Industry Studies: Training Day Mentality
Very few things flair my nostrils and pucker my asshole like unexpectedly clocking into a training shift. But, the nature of the beast is to roll with the punches. See. There's three types of trainers in the industry. And this matters significantly, because how you learn this dance is heavily dictated by your partner's zapatos. Clogs to LeBron's; not all shoes are meant for the walk just like all are not built for the hustle.
Serving is a matter of seconds. If you can't cut your minutes with baking soda and leave them feeling like crack, then lose your apron and get the fuck out of my face. You won't learn a single thing from me. You'll forget this night as I take you on a spin that won't make two cents worth of sense to you. I say night specifically cuz' I don't do that morning shit. If it was profitable then I'd be there. Where you find me, is where you find the money. Your next few training shifts with someone else will seemingly be easier, but they won't help you. I'm not just looking to see if you know how to handle some bitch ass section. Your success down the road is my success. Believe it, or not, but I am semi-invested in you. This is what distinguishes myself from the third type of trainer. I care enough to make you something more than just a pile of embarrassment. Which is why I'll give you a pass for the first few weeks.
I want you to be the unlucky mother fucker too good at their job for their own good; the recipient of all red-flagged VIP's & angry tables snatched from the grubby hands of servers that've already fucked everything up. I'm looking for you to blow your fucking heart out while deciding what your next move will be ten painstakingly choices ahead of the time. Better yet; I want you to control that tenth choice. I want you to fucking already know what that table that hasn't even parked yet, wants. Based off their variables. Everyone shows their variables, man. Based off understanding just how easy people are. I'm surgical with my methodology. My barrels are loaded with finesse. I'm nice with it.
But that's why you'll only see me on day one. I won't expect you to understand the urgency of my methodology - I just want you to see it. I just want you to remember the basics. Say "Coming in" as you bashfully bash open the BOH door blissfully ignorant of the innocent cook bystander carrying some temperately hot shit across & the asshole washing their hands at the sink located way too fucking close to those flapping doors. Don't hang around this side of the bar well. Unless you're me. I can stand here. I have time to bullshit. You don't, until you do. Watch me control the pace of some unruly pack of drunk dipshits. And of course, make you privy to just how bad the hosts will be. You have to get use to that. More importantly, why it's dire for you to keep your head on a swivel when looking to see who just got sat. Trust me. They'll fuck it up. Which means they'll fuck your money up. But again, that's why you'll only see me on day one. I'll give you just the broad strokes that you'll need to appreciate the finer ones. On my Bob Ross acting all kinds of agro. Only cunts learn to first stunt in the Veyron. You gotta' catch views from the bus stop; watching that Veyron pass by. Yeah, I just called myself the fucking Veyron of servers. If I wasn't already so cocky and full of myself, I'd have thrown up with you right there. But my cockiness is what will keep the nonsense at bay, bae'. We'll cover that fucked up kitchen at a later date. Don't be late, don't be late, for a very important ticket time on half an hour date.
That sound good right there...
Welcome to training day. I got two lessons for you that I need to sink in. Rule number one. Don't offer coffee. I know. You've probably ordered coffee before. Most restaurants are not set up for coffee to be convenient - mainly because most restaurants treat coffee as a throw in. Coffee exists in most restaurants to give BOH a reason to despise FOH for not brewing any in the morning. They'll say that it should be brewed incase guests want coffee, but in reality they just can't figure out the fucking machine consisting of two buttons labeled with toddler-level diagrams. Take any ideas of hospitality and principle of the matter out of consideration; liquor pays the bills, not decaf. On a more micro scale relatable to yourself, young broke mu'fucka, coffee slows you down. You don't want to do anything that is going to deviate from the time you can spend doing more important shit. While you're weeded spending a few minutes to brew coffee, your other tables all just took a vote and decided that you've been gone for thirty minutes. M.I.A. and S.O.L. Accommodating at the wrong time is so much more of a gamble than just sticking with efficiency. Sometimes, the coffee machine is broken. And that's ok. Because you can also always lie and claim the Yelper's to be fucking nuts. And guess what! If they Yelp'd about coffee, then they're fucking nuts!
