This one will no doubt surprise and shock a few South Africans, but one of the highlights of my life was being a Spur waiter for five years, back when we didn’t know how offensive the logo potentially was:
It was back when i was at Teacher’s Training College and then working at Claremont Baptist Church as youth leader when i needed the extra money to, well, have enough money to live on, and was working three jobs at one time. But i got a job as a waiter at Rondebosch Spur [which closed down shortly after i left and went overseas which possibly shows you how valuable i was – ha!] where my buddy Reegs worked.
And i loved it. For the most part. Well sometimes. i had this saying that ‘Being a waiter is the best job in the world, when everything goes right.’ The only problem with Spur is that everything hardly ever went alright and so i majored in Damage Control and Cheerful Banter.
i think the main reason i enjoyed working there was the idea of serving people – trying to give someone the best eating out experience they could have – and also trying to make it a fun time. Sometimes this worked really well and other times [often depending on the customers vibe] it failed miserably.
One of the legacies i left Spur was the invention of the world’s first ever [i believe] Hunter’s Gold [cider] milkshake. i managed to sell that to a customer on a few occasions and also if i remember it’s lesser known cousin the Redd’s milkshake. Another creation i remember was a combo of the waffle and the chocolate mousse which went down really well too.
Probably my proudest moment at Spur was the time i served a cockroach to a dating couple AND GOT A TIP OUT OF IT. This was the pinnacle of my damage control. For those of you who don’t know Spur used to serve their Nachos on a small round plate which itself was placed on a longer big plate which was not hot so that people would not burn themselves. Brett drops off Nachos at table with dating couple. Turns around and starts taking drinks order from table directly behind them. Hears the word ‘Cockroach’ – spins round and is back at the first table. “Um, hi.” Turns out there was a baby Spur cockroach [those things are tiny but still not great to have on your food] that must have been chilling on the long plate and as i placed it on the table it decided to appear. Huge apologies and offers to remake the food but they were happy the cockroach had not been on the actual food so was able to replace the bottom plate and they were fine with that. Those were the days of hand written bills and what i used to do often when i felt i was vibing with a table was add something fun like ‘Cheerful Banter’ or ‘Great ambience’ and charge a ridiculous amount for it so their initial looking at the bill total would give them heart failure. Then they’d see the funny line and be like ‘Hee hee what a funny guy, let’s give him a good tip’ which happened most of the time. For this couple i added ‘Cockroach Surprise’ [a risky move for sure] for R39, 95 and they thought it was pretty hilarious and gave me a R10 or R20 buck tip on a R40 bill.
i was not the best waiter but with moves like that i typically won people over and regularly finished first or second on the money-making charts.
There was this thing called ‘Spinning’ that happened typically on a busy night and often when the guys behind the grill were giving issues or when one of the weaker managers were on duty. Basically it means you are being run off your feet, everything needs to happen at once and you are in full on zone mode and if one thing goes wrong you are likely to implode. It would often happen on Saturday nights and i used to have this amazing habit that would help me get through and survive and even thrive whenever spinning threatened. Mission Impossible.
That’s right. When things started to get chaotic i would hum the Mission Impossible theme song in my head [and sometimes out loud] as it would help me get into an actioned rhythm of movement and then as i sped across the floor i would be constantly just trying to think of the next thing i had to do and moving towards it. That theme song helped me ovoid going over the edge during many potential spinning times.
At one time Spur had a newspaper they gave out with articles and stuff and i wrote a piece for it and won a Fossil watch although i only realised a few weeks later what a big deal that was cos i had never heard of Fossil before and so just assumed it was a piece of crap they were trying to get rid of… Oops!
Lastly, probably one of the worst moments of my time there was the time i was entered into the Supercasual competition where Spur Waiters from around the province met for two nights of competition to see who was the best waiter who would go on to compete at the nationals. That was really one of the worst double-nights of my life [clearly i’ve had a great life!] We were at a store i didn’t know and they were running a line the whole evening in one of the busiest malls in Cape Town and the staff were not nice to me and so i waited for drinks and meals FOREVER, i forgot tables [the one night i had tables in two different places and this is a huge Spur] and everyone was angry with me and i was completely stressed most of the time. On the second night i actually invited a bunch of my young adult friends to come through and occupy the one big table the whole night so i had less to serve. Clearly i didn’t win although i do believe i came 32nd out of 35 or something so there were worse people than me – and we got a nice hamper of goodies and i still managed to make the most money i had ever made in two nights of Spur simply because we turned so much business. But that was a real low. I may have cried or come close to it.
5 years people. The best job in the world. When everything is going right. Which it seldom is. But when in doubt, Cockroach Surprise! Or perhaps rather a Hunter’s Shake.