may have more to add at a later date. Also, this post’s another long one, so look out.

Carryout is pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as restaurants go. That means I get to deal with a lot of shit that people wouldn’t dream of doing to a server. I think people have a lot of confusion about carryout in general, so hopefully these rules will help clear some of that up. I would also like to note that The Restaurant, as in all things, does carryout a little differently than other places, so some of these rules might not apply in all situations. So, without further ado…

Carryout Etiquette

1. Carryout is not the same as a fast-food drive-thru! If you order real food from a real restaurant, even via carryout, it’s going to take some time to cook. If you order milkshakes from a restaurant that can actually advertise them as milkshakes, that means they’re made with real ice cream and real milk, by hand. This also takes time and it’s messy, so if you order 7, do not bitch at me that Dairy Queen is faster.

2. If you have a large order, call it in first. Do not camp my window. I cannot stress this enough. Sitting at the window waiting for your 12 kids chicken fingers and 4 medium-well steaks wastes your time, stresses me out, and potentially wastes other customers’ time as well. Especially by sitting at the carryout window, you are potentially making someone who wants a freaking chocolate milkshake wait 30 minutes or more. You’re also preventing people who already have their orders ready from getting their food unless they’re smart enough to come inside.

3. If you’re stuck behind a camper waiting for your order, come inside to retrieve it! And do not bitch at me about how long it’s taking! The best I can do is ask a camper to move up if they see someone pull in behind them, and a lot of entitlement junkies won’t do that. Your food is ready—you can take twenty steps from your car to the restaurant and come get it yourself. We don’t run curbside service here, folks.

4. If you’re camping, and you see someone come up behind you, pull up and let them get their order. 10 to 1 their order is smaller and will be done before yours, or it’s already done.

5. DO NOT honk at me. EVER. I take my job very seriously. If I am not at the window immediately, I’m most likely getting another order, dealing with the register for in-store customers trying to pay and leave, or I’m on the phone. Honking to get my attention is extremely rude and guarantees that I will make your order my lowest priority and may lead to me “forgetting” the butter for your rolls or the ketchup for your fries.

6. Know what you want before you order! Would you tell a server you’re ready to order and then continue to study the menu for 10 minutes? Actually, from what I’ve read, some people would. That aside, the same rule applies here. I am essentially working three jobs—carryout, phone service, and the cash register. I do not have all day to wait for you to make up your mind or to answer fifty zillion questions about the menu only to have you decide you don’t want anything

7. Do not ask me how much the total is right after you order, or try to hand me your credit card/cash right after you order. This rule may apply to The Restaurant and possibly other small restaurants only. The reason for this is I have to total the bill by hand. While I have many individual prices memorized, mental arithmetic is not a talent of mine, and I do have to look up the more infrequently ordered items. If you thrust cash or a card at me, I’m just going to shut the window and walk away.

8. Show up when you’re told to show up! Do not show up when you think your food should be ready. If I tell you it’s going to be about 10 minutes, it’s not going to be 5 minutes and it’s not going to be half an hour. It’s going to be about 10 minutes. I understand being caught in traffic and other such situations—if you let me know of these in advance, I will be more than happy to put your cold items in the freezer or wait to start your order.

9. When it comes time to pay, I am not a bank—do not foist all your spare change on me. First of all, carryout isn’t taxed because what I do is not considered “service.” At least at The Restaurant, this means all of our prices end in .x5 or .x0. Do not give me your pennies—I don’t have anywhere to fucking put them in the till to begin with. Do not hold me up trying to count out $.65 in dimes, pennies, and nickels. It’s rude and inefficient, and when I’m busy, efficiency is the name of the game.

10. You don’t have to tip the carryout girl. But it’s nice and I do appreciate it. If you plan on regularly coming for carryout, and you tip, you will forever get my absolute best service, even if I’m swamped. I am at the bottom rung of the foodservice industry, but I bust my ass every day I work to give you the best possible service, and it feels good to be appreciated—even if you just tell me to keep the change from your milkshake.

Advertisements

Carryout Hell

July 15, 2009

Tonight was the worst kind of carry-out night. Scratch that, second worst. The worst is the restaurant being busy and carryout being slammed. Tonight was we were dead except for one 30-45 minute period where I got fucking reamed.

