If all servers in Kansas City took their profession as seriously as David Hayden -- waiter, blogger, consultant -- the local restaurant scene would be a very different place. Hayden is a career waiter, an occupation that once garnered more respect than it does now. (In Europe, a veteran waiter is a prized employee; in Kansas City, they're lucky to find jobs.) Fat City reported last March that Hayden had left McCormick & Schmick's restaurant on the Plaza to ply his craft at the Majestic Restaurant, 931 Broadway.
Tonight -- from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. -- Hayden will be working at the Majestic, but as a bookseller, not as a server. Hayden will be celebrating the release of his first book, Tips Squared: Tips for Improving Your Tips in the Pendergast Club, the third-floor cigar club in the historic Majestic Restaurant building.
Hayden's book is a handbook -- a 130-page self-help primer for both fledgling servers and long-timers in the plate trade -- for upping one's performance in the gratuity game. "It's not a training manual," Hayden says emphatically. "I'm assuming that anyone who wants a book like this already knows how to wait tables. This is about perfecting one's performance."
Performance is the right word. Hayden understands that the hospitality industry is a form of show business. A good waiter or waitress should be able to juggle the needs of many tables and play an array of different roles: convivial host, nurturing parent, therapist, economic adviser, spiritual counselor, entertainer, tour guide, best friend, humble servant and savvy salesperson. It's not a career for just anyone.
"Servers are the largest commission-paid sales force in America," Hayden says. "But no one is teaching them the art of sales techniques."
If young servers are given any training at all, Hayden says, it's often learning to do things the wrong way, like aggressive upselling (trying to encourage patrons to order the most expensive dish on the menu) or not appreciating the nuance of language. ("Never ask a customer, 'What can I get you to drink with that.' " Hayden says. "In fact, try to avoid the word drink completely. Give suggestions.")
"This book is about giving servers the knowledge and the power to be confident about what they do," says Hayden, who began writing the book before launching his seven restaurant-centric blogs. "The blogs were initially created to serve as a platform for this book. They've since taken on a life of their own."
Hayden self-published the book, which retails for $19.95, and he hopes that restaurateurs will find it to be as compelling reading as the serving staff working for them. "I see the primary audience for this book to be servers and managers," Hayden says. "For the servers, I offer many effective ways to improve tips. For the managers, it's a great way to develop a better serving staff."
The book will be available on amazon.com later this week and will be sold at the Majestic Restaurant. Hayden is hoping to get the book placed in several local bookstores as well.
Tonight's release party at the Majestic Restaurant will feature a cash bar and plenty of books, of course.
"I'm encouraging people to bring cash or checks to buy the book," Hayden says. "And to generously tip the bartender."
Hey, that's what it's all about!