Friday, January 4, 2013

Sex and hospitality workers and holidays

These days we all (in most countries) enjoy the fact that a lot of restaurants/pubs/cafes are open during holidays and, although in somewhat limited numbers, sex workers are available during those times as well.

I would like for you to take a minute and contemplate this fact.

These people get up early on Christmas Eve/Day, (and other holidays), leave their comfy houses and their families and come to work so YOU can truly enjoy a holiday with your family and don't have to cook, serve and clean.

Often times these people don't get home until early morning hours, not because they were partying, but rather because they were working their tails off serving YOUR party (and then cleaning up after you).

Some say "Oh, but it's their choice".

I say hardly. A lot of employers write a clause into the employment agreement, stipulating mandatory requirements for working through holidays (ESPECIALLY Christmas and New Years) as a condition of employment. If you are not willing to agree/sign it-then they won't hire you (I worked for a number of such employers in both US and NZ).

Other employers will threaten you (and follow through with the threat to make an example of you for other employees)  with termination if you call sick during the holiday period.

I know it's not clearly visible, but my friend's Augustin's right arm (the one Im holding) is in a cast-it was broken a day before X-Mas. Why is he at work? Because he was threatened he would be fired if he didn't turn up.

So there isn't really a choice. If one wants a job or wants to keep a job, one MUST work during holidays. And let's face it-jobs are not plentiful these days and we all have to pay bills/put food on the table, so we do what we have to do.

Most hospo workers accept this fact in stride and good humour. They are resigned to the fact that hospitality work does not offer "normal" work schedule.

What upsets me is the fact that so many patrons get outright nasty, rude and very uncharitable during holiday season.

Because a limited number of restaurants/cafes are open during holidays, they tend to get double (sometimes triple or quadruple) their usual business.
No matter how much staff you put on the floor or in the kitchen, these numbers create great stress.
It is also a fact that most people turn up around the same time, which means servers and kitchen stuff get overloaded with orders.

This is my friend Pip during X-Mas day brunch: note the number of dockets hanging behind her back IN ADDITION to the ones she had laid on her bench (she run out of space to hang them). Pip is amazing and super fast-she was trained in Wellington's Logan Brown restaurant by Simon Gault himself, but she can't perform miracles.

 Besides, you can only put that many staff in the kitchen before they start tripping over each other: most commercial kitchen are not as big as people think.

This is my friend Sara-she is a five-star Chef, worked around the world, had 2-hat tenure in a Melbourne restaurant where she was a Head Chef. Note the size of the kitchen (Sara is standing at the very edge, so there is nothing to her left)-and this is one of the better restaurants in New Zealand, winner of the Cuisine magazine award-the owners spent several million building it.  As this was a promotional photo, it was taken when the restaurant was closed and the kitchen was empty. You can see that you can only put max of 4 chefs in there. There was a separate pantry area there, located at 90 degree angle to the space shown, but only tiny and it held max of 1 person.

Often times bookings are taken by receptionist/manager/owner (the person who does NOT wait on tables and often have very vague, if any, idea of how bookings should be spaced out in order to serve people in timely and efficient manner). They just want to fill the restaurant to capacity.

So when a server gets 4-5 tables of 2-5 PPL each sat at the same time, it is physically impossible for him/her get to everyone in timely manner. Some will have to wait longer than others.
It is also a matter of not "slamming" the kitchen with too many orders all at ones: chefs can only produce ex number of meals per ex number of minutes.

Note the size of the room behind Adam and myself-and that's only a main room. That restaurant also had a large conservatory and outdoor sitting: it could hold up to 200 ppl and several times owners DID fill it to capacity in a matter of 45 minutes (imagine our joy. NOT)

Experienced servers, when "slammed" by host/receptionist (several tables sat at once) will try and space out the orders by "staggering": drinks orders/delivery first, then come back in a while to take the food order (maybe appetisers only at first, mains later).

Restaurants have floor divided into sections: there are several waiters working (some more experienced than others), so when host fills the entire room in a matter of 15-20 min, there will be a long wait for your food to arrive. So think carefully before you start complaining about the host asking you to wait in the bar area and have some drinks, while you can see "all those empty tables".

Be patient! Be charitable! Remember the spirit of the season.
It is your holiday and you are enjoying time with your family/friends in a leisurely manner, instead of running around frantically cleaning the house before the guests arrive, sweating in the hot kitchen cooking, worrying about running out of food/beverages and then undertaking a massive clean-up when every one's gone.
So sit and talk with your family/friends while waiting for your server/food. Enjoy the company. Relax. Savour the moment.
Don't snap your fingers trying to get server's attention-believe me, they are doing their best.
Don't get nasty and start complaining-it won't help. Look around you: there are about 120 other patrons in the restaurant. It's busy. Be realistic.
Don't treat the restaurant as a free baby-sitting service: don't let your kids run around screaming disturbing other patrons and getting in the way of staff. If you brought them in, they are YOUR responsibility. Teach them how to behave in public before you start taking them out.

