Thursday, 22 August 2013

The baconless BLT

When you order a BLT with no bacon, what do you get? The answer, in our restaurant at least, is lettuce and tomato on a toasted turkish roll with aioli, served with chips and salad. Apparently, according to a recent customer, there is some other mythical place where a BLT with no Bacon gets served with a burger paddy instead of the greasy pig meat.

Now, maybe I'm being unreasonable here, and this customer would certainly agree with that sentiment, but if I go a restaurant, read the menu and order something off the menu, minus an ingredient, I don't automatically assume that the chef will then automatically substitute, with no prompting from me, the removed item with something else entirely different.

But this lady kicked up a right royal stinky poo when we took her baconless BLT to her and she realised that all of us had failed to read her mind and replace the bacon with the wagyu beef patty from the wagyu beef burger that was on the menu.

Now here's the thing. The wagyu beef burger is similar to the BLT in that it is served on turkish roll, with lettuce and tomato. It has no aioli but does have caramelised onion and tomato relish, and also comes with chips and salad. Due to the fact that wagyu beef is more expensive for us to buy, the wagyu burger is a few dollars more than the BLT. Makes sense right?

So if this princess had asked us to substitute the wagyu beef for the bacon, we would have charged her for the burger and not the BLT. But she didn't ask, which makes it totally weird that she thought we would automatically make the assumption that that is what she wanted.

Anyway, she asked us to make a beef paddy to go on the baconless BLT, which we said we would do but it would take about 10 minutes and we'd have to charge her a bit more. She agreed (begrudgingly) but then about 4 minutes later, got up huffing and puffing, stormed over to tell us not to worry about it, she couldn't possibly wait any longer, and off she went. She galavanted off home and promptly jumped on to her computer to leave a scathing review about the terrible service and bad attitude of the staff.

Whatever, I mean, as the manager, I should maybe care a little about the fact that she was so unhappy and that we got a bad review as a result. But to be quite honest, I'm just totally confused about the whole thing. I still can't get my head around what she was thinking when she ordered, the way she reacted when she got exactly what she ordered and how she left with the impression she'd been treated badly.

Whoever said "the customer is always right" was clearly a raving idiot. The customer is so very rarely right that a more accurate phrase would be "the customer is often a self absorbed douche bag with an ego problem that will force them to treat you like crap and blame you for their mistakes but your job is to make them happy so despite this fact, you will pander to their ridiculous ego and let them think they are right and maybe you will be rewarded with a tip and maybe not, but at least you will be the bigger person!"

Or something like that.

Baconless BLT lady, you confused the hell out of me!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The problem with tinted windows.

The cafe where I work has two whole walls of windows which are heavily tinted so that from the outside, they are like mirrors. From the inside, however, they are just windows, so while those outside can't see in, we can always see out. As a result of this, multiple times a day I find myself looking at someone checking out their own reflection as they walk past. Sometimes they preen themselves so intently that I can't help but laugh.

One girl a few days ago had spent so long adjusting her hair and clothes in the window, that I was almost tempted to go out there and remind her that everyone inside could see her, but before I had the chance, she decided to start practicing her model pouts and poses and I totally lost my shit.

I was laughing so hard that one of my young colleagues became concerned but by this time, I could no longer speak, so when she asked me what the hell I was laughing at, all I could do in reply was point, grunt and laugh some more. When she saw the girl outside the window strike yet another pose, she too began to laugh and before long, we were both in hysterics, gasping for breath and sitting on the floor because our legs would  no longer support us.

I know what you're thinking, "It can't have been that funny, surely", and you're right, it wasn't. But you've all been in a situation where the laughter just got away from you..... haven't you?

After the girl went away and we were finally able to calm ourselves my colleague admitted that she often finds herself checking out her own reflection in shop windows and then remembers there are usually people on the other side.

I, on the other hand, make a concerted effort to NOT pay any attention at all to my reflection as I go about town and here's why..... In my mind, I'm at least 10 years younger, 2 dress sizes slimmer and infinitely hotter than I actually am. So, on the odd occasion when I catch my own reflection and I'm not prepared for it, all I can think is "who is that slightly ageing, not model gorgeous woman and where did that arse come from?" And then I realise it's me, and frankly, it's just a bit depressing!

Me...In my mind
Me....In real life!