It all started with a massive order, over $50 worth of food. For those of you who work at real restaurants, that doesn’t sound like much, but here at The Restaurant that’s like the equivalent of a $600 order, all to go. Pork chops, fried chicken, and burgers and fries coming out my fucking ears. Oh, and 3 milkshakes. Fuck milkshakes. At least it was only 3…

Understand that my duties as carryout girl include getting the cooks all the proper plates and other objects to make the food and making sure they understand what the hell they’re supposed to be doing (both are new, and neither are used to the system…I miss our old cooks so bad, who fucking understood when I told them I needed 3 fries, a fry on a plate, and an onion ring on a plate, and who didn’t need everything explained to them). Then I have to get all the sides, get all the little extras (sauces, shaky cheese, rolls), make the milkshakes, package everything up when the cooks finally fucking finish making the food, and total the check by hand.

I know you all are probably saying “That’s not hard,” and even for one big order, no, it’s not hard, especially when it was called in so I have time to get everything ready. What makes it hard is when two more people come in and place a decent-sized order, the phone rings and another order comes in, and someone shows up at the window asking for a vanilla malt (he was the only one who tipped me…I’ll talk more about tipping carryout in another post–for now, understand that I don’t expect to be tipped as I do get paid, but it’s nice when someone does it).

It’s extremely easy for carryout to get slammed as I have lowest priority on the grill, there’s no limit to the size of or how many orders I can have at any one time, and there’s no spacing. The phone can just ring ring ring, and I have to take every order. The best I can do is tell people longer and longer wait times as I try to get caught up–and that doesn’t stop some people from showing up when they decide their food should be ready.

But the best part of all this? As I’m rushing around, trying to get orders organized–I have about a 3-foot space to have fifty million individual pieces of food, all of which are in identical white bags and I still don’t have the fucking tickets–the phone rings again. YAY.

But it wasn’t another order. Oh no. This caller, a rude old lady to begin with, started out by saying “I got carryout last night, I got this and this and this…” Great, a fucking complaint, I think. This is exactly what I need right now. I wait for a pause, and very politely say “All right, ma’am, I’ll try to help you but please understand that I wasn’t here last night so–”

“I KNOW THAT! SHUT UP AND LET ME FINISH!”

It gets even better. She continues, “I just wanted to say how nice the man was to help me out with my order, and I wanted to know what kind of cottage cheese you serve.”

Despite being slammed, I’ve actually been unusually cool and collected up to this point. No more. I sure as hell hope I covered that phone well as I went to check what our fucking cottage cheese was. B, our specials cook/sometimes manager was in the back doing whatever, and as I looked through the fridge for the goddamn cottage cheese, I exploded.

“B, where the fuck is the cottage cheese, this stupid rude bitch wants to know what kind we serve, I cannot fucking believe this, I am fucking slammed right now and this is the LAST THING I NEED…”

The fact that it was a stupid question is not what set me off, by the way. It was the fact that she fucking told me to shut up. I almost hung up the phone, but unfortunately far too many customers at The Restaurant know the owner, and I don’t want to get fired.

I eventually got caught up and all was well. Boyfriend surprised me after work, which quelled my rage a little bit. This post is already pretty long, but I’ll wrap up by saying this: fuck you Tip-Stealing Woman. We have a family that comes in pretty regularly. The husband always tries to tip and the wife always stops him from doing so. Tonight, he snuck a tip on the counter for the waitress who despite her best efforts had already been stiffed twice in one night and had made no money. About 30 seconds after they left, Tip-Stealing Woman came back into the restaurant and took the tip back. Who the fuck does that?!

What a night…

This is primarily an industry blog, but at times I intend to discuss other subjects near and dear to my heart (such as horror movies, as per my previous post). One such subject is live-action children’s programming and cartoons. Namely, how bad it’s gotten.

I may sound like a codgy old fart, waving my cane while opining about the “good old days,” but hear me out. Disney has become a cesspool of Generic Teenager(s) Dealing With Life shows, Nickelodeon has followed suit, and even Cartoon Network has added a live-action block to their lineup, filled with generic faux-reality shows and other unoriginal imitations of adult shows.

Yes, Cartoon Network is phasing out cartoons. And the cartoons that air today on all three networks are bland, unoriginal, uninspired, dumbed-down pieces of shit. Correction: on the Disney Channel, the cartoons are the same as the live action shows, except the main character has superpowers or something.

What happened to Nicktoons? Where’s Doug, and the Rugrats, and even fucking Ren and Stimpy? Where’s the Animaniacs? I can understand Bugs Bunny no longer being relevant, even if it does sadden me, but fuck, where’s Spider-Man and Batman? What happened to the Cartoon Cartoons on Cartoon Network? The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab, Johnny Bravo. Hell, I’d even take Cow and Chicken at this point. Disney had DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Talespin, Rescue Rangers, Aladdin…sure, they always included Disney characters but at least they could be relied upon to be well-animated, family-friendly without being completely superficial, and at least somewhat smart.

