Buffets

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Buffets

Buffets are the most egregious example of how excessive our culinary culture can be. Oftentimes, a customer gets a brand new plate for every trip to the buffet line and the amount of food wasted can't even be estimated. The unsung heroes of these establishments are the employees who often go unnoticed. Contrary to popular belief, the buffet line doesn't re-stock itself. Someone has to cook the food, do the countless dishes, and ensure the buffet line is filled to the heart's content of the customer.

Our friend, "Taylor," worked at a buffet for her first job. For her first year of working at the buffet, she was a line attendant. Her primary responsibilities were replacing the food and plates for the buffet goers. She was promoted to waitressing her second year. Although this meant an increase in pay, she did not enjoy working with the rest of the waitstaff. They were "the worst kind of people."

One of the responsibilities of the waitstaff was bussing tables when guests were done eating. Each member of the waitstaff had a station where they would place all of the dishes they had bussed from the table. These carts primarily served as a place for the waitstaff to gather and complain about anything and everything they could. The waitstaff also had a habit of "whining and berating the dishwashers," who were in charge of collecting and replacing the carts, when they were even moderately full. The dishwashers never complained because they received a portion of the tips from the waitstaff at the end of the night but Taylor knew they worked significantly harder than the waitstaff and didn't deserve to be berated.

Despite the entitlement of the waitstaff, the buffet typically ran like a well-oiled machine. They could easily handle fifteen hundred guests on a busy night. The only issue was the equipment in the back of the house.

The Beast

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The Beast

They had a conveyor belt-style dishwasher in the back of the house. It had been installed when the restaurant first opened, thirty years ago. Everyone affectionately referred to it as, "The Beast." When functioning correctly, it would churn out clean dishes even faster than the buffet-goers could burn through them. Unfortunately, it broke down almost weekly. When it broke down, the dishwashers had to clean every single thing by hand. As you can imagine, it makes the entire buffet a lot less efficient.

During a dinner rush one Friday night, Taylor was bouncing around helping the waitstaff out, re-filling the buffet line with food and plates, and even assisting customers at the register to make a dent in the massive line stretching out the door. Taylor often did this during dinner rushes due to her experience in both re-filling the buffet line and waitressing. Even the general manager was in the back of the house helping wherever he could with his tie over his shoulder to keep up with the rush.

Suddenly, Taylor noticed the plate towers in the buffet line were nearly empty. She rushed to the back of the house to re-stock but noticed it was oddly quiet. Usually, she could hear the constant humming of The Beast in the back of the house.

Before she could put two and two together, the general manager screamed, "You've got to be freaking kidding me!"

Taylor's worst fear was quickly confirmed. The Beast had gone down.

Everyone in the back of the house, including Taylor, looked to their swearing manager for direction on what to do next. Without warning, he stormed to the dish room. Taylor followed him into the dish room where absolute panic had overtaken their three seasoned dishwashers.

Before she knew it, the general manager had crawled under the dishwasher into 'a few inches of questionable water with half-chewed dinner rolls and lettuce floating around him.' The general manager was a bit of a hothead, to say the least, but Taylor admired how he was always willing to do the nasty jobs himself rather than making someone else do it. Meanwhile, the three dishwashers were frantically handwashing dishes in the large sinks.

Taylor noticed trash was covering the drain hole in the floor, causing a massive pileup of murky water and wet food. Without hesitation, Taylor grabbed the floor squeegee and began sweeping food away from the drain hole to relieve the dish room of standing water. She quickly began grabbing the food off the floor and throwing it into the trash can. Eventually, the trash can had become so full she couldn't lift it, so she grabbed additional unused trash cans from the kitchen and began clearing plates into them to speed up the process for the dishwashers.

To make matters worse, customers were peeking their heads into the back of the house door to yell about there not being any plates. Taylor and the dishwashers just ignored them and continued to frantically clear and wash dishes and silverware.

After finally getting through the mountain of plates and silverware, two of the dishwashers rushed off to re-stock and grab the bus carts from the angry waitstaff. The general manager was still trying to salvage The Beast and Taylor was left in the dish room with the final dishwasher, "Tanner," who just seemed to notice she was there and covered in food and dishwater.

Tanner asked, "Wait, why are you back here?"

Employee Camaraderie

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Employee Camaraderie

Taylor responded, "Um, the dishwasher broke?"

Tanner replied, "Yeah, it always does but why do you care? None of the front of house people have ever helped before meanwhile you're here elbow deep in the nastiest part when you could be out front and dry with everyone else."

Taylor responded, "Well if everyone else is up front then they won't be missing me. Besides, another set of hands will help us get caught up faster, plus I can yell and cuss all I want back here and no one will hear me."

Just as she had finished her sentence, the bus carts arrived and the dish room was once again swamped. The general manager declared The Beast wasn't salvageable for the night so he moved to clear plates and Taylor began washing dishes with the other three dishwashers in the sinks. All five of them worked until midnight washing dishes by hand.