So a lesson for all you folks out there that like to primp and preen whenever you see tinted glass, remember, someone like me is on the other side, laughing at you! :)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

When wait-staff attack!

A new phrase has entered the vernacular at work in recent weeks. It all started one busy Saturday lunch shift a few weeks ago. To indicate "order up" to the wait staff, the chefs ring a bell. Some days when it's busy, that bell drives me crazy. This particular day, one of the chefs had decided that triple ringing the bell would be the most effective way to get the staff to respond instantaneously. Instead, all he was succeeding in doing was sending me around the bend.

After asking him a few times to just ring once, he did the tri-ring again. I stormed from the bar over to the pass. "If you triple ring that bell one more time, I'm going to punch you in the face." I was only 25% joking.
He looked over the pass with a cheeky little grin and replied, "You wouldn't punch me in the face, I'm too cute." I gave him my crazy eyes and said, "The mood I'm in right now, I'd punch a baby in the face!"

Of course, everyone in hearing distance cracked up laughing, and so was born the first edition of this month's "Most over used phrase". It has now evolved to include variations such as "I'm baby punchin' mad", "Don't force me to find a baby to punch" and "lucky for you you're not a baby".

Interestingly, for now at least, it has proven to be an extremely effective way to diffuse almost any amount of stress or tension. As soon as someone brings out one of the baby related retorts, nobody seems to be able to stay cranky.

Nobody made me baby punchin' mad today, so I chalk that up as a great day.

***Disclaimer: I'm almost 100% sure nobody I work with would actually punch a baby in the face, but just in case, it may be safer to only bring yours with you if it's very quietly sleeping so it does not draw attention to itself.***

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Responsibility Bites

Today I had to fire someone. It sucked, even though he deserved it. I'm a nurturer, a problem solver and a compassionate person. It is not in my nature to happily take responsibility for adversely affecting someone's livelihood. However, when I took on a management position, this was one of the unenviable responsibilities that came along with it.

I didn't sleep well last night, knowing I had to pull the rug out from under someone. My morning was filled with anxiety and by the time I turned up to work, on my day off, to have "the meeting" and deliver the bad news, I had worked myself up so much there was a moment when I didn't think I could actually do it.

I anticipated the person concerned would react very badly. He is a volatile character (one of the many reasons behind his dismissal) and I feared he would become aggressively angry in the moment. I was unsure if I would be capable of keeping my cool in the face of his anger. (Much to my annoyance, I have a habit of bursting into tears when I am very angry, or getting a huge rush of adrenalin that makes me shaky and unable to articulate my thoughts).

I've generally found my reaction to extreme anger has not affected my abilities as a manager. I have always believed that I am more effective if I have the respect of the staff and this is more easily achieved with a kind but firm hand than with an aggressive or angry approach. But in the face of someone elses extreme anger, I was not sure how I would react.

As it turned out, all my anxiety was unnecessary in the end anyway. The reaction of the employee concerned was calm and measured. I think he anticipated this outcome. He was mature in his response and listened to the advice I gave him about rectifying the issues that had lead to his dismissal so that he could ensure a different result in his next job. There was no big scene, no walk-out (another scenario I had envisioned as a distinct possibility), no yelling or tears or threats. It was all so much easier than I had expected it to be.

Yet still, although it was necessary and I had to do it for the good of the business and all the other employees, I can't help but recognise that I was just responsible for taking away someone's income. It feels good to resolve an issue that has been disruptive and ongoing, but to know that issue is a person makes it almost entirely unsatisfying.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

I'm NOT running a charity and you are NOT special

Customers come up with all kinds of different ways to attempt to get discounts or freebies in restaurants. One of the more common ones is eating an entire meal, then complaining about it, This one bugs me because most times, we have asked you already, usually early in the meal, if everything is OK, and if you say yes then, to complain at the end is just obnoxious.

Another is to order something, then half way through say it tastes "funny" and ask for something else, thereby getting yourself both a starter and a main for the price of one main. Usually in these instances, it is impossible to get a customer to define what "funny" actually means with regards to the taste of their food. 

My favourite though, are the people who "know the owner" or for whom "the other guy always discounts our meal". To these people I the title of this post. 

