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Contact the Owner?

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Several of us went to a local, low- to mid-range restaurant last weekend. We ordered a higher-end (for this place - it was about $50 to $60) bottle of wine. Our server disappeared for a few minutes and then I noticed that she appeared to be speaking with the manager who appeared (my interpretation, of course) to be waving her away.

The server came to our table, placed the unopened bottle down, and pulled a corkscrew from her apron. Then she froze and bit her lip. She looked worried. One of our party asked her if she was okay. She blushed, looked down, and said something. Someone else asked her to speak-up (or something to that effect); the server then said, quietly, that she'd never used this kind of corkscrew and that her manager had told her to wing it, but that she didn't want to ruin our expensive wine by messing up.

I said, "No problem," and basically gave a quick lesson on how the corkscrew worked. The manager saw what was going on (I saw him glancing over), but said nothing.

The rest of the meal was fine, service was perfect, and the wine was decent. Our server received a hefty tip.

When it was time to leave, I went to look for the manager, but was told that he'd gone out back for a smoke break. Lovely.

Is this situation something that you'd bring-up with the owner? I feel badly for the server - and I'm upset with the manager for not stepping in and helping her either learn how to use the corkscrew or coming over to open the bottle himself - but I don't want the server to be dismissed because she didn't know how to use the corkscrew (is this something that is asked about in an interview?).

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  1. It think you treated the server respectably and handled the situation well. It was absolutely poor management. If you want to put your energy into improving someone else's business go right ahead. If you decide to return ask for the same server and most likely she will remember you and treat you wonderfully.
    Eta I've never been asked in an interview if I can use a corkscrew and am still surprised its not something covered in training. I just finished training someone that could not open beer and my management did not think it was significant.

    6 Replies
    1. re: holypeaches

      Thank you, holypeaches, I guess that I was rather naive in thinking that those kinds of things (using a corkscrew and properly opening beer) would be covered in an interview or training (though I assume that you did train your person how to open been).

      1. re: ElsieDee

        I attempted multiple times with a waiters corkscrew and the bartenders opener to no avail. I just returned to waiting tables a month ago after 5 years doing other things. Fortunately management recognizes its not me lacking in teaching. One said tome yesterday he wants to add an IQ test to the application.

        1. re: ElsieDee

          An update our GM is working all day and approached me about her progress. He sent her home at 1 and gave her two easy morning shifts Sat n Sun, hostessing. I think she is clueless that this is such a bad sign for her future there. At least it's been evident that I tried.

          1. re: holypeaches

            I'm a bit astonished. Someone *really* couldn't use a bottle opener to open a beer?

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Yes she is in her early 20's and claims to having opened twist off or asking someone else. Plus her first morning she was under the impression she was the new bartender. I was asked if I knew how to bartend (yes) in my interview in December and have covered lunch bar when the person called out.

              1. re: holypeaches

                ::::head desk::::: She thought she was the new bartender? I hope she marries well. ;-)

      2. i probably wouldn't bring it up because, if the owner turns out to be as lousy as the manager was, the server could end up getting canned.

        there is a lot of potential for blowback here.

        i'm sure your intentions are good, but this could end very badly for the server.

        when a restaurant has a manager as bad as this one did, it is a red flag,

        1. It's none of your business.

          You did right vis-a-vis you and the server.

          Everything else is really none of your business.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            why isn't it a customer's "business" -- or rather "interest" -- to want to see a place improve? i'd want that customer feedback for my business. (after reading other comments here, i wonder how many of the responders are entrepreneurs or business owners. i also think cultural differences play into one's attitude in this situation. i know harters is english, and can totally "get" that english attitude, from spending a lot of time with the english).

            all that said, in this case, however, i agree 100% with westsidegal that i would not get involved -- for the very reasons she states.

            1. re: alkapal

              The customer (in this instance, the OP) already did help the the business improve -- i.e., by teaching the server how to open a wine bottle.

              Beyond that, there are so many variables involved that the line between helpful and officious quickly disappears.

