Archive for the Outback Steakhouse Category

The Outback Chronicles: Part 4

Posted in Alcohol Involved, Bad employment, Downtown Bristol, Local, Modern, Outback Steakhouse, Terrible work on February 24, 2011 by Divide By Zero

This time in my little OS-Lounge mini-saga, I’m going to tell you about the time that guy that got fired for drinking at work in the dish pit.

Let me set the “dish pit” up a little bit first.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I haven’t done it justice.  It’s hard to communicate with the other people in the kitchen, it’s hard to see who’s walking by, and more or less, it was like a dungeon.  I guess it really wasn’t that bad, but that’s how you feel about your little corner of hell after a million 13 hour shifts.

It was so weird working in that stuffy little corner that… check this out:

One kid about 19 years old or so, we’ll call him Dusty.  He worked there for about 3 weeks, and then one day while he was on break, he went outside to call someone back who had called his cell earlier in the day.  After his break, he came back in and said “I think I have to go to jail.”  He told Ted about it, and cleared it with everyone he needed to and left.  His story didn’t add up, and no one ever saw him again.  That’s right, the dude faked a jail sentence in order to get out of working there.   It makes more sense now that I said it like that.

Back to the story at hand though; the person who trained the guy with the jail situation, we’ll call him Bruce, was not very professional at all.  He showed up to work every day hungover or buzzed.  Either way, he had the stench of alcohol all over him most of the time.  Granted, most of the kitchen staff was like that too, but they got their job done.  They also didn’t empty their paycheck out at the gas station and liquor store every week, either.  He was borderline, if not a full blown alcoholic.  And he was in charge of training most of the new dishwashers.

Before too long, he had trained one of the busboys’ brothers, and they were in the dish pit together most nights for the next few months.  At least until one fateful night, when everything Bruce was doing outside of work came to a boil at work and exploded all over his face.

The busboys brother, we’re going to call Scruffy.  He had a perpetual 5 o’clock shadow, and that’s the first word that came to my mind. And it’s my story, so I can name him whatever I want.

Anyways, one night, Bruce came in with 2 water bottles.  Not just the standard 12 oz. size water bottle that most people carry.  It was the big, I don’t know, 28 or 32 ounce bottles.  However you want to slice it, those 2 bottles were big enough to hold a fifth of vodka.  And back when I knew him, Bruce drank cheap, cheap vodka.  The kind of cheap vodka that should have eaten straight through anything plastic.  It was gross.

He brought in 2 bottles because he didn’t want to drink alone, so one bottle was for Scruffy, and the other was for Bruce.  I could kind of see the thought process behind Bruce’s thinking, because the dish guys were so disconnected from everyone else, he figured no one would really notice that he was tying one on, while he was on the clock.  Also I think his biggest problem was that he planned on his share of the vodka lasting his entire 10 hour shift.  When in all actuality it lasted about 2 hours before it was gone.. and I don’t think Bruce ever ate anything before he clocked in.

So one sip of the vodka led to another.  Then one broken plate led to another.  Then one fall led to another.  Larry ended up stepping in when Bruce was taking forever and a day to load dishes onto a tray, and push them through the dishwasher.  Scruffy told me later that he could have smoked an entire cigarette in between each one of the trays that came out of the dishwasher.  For anyone who hasn’t worked a commercial dishwasher, you can usually push about 40 trays through the machine in one minute.  Needless to say it’s super slow when you’re only pushing 1 through every 7 minutes.  Poor Bruce.

To this day I don’t know if Larry stepped in because he didn’t want Bruce to get in trouble, of because Ted & the management told him to.  Larry made Bruce sit on a milk crate in the corner for a bit, to see if he would be able to sober up quickly.  I think that if Bruce would have done as he was told – which was sit and stay like a good boy – he may have been alright, and been able to finish his shift without any help from Larry.  BUT.. as drunk people are prone to not listening to what other people tell them to do, Bruce kept trying to stand up.  He’d fall, then he’d break more dishes.

