To Serve Mankind

{October 24, 2009}   To Tip or Not To Tip

   It is no big secret that servers are there to make tips.  It is also no big secret that servers depend on tip income far greater than they depend on their hourly wage.  In most states, the wage for servers and bartenders is minimum wage or lower.  Oh, you didn’t know that?  Well, it makes sense when you realize how many students, moms, and others of the like that this line of work attracts – those who may benefit from the immediate cash and decent (sometimes formidable) pay with no secondary education required (though it does help).  Not to mention the benefit of flexible schedules, but that is beside this point.

   It’s true that your server / tender is counting on your monetary gratification, and I’ll not be one-sided and dare say it isn’t a two-way street.  You deserve the exemplary service you expect when you decide to go out and spend your hard-earned money in any dining establishment.  Likewise, your server deserves her / his hard-earned tip at the the culmination of your dining and / or drinking experience.  So here it is – what are the tipping standards are and why you should tip.  I’ll start low and work my way up.

   Servers are taxed on 8% of their sales, whether you tip or not.  So flat out, less that an 8% tip and you’re “stealing” from your server right there.  10% is a typical low-end base, and 15% is a generally accepted satisfactory tip.  Fair enough; it’s better than a poke in the eye.  But what is your server doing for you?  Does he/she smile, make you feel welcome and generally care about your situation?  Well, that’s minimum 10% there.  Did your order get put in correctly?  It most likely did if your server made the effort to repeat your order back to you after taking it down.  Did your server check back on you and keep you stocked with beverages, napkins, and other such items?  How many bottles of wine did your server / tender cork for you?  Did half of the restaurant come to a halt while your server and several others sang a birthday song for you or someone in your group?  Make sure you bump up that tip for all those items!  Were your drinks made pretty and served quickly?  What about special order items?  Did your server get all your requests handled and then specifically check back with you to ensure the food or drinks were done right?  Well, if your server is on his or her toes, we are well above the 15% mark now.  My personal standard, the number I always strive for, is 20%.  This requires constant service with a smile;  learning the guests’ names and remembering their favorite drinks and how they like their steak cooked doesn’t hurt a  bit, either.  The strongest server will anticipate the guests wants and needs before the guest even realize that they wanted or needed anything else!  To earn that 20% (or more) tip, the guest must feel that the server genuinely cares about their entire dining experience and is happy to take care of them.

   Sometimes, no matter how hard your server or bartender tries, guest expectations just cannot be met.  Sometimes an order ticket gets lost in the kitchen or bar.  Sometimes food and drinks just flat out come out late.  That IS NOT NECESSARILY YOUR SERVER’S FAULT.  It is, however, your server’s responsibiltiy to be astute to your situation and let guests know that they haven’t been forgotten.  Sometimes a server / bartender will have a guest that is an attention hog.  Some guests want to talk and talk to their server with out consideration of other guests waiting for their server’s attention.  Some guests like to ask for one thing at a time, tying up their server to chase down assorted items and also keeping them from efficiently moving thru other tables.  Conversely, it is the good server’s role to anticipate guests needs the best they can to avoid inefficiency and impress guests with their forethought.  Does your server send other servers, staff, or management to check on you and make sure you’re doing ok in their absence?  How big is your server’s section?  If it’s a bartender, is he or she making drinks for the entire restaurant (most likely) as well as taking care of guests at the bar and some tables?  If your server is standing around, not doing much of anything and generally not giving a shit, then that’s not 20% service.  Probably isn’t even worth 15%.  If your server is hustling his or her buns, refilling drinks, taking orders, running food that may or may not be for his / her own tables, and SMILING while all this is happening – well, that’s a server / tender who deserves a good bump in their tip percentage.

   This brings me to another point; servers and bartenders have to tip out too.  You may notice that they get a little help from their friends.  Bussers, barbacks and tenders, and expo line staff (people who make sure your food is pretty, hot, and arrives at your table in a timely manner) all get tipped (usually manditorialy by restaurant procedural standards) by servers and bartenders based on their individual sales.  It may be a team effort, but everybody gots to get paid.  So keep that in mind before you are tempted to stiff your server.

   Another thing that shoud be mentioned is the time a guest spends at a table.  If you’re in a party that is camping at a table and not spending money, that table cannot be turned around for use again, which is a whole new tip opportunity lost.  Likewise, a party with multiple children / youths that don’t watch their kids is a ridiculous burden to your server.  When unattended, often (no joke, OFTEN) they are known to spread out to tables all thru a servers section, muss up the tables (I’ve had a party of one mom and 6 teen girls dump all my salt and pepper on the table and make a ridiculous mess and diss me with a less-than-10%  tip), dump drinks on the ground, open sugar packets and make designs on the table top…oh the list goes on and on…AND WE SERVERS ARE NOT YOUR CHILDREN’S BABYSITTERS!  Bump up that tip if your kids need sitting…SIGNIFICANTLY.

   A $5 tip is not a suitable tip for an $80 tag.  No way.  And tipping twice the tax is not always appropriate either, as in some bars the tax amount is already added into the price of a glass of wine or your beer.  At the bartop, it’s a dollar a drink, plus 20% for food service.  Bartop tipping should always be higher…those seats are prime real estate.