There's only one exception to the rule of your C.R.E.A.M. always rising to the top. Your team is vital. Don't be the fucking shithead that looks at a ticket - be it food, or drink - and doesn't run it due to it not being yours. While your seconds may be vital, you won't always be able to be everywhere at once. You are a part of a team. Scratch my back and I'll make sure I'm there to run your cocktails to table seven when table twenty-one can't decide between the salad and the fried chicken. If I see you move the beer to see who's name is on the ticket, and you set it back down and walk away...oh, oh. Oh. You just took the game board and flipped it over. We'll remember that one.
Lesson two? Abide by the system I show you. You'll have ideas that you think are better. We've had months where those ideas didn't work. I'm not talking about where the parmesan shakers are kept either - no one of importance could give a single fuck about that. If you're trying to streamline a side station, then you have zero regard for the beauty in the controlled chaos that is a well-oiled industry machine. And that upsets me. And when I'm upset after a certain amount of times, I lash out and ridicule you. I'm not saying I'm proud of this fact...but I'll make you cry. Your bangs are too atrocious, and too easy. I'm too greezy. And no, that ain't the same as greasy - look it up while I make my rounds. Scratch that, put your fucking phone away. Shut up, then keep up.
No, the system I'm talking about has more to do with the flow. There's a give and take in a proper industry hub. The vast majority of our job is muscle memory. Once you master that, everything else is fixtures, trimmings & molding. Those details are what sell a property, and what we use to secure a quality guest experience at 20% a round. There are only so many rounds in a clip (a shift) so you need everything to be as close to a headshot as possible (creepy comparisons only appropriate through extreme disdain). Basically, just fucking fall in line before you decide to get cute. While I'm sure your personality will eventually shine and you'll lead us all to the promised land, wishful protégé, the rest of us have to keep feeding the bitch what she needs.
That's a training day mentality. If you can understand these two principles and extrapolate deeper meaning from them, then you win in my eyes. And if you win in my eyes, I'll have your back. There's promise there. Flashes of a serviceable teammate that I will gladly clean up after when the shit hits the fan and you forget that what you just recommended to that loud n' proud Celiac card carrying cunt has...gluten, in it. Death is gazing in a very looming & direct fashion toward you. I can tell you how to force a blink, but I gotta' see that twitch of unease first.
That's where you'll find the second type of trainer completely useless. They skate by on being able to reiterate the menu well & know where the extra salt is kept, but lack the cliff notes necessary to handle problems. Skate by may not even be the term. I don't honestly think that they may even realize that there are levels to the game. They're generally skittish and are quick to suck the proverbial cock of management. They check all of the right boxes, but don't understand shit beyond the test. They've probably been there a while, but never muster up the "umph" to really own shit. Most won't know that all of the wings on the appetizer menu are gluten free.
I know though. And I want you to know that. Because it makes things so much easier for yourself when people want gluten free options that aren't blatantly labeled as...I don't know, "hummus" and "organic plankton." It's important to identify the potential problems before they happen. They don't know how to rebound when the fat fuck is mad that his beer is in a 10oz glass and not in a pint like his buddies. His buddies are calling him a faggot because of this. Trainer two is unable to quickly administer balance in the form of calling his buddies pussies for not taking the stronger beer. Which will inevitably create a friendly dynamic at the table that will result in a more interactive and memorable experience. Levels. This is coming from an individual who absolutely loathes talking to guests. Bet they remember me though. Bet I collect 20% with a few seconds of improvisation.
People are simple. You tell them what they want to hear. Sometimes you don't even know if what you know is correct, but you know that they'll go with it. You'll know what sounds on point. That's salesmanship. But this is why I won't train you past the first day. This sort of shit has to come gradually, or you'll end up with a shop of whore'ers & single starred yelps. It comes with time, tempered by the constant balancing of risk vs. reward - correction, it comes from when you don't balance correctly. When you realize that the tomato soup that you sold as being vegan to some Jack Skellington looking hipster with an abundance of face tattoos and questionable native jewelry, has cream in it. Native being a broad term. Could be a necklace forged from a can of Spam he found on some trail in Hawaii that invoked all sorts of majestic bullshit while tripping balls. That's native. Shit doesn't always have to be panhandled wristbands & turquoise rings. And if he was willing to find meaning in that can of Spam just like he invested in a picture of an anchor over a quote in Sanskrit on his temple...then give this mother fucker the benefit of the doubt in his ability to detect cream in that tomato soup. You better get back to that fucking table.
