I apologize in advance because this post is going to be all over the place. It’s just that two completely unrelated things happened this past week I feel compelled to talk about.
FIRST, THE BOSTON BRUINS finally won the Stanley Cup title after thirty-nine consecutive years of coming up short. (The Stanley Cup is the “World Series” of professional hockey.)
I’m not a big hockey fan but our doorman Rick Sabbag is a Bruins fanatic and his unbridled enthusiasm during the playoffs was downright infectious.
Rick stands 5’ 7”, probably weights 260 lbs. He’s a broad-shouldered mountain of a man compressed into a fireplug. He’s a hockey player himself, skating for an amateur team in the Boston area.
It was 1972 when the Bruins won their last Stanley Cup, and Rick must have been around five years old. I can picture his father carrying him to the Boston Garden on his shoulders. I can imagine Rick’s dad telling him right after the game: “The Bruins are going to win again next year, son! We’ve got a great team!”
Well, thirty-nine years later the Bruins actually did win another Stanley Cup title.
The night of the final game Rick was working the door at Johnny D’s (I was off), and I heard later that throughout the entire game he paced uncontrollably back and forth in his Ray Bourque jersey, lifting his Bruins cap to wipe the sweat off his brow.
I heard that when the Boston Bruins finally won, Rick clapped his two large paws together non-stop for five minutes, bellowing loudly, pausing only to high-five anyone within his reach. I was told that he had to be restrained from running naked through the streets.
(Maybe that last detail was a bit of exaggeration as the staff retold the story . . . I’m not sure because I wasn’t there, but knowing Rick I think it might be pretty accurate.)
Anyway, congratulations to the Boston Bruins, and congratulations Rick.
ALSO THIS WEEK, DAVID HAYDEN has published a new book (today is the official release date.)
That’s big news in my world. I’m working on a book myself, and three of my favorite restaurant bloggers have also been planning books. (Along with David Hayden of The Hospitality Formula, there’s Scribbler50 from Behind the Stick, and Patrick Maguire who pens Server not Servant.) David is the first of us to get his book out there.
As a fellow-blogger, David and I exchange emails now and then, and he was kind enough to send me advance chapters. I’ve been reading them non-stop. Based on the exceptional quality of his weekly blog I expected his book to be good — but not this good.
This is a gem of a book. It’s a detailed took at the guts and sinews of our business, full of tips and techniques that can easily make any restaurant shift more pleasant . . . and more profitable. (In counterpoint, David also points out the things we unknowingly do that can make a shift hell.)
For example, I was skimming through the book, I hadn’t been reading for more than five minutes when I came across this suggestion: “Leave your troubles at the front door.”
That’s classic, standard restaurant advice, but it’s something that’s overlooked far too often. How many times behind the bar have I seen myself or those around me forget this time-honed wisdom?
I immediately thought of Tommy Talbor who worked with me in The Lark Tavern days.
Talk about bringing your problems to the job, . . . Tommy could have been a poster-boy for the “bitter-bartender” syndrome. For Tommy, listening to a man talk about his boss, or a woman say something about balancing her job and her kids — for Tommy, to have to stand there and listen even for a few minutes was like a life-sentence in bartender’s hell.
I’m not saying Tommy wasn’t good bartender, or fun to work with. His caustic, biting wit was sometimes a riot.
One night a thick-voiced man walked up from the crowd and bellowed, “Hey . . . HEY!!! What does someone have to do to get a drink in this bar?”
Tommy strolled over to the man and folded his arms across his chest. “What do you have to do to get a drink?” he asked the man. “Well,” he said thoughtfully, “well, a blow job would be nice.”
“Yes, actually a blow job would be very nice,” Tommy continued, leaning forward. “Just like last night . . . all of us.”
But behind this wit and bravado, Tommy was not a happy camper. He hated his job. And the job hated him equally in return.
David’s book would have helped.
A few minutes later while reading David’s book, I came across this — “Don’t be THE SERVER.” He was encouraging us to relate to the customers as people (Chapter 14).
There’s been a lot of talk in this business lately about “human to human” service, and the need for everyone to remember that we’re all just people, even if we temporarily have different roles as “customers” and “servers” in restaurants and bars.
Most of the discussion so far has been about what customers do wrong, but Mr. Hayden correctly points out that it’s a two-way street. If bartenders and wait staff choose to see the customers strictly as “Johns”, they shouldn’t be surprised if they’re treated like whores.
David details specific ways that servers can at least start the ball rolling in the opposite direction. This is great stuff . . . everyone in the business should take this book to heart.
And while the book is sure to make life easier and more pleasant for restaurant workers, it’s stated goal is to make them more money. (I imagine that’s why most people will buy it.)
In one email exchange I asked David, “In this tight economy, who should buy your book, . . . and why?”
He wrote back, in part: “I put a great deal of thought into that and decided at the very beginning of the process that I would not charge more for the book than I felt a server could increase their tips by in the first week after implementing the techniques it teaches.”
“ . . . There are nearly 2.5 million tipped servers in the United States alone. They are dependent on tips for their living, but no one is offering the [knowledge and skills they need to be successful] in a simple, understandable, and easily implemented manner.”
I don’t mean to go on and on this book, but I was delighted to find such a gold mine of great ideas in one place. In chapter after chapter, David turns the complex task of serving customers well (and making more money) into a manageable science.
And, yes, as a fellow writer I was glad to see that David actually got his book out there, and that it came out so splendidly.
Which is why this week I just had to say, … Way to go, David Hayden!
Back next week with a more typical post for “Life on a Cocktail Napkin.”
6/24/11 update: Sorry, I forgot to mention a generous offer David made to readers of this blog — anyone who would like to purchase his book by July 1st can get a 20% discount by using the promo code “Napkin” when they order at Tips2book.com. (You can also buy/order his book at bookstores, referencing ISBN-10: 0-9836393-0-2 or ISBN-13: 9780983639305.)
Go Bruins!!! I second that. What a great victory. Tim Thomas rules!
I’ll be back next week. News about hockey games and a book for waiters isn’t quite my cup ‘o tea.
That was a funny story about your doorman. I feel like I almost know that dude. Don’t think I’d want to see him running naked down the street.
You cheered for the Bruins and plugged your friends book now it’s time to get back to the bar stories. The “one blow job – one drink” was a good one.
We missed the parade! This is the first one we missed in years. GO BRUINS
Damn right! GO BRUINS!!
This is unlike your usual posts, I agree, but you can be forgiven for discussing a business that you have been involved with for a lifetime. You seem to like Mr. Hayden’s blog and he is a friend of yours, so go ahead and talk about his book. You seem enthusiastic that he has published a book since you are working on one of your own. Come back next week with more of your stories though. : )
MasonTD: I hear ya, Mason … it was fun.
Llylak: I’m just about to put up this week’s post now, Lly. It’s a rough and tumble bar story and might not be your cup of tea either, but I hope you’ll find it exciting.
Starbucks: Ric is a classic, Starbuck, one of a kind. He’s a riot. Great guy.
Strom: More bar stories coming right up … thanks for commenting.
Colleen: Keep your fingers crossed for NFL football this year, Colleen. If there is a season the Pats will be good.
DAbertini: “Damn Right” right on.
SusanP: Here it comes, Susan … off to post this week’s story now.
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