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Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Would You Do?

Everyday, we are faced with decisions that can alter the course of our lives. Do I take the N train or do I walk the extra block to the F train? Do I use the money in my checking account to pay my electricity bill or do I go buy an iPad? Tequila or vodka with dinner? (The answer to the last question is all too often "both.") In the restaurant industry, we are also given the task of deciding things and sometimes it's not easy to know what the best choice will be. Should I take table 7's order now or should I run the drinks to table 14 first? Do I hide my coffee cup of chardonnay behind the bread warmer or on the shelf next to the to-go boxes? Do I ignore that crying baby or do I hand it a steak knife and hope for the best? All of these are important decisions but one event happens in the course of every server's life that becomes not just any decision but a moral one.

It was a very busy night at the restaurant. I was the only server and we had no busser or food runner meaning I was doing it all except for making the drinks. It must have been a slow night on television and that coupled with the abnormally warm weather for early March made for a slammed night. Every time I turned around, there was another party waiting at the door to be seated. Tables were dirty and I was a mad man. I actually really like it when it's that way. I tend to do better in a pressure situation. My smile goes into hyper-drive and I wait tables like a well-oiled machine. The food was coming out quickly and the customers were all satisfied. Maybe they had to wait a little longer than usual, but I have found if you at least reach out to that customer and let them know that you know they are there, it makes it okay. "Hi folks. I'm a bit busy but gimme a minute and I'll be right back with a water pitcher and I will take your order," I said over and over again. Repeatedly, I heard comments like 'I can't believe you're the only one here, you're amazing!" and "You are doing such a great job and your hair is gorgeous." I relish in those compliments as long as they back them up with 20% tips.

At one point, I had food in the window, tables to clear, a guy needs a beer, waters to fill, she needs her bill, orders to take, coffee to make, people to seat ready to eat. Madness! And then:

"Excuse me. Can you wrap this steak up for me? Thanks."

"Absolutely, ma'am. I will be right back." I took the plate from her hand and ran to the back sidestand where we keep the to-go boxes and my coffee cup of chardonnay. While holding the plate, I bent over to pick up a box from the shelf and I watched the half-eaten steak slide slowly from the plate and onto the floor, that although was just mopped by myself a couple of hours earlier, was certainly not clean enough to eat off of. This is what we call a moral decision.

Do I take the steak from the floor citing the "three-second rule" and put it in the to-go box and carry it back to the woman or do I go to the chef and explain that I need another well-done steak but I only need half of it and I need it ten minutes ago? Who will know if I put the dirty steak in the box? As long as I brush off any dust bunnies and/or crumbs, nobody. The chef will be pissed off if I ask him to make another steak, especially in the middle of a rush like this. He'll make me pay for it and that ain't gonna happen. Will the lady get sick if she eats the dirty steak? Maybe it's for her dog anyway. Maybe the chef will be understanding, but that seems highly unlikely. What to do, what to do?? I picked up the dirty meat and placed it gently into the to-go box and closed the lid. Should I give it to her? Maybe I can just tell her what happened and then offer her a dessert on the house instead. Or maybe she'll say it doesn't matter because it's for her step-daughter's lunch tomorrow. Maybe I go to tell her and she gets totally pissed off at me and makes a big scene and I could have avoided the whole thing by giving her the floor meat. I looked over at the chef who was yelling at another cook about how he had just wasted two pieces of bacon by over-cooking them. I looked at the lady who was laughing at the joke of her friend and finishing her third glass of wine. I looked at my coffee cup of chardonnay and took a swig. I closed the lid of the box and wrote on top of it, "Enjoy!" Maybe I'll just tell her it fell on the floor and I will get her another glass of wine. But then I'll have to tell my boss that I need a glass of wine comped and this is the man who won't even let me have french fries. I placed the to-go box into a bag and finished off my chardonnay. This was a moral dilemma.


I am not going to reveal what I did because if you are a regular reader, you can figure it out. But what I want to know is what would you do?




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34 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a chef, even though I might be frustrated and torment you, I would rather recook the steak and eat the other half myself! I have caught many a line cook trying to pick food up from the floor and keep cooking it and I go crazy!!! I fired someone for trying to pass off dropped food. *yuck*

fmcgmccllc said...

