Working in Restaurants 102

If a waitress requests your presence, get to that table as soon as you can.
– Unknown

What To Do in the Restaurant

Working in Restaurants 101

Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.

References: In addition to the Guide, the following books provide information about twisting balloons for money:

  1. Balloon Biz, by Norm Barnhart
  2. Balloon Busking, by Bob Brown and John Morrissy
  3. Inflation Information, by Frank Thurston
  4. Making Inflation Work For You, by T. Myers
  5. Professional Portfolio for Balloon Artists by Bruce Kalver
  6. Insider’s Secrets to Working Restaurants by Mark Nilsen
  7. Out Of The Part Time Frying Pan And Into The Full-time Fire by Marvin Hardy

You’ll find reviews in the Books, Magazines, Videos, and Other Resources chapter.

What To Do in the Restaurant

A Twister’s Function at a Restaurant

  • Restaurants can use our services in one of two ways: on busy nights you can keep customers entertained while waiting for a seat or their food, and on slow nights you can bill yourself as promotional entertainment, a reason to come to that particular restaurant.
  • I have families that come back on a regular basis because mom and dad know the kids have a good time. The golden arches have the right idea. Get the kids hooked and the parents follow.
  • It takes more than just making and handing out balloons to make you an asset to the restaurant. You have to be a sort of official greeter making everyone feel as if they are being entertained EVEN if you are not at their table.
  • The restaurant I work is large and made up of different rooms. As I work each room, all the diners in the room watch me and can’t wait for me to come to their table next. I made a “Michael Jordan slam dunking a basketball” for a young man at one table and the entire section applauded when I was done because I was entertaining them.
  • I got the gig because I make incredible multi-balloon creations. The manager is clear that the entertainment is for all diners and especially for the adults and seniors emphasize the seniors. He understands that in two hours I cannot make balloons for every diner in the restaurant but hopes that people will keep coming back.
  • Also realize that you are an asset to them. If the food is late, you can entertain their customers while they are waiting. I have many wait staff fight over which table to go to next. “Go to my table first!”. They know that my entertainment is going to make their customers happy and they will tip at a higher percentage.
  • The manager is clear that balloon creations are for all customers not only children. The restaurant is very large which is great so I have room to work, but in two hours I can usually make one circuit around the restaurant but some of the tables have already turned. My goal is to approach each table and offer to make complimentary balloons. I’m being well paid for my time and I discourage tips.
  • I agree with the comment of “not only children” BUT if you don’t have enough time you have to come to an agreement with the manager. That is, either only half the customers receive something before they leave or only the kids get and their parents are happy. Another thing – if the customer is finished but waiting for the balloon, they could be taking up room for new customers.
  • While twisting, make sure that you are making the customers happy is rule one! Calming that upset family for a wait, or a delayed meal; keeping the kids calm in a public place is another; and simply giving the guests a good time out at this particular restaurant is important. These are things that the managers look at. They want to make sure that the money going out to you is less than the money coming in from those who come “with the intention of seeing the balloon person there”.
  • Remember to sell the owner/ manager on what you can do for them. Learn what their needs are (eliminating the percieved wait for the food to be served. etc.). Work your restaurant with these needs in mind. Learn to avoid causing an interuption of the flow of the service. Create an atmosphere of fun, play with everybody, enjoy yourself. If you are having fun and playing around the customers will to. Remember you are in the spotlight. People from all areas may be watching you.
  • I twist at a family restaurant every Saturday night. I have been at this location since February 1998 and the management knows that I am responsible for a large portion of their Saturday repeat business. When I approached the manager, I told him that I had two goals, to increase their business and to increase my business for clowning and twisting. The restaurant pays me for 2 hours of twisting.
  • In the letter of recommendation I got from the last restaurant I worked the manager wrote “Our guest count increased from 100 to 200 people a night.” And I was only there a few months.
  • I’ve been at one store for almost three years, and just last night the manager said, “This is really starting to pay off. Quite a few people are starting to come in just to see you.” That’s after three years! Of course, the business improved much sooner, but this is the first time he actually mentioned it to me.
  • Most important thing to do: Make the customers happy so they will come back again.
  • There is a lot more to the job than just knowing how to make balloons. I believe the absolute #1 skill required is being able to deal with people: being able to approach them, entertain them, and leave them feeling that they received something special (not just a balloon either, but an experience, and/or a memory). That is what will bring them back (and that should be one of your top priorities, having them _want_ to come back).
  • Stay busy. If you don’t have anything to do then you can make things for the manager and other important people in the place; the cook, the head waitperson. It also gives examples of your work. Say you are there a little before the supper rush and you have already asked everyone there if they want a balloon and you can’t interest anyone else in a balloon, then just walk around and make something. My daughter the twister tells me that often the very people who turned her down will then ask her to make whatever she just made or talk to her and then ask her to make something. I think sometimes the people just wait to see if she is any good. I think she has an advantage because people wonder how old she is, ask her, and then order a balloon. Other times single people will wait until there are some children around, then they will pay her to make balloons for all the children at the next table.
  • SMILE. Smile the whole time. If you smile people think they are having fun, and they tip better. The other night she had had a really long day and she wasn’t at her best. She just didn’t smile as much. She could sure tell it in the tips when she got home that night.
  • I like to help decorate my restaurants and about a month in advance I always start checking out different holiday patterns to make. For my restaurant in the mall I did a large (9 feet) candy cane sculpture to decorate their entry way.
  • Stay busy. If you don’t have anything to do then make things and “decorate” the place. It will give it a festive atmosphere and the staff will thank you when they walk away with the creations that night.

