The sun is setting, the temperature finally becomes bearable, and a group of patrons sit on Palio’s rooftop to spend an evening with sangria, fresh pasta, and friends and family. Despite the inevitable spate of people walking up the stairs looking, hoping, for a table on the rooftop terrace, I catch myself noticing the change in temperature or the slight breeze. Between running down the employee’s back staircase and getting a group of teenagers more bread, I become aware of the cloud’s formation, their ever changing dance in the sky. Each night the clouds put on a show and I am beginning to appreciate their silent performance.
There is a term used in restaurants when you’re feeling overwhelmed, too busy, like you can’t catch up: in the weeds. I think the saying originated from golf. A player would hit a bad shot and find himself in a place where he doesn’t want to be, a place which has made his next shot more difficult, in the weeds.
Luckily, I rarely find myself in the weeds anymore. I stand by that the restaurant industry is not too difficult. In fact there is somewhat of a formula for success. If you can multitask, prioritize, and have people skills, then you’re probably going to do pretty well. I have found that an amiable, jocular attitude is often times enough to get by. I didn’t come to this place of some degree of mastery easily, oh no. It took practically living in the weeds to find my way out. The first few months of waiting tables were extremely stressful. After the end of a busy shift, I would sit alone, taking deep breaths and enjoying the quiet.
As much as I’d like Palio to provide perfect service, I know we don’t, and that’s okay, to a point it’s unavoidable. One of my favorite experiences from this summer internship is the relationship I have with my managers. I was working on the rooftop terrace the other night and it got busy. When we get busy, mistakes are more likely to happen. A man approached my manager and said that his family had been sitting for 10 minutes without anyone approaching them or providing any service. My manager immediately turned to me and said that one of our most skilled employees would be taking excellent care of them. I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.
Before I walked over to their table I thought about the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. One of the main tenants that I took away from the ever-popular book is that, mostly, people just want to feel important. My first interaction with the table was to lament and apologize wholeheartedly. After that, I took just a couple minutes to ask them some question like are you celebrating anything, where are you from, and are you having a good summer.
The rest of their dinner went smoothly. I gave them some of my personal recommendations and helped them find something they’d enjoy for dinner. When their young children were eating vanilla gelato at the end of dinner, my manager went over to check in again. They told him that they had a delightful dinner and that they had some of the best service they had ever had. My heart sung.
When another table had been neglected my manager called my name.