If you told me it slipped and hit the floor, I would have told you no problem. I would have told her and if she was upset offered a dessert to go. She trusts you now so if it happened twice, just give her the dessert from the floor.

lindsey said...

I would suck it up and tell the manager and tell the customer, offer another meal or we would give them a food comp for the next time they came in. They generally prefer honesty over all else. Now if the tip sucked, maybe floor food. ... Just kidding lol

Practical Parsimony said...

No matter the consequences or cost to me, I would never serve her that steak. Nor would you. You would think a manager would appreciate a moral center.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

how about if you tell her the truth and reduce her bill? after all there every business has a 'damaged' goods write off right? i think if i was offered that, i would be ok w/it.. better than lying about it.

Marc said...

I would box it up and give it to her with a "thanks for dining with us tonight" & a smile.

Andrea said...

Since it was a busy time I would ask myself "How long was it really on the floor?" "Is there any visible evidence that you dropped it?" "Would you eat it?"

If she was a pleasant customer, then maybe she will be understanding and accept the free dessert?

I guess I would brush off my integrity and fess up. Or would I? Hell I don't know.....

foxpen said...

I'm lucky enough that this has never happened to me before. If it did, I'm extra lucky and have a few great managers, and some great line guys who thanks to my manners have become willing to help me out in a pinch. I'd tell the manager; then I'd recommend offering the lady a free dessert. The manager, knowing those guys, would probably offer her a 20 dollar gift card or something ridiculously nice.

Anonymous said...

The only time that ever happened to me it was a burger and i had the cooks make a new one, but a steak...i would seriously consider throwing it in the microwave for 15 seconds for potential germ killage and popping it into the box...I did have the cooks deep fry a steak to well done on the fly once (the order disappeared in cyber space and i didn't figure it out until it should have been done. I rerang the order they made it on the fly and then the order reappeared from cyber space and printed in the kitchen right after they served the fly order. it was odd). Guest said it was the best steak they'd ever had...

Confessions from the Hairdresser said...

I'd collect the signed credit card receipt first so that I could see the tip, then I would make my decision.

OnlyHostess said...

If she was that happy and on her third glass of wine, I'd probably apologize for dropping her steak and ask if she needed a new one to take now, a dessert for her and her pals, or an app next time she's in house to apologize.
Most people just take their leftovers home out of guilt and feeling like they spend the money but don't really care and won't eat it. She'd probably have been delighted by a scoop of ice cream or a spin dip and bragged to all her friends. Easy, peasy, lemon, squeasy!

Anonymous said...

Yeahhhh this EXACT situation has happened to me. I worked at an upscale "designer" pizza sort of chain. This 10-top of women were all about to leave and one of the ladies wanted me to box up the two slices she had left. I said no problem and took it to the back. As I was sliding the slices in the box, one of them slipped off the plate and fell on the gross back-of-house floor.

As someone who is just as bitchy as you I did the exact same thing you probably did. I boxed that shit up.

Anonymous said...

I would throw that floor steak in that box and tell that woman to have a great evening. A little dirt never hurt. You would lose the rhythm you were in any other way. Visit the slaughterhouse where that steak came from and tell me how clean it is.

NellieVaughn said...

Listen, steak isn't good for you anyway, and as a vegan, it would have been a great pleasure to have hended her a steak that was seasoned by the dirt on the floor.

witchybaiter said...

"I could have avoided the whole thing by giving her the floor meat>"

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard myself say that.

Anonymous said...

Is this even a question? When you're that deep in the weeds the minute you take a detour to the kitchen and start to explain to them what happened, and what you need, and now they need to half a steak and torch it and you need to wait for it all the while knowing you need to get beers and tables cleared. HELL no. That kind of fork in the road on an otherwise smooth as butter I'm-on-my-A-game-with-gorgeous-hair night will bring all awesomeness to an immediate halt. Ticket times will double. Water pitchers will slosh and spill. The earth will tilt on it's axis.

If she's like me she'll bring it home, forget about it and clear it from her fridge weeks later.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I always box my own food when I eat out!

NO you do NOT use the 3 second rule unless its your OWN kitchen at HOME.

~The Damn Yankee

Anonymous said...

