Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The System's Down, Part 3 of 3

"What did you do?" My voice drilled into the phone, "don't you know it's Rush Hour Saturday Night!!?"
"Calm down, you have a corrupt file server, I'm resetting things, you should be back up in five minutes." The faceless voice of Glen oozed through the phone line at me.
"Should I put you on hold?" I asked hopefully.
"No, I call you back. I have to escalate the problem," he replied evenly.
I looked at the clock, it was 8:05. "Five minutes?" I repeated, but he was gone and now Donny's voice came panicking through the headset;
"They're running out of checks!!"
The big plastic box marked 'Crash Kit' was open on the desk in front of me, there were maybe a hundred paper checks still inside, the thing was meant to accommodate a small bump in the road, a brief power surge, not a long term system failure. I scooped up the checks and returned to the kitchen where I detailed one of the hostesses to pass them out then I went back behind the line to orchestrate the chaos of hand written orders being pushed at the cooks over the expo line. A half hour went by and every time the phone rang I looked up hopefully, but there was no call and we kept pushing food into the window. Through the window I could see waiters hurrying out with plates and back with re-fires, bearing tales of enraged customers and begging for table visits that neither Donny nor I could make. Another hour went by and IT didn't call and the orders kept coming, by the to-go station I could see servers bent over calculators and scraps of paper, toiling like accounting clerks in the stone age while behind the line I was sweating and squinting at sloppy orders trying to sell complete tables from the disparate scraps of paper (For we'd now run out of 3 part checks and orders were coming in any old how) to Donny on the other side who was having a real struggle now, getting overwhelmed servers to run food. 
I caught up a bit and glanced at the clock; 9:30.
The host called through the head set, "Tables 21, 34 and 83 all want to speak to a manager!"
I broke away and headed out to the dinning room, table 34 was the closest; a 4 top with a fat, middle aged couple and two kids. The fat middle aged man was in surgical scrubs and even from a distance I could tell he was pissed off.
As I approached the table he was shaking his head as if in disgust, "You're the manager?" He demanded, looking me up and down as if I were some kind of gross object.
"Right," I said, thrusting out my hand for him to shake and introducing myself.
He Ignored my outstretched hand keeping his own folded across his chest, "No wonder," he said, still staring at me through hairy eyeballs.
"No wonder, what?" I asked.
"No wonder this place is being run like crap, look at you!"
I looked down and I must admit I've looked better, there were grease stains covering my button down and my black Chinos were speckled with flour, my usually spit shined shoes inundated with food particles. I dug down deep and somehow managed to conjure up a lame smile, "Sorry," I said, "you see we've been having a a bit of a tough night. Can you tell me what happened here, maybe I can try and make it better for you....."
He let out a little frustrated laugh and stood up, dropping his napkin onto the table, his family following suit, and started to walk away, then he half turned back to me, "You're honestly that incompetent," he said, "that you don't even know what happened!?"
I shrugged my shoulders as my headset crackled back to life, "J.R., J.R.," it was the voice of my assistant Donny, "I really need you on the line, I can't get anything out of these guys....."
I pressed in the button, about to respond when the to-go girl cut in, "J.R., I've got a guest complaint on line one."
"Be right there, Ashley, then I'll be on the line, Donny."
"Forty open, fifteen parties on the wait....." came the voice of the hostess.
I looked over and noticed table 83 was already empty so I didn't go there, but 21 was waiting for me and this time when I stopped table side the guy actually shook my hand.
"I don't like to complain," he said, then he looked at his date, "I never complain, do I?"
"No," she said, "he never complains, "But our food took like forty five minutes to get to the table and when it came it was supposed to be a seafood platter with  the shrimp fried, not grilled, no sauce on the crab cake, three clams instead of three oysters with all sauces and lemons on a separate plate, and look what I got!"
I looked down, he had a seafood platter, the way we make it. I sighed, it's always the special orders that get fucked up, its just got too many moving parts when there are that many modifications, somethings bound to go wrong. I sighed, "I'm sorry," I said, "We're having a tough night. Can I have it re-done for you?"
"And wait another 45 minutes?" he said, "No way. I'll just salvage what I can from the wreckage."
I nodded, "I'll take it off the bill. Sorry we disappointed you."
I picked up the phone in expo while everything burned around me and listened to a woman who was enraged that her chicken wings which she wanted to be all flats tossed in BBQ sauce instead of mixed in Buffalo sauce still had one wing in the bunch. I took her address and promised to send a gift certificate. Then, since I was at the phone anyway, I dialed the number for IT and after a few voice mail messages and pressing innumerable buttons I finally got someone on the line. A woman with  a fine southern drawl.
"Glen, no Glen's not available right now, he's on break."
I gripped the black, plastic receiver so hard in my hand that my knuckles turned white, "What?" I croaked. I gave her my case # and asked if I could speak to anyone else.
"No," she said, "It's just Glen here right now, but he should be back in a half hour or so."
I hung up the phone and jumped back on the line. It took forty-five minutes to clear the window and by the time it was through we were off the wait and there were only about four or five menus open. I decided to close the doors about ten minutes early and just as I finished that task one of the servers came to me and said Glen from IT was on the phone.
"You should be coming back up now," he said.
"What about the money?" I asked.
"You're going to have to reconcile it by hand and then enter it all into the system one check at a time." He said.
I looked at the clock and it was almost mid-night. It would be five or six AM before we would be done and I had to open in the morning at seven.................Some days are like that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I make a bad decision? Part 2 of the system's down.