A couple of days ago at work, two of these "special" people came in and were ordering coffees from one of the waitresses. When she told them how much they had to pay, one of the ladies insisted that "the guy who is normally here" only charged them $3.70 for their coffees. Now, if you are going to try to scam the young waitress, especially for the sake of 50c a mug of coffee, at least do your homework first. On the occasions when we do discounts, it's either 10% (in which case the mug would cost $3.80), staff price ($2.00) or mug for the price of cup ($3.60) NONE of our discounts would make your coffee $3.70, we don't have a button on the til to charge you $3.70, I am full time and have never seen you before, and no, you are not getting a discount!

The "I know the owner" thing won't work with me either. If you really knew the owner, you would know there is no way he has offered you a 50% discount for your meal. "Knowing the owner" will not get you a seat faster on a busy night, it won't make a menu item you liked off the old menu suddenly available even though we no longer sell it, it won't get you an extra shot of alcohol in your cocktail or a free appetizer or your ipod plugged in to the speaker system. It will get you laughed about in back of house when we are all imitating your pathetic attempt to big note yourself. 

Just remember, you are no more special then any of the other customers I am serving, and this is a business, where making money is our goal. If you want charity, you're in the wrong place. Just pay up buddy.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Generation Gaps.....

I've been working the business way too long! Many little things reinforce this belief on a daily basis, intolerance of customers, disdain for repetitive tasks, waking up at the same time my alarm normally goes off even on my days off. But by far the most telling of all the signs is the generation gap between me (apparently the old timer although I'm only in my mid 30s) and most of the other staff.

There was a time, that seems like only yesterday, when I was partying all night and turning up to work in the morning no worse for wear. When the 45 year old Chinese lady who was working only to save money to have her dog taxidermied when he died, seemed ancient. When I was cool and young.

Certain little episodes in the last few years have served as cruel reminders that those days may sadly be behind me, at least in the eyes of my young co workers. Here are a couple of examples:

Several years ago, I was working in the restaurant at a hotel. The classic Aussie actor, Bryan Brown came in for lunch and coffee. After I had taken his order, I excitedly pointed him out to my somewhat younger co worker. "Who is he?" she asked. "You know, Bryan Brown, He was in the movie 'Cocktail' "
"I've never heard of it" - Ummm WHAT?

Fast forward a couple of years and I'm working in a different restaurant, in a different hotel with similarly young co workers. Somehow we got talking about how time goes really quickly once you finish school and get out into the world. "What year did you finish school?" one of them asked me. I told her "Wow, really? I was born that year!" - Get the fuck away from me!

Fast forward again to yesterday at work. Not only did the girl who turned up in high wasted pants and coke bottle glasses, on her day off, for lunch, not get my Steve Urkel reference, another of the girls, after asking me how old I would be at my upcoming birthday, kindly informed me that her mother was only a few weeks older than me. - Fucking Yay!

While sometimes it's a big, fat slap in the face working with a younger crowd, it does have it's advantages. They may be completely in the dark when it comes to the cultural references of my generation, but they do keep me up to date on the cultural references of theirs. When instances like yesterday happen, and I'm told I'm almost the same age as someone's mother, (and this has happened more than once!), it's usually followed by "but your heaps cooler than her". While this makes me a little smug, I also can't help but think there's every chance their mum is just as cool as me, when the kids aren't around!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A fresh start, some goodbyes and a rainbow

Before I went overseas, I was offered a new job. Negotiations were not going well, so I told the potential new employer my terms, let him know I was going overseas and when I would be back, and told him to call me at the end of March if he hadn't found anyone suitable by then.

Two weeks into my trip, I got an email asking me to call him when I got back, so 3 days after I arrived home, I did just that. This time he seemed willing to come to the party and just a day later, I was hired. So on April 15th, after the requisite 2 weeks notice to my old boss, I started a job managing a new cafe that had been opened for 4 months and had already seen one manager come and go.

I started off slow...It's never a good idea as a new manager to go in like a bull at a gate, but things had been allowed to get pretty lax, what with the old manager having apparently been fairly unmotivated and then leaving altogether. Things needed to be shaken up a bit. So in week 3, I started slowly but firmly, trying to pull things together. So far, it's been mostly just getting things organised, trying to put in place systems that make our lives easier and our days run more smoothly. The stumbling block is proving to be re-motivating some of the staff who have been allowed to become fairly blaze about doing their jobs. It's a work in progress, we'll see how it goes.

I was sad to leave my old job. The people I worked with there were awesome and I had a pretty good gig going. About a week after I left, we had a little party, with a few of my favourite people, and this is what happened..........

