Be Ready For Service!

Mise en place redux

Tag Archives: Being Prepared

Out Fox With Socks!

 “Here’s an easy game to play. Here’s an easy thing to say….
New socks. Two socks. Whose socks? Sue’s socks.” – Fox in Socks, Dr. Seuss

Socks are a really important uniform component.

In fact, good medical compression socks are the foundation, a critical tool for success — especially on a long hot day. So start with the right kinda’ socks!

Most of the time, I am twice the age and moving twice as fast as most of the staff I’m working with on any event. Often they ask, “Man, you been drinking coke or coffee all day?” I reply with, “No, I have magical compression socks on. Compression socks are one of my secret weapons. You ought to get some.”

I always recommend to staff to wear medical compression dress socks. Compression socks are critical for defense against sore, swollen, aching feet, legs, and being worn out. Besides they give a slight edge of improved performance!

Medical compression dress socks are special made socks that increase your blood circulation.

My interest in compression socks started years ago, in my other life as a Direct Marketer; I was reviewing SKU’s from a sales campaign at Uniforms To You (UTY), at the time, the largest uniform store West of the Mississippi. UTY was then acquired by Uniform Advantage.

I noticed several Doctors purchasing large numbers of medical compression socks. I asked the store sales associates, “What’s with the multiple socks purchases?” “Are the cardiologists giving or selling the socks to patients?” No one knew.

A day later another Doctor was visiting the store and I asked, “Are you giving or selling the compression socks to patients? … Because if you are — you could get a volume discount – we’ll include gift wrapping and even deliver for you…”

He replied, “That would be nice — I just wear these.” Then continued with,” When I perform surgery, I always wear compression socks. You see when you going in to 12-14 hours of procedures standing on your feet on a hard floor — you need all the help you can get — compression socks help you by improving the circulation in your legs and feet.”

How Compression Socks Help You

The main therapeutic benefit of compression socks is providing graduated pressure on the lower leg and foot, to alleviate circulatory problems such as edema, phlebitis and thrombosis.

Even if you are in good health, you will benefit from wearing compression socks.

Unlike traditional dress or athletic socks, compression socks use stronger elastic to cause more pressure on the lower legs, ankles and feet. Compression socks are tightest at the ankles, gradually applying less compression towards the knees.

By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower circulatory channels. As a result, the arterial pressure is increased which causes more blood to return to your heart and less blood pooling and swelling in your feet. If you have worked a 14 Hour day, standing most of the time, you know the feeling.

Another benefit is improved efficiency and faster recovery by stabilising muscles and helps removing lactic acid that is collecting in muscles when you are very active.

There are two types of compression socks: Gradient and Anti-embolism. Gradient does the trick for most of us working on our feet for long periods of time.

“One can never have enough socks.” -Albus Dumbledore

Compression socks are available in a wide range of opacities, colors, styles and sizes, making it hard to tell the difference from dress socks.

You find them in light, to medium to firm compression. Most of us just need the light to medium compression. Start there as you can always increase the compression.

If you shop on-line at say, foryourlegs.com you will find a wide variety and plenty of information on the compression levels to make an informed decision.

Most medical uniform stores sell several types of compression socks also. You’ll find top of the line socks made by Under Armour, Futuro and less expensive socks at Walmart.

Get yourself some compression socks and you will immediately notice how much better you feel during a long event and at the end of the day.

BTW, since this is part of your uniform you may be able to deduct your cost of socks from taxes. Your tax advisor can advise you best.

In any case view the socks as an investment in your well-being – your feet and legs will thank you!

 Hold on to your aprons…

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Essential Tools For Servers!

What tools must every server have when showing up to work?

At most catering companies, banquet facilities and hotels — there’s no list.

You will find at better run, finer, high-end catering & banquet operations there is a list.

Let’s start with basic essential tools; a polishing cloth, waiter’s cork screw, flashlight, pen and notepad, a cell phone, and a can-do good positive attitude.

When working with catering companies to improve service, a recommendation to management usually includes this short list of tools as “conditions of employment” for the serving staff.

Notice is given to the staff, with time to conform, and then “inspect what is expected.”

If staff arrives at events without the proper tools — they can leave, get the tools on their own time, and then return prepared to work. You might be staff tight on an event or two. However, word will spread quickly among the staff and suddenly the “I forgot” excuse disappears and service improves!

If the catering company never serves beverages in crystal, glasses or stem ware – skip the polishing cloth.

