I'm not talking about the circus, here, although sometimes that's just how it feels. Today I'm talking about big tops. Parties. Anything that requires us to scooch tables together. Yeah, I said scooch :) If there are more than eight of you, this applies to you!
For the most part, a big top is much like any other table. Usually they are patient because they are not in a hurry, and they understand the added stress they put on a server who is used to dealing with 2-5 guests at a time. However, there are some things you need to consider when you go out to eat with a large party.
Things You NEED to know:
You're not my only table.
When you came in the door, the hostess decided to seat you in my section because that's where there was room. I may already have four other tables seated, or I may have a table who sat down right before you. When I see you coming, I know I need larger chunks of time for you. So I'm probably going to try to settle my other tables first. Please be patient. I'm not avoiding you, I just want to make sure my other table isn't ready to pay and has to wait while I fill twelve drink orders.
There's a REASON places place a mandatory gratutiy on large parties.
I always thought that was stupid. I thought you shouldn't be forced to tip. Now I understand why, and wish our Applebee's did that! We have to work harder, because instead of stacking our guests (getting drinks for table 4, then stopping at 6 to take an order, checking on 7 on our way to place the order, placing the order, grabbing the extra ranch for 7, dropping it off with 4's drinks, etc), we have to get twelve drinks at once, deliver them, and then take twelve orders, etc. Sometimes our other tables suffer, affecting our tip. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, or how fast we are, other things affect the situation and you don't get the perfect service you'd expect if you were only two people instead of twelve. When we put that much time and effort into a table, unless we were complete bitches to you, we deserve a decent tip. You were, after all, occupying our section for two hours and keeping us from having other guests.
LISTEN TO ME!
Big groups are often loud and chatty. Even at my loudest, I usually only get the attention of a few. If you're one of the few, shut your friends up and tell them to get the show on the road ;) OK that was harsh. Just help me out. When you say you're ready to order, don't make me stand there while four of your finish a conversation. Order your food, preferrably in the order you chose drinks. That way I don't forget anyone. And when I return, be paying attention. That way if you need anything I can get it. Nothing irritates me more than for Chatty Cathy to be cackling while I am serving her food, only to be flagging me down once her gums stop flappin' because she needs extra sauce.
Don't be difficult.
You usually order a 2/20 with your friend Gretchen. You get spinach dip and Fiesta Lime Chicken, but you hate pico, and you want mashed potatoes instead of mexi-rice (people actually do this). She likes the steak medium well, wants steamed potatoes, and a salad instead of veggies with no cucumber and ranch dressing. Ok. So I have five modifications to make on your order. Multiply by 6, assuming there are twelve people. That makes THIRTY extra things I have to enter, most of which require deleting something and adding another, which makes sixty computer entries in addition to all your food. You're asking for trouble! If you can find something that you don't have to modify, please do so. It makes it easier for everyone. Also, please try not to send me to the kitchen twelve separate times for ranch. Think about what you want and need, and communicate that to me from the beginning. Then you don't have to wait, and I don't have to run my legs off. Group night is not the night to be picky, I'm just sayin'.
When I come to take your drink order, I write everything in order. So if you have a peach tea (2.69) and you trade places with someone who has a water (0.00) then I will write your food on her drink and vice versa. It's just easier on me if you stay where you are, and while we're talking about that, it would be GREAT if you'd sit by the person you want to split a 2/20 with, or the people who will also be on your check.
You don't want separate tickets. You really don't.
You split a 2/20 with someone across the table. I have to find you both in the computer, split your ticket, and then print them and cash them separately. I had a table of 13 yesterday, four of them had 2/20, and everyone wanted her own check. Five paid with credit cards, eight with cash. The girl at the end was saying, "If y'all have cash, use it! It's way faster than payin' with ya' card!" She lied. It's way faster for me to swipe your card and hand you back your card and receipt, than to take eight 20.00 bills and make change for each one (poor Jaime had to make change for me four times during this transaction yesterday!), then return them to the correct guests.
If you can pay in groups or as one big group, I will love you forever.
Don't forget to tip!
You all pay separately, so your checks are around 12.00 each. You leave me a buck and maybe some change, so I end up with 12.00, maybe 13.00, when the entire bill was 144.00. An average tip (15%) would be 21.60 (what I would get if you were required to add that gratuity on), and a gracious tip would be 28.80. See how that works out? If one person got a bill for 144.00, they would leave a more fair tip than twelve people who had small bills. I did bring you at least 24 drinks, I modified all your food (even though now you know I didn't do it happily he he), I brought her extra ranch, then turned around and got him honey mustard, because he didn't like the southern bbq afterall, oh, and I split all your checks correctly. I only make 3.63 an hour, no matter how hard I work. It would be nice to be rewarded for my efforts :)
There ya have it. The gruesome truth on big tops :)
Fly on the wall moment:
I was serving a large group of, er, flamboyant women on Sunday. As I walked by the table, I heard one woman say, "..and jus' pray, that will hep you through anything." The woman next to her immediately interjected, "Yeah. Jesus is yo bess frien' y'all." :) Ohhhhhhh Applebees. How I love the characters you bring me :)