Advertising Your Own Business in the Restaurant

  • You cannot put a price on the word-of-mouth advertising your performance generates.
  • While working at the restaurant, you are being paid to provide a service for that establishment, ie, going table to table performing magic or abusing balloons, not promoting your outside business. I love it when someone DOES ask me about parties and that is the main reason I do restaurants when I have the time. I usually indicate that yes, I am available for private parties and that I would love to talk about it, but I’m on the restaurants clock right now. I then hand out my card, and more importantly, attempt to exchange cards with them. This makes sure they have my number, and also gives me the chance to send them material at a later date to keep me in mind.
  • Never ever talk about business on the restaurants’ time. However, for me, my button generates many private party inquiries, this allows me to give out my business cards.
  • I give out business cards to all who ask and tell them I usually perform as Heart Throb. When they start asking what I do and how much I charge, I ask them to please call me suggesting a time because my time here is dedicated to making balloons for customers. Something else that I’ve started recently is not to hand out as many business cards. “…but Steve, don’t you want more business?” Sure, but I’ve found that folks will still try to track me down, sometimes even to the extent of calling the restaurant to ask for my phone #. (and I have no problem with them giving out “personal” info… heck the #’s on my business card anyways, not exactly private ). I’ll leave it up to anyone that may consider this, to decide how valuable it is to them that the restaurant get more feedback on how well you’re doing.
  • Restaurant work is the greatest advertisment you can get. Exposure to all those patrons in a single night can generate more business than one person can handle.
  • Restaurant work is very lucrative not only in tips, but also in advertising. Wherever you decide to work, do it with class and charm and the benefits of your work will follow. I consider my restaurant work exposure to other larger paying bookings.
  • The restaurant is my advertising… I’d much rather have someone pay me to expose myself to the public, then have to shell out the bucks for a Yellow Page ad, or what have you. Also, I know that the people who approach me about outside work have seen me, they know what I do, and that’s why they are coming to me, not because of some ad that tells very little about me.
  • What is really great is being recognized in public by restaurant regulars. One of the restaurants I work each Friday and Saturday night is a sports themed restaurant. My uniform is simply a sports jersey or tee shirt. When a kid and his parents stop you at the grocery store, or the local mall to ask if you are the twister at XYZ’s and you smile and say “yes!” – that is worth far more than any money you can get.
  • I have worked two restaraunts in the same day, one brunch, one dinner. I have also done birthday parties and company picnics on the same day as restaraunts. Tips are nice, but I like to be paid, and never have found a venue in Virginia where working soley for tips was worth it. I do balloons in five restaraunts weekly, and two more regularly on holidays. It is what I do full time. A great way to get other jobs, as lots of people get to see you. Great way to practice new stuff. I use my restaraunt work as a sales point. People can “try me out” before they hire me. Not too many performers around here can say that.
  • One of the things I insist upon when working a restaurant is that my business card goes out.

Working With the Wait Staff

Make Friends With the Wait Staff

  • Always get the wait staff on your side! It’s a 2-way street, if you help the wait staff, they’ll watch over you. They help keep me up-to-date on which customers are interested in balloons, which ones may be waiting, which ones have been exceptionally good, and which ones are a pain. They can be your ‘eyes and ears’ in a section of the restaurant that you haven’t even been in yet. On the flip side, I’ll make sure to visit the tables they want me to, maybe make a special sculpture that they can take home (not while I’m working the tables, but either when I’m taking a break or after I finish for the evening). I’m not above helping them clear a table if it’s really busy. They know that I’m not there to be a busboy, but if it’s hectic, they appreciate the help.
  • Most important thing to avoid: Getting in the way of waitresses.
  • I know many twisters that are down-right rude to the wait staff. Last weekend a waitress came up to me and complained about two twisters that were there the previous night (I work for an agency). One came up to the table and did her spiel while the waitress was taking orders. No matter how busy it is I always bow to the wait staff. When they are there it becomes their show. I just do what I can while they are there and let get their business done and get out of my way.
  • I get a very warm feeling from the waiters and waitresses. In fact, I’ve made friends with most of them. If their food is taking a long time coming out, then they send me over to a table to keep the customer occupied and entertained during the wait. Also, if I have impressed a table and leave them happy, they take good care of me AND the waiter.
  • If a waitress requests your presence, get to that table as soon as you can. YOU WANT THE WAITSTAFF TO SEE HOW VALUABLE YOU ARE. YOU WANT TO KEEP THEM HAPPY. Otherwise they will say that you are in the way and are not helping them. I know this from experience. Remember: If you make their table happy, they will get better tips for themselves.
  • Waitstaff happy = customers happy = waitstaff happy = bigger tips for all.
  • I’m doing more and more restaurant work and to me the most important thing (after doing a good job and keeping the kids happy) is to keep good communications with the management. If they are happy everything is cool and they will save your butt with the occasional awkward situation of a disgruntled customer.
  • Having the wait staff on your side really makes this kind of work a lot easier. Being on their poop list could make it intolerable.
  • Always go out of your way to become friendly with the wait staff so that they’ll tell you what you do that works with them and what creates problems. Your job in the retaurant is not to represent yourself, but to represent the restaurant. If you’re constantly battling the servers, you’re not helping at all.
  • I rarely work in a tips-only situation, but know that how you treat the wait staff can be the most important part of the job.
  • You could give out the balloon and recommend that they give the waiter a bigger tip, which is what I usually do. It seems like the same thing (the waiter gets the tip) but the dynamics are different. You get the direct contact with the customer and therefore the direct credit for your work – and the chance to hand out lots of business cards. You get to encourage the customer to tell the managers how great you are. You get in the picture if there’s a camera around. You get the idea.
  • Wait people don’t get paid $25 or more per hour. They can be paid below minimum wage because tips are considered part of their pay. They have to report their tips as income and pay FICA taxes as well as income taxes on them. If my tip gets left on the table, even if they explicitly tell me on the way out that I’m supposed to split it with waiter, I leave it. This way, the wait staff gets a share of the tips, and they advertise me to all of their tables. They like having me work their tables. They get more money from it, I entertain people when things are slow in the kitchen, and everyone they wait on is happier.
  • Definitely do what you can for the wait staff. Sometimes that means making sure they all get their own balloon hats. Other times it means refilling someone’s coke because it’s a busy night and no one else can do it quickly. Leaving a few bucks on a table once or twice a night, even if you never tell them it’s from you, can’t hurt. Whether they think you gave it to them or the guests left it isn’t important. They’ll know that they do better when you’re around.
  • I’ve heard varying opinions on refilling someone’s glass. Some people think that an action of that sort makes you look like “just another server.” I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to serve food to people. That isn’t your job. But, your job is to make the restaurant run more smoothly. Saying, “I hate to see you have to wait on such a busy night for something I can help with,” is sure to get a smile.
  • Anyone that’s worked a lot of restaurants is familiar with the new manager coming in and needing to see evidence of your importance. The wait staff doesn’t turn over every time there’s new management. If the waiters want you there, they’ll tell the new manager.
  • I help customers too, whether it’s giving directions to the restrooms, retrieving a clean fork from the drawer, or helping to bus a table. Do I do it all the time, no, it’s certainly not my job, but it IS my job security. Plus, it helps to get the wait staff on your side, and that alone is worth it.
  • Remember, the restaurant workers are your “bestest” friends. They can either make, or break, your experience there. Be nice to them, and try to do what you can for them.
  • I completely agree with keeping the serving staff happy. I recommend that you do everything you can to make the guests know that THEY are the real workers. All of the staff I work with are very friendly to me, simply because I made sure that they are honored by me to the customers.
  • Servers attitudes, and well feelings, are very important in our business. All it takes is one server to end a good thing.
  • Waitstaff usually love the balloon person and will also give you referrals. I have also been given tips by the waitstaff (when I make balloons for them and their kids).

