Every Day is No Day Off

Photo credit: http://www.brittneycason.com

Your job is not like my job. You sit in your comfy, leather-ette Herman Miller recliner, basking in the warm glow of Earth Saver florescent fixtures, eyes transfixed on that formula-heavy, Excel spreadsheet, listening mercilessly to the Senior Director of Sales wax about his penchant for your Sales organization to make next quarter’s quotas. You’re on a Web sharing, whiteboard session with a dozen other mid-level managers. You nefariously test your Mute button by saying “hello” once in a while, ensuring it’s properly working, before launching into an expletive-laced tirade with your cubicle neighbor about how your hate your job, your supervisor, and your measly 7.5% increase this year. All the while, you’re scheduling 2 “personal days” off in the adjacent window’s Human Resource Management System. You get to do that…

Bartending? Forget it. You’re talking apples and oranges. Got an unexpected hot date tomorrow? It’s Thanksgiving next week and you’re planning on chowing down with the fam? Cut your finger? Need some sutures on that bad boy? Broke an arm? Forget it – you’re totally screwed. Welcome to the world of bartending – where the reality is, every day is no day off.  You get your ass to work, or you don’t get paid; or, you lose your job.

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Idiot Server of the Day Award: Jeff from Chilly D’s in Stockton, CA

Oh Jeff the Server. How we envy loathe thee for getting all loose at the Micros terminal and speaking/typing your mind. How we all [secretly] wish we could tell guests how we really feel, don’t we? Newsflash Jeff: (1) it seems you skipped the corporate training manual’s sensitivity training chapter (2) your parents have failed you something awful (3) you’re going to have the worst time finding a new gig – especially in Hospitality (4) you’re a straight-up, god-damned schmekel tip of the highest order and (5) in the infamous words of that dude with the terrible dome rug, you’re fired! How in the hell did the filter between your noggin and your finger tips fail you so miserabley as to assign the term “Fat Girls” to one of your checks and subsequently hand it to your guests?

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The Truth About Why We Go to Bars

Bottle of Grey Goose at Ye Old Liquor Store: $30. Same bottle at a prime NYC club: $350. Bottle imported beer at Felipe’s Corner Bodega: $1.75. Lounge price? $10. From the consumer side of the bar, we all know it makes zero financial sense. Yet, throngs of college-edumacated adults, who all took Economics 101 at the least (or who are Wharton MBA’s and Hedge Fund managers at best), continually make terrible business decisions by imbibing in the company of others. WTF? Why in the hell do rational people knowingly throw away money at some dark alter, voluntarily ingesting crap-tasting mind-altering fluids that – quite honestly – quench your thirst nowhere near as well as water or Gatorade? The explanation is simple: it’s The Bartender’s Theory of Social Anarchy.

If Moral Bedlam and Inhibition could be plotted against Time and Alcohol Consumption what’d you’d wind up with is a non-linear,increasing (to a point) curve (see Figure 1 – above). In Mathematics, it would be described as an Exponential Curve where y = b^x. I was big on Calculus in college – a Mechanical Engineering major – what can I say? I’ve been studying the situation and collecting critical data (from both sides of the bar) for decades. My findings are described herein.

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Chicago Pays Bartender Record Settlement

This blonde chick’s name is Karolina Obrycka – a bartender at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn, in Chicago. The overly concerned looking dude on the right – who was apparently never informed that misfitting JCPenney dress shirts and 80′s Paul Teutel Sr. hair styles are out – is none other than [former] Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate. Oh? You say you haven’t heard of or seen this this cute couple in action? For those of you who haven’t, take a look at love-fest that ensues between the two when P.O. Abbate has a few drinks in him. This incident and video is from 2007.

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One Minute Drill – The Health Department Shuffle

Ah.. New York City! The land where every other storefront is seemingly a bar or restaurant. So many choices – so little time. There are thousands or maybe even tens of thousands of bars and restaurants in this town. It makes for some ridiculously difficult eating/drinking choices. The NYC Department of Health is charged with ensuring that every single one of those establishments is in compliance with standardized Food Handling and Sanitary Practices. The trouble is, there are only  a few dozen Inspectors on the streets. It can be months or even years between (supposedly random) inspections –  if they ever occur at all. An unfortunate consequence is the “Security by Obscurity” that many bars/restaurants follow as a result.

