It was a one of those miserable nights as a manager in the restaurant business. Two servers had called out sick, which meant I was running orders and busing tables. The restaurant was mobbed, normally a very good thing, but not tonight. Earlier I dumped a whole tray of main courses onto the kitchen floor with a terrific crash. Even the normally ruthless chef had mercy on me as he watched me scoop up a pile of broken glass and hollandaise.
“You need to visit table five,” one of the waiters said. “The woman didn’t even touch her dinner.”
At a Marriott’s hotel restaurant, we generally catered to the business traveler hot shots, the kind of people found at table five. Dressed in conservative charcoal, grey and black, talking with the same buzz words you would hear on CNBC, they were clearly on business, probably recapping and registering their findings of the day. The oldest, a Jerry Garcia look-alike (if Jerry had lived to seventy), had a white beard and a straight white pony tail. There was a John Lennon looking fifty-something, but he was groomed like a CEO. The third man appeared younger than me and then there was the pant-suited woman who didn’t touch her grilled swordfish.
“Did you not like your fish, ma’am?” I asked in my best manager voice.
“It was fine, thank you,” she replied. She hated it.
“Are you sure? You barely touched it.”
She looked in my direction, as if deciding whether or not I was worth a candid response. “Well, it was a little dry for my taste.”
“Let me buy you dessert. One New York style cheesecake coming right up,” I said, assuming they were from New York and that everyone from New York must like cheesecake.
I had to dig deep into the dark depths of the walk-in cooler to find the last slice of cheesecake, which I dressed up with some raspberry sauce and whipped cream and quickly dropped it by the table with four forks and one more apology. I walked back to the kitchen. It had to be near closing. My head was pounding.
A few minutes later, the waiter hunted me down again. “Table five wants to see you again.”
I groaned. What did they want now?
The cheesecake was gone and now the woman was smiling. “Have you ever heard of Sleepy’s?” she asked.
“Yes, I think so,” I lied.
“I have a small stake in the company,” said Mr. Jerry Garcia with slight smirk. His tone suggested his small stake was more like one hundred percent.
“We’re expanding in New England and we’re looking for managers.” He told me about the company, how well they’d done in the New York the last few years. He asked for my card. Just another big shot who’s had too much wine, I thought. But I was polite and thanked them. I gave them my card and promptly forgot about the incident until two weeks later when a recruiter woke me up at 8 a.m., the crack of dawn for a restaurant manager who closes shop at 3 a.m.
That’s the story of how I came to work for the greatest mattress company ever. It’s funny how Lady Opportunity works. Since I met her six years ago at table five in the Marriott, I’ve sworn to always be ready to meet her, even on my worst days. This is why I take on every project that comes my way, to a fault. I’m afraid if I don’t, Lady Opportunity might not come knocking again, and I will be a sucker staring at a closed door.
Welcome to my blog. I have been a manager for fifteen years, and for the past five years I have been leading teams of 500 people or more as a director and VP for large growth companies. I share my leadership journey and thoughts here with the hopes of helping and inspiring other leaders.
Categories: Leadership and Management