Saturday, September 12, 2009

170 - Having no common sense

Just recently, I discontinued my post as a bartender in a Belgian restaurant. I was so good by the end of the three months in which I worked that a part of me didn't want my first ever job to surcease. The restaurant I worked at was already a little bit understaffed, and I felt like I was abandoning a team, like an integral cog in the Belgian machine.

Seeing as this company has treated me well, I agreed to help train this one guy who was hoping to replace me in the bar.
He came in for a lunch shift to try out, because lunch is an easier time to go through everything than dinner, due to fewer customers. I thought it would be fun for me, to run through all the morning, afternoon and closing duties with him, to guide him, and to encourage him, and to observe, in an evident way, how much I actually learned in the short space of three months.

By the end of the lunch hour, though, I wanted to tear my hair out.

Speaking honestly, and by that, I mean without exaggeration: he was soooooooooo bad at this job. He would open a bottle of still water, pour a glass of Coke and produce a cup of coffee, and for every little thing, he would bring it to my face and ask me, "Is this okay?"

Uh, hello? It's a glass of Coke. You put ice in a short glass, pour the Coke in, and place a slice of lemon on top. Easy, quick and simple.

As for the coffee, you get the jug of filtered coffee, pour it in a coffee cup, place it on a saucer with a small coffee spoon. A bit more complex, but nothing a full-grown man cannot perform, right?

But come on... to open a bottle of water? You get a bottle opener, position it on the bottle cap in any number of ways, apply some pressure to achieve some leverage, until the cap pops right off. VoilĂ , the bottle of water has been accomplished. Not exactly rocket science, now, is it?

For each and every small detail, he would ask me to confirm that it was okay. But you know what the funny thing was?

The funny thing was that the stuff he brought to the pass were not okay. He put iced lemon tea in a short glass, when the diameters of the lemon wheels are practically the same as the height of the glass. Where's the fun of poking three lemon slices to the bottom of a short glass that's already filled to the brim with ice?

And why would you place a lemon slice garnish at the bottom of a glass of Coke? Does that not defeat the purpose of using it as a garnish? It goes: ice, Coke, lemon... not lemon, ice, Coke. Can you remember that? Is that going to be alright for you to handle?

And you know, even your still water has fault in it, because the order asked for sparkling water. The two words are quite differently spelled, maybe you have ADHD?

And listen to this... He poured the milk, and the brown sugar, into the coffee, for the customer, before he served it. Some people may not want milk, some people may not want brown sugar, and everyone doesn't want you to stir their coffee for them. They might think you're poisoning their drinks.

Oh, my God, I thought these things were common sense??? I THOUGHT THESE THINGS WERE COMMON-DUH!-SENSE. You don't have to work in F&B at all to know these sorts of things. All you need is a brain.

It's funny because the trainee told me that he prepared well for this job. He told me he's worked in a few places before, and has taken a bartending course.

You don't need to take a course to tend bar. So, what, if you memorize two hundred cocktails? Chances are people are going to ask you to pour a beer, or get them a glass of Coke, and, uh, maybe have a chat? Bartending is not that glamorous of a job, and it's not always about fancy bottle juggling and mixing drinks. 98% of the time, you pour a beer, or you get them iced water. So, what the Hell, if you memorize two hundred cocktails? And if your school is so good, tell me, i
s that how they taught you to serve iced lemon tea at the Bartending Academy?

The job is about customer service, and confidence, and quick thinking, and you can't learn these things at school.

But most important of all, and I suspect the case is the same for all fields of work, to be a bartender, it requires common sense. Imagine if you were a customer, and serve drinks like you're serving your own mother. All you need is horse sense, and the rest is simple.


Ruchi said...

I would kill myself if said I didn't relate to that. I used to work at an advertising agency & the people I came across, the kind of people who have been to business schools and carry expensive laptops, sometimes took me by complete surprise when they couldn't draft a simple letter or prepare a power point presentation!

Common sense must either be a lot of hardwork or genetic!


KMcJoseph said...

I can't imagine if someone put milk and sugar in my coffee if I hadn't asked. What an idiot.

Douglas said...

There is much for you to yet learn... that was but one lesson regarding the common sense of the average human being. You will run across countless more, many of whom will make this guy appear to be a towering intellect.

Welcome back, Michael. Missed your posts.

Claire said...

You wouldn't believe how many bar tenders in England put the lemon in first. It is NOT a good drink when you are too busy trying not to swallow the seeds.