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Halloo! When I found out I could go to med school with a Humanities degree with an Ethnomusicology emphasis, I almost peed myself. Here's to me holding it in.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Methods Practice I

Here's a direct transcription of my notes. We wanted to go on a date AND get our assignment done, so we drove down State Street in Orem until we found a place that was busy and not too expensive. The place ended up being Wingers.

12  large flat-screen TVs
4  smaller flat-screens
popcorn machine w/ sign (popcorn is free but you can't help yourself - health code? Or more practical reasons?)
waitress chewing gum
sports on TV
Wingers sauce lining top of dividing walls in entrance
free-swinging kitchen door, directly in front of customer entrance
dim lighting
tin decorative ceiling
concrete floor
waiters/waitresses wear polo shirts or T-shirts w/ Wingers logo, black pants and black shoes
waitresses' hair restrained with bands
Bud Light add above kitchen door near entrance
also Winger Bros. Brewing sign to right of kitchen door
large oblong plates - 10-12" at the widest point
plates served full
all different ages and sizes of groups
booths designed for 4 and 6 people filled most of front room - push tables together at the end of the front room for larger parties
wait list kept on plain white paper in pen
light shades - upside down tin buckets w/ lights affixed inside
large stack of dozens of tin buckets near popcorn machine, same kind of bucket as used for the light shades
take out boxes - standard Styrofoam clam-shells
wooden benches with wrought iron frames in entry room
plain glasses, 5-6" tall (16 oz.?)
   You can't beat the price birdbrain (so don't even try)
   Okay Big Spender! The popcorn is FREE but you can't just help yourself ASK your waiter
   servers - all black clothes, some w/ aprons. Two male, ~8 female. Two females w/ wedding rings, rest without. 20s- early 30s, mostly 20s. All white.
   managers - blue shirt, work catering orders, offer catering customers free drinks, etc.
   cooks - only workers w/o name tags. Hispanic, 30s.
   patrons - mostly white, 20s-40s w/ some outliers
music is playing, mostly blues and older rock and roll, but is difficult to hear over din of clanking plates, kitchen noise, and conversations

In kitchen - WoW! Rally board
3 spaces on a board for sales and conduct goals
Food Focus - (empty)
Beverage Focus - SELL SELL SELL Flavored drinks, lemonades, and sodas
Team Focus - no cell phone use during work hours, dishes are everyone's responsibility

Based on notes and observations, Wingers seems to cater to someone looking for a simple, informal experience, maybe as close to a bar experience as you can get without going into a bar. It isn't as cheap as, say, McDonald's, but is definitely cheaper than most sit-down places ($22 for 3 courses for 2 people). The signs especially attested to this - informal language, emphasis on price. Other details, such as the "improvised" lighting, the lack of a more formal wait list (especially in a world of electronic wait lists), the relaxed clothing of the employees, the cheap to-go boxes, and the almost exclusive use of booths rather than over chair-and-table combinations, all attribute to the atmosphere of informality. It was interesting to realize how much thought and work must have gone into making it seem like not much thought goes into it - it takes vision and careful planning to create a brand, even if that brand's salient feature is informality. There are 36 Wingers restaurants throughout the American West. To use one of the items as an example, that means hundreds or thousands of cheap tin buckets, likely identical, were purchased from probably one manufacturer, in order to create and recreate the atmosphere. It seems like the kind of place that actually wants you to stay longer and take up a seat, perhaps so you will continue ordering food and drinks (especially beer - the profit margin on that stuff is a great reason to go into the bar business). There is careful removal of any stressors that would rush a patron through the process unduly.

Another interesting thing was the demographic of the wait staff - almost all of them were available, attractive 20-something-year-old women. Perhaps this is due to the demographic of the area - girls wanting to work to put themselves through college abound in Orem - but maybe it's a more conscious/unconscious result of the marketing scheme and clientele. To play on stereotypes, most people wanting to go into a relaxed atmosphere to eat chicken wings and watch the game are probably young adult single males, who will spend more and tip better if they are served by an attractive waitress (heck, adult males who aren't single will probably act the same way as the young singles). Who, I wonder, is in charge of hiring at this location? Male or female? Wingers is not a Hooters or Bikini Barista (if you don't know what that is, drive around a while on almost any main street in the towns that make up the Seattle metropolitan area), so the hiring manager can't openly select based on looks or risk discrimination charges, but how conscious or unconscious is the decision when it comes to gender and looks? Also, what is the experience of the male servers like compared to the female servers? Are tip amounts different? If so, why? Or are people more immune to the effects of gender than might be assumed? Were there only two male servers because of some kind of social stigma against men working in that part of the food industry, because they don't feel they do as well as the female servers so they look for other jobs, because the hiring manager has bias against male workers, or...? Or is it maybe just the luck of the draw, and no overarching social trends played significant roles in the determination of gender balance? To go back up and challenge my assumption, what is the typical clientele really like? We saw quite a few groups of friends in the 20s age range, but we saw plenty of families with two generations present.

This was a fun experience for several reasons. First, it was a good date, and we went out to eat at a place that usually wouldn't be at the top of our list (we mostly eat at Indian or various Asian food places when we do go out, and Mexican and Italian occasionally). Having our notebooks out and furiously scribbling while trying to take in everything at once was cool - I felt like a private eye or something. It made for a rather humorous discovery as well. When dessert came, the waitress apologized for not having spoons. She explained that the "guy on dishes" was behind, and it would be just a minute. It took a little while, and the ice cream started melting (it was one of those pizza-cookie things where they half bake the cookie and put ice cream on top), but the eventually spoons showed up. While I was doing some snooping near the kitchen door, I noticed the goals sign - one of the goals was "dishes are everyone's responsibility." That might mean that there was no "guy on dishes," and that our waitress was just too busy to wash two spoons herself so she conned someone into doing it for her. We thought that was pretty funny, especially considering that the whole "dishes are everyone's responsibility" post probably came up as a reaction to situations similar to ours. Sneaky waitress. :) Doing the observation as a couple was also neat - Lori noticed plenty of things I didn't, and vice versa. We have different backgrounds and ways of thinking. This will be very useful in the field, methinks.

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