Lookin' Good at 57

Friday, January 20, 2017

One Day at a Time ( A Letter to My Co-Workers )

I feel compelled tonight to tell you of my health situation. I wasn't going to mention anything till later but since I have missed days the last few weeks and I have been literally unable to get well perhaps I should let you know. This is the best way as I am sure some of you are wondering what is really going on.

As you may recall back around New Year's Eve I started to get a real sore throat and was unable really to swallow anything. My glands were swelling and in general I felt like crap.

On New Year's Day I said to the family let's go out for brunch. Hoping to enjoy it I was at best nibbling on the celery and carrots unable to enjoy the succulent Prime Rib that was on the buffet. So I drove everyone home and off I went to a place I have already been 3 times since August that being emergency at Guelph General. Knowing ahead of time I was going to be looked at and given the usual amoxicillin antibiotic to clear it up. 3 pills a day for 10 days.

Working that week I didn't feel like I was getting better. Usually that stuff works like a charm. A week later on January 8th the Saturday I woke up like there was no improvement at all. My throat was painful and once again the glands were swollen. My weight meanwhile is dropped and I felt like crap again.

Off to emergency again to get something stronger this time. This flu or whatever it is is not going away. I get this RN who gives me some steroids, a needle in the arm for pain. I said to the guy you may as well do some blood work to see how my white blood cell count is. I have a history of low immunity and unfortunately with what happened to the first dose of meds that didn't work I thought maybe it is getting lower. I last had my blood checked before we moved last summer. It wasn't good then.

So the blood results come back and they are really bad. Not only are my white blood cell counts low but so are the red blood cell counts and platelets. He says no wonder I am not getting better. Then he checks my spleen and liver out and they seem a bit enlarged. So off he sends me for an abdominal ultrasound which I am accustomed to from previous doctor to monitor the size of my spleen. That comes back and they are both enlarged. I have a chest x-ray to check if it shows up anything but that turns out fine. Now he wants to find me a bed in the hospital! I have been there for 6 hours now. He wants to find a doctor who can do some more tests on me. Finally a doctor tells him that based on the results I should be okay to go home.

But before I go he gives me a prescription for Clindamycin. Obviously a stronger antibiotic 4 x 300mg a day for 10 days this time. After working with that a few days at work and side effects happening inside my mouth I had to get off them with again no improvement in my throat or swelled glands. Now I am getting really bothered by this.

Meanwhile that Monday I called this internist up about my blood and I make the appointment for the following week figuring I should be better by then after taking these new pills. Which as I mentioned above was not the case.

Before my appointment Thursday I went to the emergency again to check if it was Mono. The nurse said what are you doing here you should be seeing Dr. Awal. I said I am this afternoon but I want to check if I have Mono. A few hours later I have no Mono. Test was negative.

So off I go now to the internist and he is very thorough. A very smart man I can tell. He gives me 4 pages of blood work to do. I went today and was unable to do it cause one of the blood samples can only be done Monday to Wednesday. Some of these samples are going to Mount Sinai Hospital, to London Ontario somewhere and other places. I have another appointment with him in two weeks at 3:45. I have to have this bone marrow biopsy done that I have put off in the past. There is no getting away from it. My immunity is shot.

So I have to get this bone marrow biopsy done very quickly so they can see what is going on. He said this is not going to be easy to find cause I have really no symptoms of what I should have with these low blood counts. So as soon as this surgeon gets back from his ski vacation probably the beginning or middle of February I will get this done. Then I will be referred to a hematologist.

What it could be we don't know. But something is not right.

By the way they didn't give me any more meds to get rid of this throat problem. I guess they want my body to fight it off by itself. Probably to get ready for what lies ahead...

So it is still soft food, sucking on Werthers hard candy to soothe the throat, and pain pills. I lay around a lot and read. My tongue still bugs me.

Thanks for helping out and picking up shifts as well. I just figured this is lasting too long to not fill you all in. I thought I would be over this. The doctors don't even care about it anymore it's all about the blood.