What happened to the Nickelodeon gameshows? Family Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple? Where are shows with a creative premise, like Are You Afraid of the Dark? or The Secret Life of Alex Mac? Even the Spunky Teenage Girl/Boy Dealing With Life genre was more interesting when I was growing up–I loved Clarissa Explains It All and Pete and Pete. In fact, Nickelodeon pretty much ruled as far as the live-action side of things went. I’m not sure what happened, or when it began to decline, but goddamnit, it needs to stop.

It’s not that we didn’t have shows like what’s on today–Boy Meets World and Saved By The Bell come to mind. But we had more variety, and the message of every single show was not “Grow up, grow up, get a boyfriend, get a girlfriend, have sex, be a living fucking Barbie doll, fuck school (ok, well maybe not that one), fuck creativity, fuck imagination, conform, and while you’re at it, buy this shit because Miley Cyrus likes it.”

When I have kids, what the hell am I going to show them? And don’t tell me “Turn off the TV and read a book,” because you’re preaching to the choir–I’m a big reader and my kids will be as well. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t watch TV growing up or that I expect my kids to go without. I suppose I can hope that some of these shows will be on DVD by then, because if the industry doesn’t shape up, there’s not going to be anything left worth watching.

For more information, check out the following articles:

Cartoon Network Ditching All-Toon Format

Cartoon Network’s Non-Animated Push Comes With Risks

More News About the Network Formerly Known as Cartoon

For ways to act, check out STOP THE MADNESS

Cannibal Holocaust

July 12, 2009

Good god, why did I watch that movie? I’m a horror movie junkie, I’m desensitized to almost anything at this point, but…Jesus Christ…

If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If not, you should probably avoid it. Especially if you have a weak constitution. It’s a technical masterpiece and I can see why it’s a classic, but it’s definitely not going on my “To Watch Again” list.

I’m going to go look at some kittens now, I think.

Today was an entertaining day at work. First, Owner finally decided to talk to me after about a month of my becoming increasingly disgruntled due to being stuck in carry-out working three days a week. Apparently he’ll move me if I’m hell-bent on waitressing, but he thinks I may be too high-strung for the position (this is potentially true, though I’m pretty good at adapting).

I told him what I’m hell-bent on is making more money. Be that by waitressing or by working more hours, I don’t care. But I can’t do this three-day-a-week crap anymore, especially during the summer. He took my cell number so I can be reached in the morning. We’ll see what happens.

In other news, carryout was fun today. I don’t feel like going into a lengthy explanation of my job, but suffice to say I run the phone, the calling/putting-together of carryout orders, and the main cash register (people come up to pay at The Restaurant) all at once. This is fine on a slow day but potentially harder than waitressing when I’ve got a line at the register, several orders, someone at the window, and the phone is ringing (this has happened multiple times). Fortunately, on Fridays Awesome Manager is working, and he’s always happy to grab reg if I’m slammed.

Had a couple amusing folks tonight. My first customer asked if she could get a senior discount on a $6.25 check. Sorry, lady, but about 70% of our clientele is made up of senior citizens. She was the second person to ask this week, and I have never been asked that for the year and change I’ve been working here. What gives?

Less amusing today was the old fart in the checkout line who decided to patronize me. I had run to the kitchen to grab a piece of pie for an in-store carryout order, and when I came back Awesome Manager was taking the register for me. Asshole Customer looked at me, smirked, and asked “Are you the assistant?” in the most condescending tone I’ve heard in a long time. I laughed it off, but inside I was seething. No, Fuckface, I’m not the assistant, I just have a manager that’s good enough to take the reg so you don’t have to wait a whole extra thirty seconds and then bitch at me about how I wasn’t standing right there to take care of you as soon as you walked up. Fucker.

Oh well, I have a Bliss bar right now and it’s melting away all my rage. Next update should be Tuesday after work, unless I think of something to talk about this weekend. Horror movie marathon and boyfriend returning from out of state this weekend, so all should be well.

Hosting

July 10, 2009

The title of this blog is Eternal Carry-Out Girl, but I also host. Hosting at The Restaurant doesn’t work the way it does at most normal restaurants. From what I’ve seen, hosts at other restaurants typically have a rotation they follow, so as to distribute customers among the waitstaff in something resembling an orderly fashion.

That’s not how we do things here. Here, the host’s job is essentially to stand in people’s way as they try to sit wherever they damn well please. We do not have a “Please Wait to be Seated” sign. It’s also my job to set the tables (we don’t wrap silverware), get people water, and generally do whatever the waitresses tell me to do.

