Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Worst mistake I've ever made.

At least I think ... I've been doing this a long time, after all. But I don't think I've ever managed to screw up quite so bad before.

Last week I had two cowboys at my table. They were easy-going, nice guys (and thank god for that). They ordered some wings, and then two medium well steaks. Not a big deal. Well, lately we've had a rash of people who were having a fit when they received their meals before they had finished every bite of their appetizer. A couple of them threatened to never come back, so naturally they got free food. The manager who'd dealt with most of those customers was on the floor that night, and was still fixating on giving people enough time with their apps before their meals.

We have in our computer system a nice little button that says "first out", which has only been around for a year or so. I absolutely love it. When you mark an item "first out", the computer automatically holds the rest of the items a specified time, or until the first item has cleared the kitchen, whichever is first. The problem is that the wait time isn't customized for each appetizer. Wings, for example, take 6-7 minutes, compared to three for mozzarella sticks. If a guest orders wings and sandwiches, the wings will have a four minute lead time on the sandwiches, but the meals still might go out first. So lately, Mr. Highstrung Little Lap Dog manager has been telling people not to use the first out button when it comes to wings.

Now, you'd think two medium well steaks would take a while, but the kitchen was running fast that night, and they guys had only ordered seven ounce steaks, which are thinner and cook quickly. So I put their wings in and went to do a couple of other things before putting in their dinners.

Tables come and go, I run food all over the restaurant and bring refills, typical evening. I see my guys snacking on their wings, give them some more tea, continue about my business. But eventually, I start thinking their steaks are taking a really long time! I go to the computer to check how longs it's been, and that's when I discover that I never rang them in.

Oh, holy fuck.

I still don't know how I managed to be so ditzy. For Christ's sake, I walked by then a dozen times! The only thing I can think is that when I first went to put their food in, I'd put it all in using the first out button. Then I'd erased it before sending it and put in just the wings, so maybe in the dumbass portion of my brain it registered as having completed the task.

Right away, I put the order in to the kitchen with several "on the fly" mods. I told the expo and the cooks, tossed a warning at the manager (cringing the whole time), and then I rushed out to the table.

"Guys, I've made a huge mistake," I started. "I'm so, so sorry, but I forgot to put your steaks in, and it's going to be a few more minutes."

"Oh, we're not in a hurry!" one says. "Don't worry about it!"

My stress level started decreasing a little. "I feel really bad, I don't know how I did it. Can you get you a salad or some chips or something else, on me of course?"

"Oh, we're fine." the other one says.

I can't believe my luck. These guys were awesome. They told me not to tell the manager, because they didn't want to get me in trouble! They said they deal with customers all the time, and they know how customer complaints can get your ass in a sling with the bosses, and they didn't want to cause me trouble. This after I delayed their meal almost 40 minutes! The manager never even had to go talk to them, they were so mellow, so chill. They didn't ask for anything free. 99.99% of tables would have flipped their shit, and I wouldn've spent the rest of the night with the manager treating me like shit.

In the end, a friend of their joined them and ordered separately, and they took up one of my booths for the better part of three hours. They left me $4 on $40, which was $4 more than I deserved. They could have left me nothing after all that time, and I wouldn't have said a word.


Steven Nicolle said...

You are human.We as waiters have to be so perfect all the time we have to remember once in a while we can make a mistake too. The other day I forgot to put a steak knife down. Felt pretty stupid but at least I was there to put it down when they motioned me over.You apologized and that is fair and they treated you with understanding although I still would have left a bit more than $4!

purplegirl said...

Yeah, I would've tipped me more too; but from a non-server perspective I don't blame them at all.

G.H. said...

Been there, done that! And the fist few minutes after you realize what you've done, are the most stressful and paranoid time for any server. At least the guys were cool.

Kai said...

I've also done that. Shamefully more than once, even. I worked the grave shift so people are either a lot more understanding, or on more drugs and thus don't care as much here. (And trust me when I say that I'm not saying this out of prejudiced views of midnight diners, the city I worked in has one of the highest drug rates in the bay area).
You really have to love and appreciate the people who are just chill enough to not make a deal out of a mistake.

As a notorious camper, however, I would also have tipped more. You followed protocol to the letter in the situation given, and you did if with a smile and a determination to make it right.

purplegirl said...

Thanks Kai, I did my best. They've been in several times since, and are always pleasant to wait on. I wish there were more people like that.