Hi. How many?

By Jenna Minnelli ’16

Hats off to all of you out there that work in the restaurant business. Seriously.

As someone who works as a hostess myself, I understand just how frustrating some nights can be.

Now, before we even go on, let me establish something: I do enjoy my job. My coworkers are friendly. The extra money is nice. And because I work at a Mexican restaurant, even the built-in Spanish lessons are a bonus. But sometimes the stress of sitting margarita-bound adults on a Friday afternoon makes me feel like I’m losing years of my life.

People can be rude. Impatience tends to course through the blood of hungry Americans. I, too, have been guilty of becoming hangry (hungry + angry), but I pride myself on knowing not to snap at the individual who will be feeding me. Do other people practice this? Not so much.

Here’s what I mean: If I tell you that your wait will be around an hour, don’t come back after fifteen minutes and tell me that you’ve been waiting for a “really long time.” In addition, if you have a large party and you see me sitting a group of three people, that DOES NOT mean that I forgot about you. On the contrary, I will be sitting you as soon as a party table opens up.

Being a hostess is like piecing together a puzzle. It’s ideal that all the servers get the same number of tables. But it’s also ideal to sit people as quickly as humanly possible for fear that a customer may riot in his/her food-deprived state. These two ideals sometimes don’t line up. In fact, for the majority of the time, they don’t. Unless, of course, God has decided to align the stars and smile down upon you one humble Friday night. All the other nights are spent crammed in the hostess stand next to an endless sea of mouths to feed.

In the moment, time spent with rude customers is chaotic. Believe me, as employees we live and breathe the philosophy of ‘service with a smile’. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t think about wacking someone over the head with a menu. (Lovingly, of course. Always done with love.) Because–let’s face it–if I’m an adult and I’m going off at a teenager at a restaurant, I would be very embarrassed and would ultimately regret my decision.

But it is also times like these that bring a good chuckle to my life. Stories from these seemingly agravating events make for good table talk.

Allow me to demonstrate.

There was a time when a customer didn’t show to pick up a to-go order. Seeing that I usually didn’t get off of work until 9:30 or later and that I was already hungry, I offered to pay for the already prepared meal. However, my boss let me take it for free. And almost immediately after eating it, I got sick. At the time, it wasn’t enjoyable. But looking back on it, I deserve nothing less from eating something that had been sitting out for five hours. Lesson learned.

I have also received an ultimatum from a customer before. The story goes that I sat the rather hefty customer and his wife at one of the only tables open in the restaurant. When the table proved not to receive the couple’s stamp of approval, they took it upon themselves to move to a party table–that we reserve to seat parties of at least six. After I politely asked them to move back, the customer replied–and I quote–“You have two options, hun. Either I’m staying here, or I’m leaving.” I often wonder just how much joy he received from threatening a teenage girl. But, at the end of the day, the power of Mexican food won him over, because he ended up staying.

And let’s not forget what the lovely effects of alcohol can do to customers. I know that I’ve been told that I look older than I am, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want drunk, older men to flirt with me. In fact, that is something that I would never like to encounter. At least again. Do you know how strange it is to have a man–who is old enough to be your father–ask for your phone number? I hope you never do.

All in all, I keep coming back to work each time because it brings a delightful amount of amusement to my life. You would think that the employees would be the ones meant to entertain the customers. But more times than not, I’m getting paid to do a little bit of work and watch a show. 😉





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