If a server made a mistake, forgive it.
Often times restaurants DO hire extra staff just for the holidays, so a lot of new people don't really know the ropes well, or they are from a foreign country on a working holiday, just making a bit of extra money: they may not know everything there is to know.

Often times, when food takes too long, you will be offered something for free (usually round of drinks or a bottle of wine)- be happy with it. Cease your complaining-enjoy the free booze instead.

Pip and Shaun plating desserts as fast as humanly possible,as about a dozen orders came in at the same time

If you see that the place is extremely busy, just stick with what's offered in the menu. Don't start customising your meal: "Oh, can I have egg whites only, and could you take beetroot out and put celery in?",etc,etc..
Many restaurants these days offer variety of options for discerning patrons" vegetarian, vegan,gluten-free. Just pick from what's on offer.
If your requirements are so particular that you have to carry a card around with a long list of "don'ts", then maybe sit the busiest days of the year out at home. It will be safer for you as well: as busy as kitchens are during those days, there is a good chance they might miss something inadvertedly and, surely, you don't want to end up in a hospital?

When invited to a big wedding... Please remember, it's all about celebrating the newlyweds. It's THEIR day and, more to the point, THEY HAVE PAID FOR IT ALL-NOT you. So when you are informed by a server that all steaks are served medium-rare, just go with it. Don't start with "But I want mine well-done". If you can't handle blood in your meat, order chicken or fish instead.
Wedding are very difficult: we have to serve 80-180 people in about 15 min max. Chef has no time to fuck with your steak-he needs to put out that many HOT meals in a very short time.
If you want your meat just the way you like it, go out to dinner, PAY for it yourself and then start making demands.

This is my friend Jean (the french Chef). He produced 100-200 ppl weddings BY HIMSELF (with a little help from a kitchen hand when it came to plating)-and have the entire party served in about 15-20 min for each course. All of us (servers) helped with garnish and veges.
This kind of skill level is not at all common and requires great degree of preparation and organisation.

If the food turned out to be really sub-standard and the host offered to take it off the docket as a compensation, accept with thanks.
Don't continue bitching-it's done and dusted now, so what's the point?

If the service/food was truly good-TIP. I know tipping is not a common practice in NZ, but just during a holiday season, maybe?
As I've pointed out, these people work EXTRA hard due to the high volume AND leave their families behind so you can be with yours-so why not show gratitude? Trust me, you'll get it back trifold.

Don't be a dick-trying to show off to your friends/in laws/extended family your "big,important man" persona by belittling waiters and treating them like servants won't score you any brownie points. In fact, there might be some special "extras" in your food of which you won't be aware.
We know all the tricks, trust me :).
It's not as simple as spitting in your food-in fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I don't want to give away ALL the secrets, but here's one: putting few eye-drops in your wine will ensure you having  runs... hehehehehe...

If you are a good-natured, charitable, patient, kind and understanding guest, you will get so much more (in both food, beverage and service, without paying any extra-your kindness and patience is often enough, when the place is busy and your server is run off her/his feet).

During holiday season, which usually starts in November, we used to start work at 10am, set-up the restaurant, do between 75-140ppl lunch service, clean-up, then re-set for dinner and do it all over again, not getting home until 1am.
On Saturdays (when most weddings take place), we'd do this for lunch (starting at 10am), then hassle to re-set the entire venue for a wedding around 1pm (carrying heavy furniture), serve the wedding, re-set for desert/dancing then clean-up and re-set for the next day (carrying heavy furniture again). Get home at 3am, get some sleep and back to work at 10am the next day...

Bottom line: it's holidays. Time to give thanks. Enjoy it. Cruise through it. Always remember: you will get back from Universe exactly what you've put out there.
Have a very happy Holiday Season,all!


  1. I really enjoyed reading that thread sweetness. My many years of working in hospo on such occasions with anywhere to 150-500 covers per shift. Man those were the days lol. Hell knows how we all did it back then. Good education for those who have no idea. About the tipping, I believe there are many places in the Auckland CBD that receive regular tips. I always tip for good service.

  2. Fantastic blog. All so true. I manage a pub restaurant and hotel in England having moved up from kp and lowly barman. All my team work so far. One tip. Watch the film waiting if you haven't already. It will make you laugh if you have worked in the industry.