   Oh, and one final pet peeve…don’t joke to your server about the tip by saying something like, “Your tip depends on it”.  (It can be so many different things, from extra ranch to a stronger cocktail)  Condescending statements like that are not favored and will certainly not get you any special treatment.  Remember to talk to and treat your server like the human being he or she is, for cryin’ out loud!  We really do want to make you happy!  Don’t make it difficult by assuming a server’s only position in life is to wait on people.  We are so much more…I like to think of it as entertainment.  If you saw me work, you’d probably agree.

   How do I tip?  I am a very tough customer.  Because I do this for a living, I have high expectations for how I want to be cared for in a restaurant.  I want to be served like I serve.  In my mind, the server starts off with a 20% tip, and I will go up or down from there accordingly based on the standards that I have mentioned above.  I hope this can help servers and guests alike see each other’s side better.  As always, all comments are appreciated and welcome!  And thank you for listening to my rant – I hope you’ve enjoyed it, or at least been entertained!


{April 25, 2009}   Water, Water, Everywhere!

Ok, folks.  Time to gripe.  This is a pet peeve that has been bugging me thoroughly and I don’t know why I haven’t laid this down sooner.  It’s about ordering water to drink when you go out to eat.  First of all, if you’re going out to dine, why are you having something as mundane as water?  Of course, I do understand that people drink water, so that is all good and fine ordering it.  Hell, sometimes I do to myself.  But please don’t order a water just because I ask you if you’d like something to drink and you’re feeling just too pressured to order anything else yet.  I’m not asking you if you want a drink because I have nothing else to do; I’m asking if you want a beverage because you might be thirsty!  You have no idea how often somebody has me chase them down a water only to have them order a different beverage when I get back with their water, and never even touch the water they made me get in the first place! So, it just kills me when people make me get them a water, I deliver it, then they order a smoothie or a shake and don’t even touch the water!  I think that is extremely inconsiderate to myself and to mother earth.  You’ve all heard the statistics…it actually takes x amount of gallons of water to wash the glass and so on.  If you served in a restaurant you’d know how wasteful requests for water can be.  More so than fry fills and ranch dressing requests.  So all I’m trying to say here, people, is just think before you order water.  And I’m not saying that because it’s free!!  A table of 4 who randomly ask for “waters all around” backs me up about 2 minutes which in restaurant time is way too much time!

   What a great day we had on Wednesday March 25th!  Many thanks to the Turlock Red Robin, my Riverbank managers, and the gents at the Sierra Nevada Brew Co for an awesome afternoon in Chico.  They arranged a tour and lunch for both Riverbank and Turlock mixos at the plant and brew pub.  I took lots of notes, hoping to get a good blog out of it.  The gents at the brewery noticed me taking notes, and gave me a good tease saying they’d need to check over what I’d written before going ot print…they’ve nothing to worry abought though, for they were all fine hosts.  Besides, who am I to talk smack about anybody who gives me free beer?

   After a lovely 3-hour car ride, from Riverbank to Chico, I was giddy as we turned onto East 20th St. and the parking lot with the solar-panel roof came into sight.  “Very cool” I thought, and continued checking out the building’s exterior.  It is very clean and well-kept, lush landscaping with a Sierra forrest feeling.  Makes sense?  More on that later.

   Upon walking into the lobby I was greeted by four smiling dudes all standing around.  I said “hi” quickly as I beelined past them to get to the girl’s room – we were just in a car for 3 hours, ya know?  When I made it back to the main lobby, we exchanged pleasantries and I got right to checking things out.   The lobby was clean and simple; pictures of hops and machines and old buildings decorated the walls.  Through the glass doors to the left I could see the brewing tank room with some gorgeous murals depicting the process of brewing.  Four huge tanks, 2 copper and 2 stainless, were taking up most of the room.

   I turned back to the lobby and decided it was time to check out the gift shop.  They have all the usual fare – pints and other glassware, shirts, hats, bottle openers, thermos’ – but no shotglasses.  So I got AP a 3-oz taster with their logo on it.  Their shirts were adorable and I really wanted a green tank but was just a little short on funds that afternoon!  Next time!

   Exit the lobby and off to the left is the area I originally darted through to get to the powder room.  What I had dashed by before was a “museum” of vintage brewing equipment, but I’ve not idea, specifically, what they were used for.  I’ll talke a wild guess and say maybe they were used to , uh, make beer?  And more pics of the people and things of the brewery’s past and present.  On this side throught the glass I could see a different style of tank area (the fermentation tanks) which I later wrote in my notes is the “metal pipe room where the yeast is added and liquid becomes beer.  Then cold filtering.”  These tanks were the bottom half of the huge tanks seen on top of the building. 

   When the time came to begin the tour, our guide Charlie “The Battery Man” Kyle took us upstairs to begin.  It was a terrace-like upstairs they call the “mezzanine” that overlooks the lobby and leads to The Big Room, which is their main venue.  The terrace is said to seat 150 and I think this would be a darling spot for an event.  The Big Room is a bit more decadent, but not pretentiously so, and is set up with seating for 350 facing a stage area.  Charlie told us they have regular shows and events.  You can see for yourself what is coming up on their website, click on “The Big Room” link to get you there.  

   Back out of the Big Room and onto the mezzanine, we were shown a brief movie that offered some insight on the brew’s beginnings and founder – Ken Grossman.  It mentions Ken’s love of nature and the outdoors (hence the landscaping and the name of the brewery!).  Later in the tour, Charlie tells of Ken’s further dedication to nature and preserving it when we were shown the four huge fuel cells (sustainable energy producing generator-thingys).  He also pointed out that there are nearly 10,000 solar panels used to power the plant cleanly, and that Sierra Nevada Brew Co. recycles / reuses 99.8% of their plant waste.