At the end of the night, the general manager complimented Taylor's ability to hang with the experienced dishwashers and bumped their pay up to fifteen dollars an hour from the usual eleven for the night. He also asked if Taylor and the dishwashers would come in the following night to do it again.

The following night, Taylor and the dishwashers were able to keep up with the demand a lot better due to being more prepared to hand wash dishes than they were the previous night. Taylor quickly built rapport with Tanner and the other dishwashers who really respected her for stepping in and helping out. They ended up laughing and joking the majority of the shift despite being elbow-deep in dishes.

Taylor's next shift waitressing was much slower. At the end of the night, she tipped out the standard ten percent and was just about to leave when Tanner stopped her with her money in his hand.

Tanner said, "You don't have to do this, you know?"

"This Is Too Much"

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"This Is Too Much"

Taylor was very confused and asked, "I thought we were supposed to tip out at the end of our shifts?"

Tanner clarified, "Yeah but only ten percent. This is too much."

Even more confused, Taylor responded, "No, I made a hundred fifty dollars tonight. It's the right amount."

Tanner said, "It can't be, you're the only one who ever tips out this much. All of the other girls never tip out more than five dollars on nights like this and they tip out maybe ten dollars on very very busy nights."

Taylor made around three hundred dollars in tips on very busy nights.

Taylor responded, "I know for a fact they both made more than that tonight because I had to watch them brag and count their tips right in front of me. They're lying to you."

It turned out Tanner had been taking Taylor's "overpayments" thinking she was trying to win over the dishwashers and they were mildly insulted by it until they got to know her the previous two nights. Apparently, the waitresses had been underpaying the back of the house for years and they were rightfully furious about it. Tanner and the other two dishwashers shared an apartment in order to send as much money home to their families as they could.

"Needless to say, word spread quickly."

"Told To Do It Themselves"

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"Told To Do It Themselves"

For the next two weeks, Taylor was the only waitress who didn't have to drag her bus cart to the back of the house if she wanted it emptied. In fact, she could barely stack the dishes in her cart before it was replaced with a new one. When someone threw up in her section, which was a surprisingly frequent occurrence, she would be shooed away by one of the dishwashers before she could even assemble the supplies to clean it up. If someone threw up in the section of another waitress, they were "handed rags and buckets and told to do it themselves."

The waitstaff had previously told the dishwashers it was their responsibility to clean up any vomit and bathroom issues, despite it not being the case. When the general manager realized how mistreated the dishwashers had been by the waitstaff, he completely supported their strike. Instead of apologizing or showing any remorse, the rest of the waitstaff decided they would withhold their tips completely and try to outlast the dishwashers on strike.

What the waitstaff didn't realize was the dishwashers made a full hourly rate so they didn't miss the ten dollars maximum they usually received from each member of the waitstaff at the end of the night. They were mainly furious based on the principle of what the waitstaff had been pulling. The waitstaff didn't even make it three whole weeks before they caved. The waitstaff caving included crying, entitled screeches, the whole shebang.

They hadn't realized how much their tips depended on the dishwashers. All of them, excluding Taylor, had made significantly less money because they couldn't handle waiting tables, bussing their own carts, and cleaning any mess in their sections.

Even after the waitstaff had agreed to start respecting and actually tipping out the correct amount to the dishwashers, Taylor still received preferential treatment. Her bus cart would get changed before everyone else, regardless of how full they were. She never asked for unnecessary help but Tanner or one of the other dishwashers would drop what they were doing and help Taylor immediately if there was something she couldn't handle. Taylor would still be the first one to jump in when The Beast broke down or something went wrong in the back of the house. Overall, it actually made her job so much easier and more enjoyable.

Thoughts From The Author

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Thoughts From The Author

Let me start by saying, Taylor might be the best restaurant employee I have encountered in a story. She was honest, went above and beyond, and seemed like she genuinely cared about the success of the restaurant. She seemed too good to be working at a buffet. Hopefully, she eventually moved to a five-star restaurant or fancy resort because it sounds like she completely deserves it.

On the other hand, the other members of the waitstaff sound absolutely terrible. It seems like waiting on tables at a buffet is a pretty decent job, seeing as you don't have to take orders, carry out food, or really do anything aside from re-filling drinks and clearing the tables. Yet, like a lot of people who completely suck, they found a way to complain about every minor thing they encountered. Most restaurants would fire employees for underpaying the rest of the staff from their tips but we're not talking about normal restaurants, we're talking about a buffet. Although I'm sure it's hard to part with ten percent of the tips I'm not exactly sure what they did to earn, it's still the right thing to do because obviously, the back of house staff made their lives a lot easier than they assumed.

Good for Tanner and the rest of the dishwashers going on strike against the rest of the waitstaff. Clearly, they were the hardest working employees in the entire restaurant and I could not imagine having to deal with the entitled waitstaff on top of it. It seemed like the waitstaff openly talked down to them and didn't even have the conscience to tip them the correct amount at the end of the night. They deserved a far worse time at work than actually having to do their job but something tells me their work ethic will continue to haunt them long after the buffet ordeal.