So Scruffy took it upon himself to take Bruce to the employee bathrooms in the back of the restaurant.  Scruffy basically had to carry Bruce all the way to the bathroom, and sit him down on one of the 5 gallon buckets that littered the floor of the employee bathrooms.  He wanted to keep Bruce there so he could smoke, and also to keep him away from any and all management that happened to be there that night.  Bruce passed out on that 5 gallon bucket, only to wake up 20 minutes later.  Determined as all get out, he tried to work again.  He fell again.  Now the management really knew about what was going on with him and was fed up enough with it (and rightfully so), so Bruce got sent out of the building, so he wouldn’t hurt himself or anyone else.

He was instructed not to drive home.  And before long, he was gone.. so was his car.  We all thought that he drove himself home, and everyone immediately got pissed because he drove home drunk.  Not.  Ever.  Cool.  We all found out later though that he had some people pick him up and take his car back to his house.  Bruce was a good guy, so I believe it.

Some hours later (that same night), Bruce’s mom called the restaurant.  She proceeded to yell at Ted, and then again at Larry.  I don’t know, nor can I imagine what was said over the phone, but I know the guys in the BOH passed the phone around and let Bruce’s mom yell at one another for a while.  The phone finally ended up in the hands of the head waiter/host (I’m not really sure what his official title was), but his name was Kyle.  It’s against any restaurants policy to give out information on their workers, so Kyle wouldn’t answer any of Bruce’s mom’s questions.  I can’t imagine how mad she got after that.

After that happened, Larry smoothed everything over with Bruce’s mom.  He at least got her to hang up the phone.  He went back to work along-side Ted, and Ted was so fed up with the whole situation that he fired Bruce.  It was kind of hasty, but it had to be done.

The next morning, the owner’s husband, Houston, calls Bruce and tells him to “get his ass back to work, no matter how bad his hangover was.”

Everyone goes through hard times, sure.  And I think everyone deserves to be forgiven at work once for something really bad like what happened that night.  They forgave Bruce for that night, and he didn’t let it happen again [that anyone knew of, anyway].

A few months later, the owner came back to work after a period of leave.  Bruce showed up one day on his day off to check the schedule while he was wearing an Outback work shirt.  The owner smelled booze on Bruce (which was typical for him).  After he left, she had a meeting with the other managers and anyone who was connected to the situation.  I don’t know what was said but I know that they either called him that same day, or the next morning to fire him for real.  To my understanding, he has never been back to the OS-Lounge since.

It’s weird how peoples’ moods change and the past is brought back around full circle.  In my opinion Bruce should have been terminated the night he got plastered at work.  That’s what he deserved.  And in any other job he would have been.  But since he worked in a restaurant.. C’est la vie.

See you by table 7.

The Jester.

Outback Chronicles: The time a few people got fired. (Then re-hired)

Posted in 2000's, Alcohol Involved, Drugs, Gourmet, Hell, Jeremy Dotson, Local, Modern, Outback Steakhouse on December 22, 2010 by Divide By Zero

At a restaurant, you have to understand.. there’s a core crew.  You’re either in that crew, or you’re not.  I never really knew where I fell in that crew.  I kept my mouth shut for the most part, and I saw how other people fell into the crew.  I could care less, as long as my paycheck was right.  Here’s one story:

Papa, you remember that guy.  He was a server, in the front of the house.  He was a jokester in the back of the house.  He showed up and did his job.  He did it very well.

Twice while I worked there, I found out that Papa was taking advantage of the dark parking lot on the side of the OS-Lounge.  He was taking advantage of it in a way that he wasn’t using it so much for parking, as he was using it for dealing drugs.  Well that’s all well and good right?  He never did it inside the restaurant, and he never did it while he was working, right?

Wrong on both counts.  He was the dealer for most of the restaurant staff, and a lot of the customers, from what I’ve heard.  I heard he served more pills/weed in the dining room of that restaurant while I worked there, than he served food.

He got fired twice, rehired twice, and then fired for the final time after I had stopped working there.  He was part of the crew.