   Charlie cruised us all around the behind-the-scenes.  We got to observe the brewing tank room (Lauder Ton, Whirlpool, etc) from the observation deck above.  I got some awesome pics of the murals I mentioned earlier.  We got close to the afore-mentioned “metal pipe room” and learned more of the beer process there.  Upon leaving, we cruised outdoors past the Pilot brewery where they test their ideas.  He even pointed out where the employee health center is (quarterly free massages!) and were they are building an employee child care center.  Bravo!

   One of my favorite spots on the tour was the bottling room.  It was so cool to see those bottles going by – all the Pale Ale scuffling down conveyor belts to hungry gripping machines that ironically, gently, pick them up and box them for distribution.  I got some cool video in there!  Can you believe they put out over 50,000 cases a year?  After leaving the bottling area, we went for a pleasant walk outdoors, past the solar panel parking lot, to our final destination – The Brewpub.

   The staff already had four tables all set for our arrival, and got right to setting out waters and beers for our refreshment.  They brought out their 2 newest brews for our delight: Kellerweis, their new belgian-style draft, and Torpedo, a hoppy, rich ale, that was my preference.  They brought out two appetizers for us to enjoy while we waited to have lunch orders taken.  The sausage platter came first; it was a selection of Bratwurst, Hot Link, and fennel sausage served with a side of caramelized onions and a side of some kind of sauerkraut / coleslaw – I don’t know what it was called, but I ate it all with a fork!

   I chose to take a cup of the butternut squash soup for my next course and conservatively ordered a chicken Ceasar salad for my entree.  The chicken was overcooked and dry but I ate it all anyway!  I ate so much!  I even got hold of Angela’s salad!  They make a great house salad: spring mix, goat cheese, candied pecans…mmmmmm.  No dessert for me, I was too stuffed!  We did have a birthday boy at our table; Angela’s son Roby joined us in celebration of his 21st, and what better place to celebrate than at Sierra Nevada!?!?  We finished off Red Robin style with a loud birthday chant; “Oh, I don’t know but I’ve been told / Someone here is gettin’ old!” 

   Thank you again, so much, to Red Robin, Team Turlock, Riverbank managers, and the great staff of Sierra Nevada brew co.  I can’t wait to come back again…if only you weren’t so far away!

{March 14, 2009}   Building the perfect drink

(Hello out there!  I know it’s been a long while…I’ve been dedicating all my writing energies to my English 101 class, which is why I’m here today.  Our in-class assignment for Saturday the 7th was to crank out a 600-800 word essay developed by process analysis.  Since I earned an A, I dedided to post my work for any to enjoy!  If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!)

     There are many positive qualities one must possess to be a successful bartender, but key to being a great bartender is making a perfect drink.  The perfect drink should be both aesthetically pleasing with an appropriate aroma and flavor balance.  At Red Robin, the most popular house drink is a Sand in Your Shorts, which requires a specific method of building to result in a beautiful, delicious, and refreshing cocktail. 

     We begin with the appropriate glassware; remove a thistle glass from the rack above the well.  Thistle glasses are identified by their footed base, bulbous bottom, and high, flared edges.  Be sure the glass is clean before filling it to the top with ice.  The ice should be free of debris; stray sprinkles (a.k.a. jimmies) from over-zealous servers garnishing their milkshakes too close to the bar’s ice well are often to be found.

     After the clean glass is set with ice, it is time to start pouring.  The vodka and triple sec are added first.  Their bottles are conveniently located in the speed rack at knee level right up at the well.  Take a bottle in each hand and free-pour a 2-count measure (1/2 oz. each) into the thistle.  The next 2 liquors to add are the Midori and peach schnapps.  These bottles are also next to each other in the speed rack, but over toward the right where the more expensive bottles of liquor are stored.  Pour in the same manner and amount as the vodka and triple sec.  Should any of these bottles run empty during pouring, simply remove the pour spout, throw away the empty bottle, and replace the pour spout in a new bottle from the storage area on the wall of the bar.

     Once the initial four liquors are in, the straw should be placed in the glass.  The color pattern of this drink is the sincerest part of its charm.  Inserting the straw after the more colorful fruit juices and Chambord are added will agitate the layers of colors, thereby decreasing the cocktail’s visual appeal.  One ounce of sweet and sour is added next.  This mixer is located in the juice well to the left of the speed racks.  One can tell when one ounce has been poured by the height of the liquid in the glass; at this point the level of liquids should reach the top of the bulbous portion of the thistle glass.  From the juice well, take the orange juice and cranberry juice in each hand and pour approximately three ounces of each juice into the glass until they reach the top of the ice.  Some of the ice will settle during this process, so a few more cubes should be gently added to the glass.  There should now be a space of 1/2 to 3/4 inch at the top where there is no liquid.  This space is necessary to accommodate the final float of liqueur, and to keep the drink from splashing over the sides of the glass while a server walks with it.  The final liqueur, Chambord, is located behind the milkshake machine.  A half-ounce float of Chambord is a beautiful top to this drink.  To successfully float the Chambord, pour slowly and aim for the ice rather than the liquid.  Allow the Chambord to release slowly down the ice and into the drink; its royal shade of purple will remain independently on top until the drink reaches the guest.

