I'm shadowing Chris Carr, a 26-year-old guy who's made waiting tables his career. He looks just like Will Smith from his Fresh Prince days. Tall and thin, he's 90 percent swagger and 10 percent little boy. Chris shows me how to dip each preset wineglass in hot water until steam engulfs it, then wipe it down so there are no smudges from the dishwasher. All silverware has to be exactly a thumb's length apart.

At 5:30 p.m., the staff gathers for a family meal. It's lasagna — oily, cheesy, and hot, the kind of meal waiters like and hostesses skip. The chef goes over some specials, then notes this is likely the last week of king crab season. But there's still a monster left in the cooler if someone wants to impress a date. One intact crustacean was sold earlier in the week for more than $200.

At 6 p.m., the doors open, but Chris tells me things won't pick up until at least 7:30. He has been with Red since it opened about three years ago. Originally from New Jersey, he moved to Davie to attend Nova Southeastern University. He took a job at a restaurant to make some pocket money, and when he heard Red was hiring, he moved to Miami. He's made the place his career, even quitting school against his parents' wishes.

Chris explains the tip-out situation. This is a high-volume, expensive place where a New York strip steak can go for $48. A lot of players dip into the tip pool: 5 percent goes to the bar, 3 percent to the bussers, and 1.5 percent to runners, who help serve the food to patrons. "It doesn't matter," he says. " One big tipper can make the night."

Rosie O'Donnell, for instance. A frequent diner, she comes in early with her family and tips generously — sometimes the equivalent of the check. Since dinner for her party can range upward of $500, one visit from O'Donnell or another A-lister pays the rent for the month.

At 7 p.m., the room is still virtually empty. There is one couple dining, not in Chris' section. The music is soft, and a bottle of Louis Trey cognac sits alone on a cart, lit candles surrounding it like a shrine.

Four men aged 20 to 50 in crumpled suits, looking like they've come straight from a business meeting, are seated at 7 p.m. Chris takes their cocktail orders, then tells me of the Red waiter's recipe: Take drink orders and water preferences. Six minutes later, describe specials (make sure you've memorized them). Chris talks up the meat: "The steaks are certified Angus prime. Every one is served at the perfect temperature."

They all order the steaks; then, as they eat, an older couple is seated. They're in from New York. The man is a president at Chase Manhattan Bank. He tells Chris their concierge recommended Red. As the waiter takes drink orders, another couple is seated.

Chris tells me the second couple is on a first date. They're sitting side by side on the long banquette. "I suggested they sit that way," Chris tells me. "I saw them pull up in a McLaren AMG. They're going to tip big. I can feel it."

For Chris, this is a game of Monopoly in which the player with the biggest bank at the end of the night wins.

At 8 p.m., a four-top of IBM staffers comes in. There's a clear leader in the group who orders starters for everyone. Two $200 bottles of wine are requested, along with drinks. One man wants a piece of fish, and the leader at the table disapproves. Seafood is a sign of weakness in whatever test this dinner has become.

Chris moves like Gregory Hines, practically tap-dancing from table to table. In fact, his spiel is a form of a dance. Women are beautiful and are meant to be flattered. Men should be upsold with pitches like, "The sommelier just purchased this vintage today, and I'll give it to you for just $125. I suggest lobster mac and cheese."

I initially think that this might be a bit much, but I'm wrong. His gentle but insistent pushing of crab, straight from the Bering Sea to your table in Miami Beach, his insistence that the extra $50 for lobster in the macaroni and cheese is well worth it, are not wasted on this table. He's offered a job at IBM. Chris is excited. I'm certain that the offer, like the side dish, will be forgotten tomorrow.

Chris glides from table to table, bidding farewell to the couple from New York and taking a dessert order from the IBM group. This room is his. The bank president and his wife, who did not drink, leave $22 for a $127 check. That's 17 percent, and the check is on the low side. He tells me he'll make it up between the McLaren and IBM tables.

The McLaren date couple leaves. The check is $385, and the tip is $50. That's less than 13 percent. Chris is disappointed. So far, the night isn't going his way. But it's still early.

The IBM'ers leave $100 on a $500 check. That's good news. The bad news is that another two-top, a restaurant owner from Italy and his wife in Miami on vacation, leaves $5 on a $162 check.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
8 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
ted anthony inserra
ted anthony inserra

WHAT a great article, thanks Laine for that inside look in the rerstaurant business.  It is a well written article from the server point of view, very interesting!!

danton
danton

So I'm on a Mary higgins Clark book, and just returned a M.c Beaton one.This one is called Santa Cruise.The other one I just returned was called farewell to christmas.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use freshmozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economycheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. ℃⊙M--a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other.

danton
danton

I was just thinking of JWOWW and AMY FISHER....at least AMY has a porno.

R. D. M.
R. D. M.

no one over 25 should be a waiter, get a real job and add something to the world.  

and as far as tipping, if your lifestyle hinges on whether I give you $5 or $10, you need another job

danton
danton

so, last tuesday I moved a moving truck for 40 dollars, on thursday I did windows for 20, and yesterday I did trash removal and swept a gas station lot and removed cobwebs for a pack of ciggarettes and 5 dollars and 1 24 oz. natural light.Is that awesome?

former waiter
former waiter

I don't tip at burger king, mcdonalds, or pretty much anywhere its self serve.  and food trucks are self serve.  there is no 'service'  you order food, and you pick it up.

-I don't tip for pickup at pizza hut either.

Why would anyone working on a food truck expect tips?  Do you tip at Macy's?   

FQS9000
FQS9000

Nice article, but it isn't a big surprise that working hard and knowing your job pays off.  It is also no surprise that some jobs pay better than others.  BTW, I never tip at fast food joints and TIPS stands for 'To ensure Prompt Service'.  Tipping fast food guys apparently gets you nothing unless you have big honkers.

 
Loading...