Monday, August 2, 2010

Shiny Happy Syrups

Have you ever been in one of those restaurants that had the flavored syrups on the table? Apricot, strawberry, blackberry and blueberry were the flavors at the restaurant where I worked. (In theory, anyway, because when you've been working all day and you've got to fill those damn things up as part of your sidework, it is really easy not to give a rat's ass whether the blueberry winds up getting mixed in with the blackberry or vice versa. Most people just taste by color anyway.) It's probably more accurate to say that that's what the labels on the dispensers read.

Syrups were supposed to be poured into buckets every week, the clear glass syrup dispensers run through the dishwasher and dried and then refilled and set out on the table. Never mind there were four of them on every table and each waiter had about 12 or 13 tables, and there were 12 or 13 sugar caddies to be filled and wiped down with the black dots on the edge of the sugar packets all facing the same way (who even knew there were black dots on those packets?) and exactly ten Sweet'n'Lows lined up on the edge of them, salt and peppers to replenish and an ungodly amount of cleaning, refilling and prepping to do in the back (Oh, God, please don't let me have salad station again!) The dispensers were filled from plastic buckets that were filled from industrial sized cans of syrup that were kept in the store room - half way to Kansas. In spite of the obviously over-the-edge, split-nerve Magic Marker scrawl on each syrup bucket notifying us which one was the BLACKBERRY!!! or BLUEBERRY ONLY PLEASE!!!! those two were always getting confused, and about every three weeks a manager or an over-achieving new waitress would 'discover' that the syrups were mixed and ALL of the blackberry and blueberry syrups on the tables had to be dumped and refilled.

That thing about pouring out, cleaning, drying and refilling was the 'procedure' but here's what usually happened: One waitress would keep a lookout for the manager or stall them in the office over some personal problem. During this brief window of opportunity, food service would come to a halt while the rest of the wait staff would grab the syrups, caddy and all, off of their tables, load them on flat racks and send them all through the dishwasher with the syrup still in them. They came out looking really clean. Then we'd fill the ones that needed filling, put them back on the tables and save ourselves and the company about 30 minutes each on the clock. (Hey, at $2.01 an hour, that can add up!) The downfall to this system was that eventually the syrups, after having been exposed to 180 degree heat, would begin to ferment. Sometimes, this would be apparent in the tiny bubbles that started to gather at the top of the dispenser or they might foam over a little - particularly the ones at the tables by the windows that had already done a little ripening on their own. I remember one Sunday in particular when one of our regular customers, a mentally challenged young adult woman, yelled across the dining room at our manager, "HEY JANE! THESE SYRUPS TASTE JUST LIKE BEER!" Apricot, strawberry and blue-blackberry beer.

Sooooo, everyone had to gather all their syrups off their tables, pour them down the sink, and refill them. Inevitably, some of the blackberry pitchers would be filled with blueberry, and some of the blueberry with blackberry and some with a combination of both that had already been mixed when the buckets had been refilled. And then the whole thing would start all over again.

Just a word to the wise: It's a good idea to stay away from any condiment that remains on a table through bar rush. If you've got to use one of them, at least unscrew the lid and look inside first, 'cos there's no telling what some drunk might have done to it.


  1. That is gross... I've taken your advice prior to even reading your post... How about the food that are under heat lamps at buffets? oops,I stay away from those...BTW the salad bar at Whole foods is a big no-no... I saw a kid playing w/the lettuce and the mom did not a FRICKIN' thing.. she saw that I saw and still did not admonish the little sh*t. That sneeze guard is b.s. ( ok, done ranting)

  2. I worked at a place that married the ketchup and honey bottles, and every Sunday we had to dump the salt and pepper and wash the shakers. And I tell you...those shakers were NASTY. Even nastier was what was in them. And we dumped the salt in one tub, the pepper in the other, and refilled those now clean shakers with the same nasty salt and pepper.
    If a manager caught you dumping any salt or pepper (even if it had stuff in it, was clumpy, etc) you were in TROUBLE. Food cost, they'd howl. Food cost!!
    Apparently you can put a price on hygienic practices.

  3. ^^ If a manager caught you dumping the salt/pepper in the TRASH, that is.