If wine is never served at your events, drop the cork screw opener and replace with a basic pocket knife. A Swiss Army knife with a cork screw is a better tool of choice. Here’s why:

Years ago at an event, a guest showed up unplanned with several cases of wine. Being the only server on staff with a cork screw, the host gave me an extra $80.00 tip for opening the wine bottles with my Swiss Army knife cork screw.

Rethink the glass and wine service aspect, because there’s huge opportunity for increasing revenue proving these services.

Besides the perception of quality of an event with wine service, glass, or crystal vs. plastic cups is much higher.

 

Magical Polishing Cloths - Flour Sack

 

1.   Magical Polishing Cloth  

The high concentration of polyester and little if any cotton in table napkins doesn’t work for polishing silver, stainless, glasses, flat and stemware.

The best tool is a 100% cotton polishing cloths, AKA “Flour Sacks.” Yes, Grandma was “correcto mundo” on this point of using a good dish cloth.

If you don’t have the flour sack type polishing cloths — Bed, Bath and Beyond and Williams-Sonoma are great sources to get them.

Cut the cloths (32″ Width x 38″ Length) in half; hem the cut ends and you have twice as many polishing cloths. Add your name to the cloth with stitching, or a marker.

Once a fantastic member my staff Julie, dyed her polishing cloths orange, resembling her brilliant hair color. There was no mistake the orange colored cloths belonged to her.

Color coding like a name on the cloth helps with easy owner identification.

Flatware

When placing flatware, use the polishing cloth to polish-wipe-buff out any water spots, or film residue.

The trick is to place the flatware, in the polishing cloth, while holding the cloth in your hand. Buff out the flatware and gently “Push” placing the flatware onto the table, in the correct position.

This method leaves no finger prints or smudges on the flatware and knife blades sparkle. A little practice and you’ll get it.

Glassware

A polishing cloth is the bomb to “polish-wipe-buff out” any dust, residue water spots on crystal, glasses or stemware that’s not up to par.

Have cloudy or water spotted glass and stemware?

Steaming or boiling hot water with a shot of white vinegar is part one of the trick here.

Use a thermos, a small pot of boiling water or even water glass full of steaming hot water for the wetting powers of steam.

Expose the glass in question to the steaming evaporation for a moment, then wiping with a polishing cloth — usually does the trick.

If the servers setting up  need to to use stronger methods such as a full vinegar dip or making a paste from baking soda and water several glasses, then some one needs to addrss the problem be getting on site.

If the glass has lipstick on the rim, have the glass cleaned again.

If dusty, dirty, spotted, or cloudy glasses with mineral deposits are constantly arriving at your events — then you need to have a serious chat with the rental supplier or dish washer.

Staff should not have to polish, wipe out every glass.

Polishing Is Attention To Details

Clients, planners, coordinators, photographers, and guests who arrive early are always impressed when they see serving staff polishing various items.

Later comments heard include,” This is an excellent caterer. You know — I saw the staff polishing the forks, knives and glasses when we first arrived.” They figure if you pay attention to the flatware — the food and service will be “A Game” quality.

 Step Up The “Bling” At Buffets & Stations

Polishing cloths can add last minute luster and shine to silver service buffet chafer dishes, serving utensils or an elaborate silver urn coffee station.

If you are using stainless steel chafer dishes, the water spots, finger prints and smudges can be buffed-wiped away with the polishing cloth. A little stainless polish helps too.

A polishing cloth has many uses including; insulating hands from hot entrée’ plates during service delivery.

Once a guest fell during an event and fractured her arm. I fashioned a splint and made a sling out of polishing cloths. Her family drove her to the hospital. She returned later to join the party — giving a few hugs and a generous tip to the staff. 

 

Waiter's Cork Screw

 

2.   Waiter’s Cork Screw

A Waiter’s Cork Screw aka “pull or lever type wine bottle opener” is next. Carry the opener in your pocket all the time when working on events. Use the foil cutting blade for opening packages during setting up.

Try out a few different types. Some openers are small, stainless gracefully adorned with rosewood handles.

A few are big, plastic and easier for newbie’s to handle. Find one that feels comfortable to work with because some day the opener and your hand will get a real work out.

Avoid at all costs the F-18 drone wine bottle cork extractors, you know the ones where the arms like wings are pulled down to extract the cork.

Staffs often earn extra tips for opening bottles of wine table side providing they know how to provide wine service properly.

 

Mini Mag Pocket Flash Light

 

 3. Flash Light

Carry a small flashlight. Read the “Be Ready For Service” blog post “Let there be light.” 

Pocket Note Pad

4. Pen and Pocket Notepad

 A pen enables you to write information, special orders, directions, and changes.

A small (3”x5”) spiral top pocket note pad works best for easy quick reference and keeping track of details while nesting in a pocket.