Affecting The Wait Staff’s Tips

  • I haven’t found that the servers feel any competition for the tips. In fact, many servers ask me to visit their tables and some even tell the patrons that I work for tips before I get there.
  • If I do accept tips, it is potentially decreases the amount the waiter/waitress will get, and I don’t think that they will like that. I want them to respect me more, and consider me an asset and not competition.
  • People, for the most part, tip based on the total price of the check (usually 15 to 20 %). My getting tips for my work has nothing to do with what the waiters and waitresses get from the bill.
  • Wait people expect tips. Why should a twister be different? Unless the wait people feel that the twister is getting THEIR tips. I get the sense from most of the twisters here that the opposite is true. By having a twister in the restaurant everybody gets bigger tips.
  • The wait staff is of the impression that tips are bigger on nights that I work, so that certainly helps win them over to my side. I also go out of my way when necessary to help clear a table if it’s a busy night, and do little extras for the wait staff. They know I’m there if they have problems, and they are there for me as well. It’s a nice relationship.
  • A performer getting a tip in no way takes away from the wait staff. They are tipped, for the most part, based on the cost of the meal (usually 15-25%). Performers are tipped strictly because the customer enjoyed what you did and wants to reward you for it.
  • The waitresses and waiters will eventualy realize that you are frequently getting better tips than they are. The well-adjusted ones will blow this off as no big deal. The others will not. Do your very best to be obvious in your attempt to make their job as easy as possible. The guests are there to eat, not to be blessed by your wildly entertaining schtick! Move aside when the servers approach. Be aware and ready to hear “Behind you” all day/night long.
  • Even when I don’t leave tips for the wait staff, I’ve been told by quite a few that their tips are better on the nights I’m there. So, in a way, just being there is good for them.
  • The argument that you are taking a tip away from a waitress is bogus. A waitress’ tips are figured based on the amount of money customers spent on the meal. So the tip would be the same whether you are there or not.
  • About 95 percent of all waiters ask me if I got a good tip from the people because that usually means that they will get a good tip too. I have never seen a waiter become envious over a tip.
  • I’m working for tips three nights in a week and I’m doing very well for myself. Not only that but it has been verified that having a twister in the resturant, especally a good one who works the crowd well, raises tips for the wait staff and sometimes makes people go for dessert when they normally wouldn’t. People just spend more when they’re having a good time.
  • Remember we are not dealing with reality, but rather PERCEPTION. It doesn’t matter that the tip isn’t coming from the waitress’s “chunk o’ change.” As long as the waitress THINKS it may be affecting her tip, there is a perceived problem. Personally, I prefer not to deal with it; I want the wait staff on MY side. So I get the store to pay me.
  • The wait staff all say that their tips increase on the nights I am there. If I didn’t get a tip but the server got tipped a lot, they would “tip me out” like they do the bartenders.
  • My full time job for the past three years has been as a waiter, and I know first hand that at your ‘family’ type restaurants your tip is based as much on the total bill as it is on money they have available. If they give money to an entertainer, that sometimes means less money for the server. If it is a credit card sale, then it most likely would not be a problem, but if they are paying with cash, then the opportunity for a less than average tip is present.
  • We had three very good tipping restaurants for over six months. I had a great rapport with the customers at all three. I would walk in the door, and people would start asking for me to come to their table. They had had a secret shopper, and had gotten a hundred extra points for their entertainment. Then suddenly, one day I got a phone call an hour before worktime and was told they no longer needed our services at one restaurant. I know of one server that did not want us there. Within the next three weeks I had lost both of the other restaurants too. Both of the other restaurants, (Including the one that had been praised for their entertainment) stated that the cleanup personnel were complaining that they weren’t getting enough tips, and they thought we were getting tips they should have been getting. Of course these are both self-serve restaurants where they don’t have servers, but, instead have someone to clean up the tables. You know, the kind where many patrons don’t think they have to tip anyway, so don’t. I had gotten in pretty good with the cleanup personnel at the one, before they got tired of it and quit. She told me that she got almost exactly the same with, or without, us there. The new personnel did not know what it was like without us there. The other three restaurants we are in say that they constantly get good comments from their customers about us. Occasionally I can tell that someone is annoyed, and I try to avoid that table. All three restaurant managers tell me they have never had a complaint.
  • The servers may look at your tip as being money THEY could have gotten. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s human nature. I don’t think that kind of “friendly competition” between us and servers is healthy.

