"I'm on the List!"

By Leah Blewett
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 25, 2006

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It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday, and the regular crowd doesn't so much shuffle in as storm the door--fur-wrapped and bejeweled, tastefully suited and clacking over the marble entryway in spotlessly shined shoes. There's nothing like working the door at a Rittenhouse Square fine-dining establishment to make a girl feel underdressed--especially a 5-foot-1-inch, 21-year-old girl who jumped into restaurant management six months ago. Amazonian trophy wives and the big, big men who pay for them course into the lobby. Then they proclaim, "We have a reservation."

Only they don't. Not all of them. I know this, because if they did our dining room would be the size of California.

We use a nifty little system called Open Table to track reservations. We pay a full-time reservationist to monitor the number of reservations taken, maximizing our covers but also trying to prevent exactly the sort of debacle that inevitably happens.

Here he comes through the crowd--a perfumed double-wide expensive gray pinstripe--and he's ready for battle.

"Good evening, sir. May we check your overcoat?"

Of course we may. A member of the host staff graciously accepts the mountain of squirrel and wool and tucks it away in our swollen, stuffy closet. She emerges gasping for air just in time to hear me break the news: "Sir, I apologize, but we don't have any record of your reservation. We don't even have your name in our computer. Have you dined with us before?"

Of course he has. Why, just last week he brought in a party of 10. Surely his name must be in our records. Perhaps, he suggests jovially, I am mistaken.

"Could you give me the spelling once more?" He does, pronouncing each letter with a condescending sneer, staring straight at me, daring me not to find him in the database.

"I apologize again, sir. There really doesn't seem to be anything in our computer under that name. How many in your party?"

There are six. Two, I might have finagled, but it'll be hours before we have a space for six. Suddenly his voice gets louder and his face turns crimson. Not only does he not have a reservation, he knows it. And rather than let his guests know it, he's setting me up to take the fall.

God bless the month of management training. I keep my wits when all I want to do is bark, "Look, you bloated, overdressed windbag. There's no table in that whole dining room big enough for you and your pompous ass!" But I don't. I smile. He gets bigger and angrier by the minute. And just when he's reaching boiling point, howling obscenities at the host staff, squealing about talking to the owner, beads of perspiration dotting his receding hairline, I pull out my slingshot and slay Goliath.

I call over my general manager. Because I learned two things during my month of management training: how to stay calm, and how to delegate.

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