For anyone not in the know, the DIY Rainbow movement started as a Facebook page created by one guy after a rainbow crossing that had been painted at Taylor Square in Sydney for mardi gras was removed. He decided that he would draw a chalk rainbow to show his support for equality and urged others to do the same and post their pictures on his page. Within days, the movement took off beyond his wildest expectations and chalked rainbows began to appear not only all over the country, but all over the world! You can find his page here

There was some drinking, some singing some chalking and some late night couple fighting....over all, the best farewell party EVER! Some old fogey came over to the park with his gurney first thing the next morning and washed our rainbow away but we don't mind. We have the fuzzy memories and the photos so we know it really happened!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Cambodia Wrap Up....Bad boys, Babes, Busses and Bum Guns.

Bad Boys
Seavyi, Untac and Lavi were my three "bad boys". Seavyi actually told me, on numerous occasions, what a bad boy he is. He is not, in fact, a bad boy at all, none of them are, but they were all a whole lot of fun.



These wonderful young men amused me, made me laugh, impressed me with their drive and kept me supplied with hugs, coffee and fun. I miss them all and can't wait to see them again.

Nat, Dani, Tara and Kate as well as Daisy and Erin, were all delightful. Nat was the first babe I met, the day I arrived in Battambang, and I loved her instantly. It's hard not to. She is so happy and bubbly and warm. Dani had lunch with me that first day, and again, it was instant love. She too has that indefinable quality that just draws you to her. Tara is an absolute dynamo. Full of ideas, constantly on the move even when she's sitting still, but so embracing. I can't wait to get a chance to spend more time delving into her amazing brain....and Kate....Kate was away meeting her gorgeous boyfriend, Lars in PP the first week I was there. I wish I had been able to spend more time with them because from the moment they came back to the Bong, Kate and Lars both became an important part of my experience. 

(Sorry Lars, you should probably be in with the bad boys but somehow you ended up with the babes instead...I'm sure you'll cope, they're a pretty awesome bunch of ladies). I FUCKING LOVE THESE BABES!

There is nothing like Cambodian busses! Take a bus timetable with a grain of salt. Not only will they leave when they feel like it, they will also take as long as they take to get to their destination, and will quite possibly break on the way there. But fear not, as long as they can be gaffer taped back together, they will push on. I love a good "Cambodia fix" as much as the next person. You just have to try not to think too hard about the possible consequences of a quick fix... on a bus... on a Cambodian "highway". Suffice to say, I caught 3 such busses during my trip, the first took about 3 hours longer than advertised, the second left 45 minutes late but got us to our destination on time (??!?) and the third did break, but they taped it back together and we made it safely.

Bum Guns
What can be said about bum guns? Anyone who has been to S.E. Asia knows what I'm talking about. They are everywhere. Toilet paper is really only a concession to tourists. They don't understand it but they know we want it. A bum gun is a quite sensible alternative. But be prepared, they pack a punch. You'll often hear it said that it's difficult to find a shower in Cambodia that has decent water pressure, but rest assured, the bum gun will have enough pressure to put out a large fire, and can be quite the "hello" when it hit's your backside!
I didn't get any photos of the bum guns I met on my travels, so I borrowed these from google images.

If there's one thing I don't miss about Cambodia, it's these. But I do miss the Babes and the Bad Boys, and the food, and the kids and the whole freaking place. I plan to return towards the end of the year, and it can't come soon enough. Thanks to those that made my stay so awesome. Love all your guts. See you soon! :)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Phnom Penh, Cambodia and the end of my trip.

The night before I left Battambang Kate and Dani hosted the pot luck dinner as a farewell to me and mum, who was leaving with me for a month in Oz. The dinner was relaxed and yummy and it was a great way to spend my last night in the Bong.

The next morning, ma and I went to Kinyei for one last delicious coffee and to say farewell to Tara before we jumped on the bus to PP.


Arriving in PP we checked into the hotel and went off in search of coffee and dinner. Then it was back to the hotel where we sat on the balcony watching the riverside come to life as the heat of the day gave way to a slightly cooler evening.

The following day it was off to Black Star Tattoo for a bit of Cambo/Korean ink. Charlie, the Korean tattooist met with me to discuss the design then sent us on our way while he brought my idea to life promising to call when he was done.

