Monday, January 9, 2012

How to dine out in Winnipeg

After this post the world may end as it will be a case of worlds colliding. That's right, I am letting a little bit more than usual of Winnipeg Girl's "real life" slip into this post. When I'm not busy writing my little blog, scouring second-hand stores and estate sales, up-cycling crap treasures from same, working at my regular 9-5, I am but a humble servant server at one of the many eating establishments here in the 'Peg.

Before I get on to the real meat and potatoes of my post though, a question: Is Stella's the new Grapes? Branigans? Now before any Hipsters spit out their fair-trade, locally-roasted java and start camping out in protest, let me explain. At one point, we'll call it the ninty-eighties, Grapes was King of the Locals. In the years leading up to my 18th birthday I dreamed of the day when I would finally get my turn to dance the night away on a Sunday (!) night at Pier 7 or Grapes on Main. Even when I started my first serving job, lore of the bartenders for Grapes was legendary. If I'm remembering correctly, in its heyday there were at least 6 Grapes locations, including bizarrely 2 barely 500m from each other downtown (at Main and on St. Mary where Pony Corral is now).

Stella's, while an entirely different concept is also expanding quicker than you can blink an eye. What was once a quaint little place that needed no explanation as to which location, simply "Stella's for breakfast?" Branigans, which for the record, the worst restaurant I have ever worked in - by far, is another one-time local favourite that expanded too big for its britches - even having a location in Grand Forks at one point! If you've ever wondered why the employees at Branigan's at The Forks tried to unionize I will offer this as one example: It was demanded that I be at work 15 minutes early, unpaid (or they would write me up for being late) and then, on their whim they would change my start time to later because it wasn't busy enough to start paying me.

So, while I wish Stella's the best, and I hope they enjoy their surge in popularity, I also hope they don't end up wearing out their welcome. Most of the hipsters will inevitably turn into boring assimilated adults with middle-class lives that keep them from sitting in coffee shops for hours on end and going for brunch every Sunday and Stella's will either need to adapt or the next local mega-chain will be ready to take its place. Although, perhaps in their case an expansion to Grand Forks would give me somewhere to dine besides the soulless theme and chain restaurants that dominate there.

Which brings me to the instructional part of this post which was prompted by the recent influx of diners using gift cards they received during the holidays. Near as I can tell many of these people have never dined out before. How nice of someone to give them the chance.

How to dine out in Winnipeg (in no particular order except #1)
  1. Intend to enjoy yourself and not find fault with everything. You'd be amazed at how much of a difference this makes.
  2. If you are dining at a chain restaurant do not get annoyed with the server for constantly interrupting you to ask how everything is or introducing themselves by name. We don't really want to do that but management makes us. If, for some reason a server does not interrupt you to ask how everything is and you have a problem, please politely get their attention and tell them what is wrong, your server genuinely does want to make it better. You are an adult, part of the onus of enjoying your dinner is on you. You may not eat everything on your plate and then complain that it wasn't good. Yes this happens. All the time. Oh, and all the "you guys" haters, get over it, we have limited ways to address mixed company.
  3. This goes hand in hand with #2, do not order your steak well done; that is why you did not enjoy it. Further to that, do not specify you want it "well done, but make sure it's not burnt". I love that at fude on Osborne they won't cook it past medium-rare.
  4. Do not come in 10 minutes before close. If you notice that there is only one staff member around and one other table in the restaurant, this is a good indicator that they are closed soon. Ask.
  5. The entire point of a reservation is so that the restaurant can prepare adequately for your arrival by staffing properly and having tables available. Hold up your end of the bargain and show up on time with the amount of people that you reserved for. A reservation for 25 where only 15 show up probably means that someone got scheduled for a shift that they weren't needed for. Yes, this also happens all the time. One day I will write a more detailed post as to why proper reservations are so important.
  6. Say please and thank you.
  7. Tip. I didn't invent the way our society works, but sufficed to say, if tipping wasn't a common practice in our society it would be built into the price so that the staff could be paid more. I know all of the cheapskates out there are referencing Mr. Pink in their head right now, but I assure you, if I was only paid minimum wage with no chance for tips you would actually see what bad service was like. Why on earth would any server or bartender play mediator/psychologist/babysitter/mindreader etc. when for that same 10 bucks an hour they could __________________ (I don't want to undermine any other job in particular, but there is more than one minimum wage job where being alive is about the only qualification).
  8. Let me expand on Tip. This means that you tip on the total of your bill before any coupons/discounts/gift card amounts were taken off. According to Trip Advisor, you should be tipping 15-20%. Just because you drank 7 free refills of pop and the 8th one came after #7 ran out, you did NOT have poor service. So, if you went out for dinner and it was $100 and you used the $75 gift card you got from Grandma for Christmas when the debit machine asks what you'd like to put in for a tip, in this case you wouldn't want to use the "%" button as it will only calculate it on the remaining $25. I dare say if you had a gift card/coupon tip more to the 20% side, heck, you had a nice dinner out for not much out of your own pocket - pass on the good tidings.
  9. You are not allergic to _________. You may not really like _________, or it may give you the shits later, but you are not allergic. Tell me that you don't really like it and I won't take you any less seriously and I will still try really hard to make sure it doesn't end up anywhere near your food. However, now my cooks will not have to stop everything, clean off all of their tools and grill so that you don't die. See the difference? Ever wonder why sometimes your food takes a little longer, it might just be because someone is lying about an allergy. That said, if you have an allergy please don't be afraid to tell me so that I can make sure we take all the proper precautions. Dead people don't tip.
  10. Intend to enjoy yourself. Seriously, you have no idea how big a difference it makes. I have served people where all sorts of things have gone wrong (as I am a human and so are they) but because they weren't looking for excuses to save a few bucks on the tip they still had a great time, rolled with the punches and probably couldn't have remembered the next day what had gone wrong. It's just dinner people, not the end of the world.
Now, these rules are by no means an exhaustive list, and if you have ever worked in the service industry they are probably pretty redundant. However, if you haven't, please pass it on. For some additional reading may I suggest pretty much anything by the Bitchy Waiter or this exquisite response to a bad customer at Fuck My Table.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this.

    For five years, I worked for a now-defunct buffet restaurant in the Garden City area. Some customers we served were the rudest, most ignorant, demanding people.

    Thankfully, they were the minority. A loud, obnoxious minority, but a minority nonetheless.