     Ready to deliver this beautiful concoction?  Not just yet.  An orange wedge should be placed delicately on the rim of the glass.  Be careful not to upset this beautiful drink you’ve worked so hard to build!  And, per Red Robin standards, do all you can to get this miniature piece of art to the guest within four minutes of the drink ticket coming up on your printer.  In some cases, a server may already be standing at your well urgently awaiting the drink.  Occasionally, the bartender will find him or her self calling for a drink runner – any available server, busser or hostess – to ensure timely delivery of the drink.  But the most fun is taking the time to deliver the drink oneself.  I enjoy delivering  the drinks I’ve made to guests.  I am proud to show off my talent and I let the guests know it!

     I have been practicing the art of bartending for over ten years and have enjoyed nearly every minute of it.  It is an art involving many talents like the ability to talk to, engage, and endear guests, think and work at an outrageous pace, and organizing and prioritizing every task of every moment as it comes flying along.  But if you can pay attention to the simple details of building a perfect drink and follow through with diligence, you’re already on the road to being a successful bartender.

{December 15, 2008}   Just No Time!

I admit, it has been far too long since I’ve added anything new or interesting.  I am just spread too thin and have to time!  I actually have 3 or 4 ideas started on paper, so I’m always thinking.  I have much desire to get back to blogging, so I will not be taking down this site.  Who knows, maybe I can use this for a project in my English 101 class…?

{October 27, 2008}   One Step Beyond…

Ok, it’s one week later and if you happened to read my last post you may be wondering what happened to me this Friday.  Well, let me tell ya.

     I got to the Robin at 4:45 and did my usual scan.  I had 3 tables and it was my duty to back up the bartender.  Ok.  I worked steady and strong all night, even taught my gf Dawn some yoga while we were on break.  It was a $5 night.  I kid you not…you other tipped staff know what I’m talking about.  It’s one of those shifts when every table gives you the same $5 tip.  Yep.  Isn’t that bizarre?  I haven’t had that happen in probly 2 years.  Tonite, I had one of those nights.  At least I only hadta sing 2 birthday songs…And I left making less than half of what I’d made the Friday before.

     Kelly and Steve; yous need to come out more often! You were like good luck charms!




{October 24, 2008}   A Happy Friday

     Last friday the 17th was a record night at the Robin.  I made over $30 an hour in tips.  I am still totally amazed and have been reflecting on what I did to make it such a successful night.  I mean, coming home with $160 is a new record for serving in the city of Riverbank and especially with the economy like it is.  Like most other businesses, the restaurant industry has taken a hit too.  Not only are people eating out less, they are also tipping less.  The average seems to be about 10-12%; my personal standard is 20%.  Mrph, ahem.

     So it went down like this…I arrived late due to a minor schedule confusion.  No big deal, fortunately.  No problem shaking that one off.  The rest of the night went picture perect!  I was on fire.  Nothing could bother me.  I was getting 20% tips left and right.  And when I got a $5 tip on an $80 tag, I shook it off without hesitation.  I was calm and focused.  I was truly enjoying my shift, and I guess that came thru to the guests.  I was lucky – none of my guests were buttholes or attention hogs.  It was a really smooth shift – I didn’t even have to sing a birthday song!

     Maybe it was becuz I was still on the move from my shift at Sips.  I had no down time in between jobs.  Unless you count driving in the car, I suppose.  Maybe it was becuz I knew there were friends waiting for me at my house.  Maybe I did just the right kind of yoga that morning.  Or maybe the planets were all perfectly aligned.  All I know is Friday the 17th was a model shift at the Red Robin, and I’ll be doing everything in my power to make that happen again.

Feedback welcome and encouraged!


Riverbank Red Robin

Riverbank Red Robin



{August 29, 2008}   East Coast Dining

As most of those who read my blog already know, I’ve just returned form a week-long jaunt to my hometown of Burlington, NJ and surrounding areas.  In honor of this trip, I OF COURSE will be delaying my originally intended post for a discussion of my food/dining experiences back on the east coast.

  The first location of honorable mention is The Memphis Taproom.  This awesome spot is located in the Port Fishington district of Philly at the corner of Memphis and Cumberland.  My cousins took me there for lunch and a beer after an afternoon of trekking thru the Philly Zoo.  Unpretentious and almost dive-ish, this bar/grill offers multiple drafts and 40 (give-or-take) bottle beers – all diverse in flavor and style.  Naturally, I was impressed because they were not the commmon drafts I’m used to seeing around Modesto – New Belgium, Widmer, Sam Adams, et al.  They did offer a Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, which was a nice change to see vs. the overrated Pale Ale.  Our taproom hostess, Jessica, was well-inked AND a wealth of knowledge concerning the beers.  She knew her stuff and offered some great details to help me pick the perfect beer.  After tasting around, I decided on Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale.  Well rounded and full of hoppy goodness – just the way I like it!  And then there’s the food.  Cousin Kyrlyn got the zucchini and basil soup; off-creamy in a zucchini way and full of fresh basil flavor.  I got the Hefe Hummus platter, complete with pita chips, cherry tomatoes, smoked kalamata olives and tzaziki dip.  The dish was most-“evilly” garnished with breaded deep-fried garbanzo beans!  The prices were very reasonable, the service was professional, and my dining partners most enjoyable!  Thanks to Kyrlyn and Alyssa for sharing one of your favorite spots with me. –