@ Damn Yankee - I'm with you, I ALWAYS ask for the box to be brought to me, and when I'm working I always bring the box to the customer. I SO don't want to manhandle your chewed-up food and I have no idea why you want your nosh to travel all over the restaurant. Nauseating.

Catherine, ex oh mwah! said...

i say just give em' the goddamn steak and lame it on the chef.
love your blog! definately following.
check out mine, follow back if you like it?
f-a-i-r-y-l-i-g-h-t-s.blogspot.com

Confession said...

My boss is the chef and he would KILL me if he had to remake ANYTHING because I dropped it, ESPECIALLY if it was a half portion at a busy time. I seriously might even lose my job if it was a really bad night.

Unless I was convinced she'd be cool about it...floor steak, all the way.

Anonymous said...

put the shit in the box, and give it to her. that is all.

Four Countries said...

I love your blog. You are just too funny. I would of had a sip of Chardonnay, put the steak in the box and had another sip before giving it to her...with a nice smile!

Josh said...

The difference in taste between reheated steak and reheated steak that was dropped on the floor is negligible.
Wipe it off with a napkin and box that shit up.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience but the floor was a co-workers mouth!

The Artist Formerly Known As Bagel Fairy said...

"Listen, steak isn't good for you anyway, and as a vegan, it would have been a great pleasure to have hended her a steak that was seasoned by the dirt on the floor."

NellieVaughn, I'd forgotten why people didn't like vegans. Thanks for reminding me.

TheRealBarman said...

Hmmmm...floor steak. Perfect. It will pair nicely with the bourbon I lick off the floor at 3:00 a.m. Thanks for the suggestion.

Good story, BW. Keep the train movin'.

TheRealBarman

www.DiatribesAndOvations.com said...

I would absolutely give her floor meat. She should have asked for a box and packed it herself. I hate her.

y'all are gross! said...

I'm really surprised by some of these comments. Really? Boxing up "Floor Meat"? When I was a server I would have never gone there and I had plenty of those all by myself slammed days. I would have fessed up to the lady and just see what she had to say & go from there... Shame on you guys.

former line cook said...

Every situation is different and it all depends on the situation whether or not I would serve floor steak. How bad was the floor really? Was the lady a bitch or one of those customers you want to come back in? I've worked in white table cloth restaurants and in fast food and there are times where I've served it and times where i remade it. The thing to remember is SHIT HAPPENS! to all of us its not like you intentional threw the steak of the floor pushed it around with your shoe and then wanted to box that shit up (although I've been tempted with some of my own customers) and honestly if you can tell the restaurants packed and your server is overworked why can't you box your steak yourself?

Christie Hampton said...

I think I'd fess up. Get her happy with whatever it is that would make her happy. Really, my first thought was to figure she'd heat it up and kill any "yuckies" that tainted it and give it to her....but then after a moment came to the confession, I'd hope someone wouldn't do it to me, and that was my motto while working in a restaurant.

nick said...

I would have put the steak in the container. There are times where you know it isn't the best thing to do but you just have to do it.

sorry but its the truth

Laura said...

I'm confused - isn't it illegal to bring food back to the kitchen once it's been eaten by the customer? That's what we were told at the restaurant where I worked, and why we always brought empty boxes to the table instead of table plates to the boxes in the kitchen. Otherwise, the kitchen gets contaminated with customer's germs.

Anonymous said...

I would throw the steak or bring it and tell her. grab her a dessert and not ring it in (i get it myself) then when I have my staff meal, I'd ring it in then and not have it. I get half off so it's even I guess.

If I were to be served by someone who was honest and blunt enough to tell me, I would be grateful. I don't want to eat a dirty steak.

Anonymous said...

well said, my friend. this is bang on!

Anonymous said...
"Is this even a question? When you're that deep in the weeds the minute you take a detour to the kitchen and start to explain to them what happened, and what you need, and now they need to half a steak and torch it and you need to wait for it all the while knowing you need to get beers and tables cleared. HELL no. That kind of fork in the road on an otherwise smooth as butter I'm-on-my-A-game-with-gorgeous-hair night will bring all awesomeness to an immediate halt. Ticket times will double. Water pitchers will slosh and spill. The earth will tilt on it's axis.

If she's like me she'll bring it home, forget about it and clear it from her fridge weeks later."