Sunday, January 18, 2009

Murphy and the Restaurant Business

Here's a little off-the-cuff humor that restaurateurs who have been in the trenches will fully appreciate. Would-be restaurateurs may not understand this, but they should or they should stay out of the trenches. The rest of you, well, perhaps you will come away with a better understanding that the restaurant business is crazy, unscriptable, unpredictable, and requires immense flexibility and critical problem solving skills. Oh, and don't let the whining fool you. The restaurant business, despite all this, is an immensely rewarding one and most of us wouldn't do anything else.

Without further ado, I present Mr. Murphy in action:

If you have two parties of 12 booked half an hour apart, they will arrive at the same time.

If you have only four orders of a special left, three servers will submit a total of six orders for them simultaneously.

If you keep the 86 board (where we write quantities left of items that we are running out of) up to date, the servers won't read it.

If you forget to update the 86 board and leave incorrect information on it from the previous shift, the servers will memorize it.

If an order arrives COD, you won't be there to write the check.

If it's the week of Mother's Day, your linen company is guaranteed to short you by at least 30% on the tablecloths and napkins.

If there's a blizzard in January, your linen driver is going to bring you three times the linens that you can possibly use.

If a driver tells you he will arrive at 2:30pm, he will arrive in the middle of dinner.

If your reservation book is perfectly spaced, customers will fix that for you.

If everything is going well, the compressor on the walk-in will blow.

If two customers leave similar overcoats on the coat rack, they will inevitably go home with the wrong one (and it's always the restaurant's fault).

If you're fully booked, at least one key employee will call in "sick."

If it's cold as hell in January and you're in a cashflow crunch, half your tables will be redeeming gift certificates.

If you promise a particular wine for a customer's upcoming dinner, you will be out and so will the distributor.

If you just ran out of a wine of which you sell three bottles a year, two more tables will try to order it—tonight.

If space is very tight in the dining room, at least one couple will not want to sit at their appointed 2-top, preferring to take one of your 6-tops out of service instead.

If they book for twelve people, only 9 will show.

If you just have to have those veal racks for your wine dinner tonight, the truck will have a flat tire and be three hours late.

If it's August and you have a full house on a 103F day, your AC compressor is due to die.

If it's Saturday night and your grill or broiler is getting hammered with steak orders, time for it to go up in flames.

If you just got your whites hosed down with blood, customers want you in the dining room.

If it's 8:30pm on Valentine's Day, the dish machine is going to break.

If you have lots of room in your dining room, nobody will walk in.

If you're jammed to capacity, everybody will try to walk in.

If you're down a server, you'll be slammed.

If you sacrifice three 4-tops in your dining room to seat a 12-top, only 6 people will show and you could have seated them at the vacant 6-top.

If the customer has a food allergy, he won't tell you; he'll just send the dish back when he spots the allergen in the food.

If you create a vegetarian special, nobody will order it.

If you don't create a vegetarian special, every other table will have a vegetarian.

If you have a packed book for the first time in weeks, it will snow.

If there is one table in the dining room that has yet to be reset, the next table in the door will insist on sitting there.

If fish has been selling like hotcakes and you buy extra for this weekend to meet the demand, everyone will order meat.

I could go on forever, but I gave myself a five-minute time limit on this post. Let me finish by saying, if you had good sense, you would not own a restaurant! Here's a toast to all us crazy people lacking good sense that thrive in this chaos that we call the restaurant business!

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