Schmangle.  There’s another guy I haven’t talked about yet.  He was a 16 year old kid who could work the cook line (most of the time) better than anyone else could.  He got fired thrice by 3 different managers.  But always got hired back, because he was the “golden child”.  “He’s too young, he’s not mature” is what the owners/Ted would say.  He always left me out in the dust.  By that I mean he left an hour early which meant I had to stay 2-3 hours late.

It was ridiculous closing his station when no one else would do it.  He was part of the crew.
There’s 4 or 5 others that come to mind that run along the same lines, but I can’t give you the details, because then I would either put myself in danger, or someone else.  I don’t want to get anyone fired, and I apologize for this week’s entry being so short.  I promise I’ll have an awesome one for you this coming Friday.

Just remember that your cooks and waiters may not be who they seem.  Even though that doesn’t make them a good waiter/waitress, it makes them a different kind of person.  Do you want those people serving you your food, or even cooking it?  If it happens in this little place, it happens all over the place.

Keep that in mind the next time you order from a restaurant… exactly how much work goes into your food?

See you ordering off the vegetarian menu,

The Jester.

The Outback Chronicles: Part 2

Posted in Alcohol Involved, Bad employment, Downtown Bristol, Gourmet, Outback Steakhouse, Restaurants with tags , , , on December 5, 2010 by Divide By Zero

Working in the restaurant industry, when you’re not some stupid kid on Summer Break, or saving up for a car or something, you get to watch things unfold that probably wouldn’t happen outside of a restaurant kitchen.  Some things are funny and everyone tells the story for a while and laughs about it.  Other things are terrible, and you spend years drinking and trying to repress the memory.  It depends on the day you show up to work.

Down here in Bristol, we have a NASCAR racetrack.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, or have ever been here to visit it, or even follow NASCAR at all.  I don’t, I did a whole write up about how awkward that whole situation is.  But I digress, there are 2 “race weekends” a year, and our simple, slow-paced little town turns into a touristy, throbbing metropolis.  People travel from all across the nation to be here for the race, it’s crazy.  They spend tons of money to get here, tons of money to stay here, and tons of money on souvenirs, entertainment, and food.  Food being the key word in that sentence.  They go out to eat 3-4 times a day, and when the race is a few hours away, they don’t mind waiting an hour and a half to sit down and have a steak and some beer.

Tensions run high, and I mean that is putting it very, very mildly.  And Larry, one of my best friends to this day through my former job at the OS-Lounge, is a trained chef.  He is a no nonsense kind of guy, and gets the job done by any means necessary.  As I said in my previous post, Larry worked prep, he was on the back line.  When we were slow, Larry had time to relax, have a good time, and show his true colors.  During race weekends, he would help do everything involved with the inner-workings of the kitchen because he knew how to, had the physical ability to, and was willing to, no matter how hard it may have been.  He was the owner’s “Ace-in-the-Hole”.

I forgot to mention this, but it is pertinent to the story.  Before I started in the dish room of the OS-Lounge, there was another dishwasher there.  For all intents and purposes, we’re going to call him “SWard” (short for “Socially Awkward”).  I didn’t like working with him.  I worked with him, and I bit my tongue when he talked, because he was very awkward.  I didn’t want to provoke him talking to me any more than he already did.  I think a lot of people felt the same way, or at least that’s the general consensus I got while on my breaks with other employees.  One thing he did have going for him though is he was one heck of a musician.  From what I heard, he was mostly interested in the drums, and played all the time, and was rather good at them.  Other people told me stories of him playing guitar and keyboard and being at least better than average at anything else he picked up that could play music.  Okay, back to the story…

One crazy race weekend (before I had been hired on), SWard was using a crutch, and had a cast or a sling or something.  Whatever it was, he was too crippled to be working in the dish pit, so the management put him out front as a bus boy.  No one was in the dish area, and all the cooks, prep guys, and servers were pitching in to keep up with the dishes.  If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen, you know that is a slippery slope and can get really backed up, really fast.  That was the case at the OS-Lounge this particular night as well.  So then Larry, being the man he is, jumped back there to help get everything done, so he could get back to his regular job.  When he went around the corner, SWard was in there doing nothing but drumming on shelves and any stainless steel surface he could find.  That is the kind of thing he did all the time, even when he wasn’t crippled.

