Birth of a Restaurant Industry Employee Advocate Part I

I always wanted to be a comedian, so in the spring of 1998 I started down that path by performing at the Punchline in Atlanta for the first time. I played at a lot of comedy clubs throughout the Southeastern United States for a few years before taking a nine year hiatus. They say ‘Life is easy—Comedy is hard’ and they are very right. I had many reasons for taking that long of a break but mostly they all boiled down to my not feeling like I had a perspective and a voice that was unique enough to get any traction in the business. That and I guess I just wanted to party for almost a decade.

So that’s what I did.

I partied.

I partied a lot.

And I worked at a lot of different restaurants. I would go off and get other kinds of jobs for a while but there was always something that would draw me back into the business Michael Corleone style. It was an easy way to turn my sense of humor and personality traits (flaws?) into cash, so for a very long time I was content to do just that. I didn’t perform, I didn’t write, I didn’t play music and I didn’t do anything creative. When my life gets turned into a movie this is the period that will be covered by a dark, smoke-clogged montage peppered with maniacal laughing and an occasional titty or two.

Then while I was working at my ‘dream’ job as a stand up bartender at the local Olive Garden I started playing around with some new toys and ideas and then I started writing some songs again. They were nothing serious. I was just playing around with the OG’s birthday song at first.

Almost all corporate chain restaurants require their poor FOH employees to sing the chain’s version of the birthday song to customers who are celebrating their birthday. One of the problems with this is that customers would abuse the policy by insisting that the staff sing to them on the day of their birthday, the day after their birthday, the week before, the month after–pretty much any period of time up to weeks or even months surrounding their birthday. It is often viewed as a degrading and humiliating job duty by the employees. (Okay ‘often’ is a bit soft of a word to describe it–resties hate singing the birthday song) Most normal people don’t like singing to strangers under any circumstances to begin with, and knowing deep down that it wasn’t even these fools’ birthday anyway just added the brown sauce to the shit sandwich we had to eat by whoring out our pride by belting out the fridiculous lyrics the corporate hacks handed us.

Birthdays are contagious at restaurants-one would set off a chain of others. A table would come in to legitimately celebrate grandma Jenkins’ 75th birthday and all the members of the FOH staff that could be rounded up at the time sang and clapped like singing and clapping monkeys. The table next to Jenkins Party Of Five would see this and tell their server ‘Hey it’s his birthday too. You gotta sang to ‘em!’ Thus would begin the birthday epidemic that would occur all Friday night and all Saturday night, every Friday night and Saturday night. I remember one time singing to three different tables at the same time due to Multiple Contagious Birthday Syndrome. In my experience only about 10%-15% of restaurant birthday celebrations happen on the guest of honor’s actual birthday.


To Be Continued . . .

1 Comment

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One response to “Birth of a Restaurant Industry Employee Advocate Part I

  1. We give out a free piece of pie and sometimes sing. One night an entire table of 8 people were celebrating their birthday…uh…not so much. Their birthdays ranged from a month ago to a month from now. Not a single person was actually born on the day of their “celebration”. We refused to give them free pie and they left pissed off. Entitled assholes.

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