One day at a time...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Here is What a Waiter Has To Do To Flip Their Tables

Most of the time when we work in a restaurant that is fine casual dining you have at the most 4 tables in your section and even sometimes 3 tables when it is a busy night when a lot of staff has been scheduled. So how you make money really depends on how many turns you can do in your section.

In order to flip your tables faster you have to do this one thing. Make sure before you head back to the kitchen you check all your tables. A lot of waiters have tunnel vision and concentrate on one table at a time. In order to advance your tables you have to touch or make eye contact with each table.

Let's say you are getting a drink order for one table. Check before you ring it in if any of your other tables need a drink as well. If someone has just placed a food order with you make sure your other tables have all placed their food order as well. If you are triple sat check if the other tables are ready to order food as well. Tell each table the features at the same time and get a drink order if you can.

If a table has just left and you are clearing the remaining couple of glasses check the other tables to see if you can remove any glasses there as well.

One Maitre'd I worked said  when you deliver food always give an eye check to your other tables afterwards. He said when people want something it is usually when they see you delivering something to another table.

Always be trying to save as many steps as possible. By doing so you will not only be flipping your tables faster but because of your attentiveness probably getting a higher check average as well.

When billing tables if you have been doing your work properly you will probably be billing more than just one table because you have been diligent in moving the meal process along evenly throughout your section.

There is nothing better than billing 2-3 tables all at the same time and clearing them off to get another round of tables coming up. That is how you make money. On sheer volume.

You may not hit a home run every table but the chances of recovering from a bad tipper is greatly enhanced if you do not let it bother you and keep flipping those tables. You will have a good night in the end.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Mail Box Probably Saved my Life One Night

About 12 years ago I worked in this place out in the country at a restaurant that also had rooms upstairs for overnight guests.

The creepy thing about working there was as always when you work in a place like this there is always a ghost story that goes with it. As I was the last guy to turn the lights off and lock the door and set the alarm, it was always a magical moment if you knew no one was upstairs but there was always that faint noise you would hear that would make me run for the car. As well I always wondered how anyone could stay overnight knowing that not one person was in that place except for them.

Most nights I was the only waiter there. Just me and the chef who would be long gone after me. I would still be setting the tables or shining the silver long after he would go or at least it seemed like it in that old place.

One mild January night I decided rather than take the main road home to take this back road instead. I had traveled it once before and kind of liked the change of pace. Except this one night the temperature was just around freezing. As I was taking a turn I hit some black ice.

Luckily no other cars were coming the other way but I was all over the road. Out of control I was about to go off in the ditch when I hit this mailbox very hard. It saved me from going in the ditch but it literally flung my car up on it's side. Quite the feeling when you are in a car and suddenly you see everything flying to the passenger side. Luckily for me it didn't flip over but here I was sitting sideways with only my seat belt holding me in my seat and wondering how was I going to climb out.

No one was close by. It was weird. I managed to get my door open, undo my seat belt and climb on top and jump off. The scene was like I landed on the moon. Here I was in a vehicle which looked like it crash landed somewhere with all the stars out on a clear night. I noticed the underbelly of the car looking right at me.

Fortunately I had a cell phone that I eked out some coverage and phoned this lady's number whom I would phone in case there was a problem at work. I called the police who called the ambulance to check me out.

I was fine anyway and I got a lift home shortly afterwards. The car was a write off after being put back on it's wheels. It was old anyway so it was not worth fixing up.

The moral of this story is quite simple. No pretty back roads late at night in winter. Stick to the main roads!

A couple of weeks later without going through insurance companies the owner came by to the restaurant and I gave him money for a new mailbox. Probably worth it cause it saved me a head injury or even life to be sure!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Time I Worked for this Guy and I Had to Call an Ambulance

Back in 2006 I worked for this crazy French chef who really thought he was something else.

It was a husband and wife operation with his wife running the front of the house and doing all the hiring while he cooked in the kitchen. He demanded such respect even his wife called him chef at work and I heard rumors she even called him chef at home.