We wiled away the hours wandering the streets off PP, stopping for cool drinks and coffees at every opportunity, then went back to the cool relief of our air conditioned hotel room once the heat got too much. Around 5pm, I got a text from Charlie to let me know he would be ready to ink at 7pm.

Back to Black Star to check out the design and make a couple of small changes, then it was time for Charlie to get inking.
Step 1: The stencil
Step 2: Charlie doing his thing

Step 3: It's done!
The next day was my last full day in PP, so we rang our tuk tuk driver, Ty to pick us up and take us to the markets to shop for our last minute gifts. The markets were, as usual, busy, chaotic, and HOT! After a couple of hours sweating it out, we found our way to the food section where we sat down for a refreshing iced Khmae coffee, then went in search of Ty who was waiting exactly where we left just took us a while to work out where that was!

Beautiful wood carvings
That night Ty tool us to the other side of the river, where not many tourists go, and took us to a fantastic restaurant. The three of us sat overlooking the river and ate all the delicious food we could eat with constant flowing Angkor beer for the grand total bill of $15!

The restaurant
The view
Ty and Me

Off to "Diamond Island" after dinner and what an incongruous development that is! Diamond Island was developed with Japanese investment funds at great cost to the local community. Over 300 families were forced from their farmland, many of them getting a mere $2 per square metre of land in compensation. They were then relocated a long way from the island which had sustained their families and left to start again. A few families who had not accepted the government's initial settlement price were eventually assisted by USAID to get better deals for their land but were still forced to move away so the development could go ahead. And this is what was built.....

My last Cambodian morning, I sat on the balcony watching the city come to life. It was a relaxing day as I waited for Ty to pick me up and take me to the airport. 


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang is my favourite discovery in Cambodia so far. It is the second largest city in Cambodia based on population, but has a small town feel, without the excessive traffic, persistent begging, noise and bustle of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Most tourists pass through Battambang on their way to or from the Thai border crossing at Aranyaprathet/Poipet and as a result, often only spend a night there. As a result, it has not become a massive tourist destination and has been able to retain it's character. But there is a lot of history in Battambang and so many things to see and do.

First and foremost, it has become home to one of the most important people in my life, my mum. Not a big drawcard for other travellers, but definitely my number one reason for going there! Aside from my mum, there are a slew of awesome people, both expats who are colleagues of Mother Dear, and locals who have become her surrogate family. I fell in love with every single one of them and can't wait to get back and visit them all again. And it is comforting to know they are all there looking out for my ma when we cannot.

Apart from these great people, the Bong (as the cool people call it), has so much to offer in terms of history and culture. The Battambang region was one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge and is home to some gruesome monuments to that time. However, the attractions are not limited to those relating to that era.

There are many Pagodas and temples in the surrounding areas as well as the most well known attraction, the bamboo railway. And outside the main town centre, the area opens up into vast rice paddies giving rise to it's reputation as the biggest area of rice production in the country.

I got to really experience Cambodian life in the Bong. I was fortunate to be invited to a Khmer wedding, a community event that lasts 3 days, is set up in the middle of the street and plays music through massive loudspeakers so the joy can be shared for miles around! (Well, maybe not miles, but certainly anyone in the near vicinity gets blasted with wedding music from 6am to 10pm daily for the duration of the celebrations!)

The wedding was a blast. Food and drinks flowed freely, all the ladies were dressed to the nines and the atmosphere was particularly celebratory (some people got carried away with the free flow of beer and later passed out in a chair at our favourite coffee shop, Kinyei, but I won't mention any names....*cough*...*mum*....*cough*)

I was also dragged kicking and screaming (not really), to Sky Bar not once, but twice! I think we were a bit of a novelty given we were the only non locals there!

The amazing Tara introduced us to her favourite place, affectionately known as "Wonderland". 

 And I got to do "ice cream day" with the kids.

Phnom Sampov (the bat cave), was a definite highlight. Millions of bats fly out of this cave every day at sunset and form endless streams in the sky as they go out in search of food.

As was the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus, where kids are trained in acrobatics, art, music and performance.

Too soon, it was time to leave and the lovely Dani and Kate put on a "pot luck" dinner at their humble abode. It was a great way to end my visit, good food and amazing friends.

Battambang is a fascinating place filled with amazing people. A relatively undiscovered corner of Cambodia that begs further exploration. I loved every second of my time there.