That environment has lead to a few more or less standardized practices – some of which I’m going to shed some light on. The majority of venues I’ve worked in have documented food handling policies and are damn near O.C.D. about keeping clean, constantly driving their Gestapo floor managers to beat their F.O.H. and B.O.H. staff with the Enforcement Stick. On the flip side, there are a whole lot of dirt-ass owners and managers in this town that simply do not adhere to basic tenants of cleanliness. They know they’re not going to get inspected often, and casually let the resident rats go about their business, and repeatedly violate the public by doing stupid shit like serving week-old, redressed, cooked chicken.

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The Dublin Mudslide

 

I’m not one of these dudes who’s a afraid to veer a little left. A good contigent of my bros routinely give me shit for lifting a pinky and sipping on something off-beat (read: something other than Jamesons, Jack Daniels, Bud and Coors Light). Even in The Great Liberal North-East – NYC being the epicenter of “live and let live” – there is still a bastion of meathead’ish, old school, “straight-guy logic” that outs itself in force when boozing time rolls around. There’s a set of unwritten rules to abide by. Among a half-dozen, mostly straight dudes, few other things can incite fierce stare-downs and raucous shit-talking faster than ordering a “girly” drink (like a milkshake, fruit-juice highball, or the poster-child for metrosexual and homosexual men – The Cosmo). Having the balls to order such a drink in a sea of seemingly straight men has sometimes even lead to drunken skirmishes.

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Lifers

There comes a point in one’s Hospitality career where one must make a decision – veer left or veer right. Get the hell out of the Service Industry or concede that you’re well on your way to becoming “Lifer.” You’re not going to be doing “much else” besides slinging drinks and serving slop to alkies, social imbibers, and the dregs of humanity – or so the social elite (my parents, unfortunately) keep telling me.

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Real Customers of Genius: Miss I Don’t Know What to Drink So I’ll Ask You Girl

I went out after work for that “one drink” with the crew a couple of nights ago. We happened to be at The Crooked Knife on 14th St. That’s borderline Meatpacking District/Chelsea for you out-of-towners. After a bad-ass, long, hot, sticky, dirty, demanding evening on my feet, I’m all in for settling down at the local watering hole (once in a while) and kicking back before the journey home. Here’s how I get down: I double-fist it – mostly.

You’re looking at my (1) a pint of Magic Hat #9 and (2) a shot of Michters [with three cubes] – a decent rye with a mildly fruity nose, and a fairly smooth finish. Coincidentally, Michters is one of the oldest distilleries in the U.S. – dating back to before our independence.

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I’m a Seriously O.C.D. Money Freak – Cash Handling Edition

I’m a seriously obsessive, compulsive freak. It’s not my fault… It’s my Mom’s. She’s an over-the-top, O.C.D. nightmare times ten and I, for better or worse, inherited a lot of those qualities. I rate myself right about in the average tier of the disease’s spectrum. Admittedly, getting freaky-deaky with organizational skills does come in handy when behind the bar – except when it doesn’t.  Case in point: sharing a register with others.

Above, is a picture of my personal drawer at the end of a shift.

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The Truth About Corporate Culture – Spill Check Edition

Big Corporate Hospitality culture is a funny beast. It’s a microcosm; an extreme, shining example of what I believe even “mainstream” corporate environments are like. On one hand (the public face – the one they beat you over the head with in requisite meetings and stacks of training manuals), they are all politically correct, non-discriminatory, equal-opportunity, and “all in” for the team effort. They attempt to rubber-stamp all their establishments with the same “look and feel” and – umm – operational efficiencies.

In all the various types of restaurants and bars I’ve worked in over the last two and a half decades, I still find it amazing that the culture, practices and pitfalls are nearly the same from one to another. As bars/clubs/lounges/restaurants prosper, owners/managers seem to grow exponentially disconnected from reality – what goes on in the trenches. Having been personal witness to several establishments’ Road to Glory, I hypothesize that the tipping point is somewhere around the $500K – $750K [gross revenue] a year mark. Or, it can happen at the 2 to 3 owned/managed venue point – when a previously young, highly-engaged owner/manager morphs into the CEO of a restaurant management group – jetsetting around the region, transitioning his/her bar into a “brand,” and morphing into “Corporate Bitch.”

That said, let’s look at a few choice management group playbook excerpts:

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