Don't dilly dally by wondering if you'll get in trouble. You'll get in less trouble admitting ignorance and wasting soup than invoking the righteous fury of a spurned vegan. Definitely don't hide knowing fully well that you fucked up. No one respects that. It's just soup. Don't bitch out on me now, trainee. You have a long shift ahead of you and I'm not the one to tolerate the fucketh-upeth of my tip percentage. Just bring Skrillex an extra side of cucumber with his hummus without him even asking.
Treat mother fuckers how you'd like to be treated at your worst. It pays off. There are no bonus points added to your checkout where you proved someone wrong. Personal vendettas are occasionally profitable emotionally; often never financially. Kill them with kindness. They build their own karma - and still have to get home with all that gross bravado. Let their decisions rot them; you have bills to pay.
Ultimately, it comes back to the before-mentioned quote. It's not what you know, it's what you can prove. Your proof is your verbiage. Hesitate on a question and find yourself in a ditch you gotta' dig back out of. I want you to find your voice during training. I don't even want you to fucking address that you're training. Cut that shit out. Claim me as the trainee. Fuck does it matter to me? I want to see you shine, young star. I need you to showcase all of your stereotypical bullshit to at least have an idea of what we're working with. You make a joke every time it comes to black beans because you had a daddy that left you and yours on a bean farm? Beautiful. Tell it and tell it right. Turn some fucking black beans into green dollars. Sell the menu while selling yourself. Play the game. Integrity and blah, blah...blah...they'll go home full and happy, and you'll go home paid. Well...I'll go home paid. You're still training.
No one's hands are clean in a controlled chaos environment. I made myself a Captain & Dr. Pepper tonight (fucking heathen Pepsi product restaurants) with thirty minutes left till closing time. Why? I was behind, with a bunch of one-timing drunk 40 year old "WOO, WOO" assholes and a full restaurant to shut down and clean. Risk vs. reward. The reward? No one gets throat punched. The risk? I might have to act like I give even an inkling of a fuck when called out on it. But I can do that. The core staff can do that. You won't know this going in. You may have suspicions from past jobs where you might have even been on top! But you're not, and we know nothing about you. Hell, I forgot your name six seconds after shaking your hand. You have to earn the shady right of controlled chaos. You may have delusions of grandeur with turning me in to the proper authorities in hopes of some snitching kickback. Very cute, by the way. You may also be some psychopath drunk that doesn't know how to control the chaos and in return, creates the chaos. Not trying to add to the list of messes to clean up tonight, soooo...I'm going to send you to take out the trash so the rest of us can blow off steam. In time, shithead. In time. Maybe.
I can do this though because I perform. Because I study the dance and respect the hours of the club. Lights on, time to boogie. I know what I can handle and where my reckless equilibrium settles. I don't care about your state of mind. Get weird. I just want you to do your fucking job so that I don't have to do it for you.
I check for such dirt in interviews knowing that I'll eventually be the unfortunate mother fucker to train you. I want to gauge the degree of degenerate in you. Will you eventually be able to indulge in the aforementioned libations, or will you be the wild card that could eventually fuck it up for all of us? We have a good thing going here, rookie, and I'm not trying to jeapordize it.