     The second spot I want to mention is also in Philly.  At the corner of 10th and Catharine Streets is Dante and Luigi’s, site of the Halloween 1989 shooting of the infamous Nicky Scarfo, Jr.  When we were there, it was pretty quiet and no gangsters were about…to my knowledge…   We started the meal with a Heineken and VO toast to my friend’s dad, whom we lost back in April of 1991.  Salute, Mr. Bisceglie.  My first course was a Ceasar salad accompanied by the richest loaf of bread I’ve ever tasted.  It was orgasmic and I can honestly say I’ve never said that about something as mundane as bread before.  It did not need butter, or the oil and balsamic dip AT ALL.  Oh, and the croutons for the salad were equally decadent.  My main course was a crabmeat stuffed Portobello mushroom- man, oh man!  A good 3&1/2 to 4 inches in diameter, this porto was piled high with a combination of crabmeat, ?panko? (I think), savory and/or thyme, mild onion, and EVOO (as far as I could pick out flavor-wise.  I was not given the actual ingredients.)  It was, in my opinion, humongous and thoroughly delicious.  The meatiness of the mushroom was a perfect combo with the seafood-style topper. –

     My third mention is credited to The Ocean Drive in Sea Isle City.  Home of $1 drafts and 50-cent wings for happy hour.  Those who know me know that buffalo wings are not in my diet – never, no-how, no-way.  Until this trip.  I was living it up and decided to balance the Bud Lights with some flavor; not to mention that the basket of wings was sitting right in front of me!  Normally, wings are either too vinegar-spicy or too greasy but these were perfect!  They were not too spicy (and I’m not afraid of heat!), not too greasy, just right.  I was really impressed.  The bar’s ambiance was typical; we were there before things really got busy thereby enabling us to chat it up with the bartender and other barflies hanging about.  And after the fact, I learned that I apparently became known as the chick from California who served Scott Peterson!  Thanks, Mike!  ;P

     Sunday was the day of my stomach’s greatest pleasure as I enjoyed a delicious BBQ meal with my family courtesy of my Uncle Jim and Aunt Becky.  I had little-to-no appetite all week, but all that changed at Jim and Becky’s.  I stuffed myself with a veggie burger, macaroni salad and teriaki chicken skewers.  Comfort food to the 10th power.  Sometimes it’s truly the simplest pleasures that are the most satisfying.

     And my final “dining” spot was actually a dessert-for-brunch day.  Three new friends joined me at Ummm’s Ice Cream Parlor (High and Union Streets in Burlington), the ultimate treat of my youth.  I had my all-time favorite; chocolate ice cream with crushed cherries.  I always used to get it with the wet walnuts, too.  For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t splurge and go for it (shhh, yes I do) since I have yet to find wet walnuts in any ice cream shop in California!  No matter, tho.  Ice cream is always good, no matter how you dish it up.  Thanks to Tom, Cass, and Geoff for the company.  Cass, Tom, Geoff, and the Old Lady

Cass, Tom, Geoff, and the Old Lady

{August 3, 2008}   Bar and Restaurant Lingo

     As you may be aware, we restaurant staff kinda have our own language.  Here are some serious and fun terms we use in the biz, both front of house and back of house.  Some are mundane, some will have you cracking up, some will be familiar and some new.  And this list is by no means complete.  Add your favorite terms in the comments – I want to learn too! 

This is going to be a fun post.  Enjoy!

86, 86’ed – basically means no more.  Can refer to a product or a customer who has been ejected.

Alcohol by Volume – (ABV) used to measure the alcohol content of a beverage.  A beverage’s ABV is equal to half of the proof.

Alcohol Abuse – a pun used when a beer or cocktail is spilled on accident.  Also known as a party foul.

All Day – slang term meaning total of like dishes being prepared. e.g. “I need two more BLT’s.  That’s six all day.”

BAC –  Blood Alcohol Content; a measurement of how much alcohol is in the bloodstream;  milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

Back of the House – refers to the parts of the restaurant the customers do not usually have access to: the kitchen, prep area, dishroom, offices, store rooms.  Can also refer to the personnel who work in those areas.  At the Red Robin, we refer to it as “Heart of House”.

Bank – the money carried by a server to make change throughout their shift. 

Bar back –  a bartender helper who restocks and runs errands for the bartender.  Duties can vary from pouring drafts, running food and bevs, stocking anything and everything, calling cops, running to the bank or store. 

Barista – a coffee bar tender, maker of espresso, cappuccinos and the like.

Bar Fly – one who frequents or hangs at a bar.

Bar Time – Bar time is usually 15-20 minutes faster than the rest of the clocks in the time zone.  It doesn’t matter what your watch says.  It’s a bar, its bar time, don’t argue.

Behind – a verbal warning called out when walking behind others so as to prevent them from stepping short or back or sideways into you and knocking a tray of food or drinks (or worse) out of your hands. 

Benjamin – slang for $100 bill; $100 American; a very nice tip.

Burn – to throw away or write off wasted or overmade product.

Bus, Busser – to clean tables; one who, among very many other duties, cleans tables.

Bistro – a laid back informal European style restaurant, generally on the small side (Sips only has 8 tables plus 5 seats at the bar).  Believed to be taken from Russian, meaning fast.

Bouncer – a typically large employee who watches the door and keeps order, physically when necessary.