Larry then told him in a very commanding, very stern voice “You either need to get to work, or get * out of my kitchen!” (*insert whatever colorful language you’d like here).  In all honesty, you learn to take those kind of comments in stride while in a commercial kitchen.  As soon as I walk into the kitchen, I know I am the low man on the totem pole, so when someone tells me “move”, “GTFO”, “coming down”, or anything like that, that’s exactly what I do.  Also though, I never stand around on company time drumming on stuff with spoons.  In this case, SWard didn’t want to move or go back to work or anything.  So while Larry hopped to it and started pushing dishes through the machine, SWard started to get angry and hobbled himself out of the way a little bit, while cursing Larry out under his breath.

Well, another thing you know not to do around a bunch of irate cooks is to piss them off any more than they already are.  This is exactly what SWard did to Larry, and Larry is not the type of guy to mess with like that.  Especially not on race weekends.

This is my artist's rendition of why SWard shouldn't mess with Larry. And why he should have pee-pee'd himself.

When Larry tells me this story, the words he uses is “yolked-up”.  What that means is that Larry backed SWard into a corner and made it so SWard wasn’t getting away from Larry without Larry being able to do something about it.  Arm-bar, Head-lock, whatever it was, whatever you want to call it, that’s what being “yolked-up” means.

While in the corner, Larry pretty forcefully explained to SWard that if he had something to say he’d better * come out and say it.  If he didn’t have anything to say, he’d better shut * up and get * back to work.  Yes, all the asterisks mean there was some colorful language involved, way more colorful than I’d like to post on the internet, but you get the idea.  With that, SWard didn’t have anything to say, so Larry let him down, let him go, and turned to walk away.  He was walking from the dish area towards the fryers, into the cold-side of the cook line.

This will help.

As soon as Larry turned to walk away, SWard decided to start cursing Larry under his breath again.  Since Larry had already yolked-up SWard, warned him, and let him have a moment to respond, Larry didn’t take very kindly to SWard being a little girl about the situation.  Larry wanted you to say something to his face, not behind his back, (literally and figuratively) he didn’t play that game.  So Sward got hit a time or two.  He was already crippled, yes, but it wouldn’t have made a difference even if he was in great shape, and uninjured.

Pandemonium broke loose in the kitchen.  Whatever orders were being made, whatever tickets were in the window, whatever anything anyone was doing, came to a nasty halt.  Papa had to hurry his self over toward Larry, grab him and drag him to the employee bathrooms, where Larry was then locked in.  Rightfully so too.  There may have been people in that kitchen that could match, or beat Larry in speed, no one could match him for power.  So Papa was freaking out because of how volatile of a situation he was in, Ted was screaming and crying because he didn’t want to get near Larry.  SWard was threatening to call the police, and sue Larry, and the restaurant.  Everyone else in the kitchen was laughing their butts off.  I would have been too, had I been there.

Like I said, this happened before I started working there.  I kind of wish I could have seen it because apparently it was a paramount event.  Everyone talked about it later like it was epic.

I remember hearing about it when I was in one of the employee bathrooms with the employees who smoked, while we were all on break.  One of the other people in there, a waiter, said: “Yeah, if I knew we were allowed to hit one person and get away with it, I’d have hit someone like that a while back.”  Which begged me to ask the question.. what happened to Larry after that?  Lose his job?  Cops get called?  Fines & penalties?

A verbal warning.  Nothing else came of that situation.  And that, I believe is the way it should be.  Especially in any high-stress situation, or career-field.  If two people have a disagreement, they should be able to smack each other around a few times, then get back to work.

This was a few years ago, maybe the policies have changed since then.  I don’t know.  I do know, and can tell you that back then, the owner/manager had a bail bondsman on speed dial because of the staff.  That’s right, on more than one occasion the management had to bail out their better cooks/preps to make sure they made it to work.  They also had to invest in a breathalyzer so that people would stop showing up to work plastered.  So maybe a few things have changed.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s going on while things are busy at that place.  Don’t worry, there’s more to come.  Be patient.

The Jester.