Think of the small expense as an investment in yourself.

You may be able to deduct the expenses from your taxes. Your tax advisor can best
advise you on this.

Besides staff will make more tips!

 

Cell Phone

 

 

 5. Cell Phone

Nearly everyone has a cell phone these days. Often the cell phone is glued to fingers or ears.

Serving staff need one for especially for communicating. If staff is late to an off-premise event, staff needs to call and let the lead-captain know what’s going on.

Some times incorrect addresses or directions were given to the staff and the cell phone is the life saver.

Walkie-talkies are the tool of choice and need to be used on events for communicating among the staff. A cell phone works in pinch.

Staff needs to put away cell phones while working — so they are not making, taking cell calls, updating face book and twitter or checking the Nikkei Index for stock prices. When guests observe staff texting and talking they feel “dissed” and ignored.

I have been known to collect cell phones from offenders and return at the end of the event along with a stern warning.

 6. A Can-Do Positive Attitude

A good positive attitude is the most important essential tool to bring to every event.

A good attitude will get you through rough spots and challenging and unexpected moments that crop up in catering.

There are millions of pages, thousand stories and books written on the importance of, and having a good attitude.

I encourage you to read them often as they provide inspiration and assurance — a sorta’ “charger” or pick me up.

What it boils down to is; make a decision to have a good attitude and doing your best!

When you excel at any thing and do your best — there’s personal satisfaction.

Some times going home tired after an event where you gave your all and made a difference in some way, is a great physic payoff — even though there was no tip.

“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiseling and scraping and polishing.” –BC Forbes

Polishing Your Brand

Keep doing great work and find ways to turn your work and style into something outstanding, over-the-top, sensational service. Let’s call it “Your brand.”

Set an example, help other staff members out. Many will balk.

Ignore them and keeping pushing your limits, style and techniques. Others will take up the challenge and collectively most of you will get even better in small subtle ways. Remember, “All boats rise with the tide.”

Some one will notice your actions and with that comes acknowledgement and more opportunities and better financial rewards.

Basic To Basics

This list here of serving essentials covers the most basic items.

Depending upon the season and locale bug spray, sun screen lotion, a snack, some bottled water, a lint roller and shoe shine brush, plus a few other items might be in order too.

Since I don’t know it all – and if you have a suggestion for the list – let me know.

Keep polishing and hold on to your aprons,

In The Bag!

“Man that’s the biggest lunch bag I ever saw.”

The voice came from a disheveled looking guy. He was leaning against the wall as
an effort to keep it from falling down. 

“It’s not all lunch. The rest is some things that we might need — so today’s event is a success!” I replied with a smile.

“You probably were an Eagle Scout too.” He says after taking a long drag on a cigarette.

I replied, “Matter of fact — I still am. Like a Marine, you always are. Being prepared — doesn’t get old — it doesn’t fall out of fashion. Sometimes I never touch what’s in the bag of tricks. Other days, I’m in the bag a lot. It depends — I just like being prepared.” 

A minute later the wedding coordinator (The bride’s sorority sister from college) arrives and says distressed “The bride’s maid dress seam split. Do you know where I can get a needle and thread?” 

Reaching into my bag and handing her my sewing kit. “Here you go. Please return this when you are finished.”

“In business or in football, it takes a lot of unspectacular
preparation to produce spectacular results.”
                                                                                            — Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame Football Player

Things happen at events. The MOB (Mother of the Bride) wants to know if someone has aspirin, bobby and safety pins. Power out on a wall. Swinging door needs a stopper to hold it open. The client’s Vice President of Sales wants to hang a banner from the T-Bar Ceiling and has no idea how to. Photographer needs a “sun blind.” Equipment breaks. The “DJ” (a family friend) has no tape to safely secure cords or wires. You’ve heard all the stories before.

Often little things evolve into a big nuisances — the bar tender stung by a bee and is about to pass out. A can of Sterno gets knocked over and sets the table linen on fire.

I would not expect most servers or bartenders to take the time and assemble a magic bag. In Los Angeles, in most cases, servers can hand you their latest script faster than a band-aid.

Event leads and captains ought to make up their own bag. Then there are those few dedicated Special Forces type staff that will do it on their own. I either case building a bag is a very good investment!

Will it cost some money? Yes, not much.

Some off-premise catering companies may make this bag up for the staff. .. a smart move. Otherwise think of the bag as an investment — not just some expense. If you are the most reliable, problem solver staff member, chances are you will have more work. Oh yeah, check with your tax advisor about how you “might” be able to deduct the cost off taxes.

So the next questions are: What sort of tools need to be assembled?