              How does one know that the manager and owner aren't "buddies" or relatives? Or that the only reason the server was hired was, not because she was adroit in working tables, but that she has "other" attributes? And that the manager is getting some of that action on the side? And if the owner found out about this, the owner would have the server fired and not the manager?

              Or maybe this was the server's 10th gaffe of the day and the OP only saw the 10th one, and not the nine earlier ones? And maybe the server was hired because the manager was doing a friend a favor? And if the owner found about it, everyone would get canned?

              How does this improve anyone's lot in life? The server is out of a job and for all intents and purposes nothing has really changed with the restaurant logistics.

              How does one know that none of those dynamics are at play? Maybe they aren't, maybe they are. We will never know.

              The world is full of agendas that people have no knowledge of -- and may never will.

              Like I said, the OP has already done her Good Samaritan deed, leave it at that.

          2. You were extremely kind to her - there are lots of people who would have pitched a hissy fit at a server who didn't know how to use a corkscrew.

            You taught her how to use it -- the situation won't repeat itself, and I agree -- if you go back and ask for her, she'll treat you like gold.

            I'm guessing the manager didn't know how to use the corkscrew, either -- so he wussed out and made her take the heat for it (which you fortunately didn't give her).

            I'm kind of appalled that a restaurant that serves wine by the bottle wouldn't spend the 5 minutes it takes to teach someone how to open a bottle of wine, but there you are.

            I agree that there's far more potential for disaster -- unfortunately, directed at the server -- than there is benefit to reporting the situation. Let this one rest.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sunshine842

              I agree, that if you don't know more about the owner that you shouldn't seek out the owner. For all we know, the manager may be the son/nephew of the owner or in some other "above reproach" position.

              Not to mention, that there may be a greater backstory regarding this server's employment history with the restaurant where this could ultimately result in her getting in trouble. Too many variables at play.

            2. You were a customer. Customers are not, generally, there to advise companies about how (or if) they train their employees.

              1. For what it is worth I just recently learned how to properly use a corkscrew to open wine and I am middle aged.Maybe the managers thought she had the skill necessary and she was unsure of her self.The important thing is that she did not ruin the cork or the bottle of wine.Hopefully practice makes perfect and she can gain confidence.Baptism by fire:)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lillipop

                  *grinning* I only learned how to use one in my mid-thirties, Lillipop - never been much of a wine drinker and always was with someone (when drinking wine) who could open it on their own. Finally decided it was a skill I should learn, though.

                2. I am happy that she admitted she didn't know how to use the corkscrew. I am happy that you helped her. You had your wine and now she knows. You're done.

                  1. No I would not bring up to the manager, IMO it's a trivial thing and you handled it well. When I bring an old bottle, in a BYOB situation, I generally bring my own cork screw and open it myself but, always give a taste to the server.

                    1. Thank you all for the feedback.

                      I'd reached the same conclusions (of not saying anything), but then thought about it as a business owner and wondered if I'd want to know about the way the manager handled the situation if it were my business.

                      I cannot see, though, how I can bring up the situation to the owner without mentioning the issue with the server, and I don't want any of this to reflect on her; the manager threw her under the bus, so-to-speak, and that's what upset me. Not that the server didn't know how to use the corkscrew (though that surprised me more than anything).

                      1. Speaking as an owner I would want to know if my manager was dissapointing clients. In addition a manager is NEVER "out back on a smoke break". (Even if they really are)

                        1. Ya done good. ~ Wouldn't have said anything to the Mgr. Although I would like to have torn his ass off his shoulders. ~ Dollar to a do-nut he didn't know how to use the screw either..

                          1. Where would we be if someone, in our lives, didn't teach give a teaching moment. You did well.

                            1. Poor management. Contact the owner if you want. But remember, the owner hired the manager. And your message to the owner might translate into a fired server.

                              If you go back, and you note some other odd thing that involves poor training, I think you would be on safer ground contacting the owner.

                              But don't expect a good outcome.