The point of VWBCI is to open local minds to outside practices, concepts, and ideas that might stand to improve our greater civic situation in a parallel universe where coolness was valued more than practicality and funds spent on public works of art were raised by way of a special NIMBY tax levied against serial complainers.
by Andrew Morrison | “My name is David and I’ll be your server this evening…” It’s a cliche, and as such I don’t like it. But I do like what you can see in the photo above if you look really close (sorry about the quality, it was dark and I was drinking). The cell phone shot was taken on a recent evening down in Portland as I was sipping a nightcap at Clyde Common. I’d been to award-winning barman Jeffry Morgenthaler bar many times in the past (located on the main floor of the Ace Hotel), but I had never noticed how proudly staff members were listed right on the menu. Jeffrey tends to get all the attention when it comes to Clyde Common, so it just seemed like the right and natural thing to do given how integral the staff are – one assumes – to the complete operation of the joint. This would be an especially salient fact if was as hard to find and retain good staff in Portland as it is in Vancouver.
Why isn’t this more common? It’s weird that such demonstrated staff love/pride is so glaringly absent in an age when restaurants regularly go beyond simply listing the dishes on their menus by giving printed shout outs to farmers and foragers, calling attention to the sustainability of the prawns with a logo, and even going so far as to name individual chickens .
It might be odder still to have your full name out there (because stalkers, tinfoil hats, etc.), and there would be an argument against the tokenism of it in bad working environments, but that doesn’t really explain why we’ve never seen anything – to my knowledge – similar in Vancouver (if you have, let me know). Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg rhapsodizes her staff on the Black Hoof’s website (screenshot above), all the way across the spectrum from line cook and dishwasher to server and bartender. And they only use first names. They even go a step further by listing staff alumni. It’s 50 people deep! I wonder how deep that list would be for, say, Chambar, considering the glories of its past employees?
Anyway, my point is that it would be a wonderful thing to see the practise (or at least a similar one) celebrated here in Vancouver. As a customer you might think it icky, and that you suffer enough justifiably maligned protocols as it is (eg. First Few Bites), but this is something entirely different. To a huge extent a restaurant is like a live performance, a play that is 100% dependent on its complete cast of characters. Why not reveal them as such, especially the ones we seldom see, like the focused dishwasher, the hustling bar back and the first-job-ever server’s assistant who is nervous as hell about disappointing anyone?
Who knows, it might prove an effective means of engendering a sense of family and loyalty among staff (much more so than the begrudged surrender of a discounted staff meal), or the thing that keeps someone in the industry for a year or two longer — long enough to close a gap, long enough to teach someone new, long enough to have second thoughts. And speaking candidly (selfishly) as a frequent diner hamstrung by a lifelong inability to remember people’s names, I would love to occasionally be reminded of them.