Restaurant workers hate Moher’s Day. It’s a classic case of Struggling Duck syndrome: The resto appears placid, smooth-running and efficient if you’re sitting in front of house – but the staff are paddling like hell behind the scenes just to keep afloat!
“Every server knows that working on Mother’s Day is hell. In fact, if I die and go to hell, I completely expect it to be Mother’s Day – 365 days a year,” Darron Cardosa writes in his book, The Bitchy Waiter: I’m Really Good at Pretending to Care.
And that’s just one chapter in the tome, which goes into excruciating detail about the down sides of being a resto employee – from the pet peeves to the most monumental issues foodservice workers have to face. Most are traceable back to the quirks and outright craziness of ‘guests’.
And it’s worth noting that Mother’s Day is eclipsed only by Valentine’s Day for the kinds of resto server and management headaches we’re going to discuss today. It’s amazing how many similarities exist…
Whatever can go wrong
Some of the most common issues servers and front of house hosts face on Mother’s Day include:
- Fussy eaters
- Guests who require special diets
- Disputes over splitting the bill
- Unexpected extra guests
- A few guests who linger over coffee and just won’t clear the way for the next reservation
- Folks who get plastered waiting in the bar for their table
- Folks who want everything to be ‘just perfect’
The complex issue surrounding reservation diddling has been around as long as popular restaurants have been. The most common sub-issue of this genre is folks who make multiple reservations, at a bunch of different restos, and then cancel all but one of them at the last minute. Then, there are folks who don’t even bother to cancel the unneeded reservations at all. Just leave the resto hanging. If those folks would just cancel, no matter how late in the game, they could help the restos handle a parallel issue: Diners who call at the last minute for reservations and usually have to suffer disappointment. Even though it’s their own fault for waiting so late to call.
Here’s the root of the issue for resto operators: Every table that sits idle when it could have had a party sitting at it, eating and drinking, is big bucks lost. If folks just showed a little consideration for the resto and other diners, and refrained from inconsiderate reservation tricks, the fancy dining experience would be more pleasurable for everybody.
Inflation rears its ugly head
Yes, there are folks who are still acting surprised when they call for Mother’s day reservations at their fave resto and discover that prices have gone up this year. This years menu from Cravings Market Resdtaurnt in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, (above, left) is pretty representative of those from most beloved family restos. Prices have increased from $37.95 for adults to $45.95. How could folks not have expected that, considering inflation in general and the rising costs of food? Yet, I’m told there are those who still complain about the increase. I find it hard to believe that some folks still don’t know how the economy works; how price increases are inevitably passed on to end users.
Resto ops fight back
Some resto operators are trying to minimize the impact of menu price increases by adding classy-sounding amenities which don’t cost them a lot to implement.
“Your Mother’s Day meal can’t be obnoxiously expensive,” says Derek Axelrod, co-owner of Manhattan’s Upper East Side T bar restaurant. Their Mother’s Day menu this year is over $100 person, but won’t turn much of a profit. One strategy Axelrod and other resto operators are employing is to keep menu prices down as much as possible, but to make up for the lower profit margin on food by selling more high-profit alcohol.
Mother’s day brunch in The Circle restaurant at the Breakers in Palm Beach is $250 per person this year (up from $160 in 2019) – but unlimited Champagne cocktails are included, along with a harpist who wanders from table to table.
It appears to me that special occasion resto menus are pricing themselves out of reach for all but the most affluent dinners. Too bad. Taking Mom out for a fancy brunch or dinner on her day used to be a great way to show your love and devotion while making the day special for the whole family. And I can’t help but reflect that millions of folks who used to take family members out for birthday dinners just won’t be doing that any more. Both trends – and other like them – are bad news for resto operators.
But I guess this is where the resto operators have to jump in and apply their imaginations to the problem. I’m curious to see what the sit-down resto of the future may look like.
A plea to diners on behalf of harried servers: Please keep in mind how difficult it can be for your servers, bussers, cooks and hosts to make your special day so special. Tip well, keep your ‘over and above’ demands to a minimum, and – for the love of [insert deity of your choice here], cancel any reservation you aren’t going to be using well in advance of the occasion!
The question remains: Will you be taking your mom out for a special brunch or dinner today? Or will the economy and rocketing food prices change the way you celebrate?
Muse on that…
~ Maggie J.