Friday, August 12, 2016

Never Assume

One of the many things I've learned being a server for almost four decades is never prejudge a customer. It's served me well (small pun) throughout the years.

Tonight was kinda slow at the Crazy House aka the world's busiest airport. I kinda needed it to be, clocked in at 39.81 hours and still had two more shifts before a day off. Around six I was seated with a single man. He kind of looked familiar, you'd be amazed how many regulars we get in the airport. He was European. I approached the table and greeted him. He said he had been there before and knew exactly what he wanted.

Sounded good to me, makes my job much easier.

This is pretty much how he ordered... almost verbatim.

"I'd like a cup of hot tea."

Let me stop right here to say have never met a server or flight attendant who likes it when someone orders hot tea. Pain in the butt and too many steps and options.

Okay, back to the man ordering.

 "I'd like Earl Grey. I want the cup to be filled with hot water as well as the tea pot. I'd like the tea bag on the side not in the tea pot. I want lemon slices on the side as well."

I returned with his hot tea, just as requested. He asked if he could have some honey on the side (dude, you coulda told me that when ordering the tea) but smiled and went to the back once again and got him a ramekin of honey.

It was all coming back to me...I'd waited on him before and this was going to be a test of my skills as a professional server.

A server passed by me in the back and said "He's been here before" then yet another server said "He always complains, and sends food back but keeps coming in and never leaves anything extra."

Number one I'm just fine with the added 18% gratuity. Granted I pay taxes on all of it, receive about twelve percent after tip out but that's okay too.

My goal with every customer I wait on is to use the "Wow" factor. Go above and beyond, anticipate needs and allow them to leave thinking was one awesome experience with their every desire and expectation being anticipated, met and exceeded.

Here's the way it went next.

"I'd like your grilled romaine salad. I don't want any dressing or cheese or walnuts. Just the romaine lettuce and not grilled. I'd like lemons on the side. Then after I eat the salad would like a pizza. Do you use fresh mozzarella?"

I told him we made our own mozzarella.

He said he didn't like chunky pizza sauce. I told him we now used a smooth sauce.

He said he wanted very light sauce and a minimum of mozzarella. Then he would like strips of chicken added.

Oh, I totally remembered him now.

I had served him shortly after starting there almost three years ago and was a debacle from beginning to end. It wasn't going to happen again, not on my watch.

Luckily for me the executive Chef was working at the expo window and our Sous Chef was cooking the pizzas. We have a high heat woodstone oven running at about 700 degrees and pizzas take about one minute to cook.

I took him his salad per his instructions,  two hearts of romaine, not grilled with no dressing, cheese or walnuts and lemons on the side. He asked immediately for a whole lemon, uncut. I went to the back walk in cooler and found none. We had sliced the last of the lemons when beginning the shift. I brought back six wedges and apologized telling him all had been cut. The airport is crazy, we get deliveries twenty four seven. A box of lemons came in ten minutes later and Massey took a whole one by to offer him. He declined saying he had finished his salad.

He said didn't want his pizza until he finished his salad.


Dude, you're eating romaine hearts with lemon juice!

The first pizza came out with some burned edges. Not a lot but knew would never make the grade with this guy.

My General Manager was walking by the expo window and told him the guy was hard to please and I wanted this visit to be flawless with no room for complaint. He agreed, so did the Chefs. The first pizza looked great to me, I like crispy crust but it wasn't my pizza, it was his. Chef said they would make another one when I also noticed they had diced the chicken. He had explicitly said strips of chicken and (my bad) had forgot to tell them.

The next one came out one minute later but looked absolutely perfect in absolutely every way. The Sous Chef said I should take a picture of it so I did.

My strange and eclectic customer was delighted when I sat it on his table. His words..."This is beautiful" and told him I hoped it tasted even better.

Per training went back to check on him less than two minutes later.

He was thrilled with the pizza. Also said once he was down to one piece left wanted to order another one exactly like it.


That's what I'm talking about. Anticipate and exceed expectations. I couldn't have cared less about getting any extra gratuity just wanted him to have absolutely nothing to complain about or send back.

The second pizza came out just as perfectly and can say with confidence the guy was wowed.

You know what?

I felt satisfied and so did he.

I took him his bill in a check presenter with the added gratuity highlighted and verbally told him about it. He paid with his credit card.

When I went back to pick up his check he said (almost verbatim again)

"When I came in and sat down you were very attentive to me and what I asked for. You listened to what I wanted and followed every instruction to detail. There should be more servers like you."

I said to him (semi jokingly) "Maybe they need to hire more old people like me."

He handed me back the check presenter, shook my hand and left. I stuck in my apron pocket and began to clear his table thinking "Yes, I'm a Boss server!"

I pulled out the presenter about one minute later. On top of the eighteen percent added grat on his credit card had left me twenty five dollars in cash.

He was walking around the corner of the Delta Sky Club when I quickly went out of the restaurant into the food court, calling him by name. (paid by credit card and always take note of the name)

He turned around, I saluted  him and said was much appreciated.

He saluted in return and semi smiled.

That's the kind of job I have, do and  main reason why love it so much.

I try to make a difference and when I do results are more times than not, amazing.

Yes, I'm a Lifer...but a smart and lucky one.

I've learned to give the exact service to every single customer, whether they are friendly or not. Working in the international terminal have waited on many foreigners who are borderline rude but took care of their every need and always tried to go that extra step, and nine times out of ten was handsomely rewarded for it.

Case in point, my last customer was a single Arab man. Quiet, non smiling and didn't say one single word to me other than order his wine and food, say yes when I asked if all was okay and "check please" when ready to go. Went through my entire little spiel about how everything had been included for his convenience, put down his check and held out his (Hersey) kiss goodbye and told him to have safe travels. That got me the slightest hint of a smile. I went back to clear his table after he left and on top of the added ($12) gratuity had left me thirty bucks.

You just never know.

Till next time...COTTON

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