Breastrant – slang term for a “dining establishment” with scantily clad waitstaff. ex-Hooters is a very popular breastrant.

Call – refers to a named spirit used in a drink; above the well liquor.  Absolut is a typical call vodka, whereas some cheap swill like Popov would be the low-budget well vodka in the speed rack.

Campers – people who dawdle at their table long after they are finished, usually wrapped up in conversation or making out.  Not really a problem unless they’re tying up tables or keeping people on the clock who want to leave.  If you want to camp, remember you can pay your bill and still linger.  Your server can close out your ticket as long as you’ve signed your credit slip.  And remember;  that table (especially in the bar area or whatever my section is) is Prime Real Estate.  Tip accordingly if you are preventing that table from being reused (aka turned around).

Carafe – a glass bottle with a flared opening used to serve wine.

Chaser, Back, Sidecar – Beverage accompanying a shot used to help one deal with the aftertaste of whatever they’re drinking.  May I suggest that if you don’t like the flavor of what you’re drinking you may want to try drinking something else.  Like milk, you sissy.  ;P

Chew and Screw – dine and dash; walk out on the bill.  Not cool.  When I’m on, don’t even let me hear you joke about it. 

Chimneyfish – someone who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish.  Not often found in, but rather outside of, CA bars since smoking has been banned since, like 1997.

Church Key – thin metal combo bottle and can opener.

Class 6 – classification that alcoholic beverages would fall under in the military.  According to an ex-Air Force friend of mine “Class 6 is what you would consider to be a Cumberland Farms or a Wawa for the Military.  Except that is where you buy all your liquor if you are military.”  (For my non-East Coast readers, a Wawa is a convenience store like the Stop N Save, 7-11, or Circle-K, only WAY friggin’ better.)  He also noted that Class 6 is typically Air Force and is not sure if the Army/Navy/Marines call it that. 

Clinking – the act of tappng 2 glasses together, which makes the glass holders drink.  It is bad manners (and bad juju) to not take the glass directly to your mouth after clinking.  Also known as toasting or tapping.

Clusterfxxx – a disorganized, messed up situation generally occurring when too much input comes from too many sources who think they are helping but are really being counterproductive.

Comp – short for complimentary; refers to food, drink, swag, whatever given to a guest for free for many different reasons.  Could be a VIP, or to make up for shortcomings, or as a marketing device.  Or to catch a hot mama’s phone number.

Corkage – the fee charged by an establishment to a guest who brings their own wine.  The price of corkage will vary from restaurant to restaurant – at Sips, Bill is apt to waive corkage for those buying wine in our wine shop.  However, you shouldn’t argue the corkage fee, since the establishment is still paying for the glasses and the washing of the glasses, and the presentation and opening of your bottle…

Corked – wine ruined by a faulty cork; air has entered the bottle.

Corner – a verbal warning called out to warn others when you’re coming around a blind corner.  As with “Behind”, this warning can/will/has prevented many a disaster.

Cougar – an older lady searching for and maybe even hitting on a much younger man / men.

Coyote Ugly – description for a bedmate with whom you wake up and they are so ugly you’d rather gnaw off your own arm to get away from them rather than wake them.

Cut off – occurs when the bartender stops serving you drinks

Dash – approximately 1/2 tsp.

Dead Soldier – empty beer bottle.

Decant – to pour out a bottle of wine into another container to aerate it, or to remove sediment.

Designated Driver – lucky person who stays sober to drive when necessary, and eventually take embarassing pictures of their friends doing crazy stuff, or in odd passed-out positions.

Dick Beaters – derogatory slang term for fingers and/or hands. Ex.; “This barfly just dick beatered the cherries in my fruit tray.  Now I have to burn ’em and pull out some fresh ones.”

Distillation – a process to purify or separate a substance by heating.

Dive – a lower-class drinking establishment; can be warm and friendly or full of trouble.  Usually the drink prices are lowest at your favorite dive.

Droddle – that which is left in an abandoned drink glass.

Dry – pertaining to wine it means without sweetness; pertaining to a martini it refers to little or no dry vermouth

Dutch Courage – British slang from Anglo-Dutch wars; now used as a term for a drink before a challenge.

Echo – Red Robin phrase for “I hear you and I understand”.

Fermentation – a chemical reaction where yeast produces alcohol from a sitting starch, ie sugar.

Finish – the last taste left by a drink in the mouth

Fire – means to start cooking or preparing.  As in, “Ok, my guest has her burger.  You can fire that milkshake now.”

Flea – bad tipper, because their little arms are too short to reach down into their pockets.  Don’t be a flea.  The only Flea I like plays bass for the Chili Peppers.

Freddy – a pint of Heineken, named for Freddy Heineken who died Jan 5, 2002.

Free Pour – to pour a cocktail without the use of a measuring device, such as a jigger; measuring by eye and memory.  You must practice to free pour successfully.  In my opinion, it’s the only way for me to pour.  There is no shame in surrendering to jiggering, for those who need to! (Love ya, Heather!)

Front of the House – refers to the part of a restaurant that a customer sees.  The bar, dining room, hostess station are all Front of House.  Also refers to the staff who work in these areas.

Fruit Tray – the tray of fruit garnish at the bar, usually consisting of lemon and lime wedges and / or twists, orange wedges, cherries, olives, cocktail onions and any other garnishes necessary for the establisments’ house drinks.

