Ruth's Diary


After my first week of work, I'm going to talk about it. And just to make it easier on myself, I'll write this entry in sections.

Work: There are good shifts, bad shifts, busy shifts, quiet shifts, boring shifts (which tend to be quiet), shifts when you have to be alert because delegates have come to eat but have to be quick so you always need to remove the plates of their last course and refill their water. On Monday everyone got £3.60 in tips, while on Thursday there were none. (The restaurant does a collective tip system: all the tips are collected and then divided out to each worker.) On Thursday 130 people took up all the tables in the gallery and had to eat within an hour. I couldn't figure out what kind of event needed to do that, but then I saw one of them holding a teacher's planner, so then I realised it was some kind of teacher's conference/workshop. Then I saw Martin Walden (I still think of him as Mr Walden), one of the heads of Sixth Form and my RE teacher throughout all of Key Stage 3. We exchanged brief words and I think he was happy to see me. There were no tips/and there is less incentive to give them because events like these have their lunches prepaid.

Mustapha-my boss-told me he will keep me on early shifts (breakfast and lunch) because he thinks I am more suited for them. I would like to do at least one late shift but the chances of that happening won't increase until August I think. I've heard evenings are busier (more tips^^). There are 2 main tasks in this particular restaurant: traditional waiting and the buffet: for a fixed price the customers can have as many cold starters as they want, as much soup as they want, as much hot food (main course) as they want, as well as desserts. I'm put on the buffet, even though I hoped to 'wait' Mustapha thought I was more suitable for the buffet and thinking about it, I am quite confident there. I can imagine getting nervous when asking a customer for their orders.

Generally, being a waitress is about learning and remembering lots of little things: fancy napkin folding, where to put salt and pepper, where to find clean crockery and a lot of other things. Greg tried to teach me how to stack several plates on one arm, but I couldn't do it. I did learn one thing from him though: how to stop knives from falling off the plates. Many occurrences of this have made me look and feel clumsy, but no one ever reacts. It seems to be normal. Also, being in a hotel means you have to do a few things extra, like floor check: you take a tray trolley and gather all the room service trays. Some people are good eaters: they eat everything and leave little mess, others order a lot of food and eat half of it. Some strange things are also left on trays: soap, shampoo, biscuits, cigarette boxes, coat hangers...what on Earth are they thinking? Also, there's always something to do: even when everything is clean and the tables are laid you can always polish wine glasses, prepare bread and butter or get extra cutlery, just in case. That's another thing I had to do: learn the cutlery, but they didn't put all the cutlery on the table and make you learn it, I just learned through routine.

I'm also delighted at the hotel's efforts to reduce its rubbish. Unused starters and desserts are put in fridges, when there are too few pieces of cake or tart to go on the trolley, they're put in the fridge in the staff canteen, the bin has a magnet to attract all the lids on those little pots of jam and marmelade and ruined towels and table cloths are torn into rags, which we use to dry and polish cutlery.

(Staff) food: served in the staff canteen and mercifully we can eat before the customers, except at breakfast. But despite eating before being on your feet all day makes you hungry. Rice and potatoes are the same kinds served to the customers and the meat or fish is cooked by Patrick (Canteen Supervisor and Washer), so it's not as good as that prepared by the chefs but they're still yummy. We also have vending machines to use at will but I personally use the drinking water tap; costs nothing and I've been a bit more healthy this week. There's also salad for anyone who wants it.

Staff: the staff at the hotel is very multi-cultural; including myself I've only counted 3 native English people in the restaurant. I think Mustapha's Egyptian, there are a couple of Indians/Pakistanis throughout the hotel, some German waitresses, lots of Polish scattered throughout the staff (hm, Polish mechanics, waitresses and Homebase's proposal to hire Polish DIY doers: they're becoming England's new favourite migrants), Charlie (one of the waiters) is half Thai and one of the chefs is least I think he's Chinese, he could be Malaysian. All the Kitchen cleaners/washers-including Patrick-are African and some of their accents are so thick, I can't help but wonder if they came to England as refugees or something. All the people are nice but boy don't they love to joke. On Thursday I fell victim to an Indian Porter's prank (I'm going to call him Khan 'cos that's his last name): he offered 2 round dark brown 'cakes'. Enas (another waitress) didn't fall for it but I took a bite to find coffee powder in my mouth-no cake.

Uniform: they gave me a clip-on tie, my name badge, a mauve waistcoat and four white aprons (they also offered everyone a shirt but I already had 3). They should really give you 2 waistcoats because with the apron, they are the most easily stained and also the hardest to clean (it says "dry clean only" but you can't dry clean at home so Enas told me that they can be handwashed-and I did so successfully). They also seem to have 2 pockets but they're closed up-on mine anyway. My shirts also all have pockets and so do the hotel's. Shirt pockets are useful for storing your locker key and tips (if given them). Just in case you're wondering: the aprons can be put in a washing machine, but not with much else because they have to be washed at a high temperature. So my uniform is this: white long-sleeved shirt and tie, with black skirt, tights and shoes. Over that I put on my very long white apron, then the waistcoat with my badge on it. I then have the appearance of wearing a waistcoat over an ankle length white skirt because it's not 'til you look behind me it's obvious it's an apron.

In general, I'm taking my job very seriously but I'm also enjoying it.

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