Snap! Crack! Pop!
No, not cereal, it’s ye olde shift drink: the crack of a Pabst, of a beer bottle cap opening, of a cork being freed as cooks, waiters, and dishwashers sidle up to the bar at the end of the night looking for booze. It’s a familiar scene, one frequently found in the front window of bars at many restaurants across the country. There’s some laughter, back-slapping, and ribbing as hats are turned back around, brows are wiped, and a group of folks wearing whites look hopefully at the bartender as they settle up their tabs and square things away.
Right? Reward? Delinquency? Distraction? It all depends on the restaurant, its chef, owner, and even to some degree, the staff. Sure, it can be a bonding experience for staff to bend elbows. But some might argue it’s a sign of restaurant that’s not really serious. And when do the shift drinks get poured? When cooks are still on the line? Only when they’re out of the kitchen?
Should the shift drink be a god-given right? Why? Just because it’s the hospitality business? You wouldn’t want your local cop drinking on the job. A schoolteacher? You don’t see doctors, lawyers, or writers drinking on the job do you [er, cough, cough, ahem]? So why should the shift drink be okay for cooks and wait staff?
At least, that’s the argument that some might make. So what’s the best practice? In this brief interview recently with eight Southern chefs participating in the recent Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, answered the question: What’s your take on staff drinks? Are you for or against them? From Norman Van Aken and Shaun Doty, to Ford Fry and Linton Hopkins, find out what some of the South’s best chefs think about whether or not the shift drink is a good idea.
To shift drink or not to shift drink? Comment below!
Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor.