Sage Advice

I’m considering a new series of posts, but I can’t decide how to classify them.

A little background. As of this writing, I’m 43 years old. Like many of my peers, I sit snugly between the old and the new. I’m old enough to remember all things analog, but young enough to embrace all things digital. My parents were old fashioned by their generation’s standards. While most teens were idolizing Tom Cruise and John Hughes films, I was admiring the works of Danny Kaye and Cary Grant. I spent a good portion of the 90’s catching up on the 80’s. I’ve worked more jobs than I can count, in multiple career fields, such as service, retail, restaurant, design and marketing, etc.  My parents taught me values that have carried me through my toughest times. As a late bloomer, I’m now raising my first child, a precocious 10 month old who’s exploring his newfound ability to stand up in the crib behind me as I type.

Because of him, I think a lot now about the legacy I can leave behind. I also think a lot about how I’m wired, mentally, relative to my peers. Much of my character, and moral/ethical compass point me to higher notions of nobility, honor, and a strong work ethic. I’ve also learned to apply intelligence and logic to perform most tasks more efficiently.

Here’s my dilemma. I can’t decide if I should just focus on advice for a stronger work ethic and better job performance, or if I should think in broader terms and record my advice on all things in life. One motivation is to address the need to teach others better thinking in the workplace. I experience daily reminders that many go through their day to day oblivious to how much better it would be if they elevated their approach. However, I’m also motivated to record my thoughts for my son, should something happen to me and I not be there to speak him in person.

As I write this, an idea begins to take form. Perhaps the simplest solution would be to write bits of job advice and then correlate them to a broader life application. Perhaps I’ll write one and see what people think. In the meantime, be well, and as always, enjoy!

My 16 Truths: Expanded – No. 8 through 16

I left this series of expanded posts about half done back in June. It was around the time my wife went back to work after the birth of our first child (who is currently begging for attention in the background behind me as I try to write this.) A lot has happened in the last eight months, and I have decided I would rather focus on other things. So here is a summarized expansion for any remaining points I still feel like expanding.

8. I am your server. I feel I covered this one pretty well. Gratuity is for what i do and how I do it. The check is for everything else. Please don’t let what happens with one impact the other. Just as I would hope to get a good tip for great service even if the meal was bad, I’d expect a bad tip for bad service no matter how good the food was.

9. If you ever visit an establishment where servers rely on gratuity, and you knowingly don’t intend to tip for any reason, you are a thief. I recently learned a little bit about the history of tipping. It became popular in the U.S. during Prohibition, when restaurants took a major hit on profits from the loss of sales of alcohol and decided to make their servers look for income elsewhere because they could no longer afford to pay them. The system is outdated and I’m in full support of it going away. Until it does, there is an unwritten social agreement between establishments who rely on this system to pay their waitstaff and patrons who make use of these businesses. Breaking the agreement is theft. Failing to clarify if the agreement applies is cowardice. Neither is punishable by law, but those with a conscience should keep this in mind. Those without, well, everyone’s gotta eat.

10. I love food. I don’t love all food. People continue to appreciate my candor about food. At the place I work now, we have a dish that I find to be a poorer example of what the kitchen can offer. I always describe it as hit or miss. One recent guest called it fabulous. I explained this to the next guest while giving my usual warning. I came back and she said it was just okay, but that I did warn her. She tipped me just fine, in spite of her disappointment. The point is, tastes are so subjective, but dishonest descriptions would impact my income over the long haul, so I avoid them.

11. Every day I work is a “quality versus quantity” contest. The best example of this is people who don’t crack open the menu for their first 20 minutes at the table, or more. I want to say, “If all you wanted to do was talk, you could have stayed home. You came here to talk with your mouth full. Get to it, already.” I don’t say that. You’re welcome.

12. A great guest experience is extremely important to me. I was raised of a nobler ilk than some. I’m wired to care about others to the point of guilt. I genuinely want others to be happy, because that genuinely makes me happy. I’m reminded of an episode of Friends where Joey challenged Phoebe’s notion that there was ever such a thing as a truly selfless act. In the end, while your joy is great thanks, it is not ALL the thanks I need.

13. Poor tipping or non tipping will have zero impact on improving your experience. I work really hard at giving good service. So when I screw up, I know it I promise it’s not intentional. Yet if all you do is leave a bad tip, you accomplish nothing. No matter what you hoped to communicate with a bad tip, a bad tip does not speak.

14. I have no problem splitting the check for my guests. Splitting checks is a much easier task with the modern computer systems employed by most restaurants. So don’t be afraid to ask them to split it by seat or group of seats or evenly among specific payers.Allow more time for these multiple checks to be processed and don’t try to get too carried away. “Can you split the bottle of wine with her, but I’m paying for part of his appetizer over there.” So annoying. Also, if you’re paying part with cash and part with card, hang on to the cash, have the card(s) run, and then put the cash in the final. It will take away some of the fear that someone is going to forget how much the whole bill is.

15. Bad tipping won’t ruin my day, because I don’t have bad days. The one nice thing about being a good server is that I can usually attribute a bad week to things like the weather or sporting events like the Super Bowl (which is very much not a busy day for my employer.) However, according to a Stanford University study, when factoring what part service plays in the average tip, the difference between good and bad service is only 1%. It doesn’t mean I’ll give worse service, but it does mean I’m less prone to think my service had anything to do with how much I got paid.

16. In the end, my little monologue (unless it goes viral) will have little impact on the world around me. So far, it hasn’t gone viral, as far as I know. So I’m letting go and moving on. Enjoy!