Single Sisters Speak Out

The Modern Life of the Single Sister

From Sit-Ins to Put Downs: Know Your Role March 4, 2010

Filed under: Single Sisters On... — inkognegro @ 12:06 am
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Of all the lessons that I have learned as a server for the past 20 years, easily the most poignant has always been the necessity of respecting those whom you serve and understanding the role you are supposed to play in their experience. When you evaluate the relationship between a server and his customer it should be clear where the hierarchy lies.What greatly complicates this relationship is when the individual doing the serving, for reasons of white privilege or reasons of class or reasons of just general snobbishness view themselves as being incapable of subordinating themselves to their guests.

As someone who frequently trains servers for service, I always like to make a point of bringing these kinds of issues up to my trainees in order forthemto  understand the unique challenges they are they are going to face in dealing with an African-American clientele.

When I first started trying to get peace messages across a was met with a lot of pushback.

“People are people”

“I don’t understand what the difference is”

“I don’t see color”

“why are they so sensitive?”

Customarily when I hear responses like this my initial impulse is to just throw up my hands and let them or succeed to a lesser extent than they could on their own, or just fail outright

I wish it wasn’t this way. As much as I’d even love to say that the situation never happened to me, alas I cannot. At the end of the day, there are certain truisms that cannot be escaped.

  1. Some people are bound to be offended
  2. some people have every right to be offended based upon the customer profiling and constant experiences they have
  3. the ability to treat each and every guest as independent people without prejudging is the most valuable skill you can acquire
  4. acquiring skill #3 will serve you in value in every facet of your life

Before you comment on this post I want to go back and think about your service experiences in the past. What exactly happened the last time you received a poor dining experience?

How did you respond?

Did you speak to management if so what was their response?

Do you feel like your issues were properly received?

What I would do in next week’s post, I will take a selection of your comments and address them individually giving insight as to how it is things could have been done differently on the part of both parties.

Thank you for your time. See you in two weeks

 

From Sit-Ins to Put Downs: Why Dining Matters February 18, 2010

Filed under: Single Sisters On... — inkognegro @ 2:51 am
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Whether you

*swing through the drive-through at McDonald’s for a Royale with Cheese,

*Hit the buffet at Random Quasi-Asian (middle of the strip mall next to the Beauty Supply and the impromptu H&R Block office)Super  Buffet

*Hit down for your fix of random pre-fabricated Applebee/Friday’s/Bennigan’s

*Take a stroll down memory land for what USED to be fine dining for common folk, Red Lobster or Olive Garden

*Or if you, like me, get your anti chain restaurant on with any number of singular dining experiences

*Or if you get your white tablecloth sommelier and chef’s table on

We all like to get our eat on and let someone else cook and clean.

In the 21st century, with more and more two income households, the notion of a traditional family dinner is virtually impossible.

With every advance in technology and alteration in personal priorities, dining out is becoming less and less of a luxury.

Add to that the simply jawdropping number of choices and you have a completely different industry from 20 years ago.

The explosion of the restaurant industry has opened up opportunities and challenges in the Black community.  With each passing year, it becomes apparent that while it is clear that the Black dining market is growing, the level of respect that it commands is not growing at the same pace.

Think for a moment about how much you spend every month on food that you don’t have to prepare and you will rapidly understand how much dining out matters.

When was the last time you got through an ENTIRE day eating food that was prepared by private individuals?

Exactly.

What happens in that business matters to you whether you work in that business or not.  It would help you immensely if you understood it better.

 

From Sit-ins to Put-downs – Prologue February 4, 2010

Filed under: Single Sisters On... — inkognegro @ 10:21 am
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I am a waiter.

A DAMN good one.

Good enough to go dollar for dollar with the average American and trump them on most days.

About 85% of the time, I am at peace with how I make my money.  For a man with an ample serving of God-given talent, I am often considered by others what is popularly referred to as under-employed.

My Take:  I am a master craftsman in a Skilled service profession who performs at an elite level and is compensated at the 90th percentile of those in my field.

At the end of the day, the Money is pretty good, and I genuinely love what i do.

I am going on 20 years in an apron.  From random spots no one ever heard of, to 4-star spots under award-winning/book-writing/national tv-show appearing/reality show winning culinary geniuses, to well established regional and national chains, to strip joints, to music awards after parties, to national campaign fundraisers, to more lobbyist dinners than you can shake a W-2 at.

I have broken up fights over bills and run down folk trying to skate on bills and got robbed for some of my bills.
waited on such Bills as Duke, Cosby, and Bennett

Waited on John Mayer, Kerry,  and Lewis

Never waited on Denzel or Michael, but I waited on BOTH of their wives.

Waited on Tom Hanks AND the guy he portrayed in Apollo 13

I waited on Bill Gates (mind you this was more than a few Billion Dollars ago…Think right after Windows 95) and slipped food out of the restaurant to hit off the homeless dude who lived down by the parking lot where I parked.

I once walked up to a table of 4 where the shortest person was 6’10”. (Thompson,Mourning,Ewing,Mutombo)

If I never wait tables again in LIFE…I got enough stories, theories, and experiences for 10 full movies.

But what is MOST important to me is the peculiar relationship between Black People and the restaurant industry.

(caution: there will be generalizations….bear in mind this is not ALLLLL Black people, but a significant number…perhaps a majority, perhaps not, but always a significant portion)

I have almost always worked in places that have a significant Black clientele.  Usually that clientele exists because of the cuisine that is served.

Black folk LOVE to eat, but they love to eat what THEY want, the WAY they want, HOW they want.

The Restaurant industry thrives on the APPEARANCE of “the customer is always right” but LIVES AND DIES on getting as much as they can while giving as little as they can.

Restaurants have service and hospitality as their foundation.

Short of having someone wash your ass, or getting hair or nails done there is no more intimate act than the act of serving someone food.

There is an inherent subordination that takes place when your job revolves around putting on an apron and running to and fro for strangers.

Add in the dynamic of race and privilege and you have an intriguing sociological dynamic.

Toss in on top of that a compensation structure that is 95% VOLUNTARY and hinges almost entirely cultural expectations, the whim of the person who receives the service and their perception of said service, and you REALLY have something to talk about.

As someone who loves Black people with the passion of his own Kin, I am very protective and watchful of how it is that Black People are treated and served where I work.  As the senior server on my staff and the head trainer,  I am in the prime position to affect how my coworkers handle themselves when dealing with customers.  For the Next few alternating Thursdays, I will be addressing the challenges that have affected the restaurant industry and the Black Folk who work in and patronize said establishments.