Greedy Wait People

  • As far as those greedy restaurant employees go, politely tell them to get lost. I personally will make one employee a balloon per night. Make the whining employee who missed out half a promise to get them one next shift.
  • One idea I do have in regards to the employees pestering you for balloons, is offer to the manager that you will make a nice balloon sculpture once a week (you can do it up ahead of time to bring in), and he can give it to the “employee of the week.” That way it gets you in the employee’s good graces as you are making a very cool sculpture for them, plus it gets you off the hook too. “Sorry the manager says only one for the employee of the week.” I’m sure the manager would appreciate it as well as an incentive for his employees to do well.
  • If employee of the week sounds like too corny of an idea, how about putting their names in a hat for those that are on duty that night? Whomever’s ticket you pull gets the prize! Still only one balloon for the wait staff a week and you’re staying in their good graces.
  • About making freebies for the staff, I bring samples for display in the lobby area and then give the samples away to customers when my time is over. Apparently the staff members all have children and are upset with me that I haven’t stayed and made balloons for them to take home.
  • Sometimes you just have to tell them, “sorry, gotta go.” I’ve made balloons for maybe 3 employees before, but that’s it. There is a point. Most often it’s one or none. If it’s a new place, the whole staff is in awe of your ability; give it a month or so. After having been there a while, the staff has seen many of your creations and start to think, “he/she’ll be back, I can ask next time.” They won’t always be asking for something. That’s just what happens at new gigs. If 6 months down the road they’re all still asking, then you have a problem, but I’ve never encountered this.
  • I offered to bring a balloon to give to each staff member to take home.
  • No, no!! Don’t ever commit to this. You’ll be bringing in trash bags full of samples when you work there.
  • You can make samples and give them to the waitstaff at the end of your shift. I usually put them in the kitchen and say ” here are some balloons for anyone who wants them” and let them fight over who gets them. Next week do the same. Eventually everyone will have them and be sick of the novelty in a few weeks.
  • As for employee requests, talk with the manager. They may pay you for an extra 1/2 hour to make balloons for employees in their breakroom after the gig, or if they don’t want to pay for extra time or have you use any of their paid time on employees ask if you may charge the employees per balloon after the gig is over(I do that when I do shows for the grocery store I work at) Note: If you aren’t supposed to make balloons for the employees, they will make sure they have friends and family there the next time you work! So, don’t worry, they will get a balloon if they want it badly enough, and as someone else said, they can always hire you themselves!
  • I will bring special balloons for all the staff this week and suggest that I bring in a few balloons each week and they can rotate.
  • I do a lot of restaurant work and I have had wait staff try to do this to me. When a waiter asks for a balloon I ask them which table requested it. If the waiter wants the balloon I tell them I might have time to make them something after my shift is over. We are not contracted to make balloons for employees.
  • I had an interesting experience tonight. A new manager was working that I had never met. She had never seen my work and really wanted something to take home. She asked several servers to ask for things for her. Of course, I kept saying it would have to be when I was done for the night since there were guests that needed attention first. This was awkward. I wanted the new manager to like me and the way I work. I knew that the best thing for the restaurant was to take care of guests first and staff last. But this was the manager that was making the request. If she isn’t happy, I’m not back again. (Not exactly true since the GM likes what I do, but it’s still not good to upset a manager.) I finally approached her when I was done, and while twisting something for her, asked why she didn’t just grab me earlier herself instead of having everyone else ask for stuff for me. Her answer was that she saw that I knew what I was doing and was sure that if she asked me directly, I would be very direct in telling her that it was inappropriate. This way, she thought I’d be too tactful to openly disagree with management through someone else that needs to answer to her. She was right. Her request was inapropriate (at least while I was working) and rather than say “no” to her staff, I kept promising I’d make something for her later.
  • I have run into this often myself when working for businesses. It seems the management / staff forgets why I am there, for their customers and not for them. For example I work for a department store sometimes and the people working there often come up behind me and say I would like a…. and a…. and one more …. for the other lady. Since I have a group of customers (and I say their customers and not mine) waiting for a balloon I smile and let they see the group of customers and tell I will try to get it in. As long as I don’t have to run to another job afterwards I will make some figures at the end in the back so they have something to take with them. It may not be what they asked for but it is something nice. I have not found any better solution for this.
  • My friend has been working at some Sunday Brunch buffets at hotels. These are good hotels and they asked him not to solicit tips. He told them that he would refuse tips but that some people would not take no for an answer and he would reluctantly take it to avoid offending them and to be able to get back to entertainment.Also at one hotel while he was not supposed to get tips and avoid table hopping, he would work in a central area where all the patrons could enjoy the entertainment. He would be approached by people requesting balloon sculptures.

    He noticed that the waiters (who have less to do because it is a buffet) would come by and request the more elaborate sculptures. They would then take them to the table and get $10 or $20 tips on occasion. I guess the waiters are supposed to get tips. Is there anthing he can do to prevent the waiters acting as the agent and getting the tips?

  • Here’s how I would handle it: Tell the waiters that if a table is requesting a balloon, YOU will deliver it to them. Balloons are pieces of art that should be displayed and delivered by the artist. I relate it to an artist who does caricatures. He draws them and hands them over to the customer. Or the violinist. He doesn’t hand the instrument over to the waiter :o) Don’t let any waiter steal your show!
  • I would discuss the situation with the waiters up front and explain that you will be happy to work with them, but that you expect a cut of the tip money. This should not be anything new to the waiters.
  • As someone who was in the restaurant business for years (I was a waiter most of that time.) I can tell you that the managers would want to be aware of what’s going on. The owners certainly did not want the guests feeling like they had to tip beyond the usual waiters tips. The rules should be established in advance – any balloons given out should be given out by you. You made ’em, and if there’s any tips to be had you you should be gettin’ ’em. If tips aren’t allowed then they aren’t allowed to anyone.