Leatherman Multi Tool
Leatherman Super Tool 300

I always wear a Leatherman® tool on my belt when working events. It’s “function over fashion” statement. The Leatherman® tool is indispensable Swiss Army knife on steriods — a real work horse for off-premise catering. I reach for this trusty companion during events to cut, hold, fix, tighten loose screw, saw off branches in the way. Etch your name on the handle; otherwise it can grow legs when borrowed.

Bag of Tricks

Magic Bag of Tricks

 

“To be prepared is half the victory.”
                                                                                                              -Miguel de Cervantes

So what’s in the magic bag?

The large carrier is a Marshalltown (Mason) tools bag. It has pockets inside and outside, which makes for practicing “Mise en place;” Door stopper, work gloves, polishing cloth, etc, all have their own pocket. 

Some colleagues have opted for a “box dolly” a box on wheels. Use what ever functional container you like.

Inside the larger bag is smaller bags. I like the multipurpose document holder bags found at Home Depot. Smaller items go in the documents bags labeled; First Aid, Service, Tools, Staff, Misc. This makes it easier to sort and find things in a hurry. 

Depending on where you are — you may want or need modify the contents to deal with seasonal and local weather or environmental issues. The contents are not cast in stone. I usually find myself adding a new item or replacing something every so often.

Here’s the list of what’s in my magic bag.

# Qnt Bag Item Notes
1 1 First Aid Kit, First Aid (See List) Things happen
2 2 Misc Apron, Short W/ Big Pockets Repetitive tasks tool pouch
3 8 Misc Bobby Pins Pull hair back
4 100′ Misc Cord, Clothesline 1/4″ Tying, hanging or lashing
5 1 Misc Finger Nail Clipper W/File Fix finger nails
6 50′ Misc Fishing Line, 30 Lb. Test Tying, hanging or lashing
7 10 Misc Gloves, Latex Clean up or handling food
8 4 Misc Lighter, Long Stem Lighting candles and canned heat
9 25 Misc Ties, Wire – Plastic Repair and secure 
10 100 Misc Rubber Bands Securing what ever
11 10 Misc Safety Pins – Various Sizes Just in case
12 1 Misc Scissors Cutting
13 1 Misc Scouring Pad, Cleaning 3M brand
14 1 Misc Sewing Kit, Small Repairs
15 1 Misc Soap, Dishwashing Small Washing dishes & hands
16 1 Misc Spray-Spitzer Bottle, Small Refreshing flowers
17 100′ Misc String – Mason Line Aligning, tying, hanging or lashing
18 20 Misc Table Linen (Cloth) Clips Securing table linens in the wind
19 1 Misc Library Wax Tub Secure things
20 50 Misc Pins, Long Stick Pinning decorations
21 12 Misc Clips, T Bar Hanging from T-Bar Ceiling
22 1 Prep Flashlight Seeing in the dark
23 1 Prep Headlight, Seeing in the dark
24 2 Prep Batteries, Flashlight Back up
25 2 Prep Batteries, headlight Back up
26 1 Prep Knife, Pocket Opening boxes, cutting things
27 1 Prep Note Pad 3 X 5 Writing notes and labeling
28 1 Prep Pen, Sharpie Black Labeling
29 1 Prep Pen, Sharpie Red Labeling
30 3 Prep Pens, Blue Writing
31 2 Prep Post It Notes – Pads, Large For temporary labeling
32 1 Prep Writing Pad Lined Write things down
33 8 Oz Prep Salt, Kosher Kitchen back up
34 2 Serving Opener, Paint Can Prying pans in chafing dishes
35 1 Serving Bottle Opener, Speed Style As needed
36 4 Serving Candles Emergency
37 4 Serving Cloths, Polishing Flour Bags Polish stem and flatware
38 2 Serving Cork Screw Open wine bottles
39 1 Serving Crummer Clear crumbs from tables
40 1 Serving Spatula, Heat Resistant Back up for cooking-serving
41 1 Serving Spoon, Serving – Slotted Back up for cooking-serving
42 1 Serving Spoon, Serving – Solid Back up for cooking-serving
43 1 Serving Tongs Back up for cooking-serving
44 1 Staff Mints, Breath Breath freshener
45 20 Staff Cough Drops Coughing staff
46 1 Staff Brush, Shoe Shine Last Minute Polish
47 2 Staff Razors, Disposable For staff not shaved
48 1 Staff Shaving Cream For staff not shaved
49 1 Staff Deodorant, Spray Freshening up
50 1 Staff Sun Screen, Spray Skin Protection
51 1 Staff Bug Spray Keeps the bugs off
52 1 Staff Lint Remover Roller Serving staff looks neat
53 1 Staff Pain Reliever, Advil Minor pain management
54 2 Staff Power Bars Back up energy supply
55 1 Tools Count Down Timer Reminder-special timing
56 1 Tools Crazy Glue, Tube Fix things and first aid – cuts
57 4 Tools Door Stop Hold open swinging doors
58 1 Tools Magnifying Glass Assist in removing slivers
59 1 Tools Pliers, Offset Fix or repair some things
60 1 Tools Screw Driver, Phillips Head Fixing-repairing
61 1 Tools Screw Driver, Flat Head Fixing-repairing
62 1 Tools Shims – Wooden – Pack Leveling
63 ! Tools Tape, Duck 2″ Roll Securing – hanging “bombproof”
64 1 Tools Tape, Masking 2″ Roll Securing hanging – closing boxes
65 1 Tools Tape, Clear 2″ Roll Securing runners -closing boxes
66 1 Tools Tape, Painters 1″ Roll Securing on delicate surfaces
67 1 Tools Wrench, Crescent 6″ Fixing things
68 1 Tools Crazy Glue, Tube Fixing things & finger cuts
69 2 Tools Gloves, Work – Pair Protect your hands
70 1 Tools Voltage Circuit Tester Check for working circuits
 
