Monday, February 25, 2013

Restaurant Managers Say the Darndest Things

Restaurant managers are a curious breed. Do you think any of them grew up wanting to be a restaurant manager or is it something that just happened? I was looking through an old journal last night and out of it fell a bev nap that was covered in writing. It was dated December 1, 1994 and written while working at Houlihan's in Times Square. It was mostly about my frustration with that particular job and the managers in particular:

"Is it the right thing to do when I get up every day and come to this dung heap of a restaurant? And looking at the various managers flit-floating around reminds me that the life of a restaurant manager is empty. As empty as my pockets are after a typical shift at this joke of a job."

I remember that we had a regional manger in the restaurant that day so everything had to be ship shape.
"And isn't it funny how they think that I care if his silverware is extra clean? Owners and area managers see their restaurants through a cloud of smoke. So sad for them to think that everyone's silver is as clean as theirs. Or that everyone's food comes out that fast. Idiots! All of them."*

I recall ringing in an order for the area manager and having to type in that it was a VIP so the kitchen would know to make it first and to make sure it was perfect. Meanwhile, the secretary at table 72 who comes in every other day has to wait for her salad longer than usual and no one will go through it to make sure that every piece of lettuce is pristine.

"But back to the ridiculousness of the restaurant business: it sucks. But the people you work with usually are very nice. However, the people you work for usually are very stupid. Power breeds stupidity."

The words on that bev nap were written almost twenty years ago and it tells me three things; Number one: things never change. Number two: I have been a bitchy waiter for a long fucking time. Number three: my handwriting is immaculate.

At a recent "mandatory meeting" at work. I listen to the owner saying things that I could have written down on that same bev nap back in 1994. The corporate-speak and general bullshit that spews from his mouth is making me sick to my stomach and I find it hard it believe that he really thinks that what he says is inspiring to us.

"We all have to be on the same team, because if we're not on the same team, it means we are fighting against each other. Our cart has to be going in the same direction. If my wheels are going one way and your wheels are going another, how will we ever get anywhere?"

Really? That is supposed to make me want to work harder for you? There must be a high school guidance counselor somewhere who is pissed off because he is missing the inspirational poster from his wall. It sounds like it came from the same people who gave us the image of the kitten hanging from a tree limb with the words "Hang in there!" Managers could do a lot better if they would just talk to us like we are people and not cogs in their food service machinery. We are not stupid. We want the same things they want: plenty of customers, an enjoyable place to work and money. Inspirational quotes are not going to inspire us.

"My number one priority is you guys. I want you to be happy and I want you to make a lot of money," he says. Don't lie to us. I would respect you so much more (no, I wouldn't) if you could be honest and say that your number one priority is that the restaurant makes a lot of money and you hope that trickles down to us. Don't blow smoke directly up my ass by saying you care about me when every time I make a suggestion you just dismiss it with "it sounds like you need more training" or "well, we have to keep doing it this way in order for us to grow." Just be honest and say, "It's my way or the highway." At least then, I will know that you're an asshole instead of you trying to conceal it with the touchy-freely crap you wrap up your ego with.

Bitter, me? Sure, I am, because I know that so many other servers have to deal with restaurant managers who are exactly the same as mine. Yes, my job knows I write a blog. Does the owner read it? I don't know, I doubt it. And if he does, I can't imagine that he made it all the way to the end of this post. Besides, the beauty part of me having three jobs is that I can always say it wasn't about them, it was about my other boss. But my friends who I work with who read this will know exactly who I am referring to.

My apologies to the good restaurant mangers out there. I know you exist. It's just that you are an endangered species.

*Even back in 1994, I was quoting musical theater. "Idiots! All of them," is from The Threepenny Opera.

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Blaine Morgan said...

I can honestly say working for a cooperate rest chain my managers rock they treat us like family would do anything for us and always have out backs as long as we do our jobs to their expectations.

Anonymous said...

I work for an upscale steakhouse chain in Chicago and my managers are FANTASTIC, and do treat us like family. Once when we were getting slammed and the poor dishwashers were drowning I've seen my manager put on an apron OVER HIS TUXEDO and start scrubbing with them. We were out of plates and he did what he had to do!

degreedwaitress said...

Amen, BW, Amen.

Nothing kicks us into high gear faster than hearing "The Regional Manager's coming!"

Sarah F said...

LOL- "a high school guidance counselor somewhere is pissed off that he's missing his motivational poster". I rarely actually laugh out loud from something I read, and that really made me LOL. Thank you. :)


SmooshieFace said...

I have worked in a few different restaurants, and a good manager can really make the difference between a decent, even fun day, and a crap filled whirlwind ride to hell. My first experience was with a horrible, angry, verbally abusive manager who brought all her home life problems to work and took it out on all of us innocent servers. We all dreaded coming to work when she was in and server turnover was insane. The next place I worked had one of the best managers I've ever met... He always had a smile and an encouraging word for us and he lifted our spirits and actually made us want to try to do the best we could. Why is it that so many managers can't seem to understand that kindness will get them so much further than belittling and insults?

Anonymous said...

Our regional manager is coming tomorrow. This post rings so true, I just got done crawling around the dining room floor scrubbing table bases. Thank you for the laugh you gave me after a horrible night.

Anonymous said...

Where to start.

Smart people with marketable management skills do not work in restaurants.