This setup leads to a lot of stupid situations. Single customers taking up a whole booth (we only have four booths, so this is actually a problem). Customers mistaking me for a waitress and trying to order from me, then getting angry when I explain to them that I can’t take their order. People sitting down before a table is set, or even while it’s still dirty. I then have to try and weave around them, setting placemats, napkins, and silverware while they try to look at the menu. It’s a little amazing how many people don’t bother to pick up their menu or their hands while I’m trying to do this.

This setup also leads to major problems for the waitresses. There are three dinner sections—4 booths, 8 tables, and then the two full counters and the entire back dining room. Woe betide the waitress assigned to counters, for they are doomed to either having no one all night or being completely slammed. Tonight was the latter situation, and I felt terrible as I watched the counters fill up and led groups of 8 to the back.

Some explanation: I understand that at larger restaurants, dealing with large groups is the norm, and an individual server can have a ton of tables at any given time. Said larger restaurants also typically have computer systems, food runners, and/or people making milkshakes for them.

At The Restaurant, waitresses do all checks by hand, take out all the food themselves, and are responsible for most sides, desserts, and our handmade milkshakes. Suffice to say, this makes it far more difficult than usual for any one person to deal with that many customers, especially when there’s a rush.

So I get to stand by and watch this happen to Mrs. T tonight, a very sweet woman who I am quite fond of, and who doesn’t deserve the shit she has to take from people and management (Owner always gives her the counter section and the most clean-up work). I feel like shit, but there’s nothing I can do about it—I have no control, and frankly I have to spend all my time running around setting up the back dining room (which is never set up) and having people think I’m a waitress.

I also found out my friend N is quitting—it’s about time, but I’m sad, as now I will have no one to chat with when it’s dead. Still, I don’t blame him. He’ll be making significantly more money at his new job. Good luck, sir.

Oh, and ten minutes before closing we had a group of ten come and sit in the section I was supposed to sweep. Note that here at The Restaurant, it’s the host’s job to sweep the carpet with a broom at the end of the night, which makes it hilarious when people with small children apologize to the waitress and tip them extra for the big mess they left. Tips aren’t split with the host or busser here, so the waitress gets more money while we get more work.

Thirty minutes after we closed, they were still there, and I said screw it and left. The disher was done, so I was done. I don’t mind staying a little after to help out or wait on a slow table, but I’m not waiting on a party of ten who’ve decided to camp after we close.

Welcome, Readers, to my little corner of the series of tubes. You may call me the Eternal Carry-Out Girl, and this is my first post in what I hope will be an ongoing blog about the restaurant industry and life in general. I hope you find something here you like.

A little about me: I am a 21-year-old college student living at home in an upper-middle class suburb. I’m presently saving money for a car and trying to move out. What is holding me back right now is my job. I call myself the Eternal Carry-Out Girl because at this point, that is what I feel like—trapped in this shitty position working at minimum wage with apparently no opportunity for advancement. This blog is born of my resultant frustration at the situation, and while I do seek to entertain and perhaps educate you, Potential Reader, that goal is second to the catharsis writing about my job will hopefully provide.

I work at a very old, family-owned restaurant that’s been around since 1955 or so. The décor certainly hasn’t changed since then—red vinyl booths and seats, formica countertops, and possibly the oldest, ugliest, grimiest carpet I have ever had the displeasure of walking on. New recruits are typically advised to pick a pair of shoes they don’t like as designated work shoes, due to the carpet having been worn down to the tarlike backing in many areas. This combined with normal restaurant grime will destroy your shoes.

I call this establishment a restaurant only out of respect for its age—in my neighborhood and the major city it borders, new restaurants come and go at a fantastic pace. In reality, however,  The Restaurant is a diner. Our seating capacity is no more than 50 to 70 people at a time. Our biggest section is the counter, for Christ’s sake. Burgers, fries, and milkshakes are our specialties, and all of our salads are made with iceberg lettuce and feature some sort of meat or cheese. The most expensive item on the menu is $10.95. In short, we are a step up from Mom’s Podunk Roadside Burger Stand and a step down from Generic Family Chain Restaurant.

Our typical nightly staff is small. We run no more than three waitresses, three cooks, a host(ess), a carry-out girl, a busboy, a disher, and a manager or the owner. We are frequently short-staffed, and most of the employees are high school kids. As anyone working in the industry will already guess, our service is terrible. Why so many teenagers? Well, because Owner doesn’t give anyone enough hours to make a decent living, and the concept of a raise never even enters his mind. My friend, a busboy I’ll call N, has been there for four years and still makes minimum wage.

I primarily work as a carry-out girl, but on Thursdays I am a hostess. My next update will cover the joys of working that position, and to those in the industry, let me note that The Restaurant has its own idea of what constitutes being a host. More tonight, after work.