To Serve Mankind











{March 22, 2009}   Sips vs Red Robin

   Our essay assignment for my Eng101 class, due March 14, was an expository essay developed by comparison / contrast.  Since I got an “A”, I am not too embarassed to post my paper here for your reading pleasure!

 

I am a lucky lady; I have two jobs.  One might immediately call to mind the obvious fiscal advantage of two jobs during this country’s depressed economic atmosphere, but the money is not my point.  I have jobs at two very different restaurants, both have their positives and negatives, and this contrast provides me with balance and job satisfaction.  I am endeared to both locations for their dynamic differences, but only the beloved guests know for sure which atmosphere is right for their own purpose or occasion.

Sips Bistro and Wine Shop is a peaceful spot with a maximum guest capacity of 37 people seated.  The tables are odd sized, making it difficult to accommodate a party of over twelve people.  As one enters, the first sight noticed is the wine shop to the right.  It features over 500 labels of wines from around the world.  The feeling is very casual, and guests are prompted to seat themselves at any table in the restaurant.  Any available staff member is happy to approach arriving guests with menus and details of the soup du jour and any specials.

Guests tend to choose from the wine list for their beverage selection, which offers 12 varietals by the six-ounce glass or two-ounce taste.  They can also choose any wine from the shop and we will chill it if necessary and open it for a minimal corkage fee.  As for the food menu, Sips’ guests choose from an unpretentious menu of healthful items.  The plates are not loaded with food, but rather have just enough to compliment the wine and the dining experience.  There are separate menus for lunch and dinner.  All items are made from locally grown and manufactured ingredients whenever possible, and soups and desserts are homemade from scratch.

  After Chef John spent 2 ½ years training at culinary school, he followed his education with high-profile work experience with companies such as Hyatt Regency, The Arizona Diamondbacks, and The Phoenix Suns.  All employees are dedicated professionals with a passion for food and wine.  The owners, Bill and Diane, are oenophiles (wine lovers) and have been for many years.  Bill has been studying and appreciating wine from childhood, and is self-taught in the ways of wine.  Both have traveled abroad on numerous occasions, and Diane has attended many local winery conferences and other assorted culinary classes to hone her food and wine knowledge and skills.  Additionally, Diane’s main love is for the kitchen; her library of homemade recipes keeps the new menu ideas and specials exciting and fun.  Although I do not have the extensive training in food or wine that our Chef and owners possess, I have been active, and learning, in this field for 16 years.

Once the guests’ food order is taken, the order is submitted on a hand-written ticket to the kitchen.  During times of high guest volume, this system of ordering and charging guests can be tedious because we servers manually write the items sold and appropriately corresponding math on the guest tickets.  When all guests are served their beverages and waiting for food, there are a few options for employees to stay busy while waiting to meet further guest needs.  Empty and / or unused dishes are removed from tables.  Water glasses can be refilled.  Dirty dishes can be run through the dishwasher and put away clean.  However, the primary focus is to watch the door for approaching guests.  Cleanliness in front and back is maintained to the best of our abilities, and is usually accomplished, throughout the entire shift.  When the environment is peaceful and quiet, we engage in friendly chit-chat.

As the shift winds down, the restaurant is put back into order for service the next day.  Silverware is rolled into napkins, floors are swept and mopped, and the minimal supply of non-alcoholic beverages is restocked into the reach-in refrigerator.  Diane checks inventory to prepare the next day’s shopping list.  This break-down time is brief and all closing procedures are performed by all staff on hand, except the Chef, who closes his own station promptly after the last plate goes out.  Bill counts the drawer and the day’s receipts after the doors are locked and all guests have left the building.

The Red Robin is another beast altogether.  This restaurant, which includes a full-service bar area called a “Refreshment Center” (RC for short), can accommodate well over 300 guests, from parties of one to thirty or more at the same table.  Upon entering the Red Robin, one is greeted as quickly as possible by a “hospo”, also known as a hostess in other establishments.  If the hospo is not nearby, it is every service employee’s charge to greet and seat incoming guests immediately. 

