Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I've worked with a lot of memorable people in my restaurant career. There is one person who stands out when it comes job performance. Everything you need to know about job survival you can learn from this guy.

Without further ado, I present you Urbino.....

Urbino worked with me at "Not Bucca" (name has been changed to protect Maggiano's). His position was pretty basic, show up early in the morning to clean the dining room (mop, dust, etc) and set up the coffee and bread station. When the restaurants opens, cut bread for the table and make coffee drinks. When the lunch rush was over, clean up the coffee station and gather tips. But Urbino did much more than that, he unwittingly carved out a road map for getting ahead at work, or in his case, happily staying at the same job for years. Now you may not be a "Coffee/Bread Guy" (official title) but the same rules Urbino worked and lived by can easily translate to corporate America.

Urbino's Guide to Staying in the Same Job for Years or Getting Ahead...Its Totally Up to You
(still working on  the book title)

#1) Keep 'em Guessing
Employers don't want the same old, same old. In this day and age, unpredictability in the work place is a valuable asset. Whether it be the uncertainty of your puncuality or the impulsive mood swings, employers aren't looking for the status quo.  Urbino certainly embraced this unpredictablitity when it came to his coffee drinks.

Urbino had about 5 coffee drinks he made at "Not Bucca"; cappuccino, latte, espresso, hot chocolate and hot tea. He could have been that Starbucks barista that is predictable, same flavor profile every time. That's not how Bino rolls.  "Keep em on their toes" was his motto. I used tell him that his drinks were like snowflakes....no 2 were alike. Whether it be too bitter, too chocolatey, too much espresso, not enough espresso...when the drink kept you guessing that's when you know you were drinking an Urbino original!

#2) Don't be afraid to make mistakes
Employers want people who aren't afraid to fail. This job market embraces employees who accident prone and mistake happy, what the market will not tolerate however, is covering up those many mistakes. Take a chapter out of Urbino's book. Proudly and with honor, own your mistakes!
My favorite drink of Urbinos was his hot chocolate. He would pour about 3/4 cup of Hershey's chocolate in the cup with a plastic squeeze bottle which happened to be the same type of squeeze bottle which also stored the balsamic reduction sauce for our tomato, mozzarella appetizer. One day as I was sipping my hot chocolate, it was tasting more balsamic vinegar-y than normal. As I asked Urbino what he put in the drink, he ran and got the squeeze bottle, which was the balsamic sauce. Realizing his mistake, the first thing Urbino did was apologize, the second thing he did was re-make the drink, and third thing he did and this is what separates him from the rest, is to remind me everyday until my last day about that time he put balsamic vinegar in my drink....and he laughed harder each time he told me the story. I've never seen an employee bring up a mistake of theirs with such amusement. To this day it baffles me.

#3) Right Place, Right Time
Being in the right place at the right time can make the difference between being up for a promotion or quietly disappearing into the background. Urbino always chose the former.

Each morning, Urbino would mop the dining room floor. As he filled the mop bucket with which I can only imagine was 2 parts butter and 1 part water, he would mop the floor relentlessly. One morning as I was coming around the corner in the dining room I slipped and fell on the freshly buttered floor. My feet went out from under me and I landed on my back. As soon as I hit the floor I heard what sounded like a teen-age girl squeal, "Momma!". As I came to, I saw Urbino standing over me, he had the look of terror in his eyes. He reached down to pick me. I explained to him that I need to just lie there for a few minutes. He was adamant it was the wrong thing to do. Urbino weighed about 115lbs, I weighed more than 115lbs, so I had the advantage when it came to not wanting to be moved. Realizing that picking me up wasn't go to happen, he decided that he would grab under my arms and drag me along the floor to safety. And drag me he did, all 25 feet to nearest booth. All the while whispering, "Mamma! Are you Ok?".  I was fine and quickly recovered. And again, Urbino proudly re-told this story every day about how he saved me as I would surely would have been left for dead had he not stumbled upon my lifeless body that morning.

#4) Communicate Up
Its important in your job that you not only communicate with your co-workers and subordinates, but that you also communicate with your supervisor. This is called communicating up, also known as ass kissing.

Often times during a lunch rush or early in the morning or after his shift, really anytime, Urbino would initiate a conversation about anything. As the conversation was ending he would usually finish up by saying, quickly and quietly, "I love you".  The first time it caught me off guard, the second time I responded just as quickly, "I love you too, buddy".......and I did.

#5) Stay in Touch
As Urbino knows networking is the number one way people find jobs. Staying in touch with former co-workers  is a great way to build your network and you never know when you may need a reference, a job or a contact.

I met a lot of great friends at "Not Bucca" and still keep in touch with a several of them. Urbino was the first person to call me the day I left, to put that in context, I have never heard from my direct supervisor since then. But then again, he never dragged me across a freshly mopped floor.

Of all the people I met at that restaurant, I think I miss Urbino and his life lessons most of all.

1 comment:

  1. I miss him too. thanks for the gut bustin belly laugh.