I recently landed my first job as a busser for a local Mexican restaurant. My duties are simple and expected. Of course I clear and clean tables and then sweep underneath the tables and keep our restaurant tidy, but my primary job is to give customers chips and salsa.
Few things are more of a staple in Mexican restaurants than chips and salsa. Any thriving Mexican restaurant has to have acceptable to superb chips and salsa, or they probably won't continue to bring the same customers in.
My restaurant is special in our area in that we have deep salsa bowls: something strikingly lacking in other restaurants. They often have the typical shallow, colored bowl with the little rim — the one that we use for small queso. Since we are often bustling with patrons, I have to move quickly just as many others in the food service industry have to.
The first step to Salsa Theory is gauging people as they come in.
Our blinds in the front are often open, and so we have view of the parking lot that we share with the other venues in the plaza. At first it was a tad bit difficult distinguishing who was coming into our restaurant versus who was going elsewhere, but between their gait and direction it's gotten easier.
Most people who come in come into our restaurant with the entire planned party in their wake. This makes it easy, as often couples and trios often sit in a booth table and require only a basic basket of chips and a basic bowl of salsa.
A few times each service, a smaller party will come in and ask for a table to be put together for a larger party. This happens a lot with grandparents, who often travel in a car separate from their children and grandchildren. I fill basket and salsa demands for those who are present so chips don't go cold and fill the rest of the demand as the party comes in.
Salsa Theory mainly pertains to refills for couples and trios. Most of the time, couples don't need a refill. Trios have a possibility.
Larger parties need more than one basket and bowl depending on size. Five or six need two pairs. Seven or eight (due to being sat at three square tables put together) need three. Beyond eight people, larger parties need a basket and bowl per two people. Due to the size of the party, their actual meals take longer to prepare and so parties are much more likely to need refills to stay satisfied.
In the end, party size is less important to Salsa Theory than age.
One of our largest sources of customers is the elderly. I am of the belief that this is due to equal parts love of salsa and free time due to retirement. Older patrons (sometimes not quite elderly but middle to old age) tend to eat more chips and salsa than others, and they eat more chips and salsa than any other age group save one.
As expected, Salsa Theory has determined that children eat the most chips and salsa. This is often just a bit more than their old counterparts. It probably sometimes personally feels like children eat more chips than they actually do because I'm the one in charge of cleaning up after them — and children are by far the messiest patrons.
Salsa Theory has found that a stage of self-consciousness exists from the teen age to middle age. Teenagers feel too cool to eat many chips and beyond there, young to middle age adults don't want to come off as gluttons who gorge on chips.
My Salsa Theory combines age and party size.
Groups of four are nearly the only groups that require a 2-to-1 ratio of salsa bowls to chip baskets. This is not necessarily because they eat more salsa or chips than any other group (although they could depending on age of party members), but mainly for reaching access.
Groups of four with multiple people who fall in the child or older adult category are given a bigger chip basket along with the two bowls of salsa. The bigger chip basket is also used as a type of apology: given to those who have been sat without chips for five minutes or more. Dips such as guacamole or queso generally mean the group requires more refills on their chips.
Being the newest employee at my restaurant means that I'm definitely still learning. Salsa Theory is essentially the culmination of the observations I've made over the past month about the needs of our customers when it comes to chips and salsa.