So who's the third type of trainer? They're the first type of trainer's best friend. While I back my teachings with the above quote, the third type of trainer lives by it. Zero fucks given. They're jaded, interesting, overworked, well-traveled, intoxicated, calloused and constantly dangling one foot out the fucking door. They don't want to train, but get stuck with the mess that is yourself. They're beautiful. They're the unforgiving bones of the system that provide flavor for the stew. They keep the bitch going. You are not on their radar. It'll take a while for them to learn your name. Try not to be that upset by it. They've seen a lot of "you." They're simply more important than you are. And don't get all pissy when they abuse you, please -
The last thing I need from you is to go ahead and put the chairs up. Yes, even around table six, otherwise they won't get the fucking hint. It's closing time...and roll the rest of the silverware. Hey...don't fuck it up. Yes. All of it. Oh and, make sure it's polished. You've been here all day and didn't get a break to go let your dog out? Well, you should probably hurry then. Oh and...yeah, I'm gonna' need you to sort out all the ramekins. Sorry, what our supreme lord in all things fucking menial says, goes! Blame management. You ever cleaned the chip machine before? Wow. Apparently not. You're covered in grease. You look ridiculous. Yeah, that's not coming out.
- and while you may feel like they're making you do everything, which they are, what you should really have gotten out of that closing shift was where they keep all the work shirts so that you can steal yourself a few. The third type of trainer would have gladly told you. In fact, they were probably on their way to stealing their 68th one that very moment. C'est la vie, rookie. Hurry up and roll that shit. Your dog is surely destroying your apartment.
Training in the industry is a lot like jury duty. It's your inherent responsibility as a qualified citizen of the restaurant to bring others up, while also acting as the gatekeeper of shitheads that will not fit. It's in our best interest to do so as should we have to split our bounty amongst peers after enduring the daily torture cycle, then I better not be paired with Denny's & IHOP fodder.
Someone much more influential than myself once said that the best leaders are the ones that don't wish to lead. This is where you'll learn a lot from the third type of trainer. Their realness is beneficial, and if you don't choose to soak up ever knowledgeable crevice and angle with bread? You're a lost cause. You have a lot to learn from their complete disinterest in you. Everyone needs their own antithesis. Where is your fucking heart. Do you not care to prove others wrong? Have you no sense of pride? No, no. You do in fact have to prove yourself. Why'd you ever think this shit would come easy? Because it's a serving job? The third type of trainer bleeds their section drier than your grandma's pussy for more than your friends make with thousands of dollars in college loan debt. Respect the hustle and mind your fucking lane.
Shit. I wish I had been given a third type of trainer in my previous job. I didn't even need it - I already had the pedigree. But it'd have been nice to intertwine with the ropes before being pushed up against them. No. I had the trainer behind door number two. This tragedy was named Layne.
Layne was the token gluten-free fat chick that most definitely gets drunk and eats chimichanga wrapped nacho fries by night, and criticizes anyone that eats chicken that didn't come from a free-ranged farm by day. She was the female version of the guy that keeps a book on Freudian psychology turned to some random page on the coffee table to make it look like they're deep.
That's where we first become numb. Hypocrisy leaves us all on an island debating between salt water and thirst. Reaching for that fools gold leaves you emotionally broke. Titles are tres-tiered. You have those that want. Those that have to. Those that need too. They don't tell you that when you first treasure it. You'll fall into one of those categories and you better know damn well when to pull out.
Layne taught me a lot. She taught me that my first step was quicker than necessary. While she was harping about her diet, I was deciding which of her shifts I was going to take. All of them. While she was all of a sudden exasperated for no fucking reason and needed me to watch her section that I had already handled every little bit of, I had already decided on sweet & savory food profiles. She had to go center her roots in the walk-in. I really hope that she was pounding some substance in there and not actually meditating. Twenty-twenty hindsight tells me that it could go either way with just how fucking nuts this bitch was. That was when I knew I'd be ok. That was when I knew that for as long as I dreamt necessary; I'd always be able to walk into a restaurant and out-hustle whomever on the floor.
It may not sound like a lot to you. You could probably give a similar story of triumph and I'd feel likewise. That's not the point though. What we hope to amount to is based off the faking of moments leading to the making of moments. Lessons along the way read as 20%, but they're much more valuable than that. Because you're much more valuable than that. Now. Learn the fucking menu, because as of right now - you fucking suck. Good news is, it's just day one.
- Dedicated to the savages that trained me.
Bryan Heinemann, Shara Thiel & Hamilton Legette.