Anyway he had a genuine mistrust of everyone. Servers were treated so badly that his turnover rate was 1-2 a week. Why I even went there was because it was the only fine dining spot in town and my dream of working locally hinged on this place.

His rules were crazy though. Let's say at the far end of the dining room by the window there was a table with 3 people eating. He would only let you carry 2 plates at a time. Usually because I was the only one working that would mean I would have to carry those 2 plates then run back to get the other on the pass to deliver.

At the end of the night I had to clean the bathroom. Not your type of thing to be doing with usually a last table still eating their meal. The goal was of course to be ready to shut it down and turn the lights off as soon as they left. Anyway appropriately while mopping the floor you would usually mop it from the far end out toward the door so you wouldn't get your shoes wet leaving wet footprints on the floor. Well apparently this was not the right way to do it. He would make a fuss about everything.

Finally it was during the Christmas season and I showed up for work. I was getting stressed working for this guy. This night I started getting really dizzy. So dizzy in fact I had to lay down on the floor and watch the ceiling spin around. I said to his wife there is no way I can work. She pleaded with me to hang on that give it time I will feel better. No way I said.

I called 911 and got my things waiting outside for the ambulance. I called the wife telling her what happened and to keep her updated. We only had one car and that was with me. The ambulance showed up ready to get the stretcher out only to find me standing outside already feeling better having exited this restaurant. I knew the problem was the work place.

So I got in the ambulance and they checked me out. I was admitted and put on a heart monitor to see how I was. After about an hour and a half I was falling asleep and yawning. The nurse came in and said it just looks like you can do with some rest. I said yes I work for this asshole.

Needless to say I never worked there again. That was the end of the crazy French chef from Lyon!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Putting Out Fires

Welcome back and Happy New Year 2017 to all of you! I hope all you restaurant front and back of house workers made it through okay. Now we can take a big sigh of relief and get ready for this upcoming year.

For my first post of the year I am going to talk about a seasonal resort I worked at that had a lot of skiers in the winter and golfers in the summer. As a waiter I prefer golfers to serve on because they don't bring their kids with them and usually with golfers they appear to have a bit more disposable income than your family on a weekend package they spent all their money on and tip accordingly.

This particular resort I worked at was not your run of the mill resort. It had all the amenities, game rooms, ski hills, golf course, pool, multiple lounge and bars as well.

I worked in the dining room of course and given the same section every night. Especially every Saturday when the throngs of people would arrive for their weekend getaway.

It was a part of the dining room that was circular and raised. Only by a few steps but it sort of made it stand out in the dining room. There were about 9 tables with one circular table in the middle where if the owners wanted to dine that would be their table.

Well what would happen is I would get the warning beforehand that such and such a table had to wait 2 hours before they could check into their room so you better wow them with your service. Or another table there was no champagne in the room as planned when they checked in . No flowers, no extra pull out sofa etc. etc.

So I was the guy who would make their stay more enjoyable after dinner and I was the hero.

Unfortunately their tip was included in their package. Guess what the tip was?

Three dollars per person. So for a $60 meal I would receive a $3 tip. Some of the guests would ask how much I received as a tip and I had to tell them $3 per person. Each person that I told was appalled and opened their wallet up to leave me another $20.

The bad thing was we had to split up the cash at the end of the night so out went the tip. Our paycheck was based on a point basis with each waiter given a predetermined percentage of the total charged tips for their total shifts over 2 weeks. I didn't stay long with this system. After getting taxed again on the $3 I figured what was the point.

But I was the fireman when I worked there that is for sure. I lasted six months at this place.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Choices Begin to Thin Out

As I look to 2017 I begin to realize the opportunities to do something really great in the hospitality industry are beginning to thin out.

In case you are reading this and about 35 years younger than I what I mean is when you get older the job market begins to dry up. The emphasis is on youth and that is what employers want. A lot say they may want the experience but really that might cost them a lot more than if they hired someone younger that they can train.

Anyway I get it. I have been lucky the last 11 years as really I have had 2 employers. Thanks to them I have been able to attend events at school when my kids were younger. They have treated me with respect and dignity and during this time I have met a great group of people.