So Many Customers, So Little Time

  • I work at a restaurant that is always busy. They really need two or three twisters, but they only hire one. If one table sees that I will go where the wait staff directs, then they will send their wait person after me too. Pretty soon, I am bombarded by wait people, because their tables think that it is the only way to get my attention. It isn’t fair to the table I’m just about to go to, to have a wait person send me somewhere else. It teaches the customers that if they wait patiently, I may have to skip them.
  • Because you are not busking you don’t stand to lose any money by missing tables, but you will miss out on opportunities to pass out cards and make positive contact w/ future clientele.
  • I’m finding that if I break the restaurant into sections, and finish one section at a time, that it’s a little easier for me. I can tell the servers that I must finish one section before I go anywhere else. If they really insist, or say that their table is leaving, I give them a poodle to take to the table.
  • I need a sure fire way to make the servers wait their turn. I have tried telling them how many tables I have ahead of them, and they just glare at me. I even had one waitress tell a table that I was purposely avoiding them, because I told her that there were 7 tables ahead of hers.
  • The problem of too many people and not enough twisters is one that occurs all the time. I like it to happen at a fair but it can be risky to your business at a restaurant where a few personal complaints can ruin a manager’s day.
  • The best answer to this problem is to see it coming. Try to get the manager to understand it is in his interest to hire more twisters. A bunch of twisters can keep everyone happy without disrupting the flow of a restaurant. Let him know you will take care of it if he will ok the expense. You can take care of yourself as an agent and get your friends work.
  • If you are in a rowdy place you could have the tables compete (a la summer camp) for being next for the twister. Which table sings “Oh Danny Boy” best, or can shout “We’re Not Worthy” loudest or The Table That Holds Up The Largest Tip For The Twister Is Next. (Whether this is a joke or not depends on the place. This whole approach can be disruptive to table service. You’ve really got to read the situation.)
  • What is the best technique for choosing which child to give a balloon to when there are five at the table?
    Whatever works for your mood at the moment. The smallest child, the loudest, closest, ugliest, tallest, or start with the one in Grandmother’s lap to keep them both happy.
  • If there are five kids in the group, either be prepared to make five balloons, or don’t do any. I find when I’ve done a balloon for one kid, the others won’t ask with their words, but their eyes speak volumes.
  • At kid’s night at the restaurant, if I am totally swamped, I’ll only twist for the children at the tables. This allows me time to make it over to the tables without children as well. The customers and, most importantly, my manager is cool with this.
  • If you are busy, smile to the customers and explain that you’ve put them on your mental list of where to go next, and that you’ll try to get to them as fast as you can. Smile and tell the wait staff the same. And always thank *everyone* for asking for you. I usually apologize for taking so long once I’m at the table:I’m sorry it took so long but there were a lot of others who’d asked for me before you did. Thanks a lot for asking! You did the right thing, I might not have been able to get over here if you hadn’t. As you can tell I’m a little popular tonight.
  • I’ve never had anyone not understand. You won’t get to everyone but you’ll get to most of them. Sometimes when a huge party wants lots of hats for everyone, I take a break from them to get a couple of tables that are just leaving.
  • When a child comes to the table that I am working I tell them that I must make their balloon at their table – they seem to understand. I later go seek that child out.
  • I have been doing restaurant gigs for three years. I believe that by working the restaurant systematically you will continue to solicit complaints by folks who get skipped, especially if you are making time consuming multi-balloon creations.
  • If you’ve got time to burn at home, make a bag of multi-balloon items. You will probably have trouble doling them out properly, when the restaurant employee gives in to whiners who ask for two or three balloons, you will run out!
  • It is hard work to cover an entire restaurant! Unless you have super fast fingers, limiting the size/time of the balloon sculptures will help you. It is always more fun to make elaborate sculpture, to show what you can do. The parent of the whining kid just wants to see a balloon in little shnookems’ hand. If you don’t deliver the goods you will get complaints, I guarantee it. Most tables will understand when you tell them that you’d miss half the tables if you made that ten balloon “Mickey”. Explain that if they hire you for a private party you will have time (as long as they don’t try to book 1 hour for 100 kids!!).
  • People will request you right when they walk in the door. If you have three tables that are eating dessert, then you will have to explain to the people that just walked in, that you will visit their table soon. People are oblivious to the balloon needs of others unless you tactfully explain the situation. I still think the best skill in our line of work is knowing how to tactfully say no.
  • You must try your best hit to every table, this means dashing from one side of the restaurant to the other sometimes. When it is really busy it means only hitting tables that are done with dinner, this way you miss nobody. Tables with only adults will generally not complain about getting skipped unless they specifically had request you to come over. Be sure to ask all the tables with kids!! Hit the tables that you think will be finished first. Try to hit tables while they are waiting for their food or bill, especially if you want to be tipped!
  • I like this gig and want to keep it so I suggested to the manager that this week I’ll bring more samples so we can give them to people when I am unable to get to their table.
  • This might look like you can’t keep up, are slow or don’t really care about hitting as many tables as possible. You want the manager to think that the restaurant is getting what they’re paying for, esp. if you’re being well paid.
  • I bring 6-9 sample creations and display them in the lobby along with a sign that says “Balloons By Linda (or Heart Throb), (smaller type) For display only, please do not handle, (larger type) Balloons Sculpted Tableside for Dinner Customers 7 – 9 p.m. The display works in several ways. First it tells the regulars that I am working. Second it shows a bit of my variety and gives people a idea of what to request. Third, if I can’t get to a table, the manager gives them one of the samples. At the end of the evening, I give the samples to the staff or take them home (I made them on my own time before I start working) and sell them at my Sunday morning gigs.

Dealing With Customers Who Don’t Want Balloons

  • How do I separate family customers who want balloons from those that don’t wish to be bothered? Easy. Use psychology. Remember most people are under the impression that balloons are for kids. Destroy that myth! We are all kids at heart and balloons REMIND us of that. So the next time you see a cute couple in the restaurant holding hands, walk over smile and in a calm way, say “I think I have just the thing for the two of you” and make something romantic. A teddy bear holding a heart, a heart inside a balloon wreath, a balloon rose — you will MELT the young lady’s heart. Again, use psychology. To avoid having the guy feeling left out when you’re finished say “ok, now I’m NOT giving this to you” to the woman. Turn to the man and say “I’m giving it to you because I know that being the gentleman that you are, it’ll find it’s way to her,” and then just smile. And THAT, people, is where I find the largest tips of all. From the romantic couple who thinks before hand that they are too good for balloons. Try it, it works.
  • Business people – ok, the tried and true method doesn’t work on the hardcore business people. They WILL see by the balloons in the area that this is what you do. Approach them and read their facial expressions; smiles? frowns? are they shaking their heads indicating they don’t want anything? If it’s the final two, go to their table anyway. Tell them “the last thing I want to do is interupt an important discussion with some balloons that you don’t have an interest in. However, if I may, I would like to leave something with you just the same” – and drop your business card. They will appreciate that you are acknowledging their requests to NOT have any balloons AND they will respect you as a business person for leaving behind a business card. Perhaps verbally let them know before you go that you entertain at all sorts of events, not just kiddie B-days, but corporate events, and in my case I stress that I am a balloon decorater as well.
  • I have run into parents who don’t want to spend the money and the kids are begging for a balloon. I just say don’t worry about it. It’s complimentary or it’s not obligatory to tip then everyone’s happy. I used to worry about the money, but it evens out and it’s just as rewarding to make a child happy and the parent forever grateful.

