Every time I had a closing shift in the restaurant and was trying to get out at a decent time, seems like Murphy and his law got hungry and decided to pay me a visit. Either I’d get a table that walked in about 5 minutes before the kitchen closed when I hadn’t had one in an hour, or one of my existing tables decided they were going to hang out and tell campfire stories until the wee hours. Yes… those dreaded campers were the worst.
Every other table has left. Every other server has left. All the busboys and runners, it seems, are sitting at table 40 in their street clothes staring at me because they want to get “tipped out”. Even the manager seems like he has a date with Kim Kardashian in fifteen minutes because he keeps poking his head out of the office to see if everyone’s gone.
My lone table sits there, a young couple in their late twenties, done sharing their creme brulee over 45 minutes ago, now holding hands across the table caught up in a perpetual gaze. So… what should I do?
First off, I don’t want to be rude and get a bad tip from my last table: A) It’s a bad finish to a long night to get a horrible tip and maybe piss them off enough to call up and complain to a manager tomorrow (that would start tomorrow off bad) B) The check is big enough for me not to want to lose any of it. The only important thing in the world right now is that universal sky scribble meaning they want the check.
Here is what you can do:
I would start with eye contact first. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to create an audible diversion (crashing silverware, perhaps) you might be able to break their love gaze and get them looking at you who is now giving them the stare-down of a lifetime (and trust me nothing short of Doc Holliday’s steely stare at the OK Corral will work).
Then there’s, “Is there anything else I can get you?” You say this because you know that there’s nothing these fools could still possibly want except the check.
If that doesn’t work, move on to “disassembling their tent”. That means: clear off everything from their table not nailed down. Take away the dishes, coffee cups, spoons, sugar, creamer, candles and yes… even the decorative little vase with the flowers. Everything. This should get the point across.
If not… we move on to something a little less subtle. I call it, “Dousing the flames”. You can’t camp without a fire. If you have access to the sound system and it won’t get you in trouble, KILL THE MUSIC. Music is a mood setter. Once the music is gone, so is the mood. Nothing makes campers more uncomfortable than a silent empty room. Except… and this one is tricky, Kill some of the lights, if possible. Now, I’m not talking about the main floor lights, I’m talking about something within one of their peripherals or over the others shoulder. Maybe in a party room or unused service station. “Dousing the flames” is effective. try it.
My very last suggetion, and you can only use it if you’ve already dropped the check but they won’t put money in it or sign their credit card receipt. It’s called “Kill em with kindness”. No more games. Even though you know they haven’t signed/payed you keep making trips to the table and picking up the check as if you assume there’s money in there. Then you say, “Thank you so much! Let me get this out of the way for you!” Then they should finally sign the credit card receipt or give you some form of payment. If not, repeat this one every 3 minutes until they do.
Now you know how to successfully send a camper packing and headed for their next destination.