G.T.F.O. – Get The Fxxx Out; acronym often used at the end of my shift…”Hey, Zack, if you don’t need me anymore I’m gonna G.T.F.O.”

Giggle Juice – liquor; any alcoholic beverage, really.

Ground Control – somebody who stays sober (enough) at a party to keep an eye on their overindulgent (girl/boy)friend.

Hair of the Dog – a drink taken to combat hangover.  Commonly a Bloody Mary.  I recommend a vanilla milkshake made with real vanilla bean ice cream, altho it has no alcohol.

Head – BE CAREFUL WITH THIS WORD – 1. the rest room. 2. slang for a particular type of sexual activity. 3. foam on top of yer beer.

Hophead – a beer aficionado.

In the Weeds – beyond busy and on the way to tubed.  An extremely hectic and unpleasant working environment.  Can happen when a server is seated too heavily, or when a single guest makes requests one after another and monopolizing the server time instead of asking for everything at once or in advance.

Jug Bug – fruit flies commonly found floating in uncovered liquor bottles.  They love the sweet stuff.

Last Call – fair warning from the bartender to order your last request, as the night is wrapping up.  When it’s over, it’s over.

Level 3 – Red Robin terminology for an inebriated guest.  Level 3’s get no more liquor and the attention of a manager.

Line, The Line – section of the restaurant where food is prepared from the back-of-house side and presented and prepped for running on the front-of-house side.  The BOH side of the line is sacred ground and not to be tread upon by non-cooking feet.  Seriously.  The FOH side of the line is the crucial point where the plates are presented, examined, checked for accuracy  and completed with all necessary garnish in order for precise and prompt delivery to occur.

Marry – process of combining two or more bottles into fewer containers, ie. ketchup or wine.  It is an illegal, but common practice.  Not that I’ve ever done it.

Mickey Finn – an ancient term for a drink that has been drugged or overdosed with intention to knock somebody on their a$$.

Mist – a term meaning “on the rocks”, preferably with shaved or crushed ice.  It comes from the fact that certain clear liqueurs cloud or mist when poured over ice

Mixologist – clean term for bartender; flip side of the coin would be intoxicologist

Muddle – mashing ingredients together (i.e. mint and sugar) to release essential oils and fragrances from herbs or fruit.

Neat – a drink served straight up, no ice, not mixed, not chilled.  Just liquor in a glass.

No Fire – don’t make.  This phrase is used on an order ticket when the item has already been made to prevent over-making.  Not using this instruction can cause serious inventory shortages.

One Edward – a dismissive, sarcastic and/or smartass way of saying “Whatever”.  Best used in jest.

On The Fly – I need it immediately, asap, yesterday.  Or faster.

On The Rocks – on ice

Peet – to drink.  From “A Clockwork Orange”.

Perfect – describes a drink made with equal amounds of dry and sweet vermouth

Puma – younger lady at a gathering spot actively seeking attention and or affection.  Likely to evolve into a cougar.

Punt – the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle.  Originally, punts were a way of preventing the jagged pontil mark from scratching the surface of a table.  When mold-made bottles were introduced, the punt remained due to the stability it adds to the upright bottle.  But with Champagne bottles, the story is a little different.  During the second fermentation (the happy party when the Champagne gets its bubbles) massive pressure is built up inside the bottle’s glass wall.  The punt allows for a more even distribution of pressure inside the bottle.

Regulars – kind “fans” who come frequently to an establishment.  A solid set of regulars can really make your business.  I like to gift mine with Hershey’s Kisses.

Runner – the kind person who brings you your food or beverages when your main server is unavailable.  They are also responsible for ensuring the goods come out complete and correct, as well as making sure the guests are all set to enjoy their meal before walking away.

Running Duties – the mundane tasks, ideally tackled during the slow parts of one’s shift, that are needed to keep an establishment running efficiently.  They include stocking, sweeping, wiping walls, prepping fruits or juices, rolling silverware, or folding napkins.

Saint Lawrence – the Patron saint of restauranteurs, cooks and Chefs, winemakers, brewers and students.  Feast Day is 8/10

Saint Martha – Patron saint of service staff, maids, innkeepers and travelers.  Feast Day is 7/29

Saint Monica – the Patron sain of alcoholics and alcoholism, homemakers and disappointing children.  Feast day is 8/27.  Coincidentally, St. Monica’s was the name of the Catholic school attended by Mary Katherine Gallagher…

Sea Monster – a trashed chick that will not leave you alone

Sediment – a natural and common collection of particles at the bottom of a wine bottle

Shot – a type of drink typically thrown down the throat.  This pour will generally measure 1 to 2 oz, depending on how much your bartender likes you.

Soldier – a full beer bottle

Speed Rack – stainless steel wells used to hold bottles behind the bar.  Filled and organized strategically for maximum drink-making efficiency.

Spirit – any alcohol that is distilled

Splash – approximately 1/2 tsp

Steps of Service – the structured guidelines to service standards for a given establishment.  Red Robin has seven. I have worked at an establishment that had ten.  This will be the subject of a blog in the near future, because steps of service create and lead to successful, professional service.

Tannin – very basically, a natural acid that escapes the grape skins and stems into the juice and adds color and tartness to the wine.

Tip – an additional sum of money given to show extra thanks for services rendered.  Soon to be the subject of its own post.

Top – refers to the number of people at a table. ex; a 2 top has 2 guests sitting at a table. 