Working the Crowd

  • The staff keep coming to me and asking me to go to a particular table but that is not the game plan. I would never be able to remember where I was and who was next, so I remind them gently that I’m systematically working my way around the restaurant and I’ll try to get to that table. Any suggestions?
  • The wait staff often directs me to tables who have requested my presence.
  • I believe you’ll hand out many more cards and make a better impression by serving as many tables as possible, thus increasing your out of restaurant bookings. Besides, it’s great exercise criss-crossing the restaurant; you don’t have to go work out afterwards!!
  • I have found that going in order is not good. If you zig zag around the restaurant you will get to more areas and more people will see you. If they miss you, they’ll have to come back another time to catch you!
  • I have made balloons for a fast food restaurant before, and as someone else said, I go to the tables that look most interested in the balloons first. Note: A senior citizen smiling as she sees you making balloons for the other customer may be just as interested in receiving a balloon as the hyper child! If they are watching you rather than just eating, they are interested!
  • I work going around in a circle in the restaurant so that I don’t miss any one. If I don’t stick to this, then I can’t remember which tables I have gone to.
  • If waiters can remember which guy at an 8-person table gets the extra-rare steak, you can remember where you were on your circuit of the restaurant. I think that’s part of your job.
  • In regards to not being able to tell what tables you’ve been to already, those are the ones where they already have balloons! 🙂
  • Go see the people when you’re called over – and as for making balloons for the waiters kids, if you know how to say “no” when they ask you to visit a certain table, why don’t you know how to say “no” when they ask for balloons to take home? Get a few smiley-face balloons and blow one up when the waiters want one for their kid.You’re not working a fair where impatient kiddies are all pushing their way to the front… it’s the sort of thing the patrons (and, by extension, the management) expect, sort of like “Have the piano player do ‘As Time Goes By'” or “Please keep those mariachis away from my table.” The waiters are going home saying “Not only can this clown not make a balloon for my kid, but he won’t even respond when one of my customers asks me to have the balloon twister come over… what a @#$%^&*!”
  • I notice people eating, and I try not to disturb folks while they eat.
  • Here are a few things I’ve found to be very helpful as I’ve gone from table to table:
    • Always speak to mom and dad when you approach. This builds a little rapport with the parents, and can earn you some devoted repeat customers.
    • When your customer is in the “under three” group, hand the balloon to a parent to do two things: 1) remind them not to let the child put a balloon in his/her mouth; and 2) be a little less scary to the child.
    • Smile a lot. Even when you get a negative response.
    • Be willing to walk away without getting a tip. In other words, some folks just don’t get the idea that this is a job. (A fun job, but a source of income nonetheless.) I’ve made some great stuff for people who didn’t tip me. I’ve also made stuff for people who appeared not to be ready to tip, and later searched me out to give some fairly generous tips. I guess you could sum it up in the phrase, be gracious.
    • Learn a few really bad jokes. Kids and adults like it. Puns on the theme of whatever you’re twisting work pretty well.
    • Treat each party as if they were the only ones in the restaurant.
  • The main things that I have learned in the short time I’ve been doing this (about 9 months) is that “You reap what you sow.” If you are not feeling good, or your mind is not on what you are doing, you will not have a good night. Your customers can pick up on it.

