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Plausible Deniability

There always seems to be that one jackass party that comes in at closing time and wants to be served. I don't mean 15 minutes ‘til closing, or 5 minutes ‘til closing (although those aren't my favorite customer either). I mean, at closing or even after that. It always seems to me that those customers are motivated by something beyond hunger. More like getting away with something, or like getting past the velvet rope. Something dumb like that.

Some may recall that there are four factions in a restaurant. When a party comes in near the end of the day, they are already there, they are hungry or thirsty, and they definitely want to be served. Being at least partially biologically based, people aren’t too interested in the logical or rational reasons why you won’t serve them food and drink. To say, “Sorry, we’re closed” is usually not enough for these customers. Therefore, plausible deniability must be established. Steps have to be taken so that it seems believable that the restaurant couldn't possibly serve them food.

Generally, the owners and management will want to take the table, because it’s a little more income, and a restaurant relies to a large degree on goodwill from customers. To deny someone service doesn’t come off as hospitable.

The chef, in his role as manager, would probably want to take the table, too. This is because all his food is prepared, and to sell more of it would make his numbers look better. Waste and food cost are directly related, so to sell more food while it is saleable makes sense. The only time the management or the chef may not want to take a late table is when labor costs are already high, and taking the table would mean overtime in the kitchen.

The server definitely wants to take the table, because they stand to make 18-20% or more of the bill as a tip.

But the cooks… the cooks usually just want to go home. Or go have a beer. It’s not that we’re lazy. The hourly wage for staying another 15 minutes or half an hour won’t even pay for that beer. So we’d rather leave. It’s not really worth it. No, it’s not only about the money. Yes, we do get some satisfaction from our work. Yes, this is the employment we have chosen. But by that time of the evening, the cooks have been hustling and sweating already for several hours, and there’s still the hour or so of cleaning up to do.

An analogy might be if someone is at their office job that ends at 5pm, and their boss comes in with “one last thing that needs to be done tonight,” the first time it happens, maybe it’s not a problem. But the third or fourth time, it’s a minor annoyance. If it happens often, it gets to be quite seriously annoying.

When it comes right down to it, the cooks may complain and be grumpy about it, but most times we’ll just make the food so we can leave. But I have seen cooks put up a big fuss, like they’re putting their foot down and they won’t make it. I understand the frustration of it, but ultimately, it’s a part of the job. It’s just a part of the job that I don’t like.

In my case, I often work as a cook, but in the front of the house, in full view of the customers. So at closing time, it has to look like I’m ready to close up shop for the night while in actuality, still be able to make everything in case they do accept the table. If it looks like I haven’t even started breaking everything down, it won’t seem like any kind of imposition to ask for food.

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