Top Off – to refill a glass or freshen up a drink.

Top Shelf – refers to the finest liquor available, usually kept up on the highest shelves.  I don’t mind climbing for them, though.

Training Wheels – the salt and limon (verde o amarillo) which typically accompany a shot of Tequila.

Tubed – this occurs when your station is full, or your line is full of tickets, you can’t possibly catch up.  Then, all of a sudden, a softball team comes in and orders 14 milkshakes.  Then you’re going down the tubes…you’re tubed.

Turn Over (tables) – every time a party leaves and a new party comes is a turn over.  Turning over tables is crucial to waitstaff income, which is why you should be tipping extra for monopolizing a table.

Ullage – The space between the cork of a wine bottle and the wine, or the bottle cap and the beer.  Also is the 1st or last beer out of a keg, generally discarded.

Vermouth – a wine which has had brandy added as well as 50 or more herbs and spices

Vintage – the year of the grape harvest in any given wine.  Non-vintage means grapes from 2 or more years were used

Weeper – a wine bottle with a leaky cork.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the contents have spoiled, but they may have.

Well – the generic liquor used in a basic drink.  If one orders a vodka collins, the well liquor will be used.

Wounded Soldier – a beer that has been opened, partially drank and left do die.  Not cool.

     Are you still here?  This has definitely been a marathon post.  Thanks for sticking thru ’til the end…or coming back and finishing.  And altho I typed this all by myself, I in no way could have accomplished this without the help of many a professional.  The bulk of my terms and definition help has been from “The Bartender’s Black Book” 7th Edition by S.K. Cunningham.  I love this book.  If you are a bartender, or want to know anything about bartending I highly recommend you pick up this book.  Also, Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible” was an invaluable source in rounding out some wine knowledge details.  Bill Rehling, my revered wine guru.  Thanks for the constant info.  I hope you read, enjoy, and learn from what I’ve thrown up here.  Rob LePre, the Military Man, I always appreciate you letting me pick yer brain.  And Dr. Dawn, my complimentary opposite, I always appreciate your knowledge and …just you!  Love ya.




This post has truly  become a labor of love for me.  Heck, how can I claim any knowledge in this department when I’m still refining the skills of my own rambunctious, but loveable, 6 year old?  Well, I’m learning, I’m trying, and here I’m sharing.  Please add your own “tips” as necessary.  And remember, this one will be a work in progress, so come back often!

   I know I’ve been all talk…up until today.  AP and I took little Miss Molly to the Olive Garden this afternoon for an education in dining.  And I must say it went well.  I suggest anybody who wants their little one to learn to behave appropriately in any restaurant setting need only practice!  I told Molly as we were walking in that we were going to learn the right way to order, sit, and eat in a restaurant.  She was a very willing pupil.

     We sat down and started to look over the kid menu on the coloring paper they gave us.  Any restaurant that wants to be kid-friendly will have paper and crayons or some little craft to keep your young one vaguely occupied.  The kids menu is often on this freebie.  I strongly suggest use of this handy tool to get them focused on their choices before their attention span for this new “toy” runs out.  (Think about it…how many times have you seen your little one color that paper hard-core for, like, 4 minutes only to put it aside and decide the sugar packets on the table are more fun to play with?)  I went over her choices with her and let her know how to say exactly what she wanted.  By the time the waitress came to take the order, Molly was ready to say her lines!

     Possibly the most helpful tip to teaching restaurant savvy is to keep it simple.  Molly is 6 years old – so she requires a lot of compromise.  We tell her she can order her favorite (this time it was the Cheese Pizza), and that way she is not overwhelmed by too many choices.  As for drinks, we narrowed the selection down for her to 3 choices; lemonade, milk, or juice.  Most servers would automatically go thru the whole list of beverages for your little one, and this creates chaos.  Kid wants coke, mom says milk, whining ensues, not cool.  Little kids do not need and do not do well with too many choices.

     And the cardinal rule for taking your children ANYWHERE…do not take them out when they’re tired or pissy.  Do I really have to say this to any parent?  Yes, I do.  I mean, really.  If you want to enjoy yourself, you know that is so much more difficult to do when your little one is miserable.  And you know that the last thing you want to deal with during your dining experience is someone else’s kids’ crying interruptions.  Although I do consider all front-of-house sales staff to be entertainers, we can only do so much to distract a grumpy little one! 

       Something to keep in mind; if your child is painfully shy, or if they can’t speak clearly, please don’t torcher your server (and your shy youngster) by making them decode your little one’s special language.  It is beautiful that you encourage your young ones to speak for themselves, but we are professionals too and you wouldn’t have your young ones giving orders to the doctor..or a dentist..or your bank teller!

     So that’s it…I’ve racked my brain, and the brain of a few friends, and I think I’m satisfied.  The real proof will be when we take Molly out again.  And in case anybody was wondering why on earth we took her to the Garden instead of Red Robin…well there is just too much excitement there for her to focus on learning etiquette.  She knows most of my co-workers, and they know her, so all she wants to do with them is talk and talk!

     And a very special thank you to Diane, co-owner and our kitchen manager at Sips Bistro.  She sparked my brain with some excellent points and enabled me to round out this post.  I wasn’t kidding when I referred to this post as a labor of love!  Thank you so much, Diane!  You’re awesome!

     Next post should be a lot of fun…bar and restaurant lingo.




et cetera