It has not been easy to juggle working in the restaurant industry and being able to be home on Christmas Day or birthdays. The majority of jobs don't give a hoot about your family in this industry. Just look at where my wife works and during the school break they make her work every day doing split shifts. If she does not get the request she ask and what they promised in the first place in the next schedule she will give her notice. Simple you want to give the inexperienced people the schedule they want then my wife will have none of that.

I guess with my education and experience I should have been a manager by now but I chose the more flexible route. That being home for some things that were more important than serving guests at a table or working every school holiday.

I was looking at furthering my wine education by taking this course but I ask myself why bother spending a lot of money, graduating at 60 years old and then looking for something. That would be a total waste of time and energy.

When you go out for breakfast next time check out the age of most of the waiters. That is the green pasture for waiters who last this long. Doing breakfast.

Besides I got to get up to feed the cats on the weekend anyway. If I keep waking up at 6am that will be my next move. I just have to wrap my head around working breakfasts again.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Have a wonderful season and I will be back blogging in a couple of days.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Look Back at the Radio Show

Last year I had the opportunity to create my own radio show entitled, 'The Hospitality Industry News Network." I did ten shows covering a wide spectrum of guests.

Here is a great show when I interviewed a chef who cooked for the stars throughout his career. Below click on the link for the show with chef Ron Kalenuik.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Music To My Ears

I cannot speak for other waiters but one of the difficult things a waiter has to do is coffee set-ups and tea set-ups when the guest orders them after a meal. It is not like they are difficult but they can be time consuming when you are in a pinch and need to attend to others tasks.

Coffees and teas are definitely a guest average enhancer and you cannot go without offering them after clearing their plates away and handing them a dessert menu.

It is just some of the time you head back to get coffee and the last one who emptied the coffee container did not make a new one. Or there are some specialty coffees you need to make and you need to froth the milk for cappuccino.

Any waiter would prefer espressos over cappuccinos and definitely lattes. The machine does all the work for you when have an espresso to do.

A couple of time saving tips for the coffee order is ask first if they prefer cream or milk. Do not always assume they want cream with their coffee. This will save you running back to the kitchen for the milk.

Another one if you bring the sugar out with the coffee order is to ask if they like sweetener. It has happened to me before that I bring out the sugar and then someone wants sweetener.

My favorite is when they say they want their coffee black when you ask them milk or cream. But just to make sure ask them if they want sugar. Black is black and sugar is a different story. Don't assume they mean no sugar as well. How many times has it happened that someone says they take their coffee black and you bring it out and they ask for the sugar. So make sure ask them if they want sugar.

If they say no they just want it black with no sugar, all you have to do is pour the coffee in the cup and that's it.

Now that is music to my ears! Black coffee, no problem!

Friday, December 16, 2016

How Do Major Snowstorms Affect Your Restaurant?

That is a big dilemma this time of year when a lot of restaurants stand to make a higher revenue than at any other part of the year. Christmas parties, groups of people, walk-ins all celebrating the festive season and getting together.

However when there is a snowstorm and the roads are bad this can spell revenue loss that is counted upon by the owners.

Last night we had bad weather. Seventy cancellations. But here is my question. Why is it so many people cancel yet we still get the walk-ins? If the weather was that bad why wouldn't the reservations show up? A lot of them being big parties of 15 or more.

I think there are a couple of trains of thought on the reason why parties are so quick to cancel.

1. It is an excuse not to get together. Let's say the people going to this party are not all excited about it. Here is the excuse.

2. Money saved through canceling. Now they maybe will do something less expensive like have a pot luck at work.

3. Of course driving home could be a problem especially if they have had a few drinks. This would be understandable.

4. In my opinion getting together for an outing at Christmas is not what it used to be. Many companies have cut back and due to different religious beliefs now in the work place compared to 20 years ago many people do not even celebrate this time of year. So why bother going out?

These are just a few of my thoughts.

If you would like to comment or add some of yours' I would like to hear them.