By Len Panaggio
You probably know this about me by now, but I always prefer sitting at a bar, whether for a drink or a meal. It’s where I often draw inspiration for these articles. Sometimes, the inspiration takes a negative tilt. Let’s jump in.
Watching staff on their cellphones really bothers me. In today’s labor-shortage environment, telling an employee they can’t be on their phone while working is tantamount to asking them to find a new job (and there is a good chance they might just do that). It is usually floor staff committing this “crime” (i.e., servers who think ducking into a service station is a “safe space” to text, email or scroll social media). And it really bothers me to witness this behavior. Granted, when it is extremely busy, they shouldn’t have time for the phone, but when it is slow, the behavior amplifies. I’ve always said that the devil finds work for idle hands and this is a classic scenario.
I’ve also been witnessing the behind-the-bar consumption of edibles packed with THC. It’s not like the old days when staff would arrive bloodshot and, at times, reeking of pot or when they would sneak liquor in their coffee mugs. Edibles are a dream come true for staff but a potential nightmare for management and owners. Guests deserve to have their bartenders and servers 100% present, both physically and mentally. Some of these products are strong and I urge you all to be on the lookout for them. They are a serious risk, not only to the users but to your business. At the very least, impaired staff may offend your guests but could easily become a workers’ comp situation.
I have written before about my next irritation, but I continue to see it: that is staff sticking their fingers into glassware to, basically, save time. It is not sanitary and to do it at the bar or surrounding tables is just plain gross! I am well aware that carrying glassware is a difficult thing to do, but it can be done. Use a cocktail tray and load it up.
Next—and this is a difficult one—is recycling. There is a lot of talk about this, perhaps legislation, but it could become onerous. I know many restaurants recycle and I know many don’t. Our landfill’s life is coming to an end and anything we can do to lengthen this time is key. Many other states are proposing draconian laws, the worst being sorting wet trash, of which restaurants produce a lot. Returnable bottles, while friendly to the environment, would be a serious problem.
I am old enough to remember using them and the difficulties posed at the bar putting Bud bottles in Bud boxes, Miller bottles in Miller boxes—so much fun. I would encourage all to look into this, maybe reach out to your reps and find a viable solution. Bottom line: it is a tough problem to satisfactorily solve, but we have to try. Of course, draught beer is the ultimate recyclable product we carry and several places in our state have draught wine as well. I am not sure how many establishments use wine in a box, but it helps too.
As we roll into June, talk to your team about these things. There’s so much to look forward to: the start of summer, graduations, weddings and more. Let’s start the season on the right foot. I know through my conversations that staffing still is a big issue, but as I always remark, we are a resilient bunch and will figure it out to the best of our abilities.
Enjoy the best time of the year: summer!
Len Panaggio’s career in food and wine spans more than three decades as an owner and as a beverage director at some of the top restaurants in Rhode Island. Currently a hospitality consultant, Len is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and has attended the Culinary Institute of America Master Sommelier program and the Sterling School of Service and Hospitality.