I literally forgot where I was
Some stories at TGI Friday's restaurant

A short story based on actual events.

Put one great story as opening, flashback to waiting tables, door, etc.
metaphors, feelings

Marina del Rey, marriage proposal: beach in Venice, kids came and talked to me. We talked and played in the sand. Kid loved it, laughing. Mom, sitting nearby and who had kept a keen eye on us, said, "Would you marry me." Awkward laugh.

Friday's started on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where it helped introduce the Singles Bar and casual dining. Other locations opened up until some investors bought the concept, formed a corporation, and opened up the first 'Corporate store' in the singles party section of Dallas - Old Town on Greenville Avenue in January, 1972. A local law had just passed allowing restaurants to serve mixed drinks.

Working the floor Waiting tables W/W
In 1975, when I decided to become a self-employed designer, I got a job as a server at TGI Friday's restaurant in Dallas - I needed a regular paycheck to get me through the lean years of starting my design business. I enjoyed the work (except for occasional rude customers). Working at Friday's was a great experience - I made some great friends, had some great times, and learned some valuable life lessons.
Headwaiter, schedule infographic
OTLE (pronounced OH dull): Option to Leave Early. It was never an option, it was the manager sending home some w/ws when the lunch or dinner rush ended.

Antics, routines
'Tripping' up the stairs. Stumble and act like I was about to drop a plate of food. Recovered and went right on.
Dance in spilled salad dressing
sit up on wall by bar
Waiter nightmares. Getting slammed sitting by the door staff. Give myself power to go poof.
Trained managers had four in one shift on a Sunday evening fully one third of the restaurant tips were coming to me (but I didn't accept them.)

Canoe trips
Leave after 2:00 shift, Albers Wilson McClure sham betzelberger me
Eric, "lets go over there" "Nooo" Over we go. Tump the canoe (word, tump)

'No rush' to the cashier

Servers would set their tip tray on the counter for the cashier to ring up. During meal rush times, the trays backed up waiting on change. Many checks needed no change - they were charges or the customer left the total amount - the ticket just had to be rung up. I couldn't see why those had to get in line and delay those needing change back. So, I set those trays to the side, away from the incoming queue of tip trays, yet still within sight and reach of the cashier (green dot above). I would tell her, "No rush" so she knew to ring up the other tray totals first (red dot). I can still see the face of gratitude on the cashier for making her job less stressful and on the servers who got their change back faster. The head cashier asked the manager to make it a company-wide procedure.

Opening Team
Travel: Opening Team, selection, drive to LA, stoned in Midland, pee in snow, Jamaica,

Scudder asks about opening team. Think it over - fit designer bg plan. Not know would lead to corp job. Called him from Richardson VW. Called mom, going to LA.
Mike McClure and I drive to LA get stoned put on sunglasses for the refineries in Midland, Phoenix crash on the bed wake up in time to go to dinner. Stayed in Venice Beach walked to Marina Delray

• The marriage proposal: LA Marina TGIF beach, kid: "He loves you. Would you marry me?"
• Tampa airport: look motel board, “you know a motel?” guy: I'll show you, wanted to show me around the city

Drive truck to Cleveland
Chicago: stay on apt floor per diem
Memorize orders, recite back wrong
Opening team
Pee in snow in Illinois blizzard
Drive truck to Cleveland
Chagrin Falls

After helping out in the Louisville store during the Kentucky Derby, Nora and I drove the TGIF van to our next opening: Ft. Lauderdale. On the way, we stopped at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

After opening the Ft. Lauderdale store, we took a short trip over to Jamaica - Lenzy, Brad, Lee Ann, Jim, Nora. After that opening, our Opening Team split up: some went to work at other locations, some went home, and Nora and I drove the TGIF van to the Atlanta airport so Nora could catch a flight to Boston. I drove the van back to Dallas on I-20. I picked up some hitchhikers to help with the driving.

Solo consultant travels
Denver: not know where I was, couldn't tell right away
TGIF speech, Dayton Ohio: Malcolm MacRae asked if I had an erection, no - khaki pants.

LA: used corp credit card,
San Diego: Headwaiter Seminar
hotel row, meeting room, whiteboard,

Table numbers and floor plans
Learning the numbers as a novie explain - cafes, main floor, upper level.

Realizerd the tables could be referred ro by almost anything. Even movie stars. With Eric and others, changed Cafe table names to Movie stars A = Alda, GG = Greta Garbo. Fun coming up with the names - ewas easy to implement since the initials were still there.

In January 1977, while helping open the new store in Marina del Rey (Los Angeles), I revamped the floor plan that was used to assign servers to specific stations. Servers can learn any system. They work enough shifts, they'll get it down. One time, we experimented with naming tables after people. One section was movie stars, another sports figures, etc. We servers finally got it but we often had to refer to the plan where we wrote in the names and we misdelivered food. But, heck, it was fun. The easier a system is to learn and remember, the more efficient it is to train new servers. Food runners are often temporary and transient - servers in training, people pitching in during a meal rush, and novice servers. An easy to learn system takes less time for a trainer to teach and for one to learn.

The existing floor plan numbered the tables in sequence beginning with number 10 and looping around to number 48. The outer cafe sections were lettered A to L in one section and AA to NN. No logic - just a unique number or letter for each table. Tough to learn and tough to remember.

Some observations
• The existing system used no logic or consideration for the new employee.
• The numbers didn't have to be consecutive. Numbers could be skipped between sections.
• The point of reference should be the entry from the kitchen to the dining area (the star in the above map).

The new system requires one to learn only the lead tables (which are numbered in tens digits from 10 to 60) and then count as they walk down the row from the kitchen. For example, to deliver food to table 44, one goes to the lead table 40 at the head of the row, and counts the tables from there until arriving at 44. The lead tables are sequenced in order from the starting point of the kitchen (where all food runners will be coming from). When I proposed the new system, I posted floor plans for reference at the bus stations and at the kitchen delivery area. Some servers moaned about having to learn a new system. I planned to be at each shift to monitor the transition. It turns out that the servers picked up the new system in about a half a shift. They all agreed it was easier and made more sense. Friday's adopted the system in all their restaurants and many use the floor plan renderings shown below. I now notice that many restaurants use this numbering system but I don't know if they borrowed the concept from Friday's.

• Logical sequence table numbers require less education to learn.
• Station sections are easier to spot.
• Server names can be written in the capsule shapes on the plan.
• There were blanks to fill in the Shift and Shift Leader.

Draw plans on window in hotel room.
Took bubble template with me. Got arch plan at store.

Teaching, grad school,
Greetings, Christopher
Door spiels.
Door system, Debbie, Lisa; hand signals, anticipate open tables, get party ready
Walk to store

Door stop
Menu box
In the 1970s, during slow times when door staff was not on duty, a crude handwritten sign was propped up on a bar stool inside the front door. A server brought menus to table.
I proposed a menu box at the front door that contained menus and allowed people to take and begin reading the menu before the server approaches the table. This minimized the perceived wait times.
The concept was approved and funded. I designed and ordered the custom-made boxes in a Victorian style to match the decor of the restaurant.
The copy on the box read, "Please take a menu and seat yourself."

More appropriate statement to waiting customers
Also at Friday's, I worked at the door as a Host. When we were on a wait list, we would take names and then call them on the PA when their table was ready. Instead of saying "Mr. Watson, party of 4." (as the Corporate Office requested) I would say "Mr. Watson, your table is ready." While waiting to be seated, the Watson's don't care how many are in their party - they are wondering, "when will my table be ready" so that's what we should tell them. See from the waiting customer's PoV - empathize with them.

© James Robert Watson    Email    Text

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