Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot On The Trial. I Mean Trail. I Mean...

Last night I trailed at that popular East Village eatery I wrote about last week. Trailing is a restaurant industry mainstay. A trail is shadowing a server, and being as helpful as you can without really talking to guests or getting in the way.

I arrived at the restaurant, introduced myself to the manager and she promptly told me there would be another would-be server trailing. That made me anxious. The thing is, by its very nature, to be trailing is to be in the way on the floor and to be annoying to the server you're shadowing by asking questions and slowing them down. To have two extra bodies who are basically not capable of contributing meaningfully to service sounded horrible. But I figured having someone around who also didn't know what was going on would be a net positive, since I wouldn't be the only one looking like a deer in the headlights.

The East Village restaurant (EVR for short) did a solid dinner service, but nothing compared to the restaurant I work at. That's ok with me- cocktail serving isn't the same thing as dining service, so it's good to get my sea legs at a place where the pace is reasonable but I'll still make money. The server I trained with was damn good at his job- never once did he look stressed out, he was elegant and efficient with his movements on the floor, and he had a nice way with the customers. I helped with bussing tables, filling water glasses, topping off wine glasses, running food and cocktails.

The spirit among the front of house staff wasn't as lively or camaraderie-driven as the restaurant I work at. I missed the sense of being in the trenches with friends instead of fellow waitrons. Still, the customers were kind, the food at EVR is delicious, and I would fit in nicely there. I felt like working there a couple nights a week would be a positive addition to my finances and my work life.

As the server I was trailing approached the end of his shift he told me I was done and to find the manager. She told me I'd hear from them on Thursday, and if we were going forward they would set up the training then. She told me that the EVR was trailing three candidates for one spot. My enthusiasm for the restaurant fell. When I asked her if there was anything I could do in the meanwhile to secure this job she said to study the menu. "Just in case I get it," I said smiling.

Seeking counsel from the restaurant savvy Daphne Dusquesne at Gastronomista, I told her I felt like my time and free labor had been wasted. "Most restaurants trail more than one person," she told me, "they just don't tell you about it."


  1. Good luck! You describe trailing so well...I will have to be on the lookout for "trailers" at other restaurants EV and elsewhere...and the beagles above are sooo cute-even if they are all business!

  2. Well, it's now technically Saturday and still no word. I'm going to get in touch with them on Monday. Being pushy got me the interview, so maybe it will land me the job?