“I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”
                                                                                                                      — Abraham Lincoln

Hopefully you will build your own survival-success magic bag of tricks. The first time you show up with it many will laugh – just wait for them to come and ask you for your help.

BTW… Got a suggest about something that ought to be in the bag? Send me an email. 

First aid kit contents will be covered by another blog post. 

There’s another tote I take along and usually leave in the car, it contains 100’ and 25’ extensions cords, a 300 Watt “clampable” work light, more table clips, trash bags, 100’ of 3/8” rope, 2” wide tape and extra hand tools and jumper cables. 

Remember: Being prepared starts with a state of mind — a resourceful  “MacGyver” and “can do”  attitude. Having the right tools to help you survive and succeed will certainly help!

Hold on to your aprons,

Let There Be Light!

A lit flashlight

Image via Wikipedia

“Oh no, one of my earrings is missing.”

“Excuse me; I just lost a contact lens.”

These two situations are familiar comments heard by banquet and catering staffs often. They always include, “Can you help me find it?”

In another instance, staff was finishing clearing the salad course just served to 250 guests. With out warning — the lights went out. There was only lighting from a few candles on the tables, and that eerie green glow of the emergency exit lights. 

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my flashlight (Known as a “Torch” in the UK) and turned it on. Across the room several other serving staff did the same. We continued service and provided special assistance to the guests till the power was restored in about five minutes. It seemed longer though.

The host asked to see the event Captain. The host said to the Captain, “Thank you and your staff for saving my party” They shook hands and the host handed over an extra $20.00 cash tip to each server who had a flash light.

A week later, a guest from this party called and booked another event and remarked to the sales person, “I was at the party last week when the lights went out for a few minutes. I don’t want to take chances – I know your staff is prepared.” 

Always carry a small AA sized flash light when working on events in any capacity. Not a penlight or a “D” cell. When I am responsible for staff — I always tell the staff to bring to bring a flash light — it’s a condition of future employment. I also tell them to bring a good attitude and few other tools — which will be cover in another blog.

Staff has walked guests to their cars across dark parking lots. Assisted guests up and down stairs, and directed traffic. Often there’s a nice tip, some times not. This random act of thoughtfulness and kindness is always remembered! Think of it as making a deposit in the “good deeds” bank account.

Often off-premise catering is code for “anything can happen.” Being prepared will make a big difference especially if there is an emergency.

How much does a good flash light cost? Less than $20.00. Get the Maglite® LED. The light is brighter and the unit is very durable. Bring two extra batteries for back up.

If you are loading trucks the headband accessory is also nice to have because you don’t have to work and carry the flashlight in your mouth. If you are loading and unloading trucks often, get a LED headlight. Better yet get the trucks and vans outfitten with work lights.

Remember: Turn one battery around — so the light doesn’t turn on by accident and burn out the battery.

Broken Glass trick: Some guest thinks it’s real cool to go out on a crowded dance floor bare foot and then drop their drink.

When you are sweeping up the glass, position your flash light parallel to the floor. The flashlight beam will reflect the chards of glass, making it easier to see the broken glass pieces scattered around during clean up!

Having a flashlight doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Having a flashlight is a point of difference. The flashlight is a way to distinguish or differentiate your self, your staff and company from others. Having a flashlight will may a huge difference, especially when the lights go out.

Hold on to your aprons,