"J.R., J.R.," Samantha, one of the more sensible servers, says, tapping me on the shoulder as I push through the crowd at the waiter's station en route to the gauntlet of complaints in the dining room.
"Not now," I mutter, stressed to the max; the sacrificial lamb on his way to be slaughtered in atonement for the sins of chaotic circumstance. Samantha, however isn't having that and pulls me back by the shoulder.
"You don't have the option of ignoring me, J.R.," she says, "The system's down, you have to deal with it."
I stop in my tracks, look over at the terminal where the waiters are gathered. It's terminal # 1, The Master Terminal, the main computer. All the other POS terminals are what are referred to in restaurant networks as slaves.
Anyway, I do a quick calculation and hand Samantha my keys, "Go to the office and pull down the box marked 'Crash Kit', set up the manual credit card machine in to-go with a calculator and the price lists you find in the box. In the box you'll also find manual checks, they're split into packs of twenty-five and each pack has a cover sheet with the check numbers and a place to jot down the name of the server who's receiving them; tell Cindy, the hostess that I want her to pass them out and give me back the cover sheets." Samantha, who like I said, is quick on her feet, nods her understanding and sprints off toward the office.
I turn to the master terminal and there's a message flashing, a virtual button that asks the question; Make File Serve? I consider it then go to the back office to call IT. On the way I stop by the fry station and pull my assistant off, I call for the bus boy, he's been training on the station and even though he's only had two shifts on fry and the tables in the dining room won't turn as fast (which is probably a good thing) I give him a pair of plastic glove, a cook's hat and a field commission.
"Donny," I tell my assistant, "we've deployed the crash kit, I'm going in the office to call IT, Take over expo so you can run the line with paper and mouth and brief the staff."
Donny looks pale, pale and a little greasy, but he nods his head gamely and I continue to the office, muttering a few Hail Mary's under my breath. As I pass the salad station I notice a man with an angry red face staring balefully at my stressed out expo, I turn towards him because you can't have angry guests invading the kitchen, there's a terrified waitress standing behind him, "I TOLD HER WELL DONE AND THIS IS RAW!!!!" He roars just as I approach. I take a hot minute to glance at the meat in the guy's hand, it's mid-well and really not the live or die issue this asshole is making it out to be.
"Sir," I tell him, "If you'll just return to your table we'll cook up your meat and bring it out to you."
He turns to me, smoke gushing from his ears, "AND WHO ARE YOU!!?" He demands.
"I'm the manager," I reply in a calm voice.
"What's your name?" He asks, this time in a lower, tenser voice.
"J.R." I reply.
"Well J.R., I'm going to need the number for your corporate office, every time I come here-"
I cut him off, "That's fine sir and certainly your prerogative. In the meantime I'm going to have to ask you to leave the kitchen. We'll bring the steak out to you when it's ready."
"I need that number, that number and your last name too."
Normally I'd kiss the guy's ass for him or whatever it was he needed, but I just didn't have time. "Fine, I'll send it all out to your table now you have to leave the kitchen before I HAVE YOU ESCORTED OUT!" I lost it and raised my voice.
The guy must have realized he'd pushed too far because without another word he turned and walked out. Then I realized that the entire kitchen had come to a stand still, "Everybody back to work!" I shouted, the scene around me returned to bedlam and I entered the office. After ten rings and two automated menus I got a recorded message at the 24 hour IT help desk. I left a message out lining my problems and slammed down the receiver. And that's when I noticed the message flashing on the screen of the back office computer, it said 'fileserver corrupt.'
My head set crackles in my ear and Cindy the host reports in; "We've got 45 open menus and eighteen party's on the wait."
I make a decision and shut down the back office computer, then I rush back through the kitchen where Donny is calling out tickets; "Walking in two sirloin mid rare, one chicken pasta......" I feel guilty but I keep going and don't stop till I get to the Master Terminal, the same message is flashing; "Make File server?" I touch the icon and four numbers appear, one on each corner of the screen and now the message is changed, now it says; "Enter Code." And there's a number pad on the screen. I think hard for a minute and then enter the four numbers from the screen and get back an error message. I bite my lip and think again, this time I add the four numbers together and enter the product. The screen flashes away and enters DOS, my pulse quickens as I watch the strings of code roll by. Still thinking I slap a sign onto the computer screen that says "DO NOT TOUCH." Then I rush around the restaurant turning off all the other terminals. When I get back to the master there's a message flashing directing me to restart the terminal, so I re-boot and after about a minute the terminal comes back up and it's operational and ready to use only now, instead of saying Master across the bottom it now says; FILESEVER. I shout out to the near by waiters that we have one terminal up and then I go around and one by one, re-boot the remaining terminals.
I head back into expo where tickets are rolling in again and I start working with Donny to clean out all the manual orders. It's hard as hell, and it takes more than a half hour, but we get it all out and I head into the dining room and begin apologising and explaining to the guests, most of who are now eating and actually pretty cool and understanding. Then Ashley, the to-go girl calls me on the head set to tell me I have a call from IT on line one.
The IT guy's name is Glen and he tells me he's been trying to dial in and can't seem to get through. I explain what happened and everything I did and he's pissed; tells me to go into the office and turn on the computer so he can get in and see what's going on. I got no choice so I do it. I'm still on the phone being lectured by the guy who is now in control of the mouse on my back office computer which he is moving furiously around in DOS when I get a shut out from Donny over the head set; "J.R., the system's down again!!!"