There has never been and there never will be a restaurant manager who has an IQ greater than his last hired server. BECAUSE== the manager works longer hours for less money than that person.
Also, s/he has to deal with every single problem every server, hostess, bus-boy, cook, dishwasher, and bartender has that day.
And the manager has to deal one on one with ALL the owner(s). And the manager has to placate the customers.
And the manager has to make sure the money all works out at the end of the night.
And the manager has to fire you when you bring all of this to her attention===
then she has to get up the next morning and hire someone who looks/acts/is exactly like you. And s/he has to convince that person that THE MANAGER is someone to be reckoned with!
Then the manager has to introduce you to your trainer and the whole gang, show you the ropes, and hope against hope you aren't going to turn on him like that last little slut.
Oh and by the way, the manager is TIRED.

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Anonymous said...

I like that you apologized to all the good managers out there. I love your blog, and 99 percent of the time I agree with all your posts, but not this one exactly. I live in Canada and from reading your blog I'm quickly learning that things are much different in the USA than they are here. I am the Assistant General Manager in a highly popular franchise restaurant. Before I took this managing position, I was a server....and my manager was one of the types you spoke of above. Except she was white-girl wasted at work all the time to boot. After transitioning from server to manager to AGM I'd like to think that I'm one of the good ones. I know what it's like to be at the bottom of the totem pole. I work hard to keep my staff happy, and from time to time, I lose my marbles and go cray-cray on everyone's ass because of something so minuscule it shouldn't even matter. I would like to tell you though that my job isn't empty. My job isn't boring, and my job isn't meaningless. This is my career. It's not just a job, it's my forever. I care so much about my staff doing their job properly because it affects me directly. And I love my job! my opinion aside, you have very right to blog about this topic, I just find it sad that more managers don't feel the same way I do. Bitchy, move to Canada! You can still serve, you'll make much more money(our minimum wage is $10.00/hour) and we have free healthcare!

Anonymous said...

A lot of managers started on the front lines (servers, bussers, cooks) and then move up the ranks. It's too bad that many of them forgot where they came from! My husband and I both took that route, and have seen our share of bad managers. It's sad to see most of them get moved on up to GM where they can wreak more havoc...

maxi said...

^^ Yeah a lot of managers DO come up formt he front lines, it's just a ahsame that the rgional managers or whatever are recruited straight out of some uni business course with maybe n real experience of the service industry. So no matter how cool or not your own manager is, THEIR manager is an areshole. Always.

Anonymous said...

Actually my GM has majored in accounting and is an intelligent man not that he's not a complete asshole sometimes but i think it's a bit naive to assume they all have a low IQ sometimes people just follow different paths

Anonymous said...

I've had good ones and bad ones over the years. At the moment I work for a family run hotel and in the restaurant there is a self appointed restaurant manager who has all of a years waiting experience. He earns the same as the rest of us and works about 4 shifts a week (I'm in the uk). I've been waiting since the year he was born and he loves to try to tell me how to do things differently every shift I'm on. Gives me a laugh, I don't want to be a manager, he's a bit insecure and I end up doing things my way (which more often than not are better for us and the customer). And he is above any side work, or even coming out the kitchen to serve customers.

Love your blog :)

abigail said...

all person have different point of view and different way to treat their restaurant mangers., its depend upon you how to react and work.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I am a manager for a chain. I have an undergraduate degree in film/creative writing and a Master's degree in History. I do this job because I want to impact lives of the next generation. I am not unintelligent and people need to understand that most servers we deal with on a day to day basis are some of the most unmotivated and lazy people on earth. Yes, this job is demanding, but lack of effort has a lot to do with unhappiness.

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Unknown said...

I've been in the industry now for 30 years. I started as a dishwasher, worked my way through all positions until I eventually became a GM 17years ago. I'd like to think that I am an intelligent person. I simply couldn't afford to go to college and the restaurant industry was the one thing that made me feel good about myself. I took to it as if my life depended on it...because it did/does. I can certainly agree with many of your statements above. I've worked for managers who sound very similar. But to take shots at all managers is insulting. Being that we deal with the nonsense that we do from our staff, its no wonder most of us are still alive. I have had staff members with drug issues. There are those who have stolen from us. Individuals who are completely rude or obnoxious to guests. The most dreaded of all employees would be the ones who do not respect the industry and what we do. These are the people that talk about eventually getting a "real job". We do what we can to motivate. Many times it works and many times it doesn't. Either way, it isn't any easy task. To be completely honest, it I believe that it is when we have negative staff such as the blogger who wrote the above who spend their shifts bitching and moaning and trying to rally up the troops. If you don't like the business or your boss then LEAVE! It is this sense of entitlement that you express that makes my life at work such a challenge. You want things to be different but yet they are not and will not be no matter how.much you bitch. You seem to be expecting a different career here. Do us all a favor. Either shut up, quit, or go play in traffic. I'm fed up with your selfish nonsense.

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Unknown said...

Ha. Your article is great. So many managers looking for everything wrong without a clue as to how to influence the employees in a healthy, positive way.

I've seen good and bad examples for many years and often ask myself why managers don't realize they can be intense about the work and still make employees feel good about what they're accomplishing.

Furthermore, all managers would benefit from a "referent power" training course.


Unknown said...

And you have really, really nice handwriting.

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Theresa the Tiger said...

I am a restaurant manager (AGM) for a large international chain. We ensure all new employees get extensive training in order for them to be successful. If they choose to be noncompliant, unreliable, disrespectful to policy - it's on them. I came up through the ranks myself and have never forgotten where I came from. Like I say to all restaurant managers in my blog, "Value the ones who do, ditch the ones who don't." I know there are bad managers out there, but we are not all the same.
Come visit me at

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