What to Make in the Restaurant

  • If your goal is to get balloons in everyone’s hands, keep things simple. If you can’t make it in a minute or less, you don’t want to be doing it in busy restaurant. If things are very slow (and it’s not before the rush), one can get fancier. Remember that the restaurant is a business, and they make their money by turning tables… not by filling their lobby with people waiting for a table. The Restaurant staff is waiting for people to leave, you don’t want those people waiting on the balloon person to finish. Simple things include swords (1 twist), scabbards (2 twists), parrots (3 twists), dogs (3 twists), giraffes (3 twists), tigers (10 twists), teddy bears (11 twists), flowers (1 or 5 twists), two and three balloon hats, airplanes (5 twists), fish, mice, bracelets, etc. I like to lean towards emotional/cute stuff. Only takes a second to add a 6 inch heart to a bear and a few more seconds to add a cute face to a lion.
  • I work strictly from requests and play off customer’s reactions (or lack of them). This is very much like any other conversation. Then the ‘show’ is finished and it’s time to say good bye but if you’re working for tips, give them a little warning before you leave. They sometimes need time to dig out the dough.
  • I make a lot of multiple balloon cartoon characters as often as I can, but the old line still holds true: Don’t make anything you wouldn’t want to make all day or all night.
  • Most of what I do in the restaurant is hats. People love them: they’re huge and colorful and annoying as all get out! Run with the idea! Any hat with antennas is ‘huge’ in the eyes of the public. Very few people think that fully inflated balloons aren’t big enough. I have a few gigantic hats that I do. Not many balloons required, but there have to be at least several helium balloons already at the table to support the hat… beware of ceiling fans with this one!
  • Remember: A hat is a sculpture. When people ask me what it’s supposed to be, I always say ‘modern art’ if they ask for an explanation of the piece… I take on a snobby attitude and point to various parts of the hat while saying, “This hat is representative of man’s inhumanity to man as society spirals down in an obvious lack of morality”.
  • Balloons that link people together are a hit in my restaurant. I usually pick two boys or girls and make them simple braided hats, then use a fully inflated balloon to link them together. Of course, the patter is “now you have to go to the bathroom together” or something like that. Seems to work well and usually the parents like the idea as one balloon hat tracks two or more kids.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you can’t do something. If someone, in a busy restaurant asks for a nine balloon figure that you can do, you probably shouldn’t do it unless you are capable of making that figure for everyone who wants a balloon. You don’t want people fruitlessly waiting half an hour for you to come by. Neither does the restaurant manager. The one exception for me here, is special occasions. If a group is there for someone’s birthday, and the wait staff has just delivered the cake, I’ll try to finish up where I’m at and get to the b-day group and do something special.
  • When it’s busy, you have to take that fact into consideration and adjust the ‘menu’ of figures that you’re doing…. ie. I have a ‘routine’ when making a 6 petal flower, it about goes 2 – 3 minutes. On a busy night, the routine is trimmed or even dropped.
  • For those of you that work restaurants, the menu board idea reduced to a card size is also available from T. Myers. Great idea here, too. Keeps the work flowing and gives the people something to do while waiting for you to get to their table.
  • When the restaurant isn’t busy, I have a balloon menu that I give to them and then I encourage them to take it home so they will know what they want to ‘order’ the next time.
  • Some sculptors will make those big items only when it is slow. Be careful, an empty restaurant can fill up in less than five minutes. When the customers see a ten ballooner, everyone will be requesting it! You will have no time to make one for everyone!
  • I keep multi-balloons for special occasions.
  • I ask people if they have a request then fill it. If not I ask if I can surprise them and make something just for them. As the evening progresses, I probably make 2/3 simple multi-balloon designs (silver teddy holding a heart – most people have never seen a silver twisty balloon before and think you are special) or love birds on a heart or a quick killer whale or something fast like a flower.
  • If they ask for one of the detailed ones, I gladly make it but usually only one very time consuming design at a table. If they ask for a one balloon simple, then I make that too.
  • I’ve heard managers, wait staff and patrons complain, “The last balloon artist we had made things too big.” Large items get in the wait staff’s way, mom and dad’s way (in the car). Many people request and appreciate small sculptures.
  • I think the 160s are perfect for restaurants because the miniature creations don’t take up the whole table. The only downside is that the 160 mini-pump is one way and takes longer to inflate the balloon but people are fascinated as you inflate the mini-balloon. Thank you Pioneer for making such a wonderful product.
  • I work in an area where a good percentage of people have had high exposure to balloon entertainment. When I’m in a restaurant people frequently ask me, “Will you make a (large multi-balloon cartoon character) like the guy/gal at (pier 39, other restaurant, etc.)”
  • When things get busy, the multi-balloon items take a back seat to things I need to make to turn the tables. If asked to make an elaborate item that a kid has seen in another part of the resturant, I usually tell them that I only make one of those per day, since they take so long. Next time, if they remind me, I will make what they saw especialy for them, and they will be the lucky recipient. This has worked pretty well so far. It may not the ultimate answer, but it’s better than making fifty yellow teddy bears known for hanging around with hyperactive tigers who lisp.
    • One-balloon sculptures do not have to be less elaborate or entertaining than multi’s.
    • People will tip you more if you entertain them. You could be a lousy balloon mechanic and make huge tips as an entertainer. try to increase your pep factor. Be mentally on your toes for opportunities to say something witty or hilarious. Include the waiter, kids from other tables, people at the next table and anyone else in your patter.
    • Make a multi, everyone in the restaurant wants one, make a one ballooner… Talk Talk Talk folks, we are essentially sales people, I tell people that in order to hit everyone that wants a balloon I need to keep it simple, but at private events I’ve been known to use 20 balloons on a hat and make lots of celeberity cartoon sculptures. Incentive. On a busy night in a restaurant that has quick table turnover, I don’t care how fast you are, you are gonna miss some/alotta tables doing multi’s. Which one of those tables was gonna tip you $20 to make three swords?
    • The more tables you successfully entertain, the more money comes in, the more business cards and promo spiels go out.
  • The way I do things, the multi-balloon figures actually get me around the restaurant faster. The way I do it, and I know this doesn’t work for everyone (I’ve talked to a lot of people about it), is to only make one elaborate thing per table when the restaurant is busy. There’s very little that I make in a restaurant that takes more than 5 minutes. If I let the kids tell me what they want (I always take suggestions, but often do what I feel like anyway – without any arguments from them) and there are 5 kids, I could be stuck taking longer than it would take me to make one thing to be shared. 5 minutes per table is actually a lot of time if you’re in a big restaurant on a busy day. I scale my creations based on the time I have. If there’s a large group and you’re giving balloons to everyone, there’s a limit to how much you can scale down your creations. There are still tables that prefer to have something small for each kid. Since I tell them up front what I do, they usually let me know before I start if they prefer small things.
  • The angle is to inform them that you can do more elaborate things at private parties. I’d prefer to have them see what I can do so that they’ll hire me for their private parties and pay me for enough hours that everyone can get something the next time they see me.
  • Convincing a table with four kids to take one balloon sculpture is POWERFUL crowd control. Here’s an example of how it’s done:I was making something really cool for a family at the other end of the restaurant when I saw you come in. I knew I’d have to get to your table, ’cause you looked like you’d appreciate something as big as what they got. I don’t know what you have in mind, but I’m hoping to make something really awesome that will make everyone else look at you.
    This gets them looking around the restaurant for starters. It plants ideas in their head about what I can do and it gives them a chance to see that everyone gets treated the same. Every table has only a certain number of balloons (whatever I have time for that night). There are nights that every kid does get their own multi-balloon creation. Reading faces is as important as when you’re playing poker. If you see that you aren’t getting your message across, go further.
    If there are too many balloons on the table, there won’t be room for you food. To make sure there’s still room and you can still eat, I’m going to make one really cool thing for all of you to share.
    Now I’ve given them a good reason to not cover the table with stuff.
  • One of my favorite things to twist at the restaurant is to put a balloon ball inside a teddy bear (the hugging variety, which can then hold anything from a heart balloon to a 5″ balloon, a business card, a playing card… and so on). Then say “You can tell he’s been out to eat. See, his tummy’s full.” If folks ask what he ate, I usually fill in with: a meatball, a grape, an olive… This also works well with a Hershey’s Kiss (particularly around Valentines Day) after pointing to the Kiss inside, I usually add “when you get him home, you might want to explain to him about taking the wrapper off FIRST” or “he’s only to be broken open in case of an emergency”
  • I’ve worked restaurants for a long time, and my best advice is to keep it simple. Stay with figures you are familiar with and can do quickly; I always keep it to single-balloon sculptures. Once you do a multi-ballon piece, everyone wants one and you’ll waste a lot more time and balloons. Even so, I have about 20 simple designs I can do well in under 10 seconds (each, not for all 20!). Also leave the pump at home unless you absolutely can’t work without it … they are cumbersome and get in the way of servers and guests.
  • I do a lot of restaurants, from the classy to the fast food type. I do multiple at all the places, and also singles. There are several quick, easy multiple balloons out there. T. Myers theory of the fully inflated balloon is true. These are the ones used most for first or second time customers:
    The Incredible, Flying, Vampire Mouse of Doom. A personalized version of the jumping mouse.
    The South American Barking Snail. See it in the february balloon section.
    Anything with teddy bears.
    Anything with hearts.
    The ray gun.
    Bug hat. Look in my book, Too Cute to Live, also in T. Myers true inflations.
    The Tickle Monster. Book and true inflations.
  • I don’t make my most time-consuming creations but will make something special for a birthday or other special event. People come back regularly for the food and the balloon entertainment.
  • In most cases I give the really special balloons to those special tables that tip a lot or come in all the time. Work the birthday thing! Make hats for those birthday boys and girls from ages 4-104. I find if you make a special deal out of the birithday folks, making them the star but not blantantly embarasing them, I get the best tips. It’s funny, I think of myself as a good magician (especially performing close-up), but I get most of my show contacts and tips from making balloons.
  • Lately I have been doing some work at a local TGIFridays. As soon as I arrive, the servers and greeters come by for their hats, which allows me to get some attention from patrons. I like doing hats as they have high color, motion, and the visibility is great advertisement.
  • If it’s a big place make quick things (not necessarily small). I have a tendency to whip out a twirled 2 balloon unicorn hat in under 40 seconds. It’s large and kids like it. It goes on the head rather than getting cluttered up in the seating area, so it’s out of the way of the waiters.
  • Kids and mouths: Decide how to refuse-without-offending when a mom of a 1 – 2+ year old asks for a balloon for her little one.
  • In the restaurants I work, multiple balloon hats are very popular, but it’s the fully inflated balloons with few twists that work the best (thank you, T. Myers). Show-off sculptures are fun, but I’ll do that only if there’s one child at the table, and again, if it’s not too busy.

