We recently had a very large group in for a party.
The person making the reservation said it would be 16 kids and an unknown amount of parents.We explained that our dining room seats 49 people, and that we’d be able to reserve the wall bench (seats 16) and maybe a few other tables, but would be unable to reserve the entire dining room.
It’s difficult to create enough space for large parties and also allow regular customers to feel comfortable eating at our restaurant.
The party ordered three of our Family Meal Deals ($19.95 each), and when they arrived, everything was par-baked and ready to be served immediately, yet they asked to wait for service while mingling. After 30 minutes, over 35 people were with the group, and our dining room was at full capacity.
Our two servers were racing to refill water pitchers, bring more napkins, clean up spills, and also take out the other patrons food as well as answer the phone to take delivery orders and make salads for those orders. I could tell that they were frustrated.
The kids were everywhere, and another kids sports team showed up in the midst of it all. The regular diners got their food to go, asking for a box soon after being served. I felt terrible about it, but what could I do?
We were told to fire the pizzas, and got them out minutes later. The kids inhaled the first pie, and the second, and the third. A few of them asked our servers how much longer it would be for more food…. yet none was ordered.
We were running out of silverware, cups, parmesan, and our front gals raced to bus tables so that the dishwasher could keep up.
I noticed that one of our servers had a sour look on her face, and I asked her what was wrong.
She said that the bill had been paid, and the total was $59.85. The person paying the tab had laid out sixty dollars and said to keep the change.
She was understandably upset.
-How we view Tips-
My front gals know that we’re not a “full-service” restaurant, and so it’s expected that some people just.don’t.tip. In a QSR (quick-service-restaurant) you order at the counter, then you are served your meal at your table, and if you need anything else you need to go to the counter again. Except, we are more like a Sizzler, with a server who checks on you, refills your drinks, brings you additional menu items, etc. The normal tip is about 10%, which is average for a QSR.
At our restaurant, all of the tips (left on the table, on a credit card slip, even delivery tips) are pooled together and split by all of the staff that worked that day. If the daily tips are $100, and the payroll hours are 20, everyone made $5 per hour that they worked. It makes a huge difference in their take-home pay, and everyone works very hard to earn a good tip to contribute to the pool.
As the group was leaving, I noticed some of the parents helping to clear the tables and pick up the mess on the carpet. I thanked them, and assisted the front gals in cleaning the dining room. Everyone was trying to help us, to which we said not to worry about it — it’s our job to do this. They were gracious and seemed understanding of how trashed the place was, and how much work we still had to do.
One of the parents approached the counter and asked if the bill was paid and if the staff was tipped. I smiled and said that yes, the bill was paid, and continued taking bus tubs to the back of the kitchen. The parent then told my front gal that everyone had chipped in ten dollars for the “pizza party”, and asked how much the total bill had been. Remember, this was originally a reservation for 16 kids.
Front gal answered, “Fifty nine eighty five.”
The parent’s eyebrows raised and she asked, “And how much was paid?”
She answered honestly.
The parent walked away, and then came back and dropped a twenty dollar bill in the tip jar, telling the front gal that she wanted to be sure that the staff knew that they had done a good job.
At the end of the night, when the staff was doing their closing work and counting the tips to split up, the subject of the lone twenty dollar bill in the jar brought back the conversation of how hectic it had been taking care of two large groups and also keeping the private parties happy.
We brainstormed and vented for awhile, and still end up at the same conclusion. The customer is always right…. until they’re wrong or no longer a customer.
We can only do our best. That’s it.