An important skill for any waiter, as I learnt years ago during a stint in a faux American Rib & BBQ joint, is delivering unpalatable news about the status of customers’ orders.
People tend to get tetchy when they’re hungry. Mild mannered wallflowers who’d normally do anything to avoid a confrontation will become aggressive consumer champions, demanding this and insisting on that.
“This place is a disgrace,” they snarl at you.
“You’re absolutely right, it’s terrible,” you reply, trying to remember those mirroring techniques they taught you in the sales module of your half day induction programme.
“We’re never coming here again.” And they haven’t even seen the kitchen.
Trouble is, the honest reply to the question “Where’s my food?” is all too often something you can’t say to their face.
Consider some options:
The printer in the kitchen jammed just as your order went through and the bit containing your selections was accidentally scrunched up and tossed in the bin while the KP was changing the roll. ‘Fraid it’s going to be another 40 minutes even if I put it in again now…
We’re a little short staffed this evening as the sous chef just got an emergency call from his lover who’s been arrested for heroin possession. No, I’m afraid I’m not in a position to confirm whether he participated in a needle exchange programme…
I had a row with the chef the other day over a steak he sent out well done when I specified medium rare and ever since then he’s been getting back at me by delaying all my orders so my tables will stiff me…
No one wants to hear stuff like that. It doesn’t matter that it’s the truth. They want reassurance, they want the certainty of knowing their expectations will be satisfied, but most of all THEY WANT THEIR FOOD!!!!
So I would resort to the old standby in which I didn’t have to lie by making renewed efforts to appear energetic, as if flapping my hands and poking my head through the hatch into the kitchen would really make any difference. And if the duty manager would wear it, comp a round of drinks.
All wrapped up with the non-specific promise, “It’s on its way.” My only consolation was the knowledge born of long experience that when their meal finally did arrive, provided it was up to scratch, their anger would almost certainly be forgotten once the food had found its way into their bellies.
It’s how I’m beginning to feel about Francesca.
She’s on her way.
Having initially promised a September publication date, September slipped to the vagaries of Autumn, which in turn drifted into November. Definitely in time for Christmas, my publisher nervously reassured me. Like the irate diners, I have no idea what technical, logistical or human problems are behind the delay. I can snarl as much as I like about missing out on valuable Christmas orders, but it’s unlikely to make the book appear in print any faster.
Chances are, I’ll never get to the bottom of it. All I know is we are close. The final draft’s been edited and proofed, and all I’m waiting for are the galley proofs before we can hit the PRINT button and you will be able to hold it in your palms (or your e-readers) and consume it. Hopefully with relish.
Until then, watch this space…