After, or perhaps even before, noticing the smiling greeter, one can glance around and clearly see the Red Robin’s focus on family-oriented clientele.  Flashing lights and whirring sounds of video and crane games fill the recreation area to the left.  Sights of mixologists (Red Robin’s term for bartender; we are called mixo’s for short) cheerfully shaking milkshakes and mixing martinis to the sounds of overhead music from the 80’s, 90’s, and today, can be seen to the right.  And what is that at your feet?  Yes, a 27” television is embedded into the ground so guests can catch the sports score while waiting to be seated.  The only self-seating tables are found in the RC.

As one walks further back into the main part of the restaurant, further evidence is found of the Red Robin spirit catering to families.  Parents are often to be found chasing crayons that their little ones have thrown to the ground, or tying balloons to their babe’s wrists.  A statue of a Red Robin stands cheerfully in the center of the main restaurant floor.  And if you come at the right time, you may hear a group of team members clapping out a happy birthday chant at some poor, unsuspecting soul.  The staff at Sips would never create such a loud commotion; it would disturb too many people – guests and employees alike!

Unlike Sips, Red Robin has a very limited wine selection.  Only five varietals are available for purchase by the glass or bottle only.  Red Robin does boast a fair selection of eight draft beers, eight bottled beers, and a full bar.  Alcohol sales are not of utmost import at the Red Robin; their popular non-alcoholic beverages are fountain sodas, milkshakes, and their signature Freckled Lemonade.  The same food menu is available from open to close and features over 29 burgers in a myriad of styles and forms.  To the detriment of many, Red Robin offers free refills on baskets of fries, which are automatically included as part of the meal with any burger.  To maintain food consistency among the many Red Robin chain locations, it is policy to obtain all food supplies and ingredients from the same centralized source.

Red Robin cooks may come from other assorted cooking venues, but all are trained consistently in the Red Robin method of burger building and menu item preparation.  They are constantly quizzed on their knowledge of ingredients, food safety, and preparation procedures.  Server training follows the same suit; no matter where one worked previously, Red Robin trains all servers in the Red Robin way to ensure consistency of service.  All are taught to know and follow the Red Robin “Steps of Service” standards, which are a practical and efficient guideline to granting guests optimal service.

In keeping with these steps of service, the server is required to perform tasks within a very specific and brief time frame.  These steps include but are not limited to; greeting the table with information about Red Robin, entering beverage and food orders to the computer in an immediate and accurate fashion, and offering fry refills and the dessert menu / check presenter at specific intervals.  All of this methodical prioritizing is geared at creating a 37 minute table turnaround during lunch hours and a 42 minute table turnaround during dinner.  Guests at the Red Robin tend not to linger, unlike Sips where people may sit for hours over a bottle of wine and talk.

As a shift at Red Robin winds down, servers are phased out as fewer guests walk in the door.  When a server is phased, it is their urgent priority to “break down” their assigned station.  These duties can include rolling silverware, stocking to-go boxes or straws, wiping trays, or refilling salt and pepper shakers.  Closing duties are ideally completed by the time the server’s last table pays its ticket.  When the server’s last ticket is closed, he or she prints an automated report that tells how much cash is owed to Red Robin for the guest tickets transacted.  In the case of the mixo, the same cash due report is generated, but the mixo must count out his or her cash drawer for deposit, as opposed to the personal bank the server carries around.  The back-of-house staff (cooks, dishwasher) begins their breakdown and clean up of the kitchen as early as possible.  This usually occurs as soon as the dinner rush is over.  Back-of-house staff has a lot more detail cleaning to do than the front-of-house staff, so they all stay and work together as a team until cleanup is completed.

Indeed, there are many differences between my beloved places of employment, and I truly appreciate them both for the establishments they are.  I can not choose a favorite.  But for the potential guest seeking a laid-back, mature dining experience without the clapping of birthday songs and wails of fry-deprived children, Sips is the place to be.  On the other hand, if you have youngsters to entertain, a baseball team to buy milkshakes for, or you’re on the road travelling with your family and need a quick in and out dinner, then Red Robin is where you want to visit.  But only you can decide!

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