One-Liners For Restaurants

  • Another bit that I do is: I make a big hat for the guest of honor (bride, birthday, etc) then I say, ” Don’t worry, no one will even notice that you are wearing this hat.” Then at the top of my lungs I shout so the whole restaurant will hear, ” HEY EVERYONE DON’T LOOK AT THIS PERSON WEARING THIS SILLY HAT ‘CAUSE SHE’LL BE EMBARRASSED!” Everyone looks at her, everyone laughs, and I get a big tip from the party.
  • I think you would make even better tips if you would learn more jokes to go with the balloons. Check out little kid joke books from the library and get a ton of animal jokes.
  • BalloonHQ has more jokes than you can learn! For a huge list of one-liners for use in restaurants or in any situation, check out the One-Liners chapter.

Mc Donald’s

  • I do balloon art at McDonald’s. I started working for McDonald’s on their kids nights and at special events. Corporate owned McD hired me first and then reccommended me to the private owned ones. One woman that I work for owns 6 McD’s another person owns 2, etc. You cannot work for tips at McD. I get paid for my work there on a per hour plus travel fee. What sets me apart from others who have tried to get in is my multi creations as well as the way I handle the customers. People come back every month to see me. I go to each McD once a month but I am at 1 or 2 McD’s every week. I have a little tip for all of you to think about. Keep in mind that McD’s is a very big corporate company. As you are setting up and making your balloons, think about this:
    Disney knows the right way to entertain. Think about how you are speaking to the people, what your appearance is like, how you conduct your business, and what you do when you leave. Think about how you are presenting yourself, not only when you perform but also before and after. The restaurant gets calls from people before they come in asking if I’m going to be there.
  • Twisting at McD’s can a very relaxing evening. Here are a few observations:
    • Don’t let them put you in the play area. It’s too hot in there, it smells and kids are running around.
    • Suggest they have you on a regular schedule. Word of mouth brings people back.
    • Have a casual friendly attitude (make yourself even more friendly than the teens behind the counter.) You become a valuable host for the place.
    • I have a line on the floor that kids automatically line up behind.
    • Have lots of cards on a table next to you for adults to take.
    • Have a sign saying one per person and for children over the age of 3. McDonald’s appreciates that you know what you are doing.
    • Don’t get excited or frustrated. Take the Mr Rogers approach. If you are soft and friendly, people will listen.
    • HAVE FUN!

Restaurant Cards

  • I put together a message card for patrons who are waiting for a balloon when I’m extremely busy.
    Busy night at the restaurant. You’re backed up, several tables are waiting. People will most likely complain because they had to wait. Possible suggestion:
    Give a card that states the following
    “I try to get to every table, but on busy nights I cannot guarantee it. I will do my best to please everyone in the restaurant. I may not be able to visit every table. I will try to come to your table before your meal is over. If I miss your table, please send an adult to come and remind me. Thank you for your understanding”The card is good for a couple of reasons. It solves the problem of how to get the message out. It also provides them with something to take home with your name on it. The card can also list any other information like other dates you’re in the restaurant. Make sure the host gives them the card when they receive their menus. That way it’s put in front of them and they dont’ have to find it by chance on the table.
  • In a way I’ve been doing the same thing without the card. I ask the hosts to tell everyone that I’m available. “We have entertainment this evening. If you’d like balloons or magic at your table, please ask your server to bring Larry over here.” That way, the server can find you and remind you if one of their tables is missed. You also never end up at a table where you’re not wanted. If it isn’t busy, I still walk around and talk to everyone. On a busy night, it saves me some time.
  • “I may not be able to” and “I will try to come to your table” is not good in my opinion. I know you are being honest but the customer really doesn’t want to hear that.
  • There is no really good answer to this because you will always disappoint someone. I ran into this problem at a Ground Round many years ago. The way I handled it was to make up little tokens (now considered to be pogs) that said something like “This token entitles you to 2 free balloons of your choice.” People brought them back on their next visit and got priority service. I gave them to people who came up to me as they were leaving complaining that I never got to them. You can make these from those pog making machines that are on closeout now at Toys R Us. Or you could make a business card with the message on it.
  • If we handle our balloons as if they were of great value (GOLD), the customers and staff will feel the same way about them. If the twister just tries to hurry and go as fast as she can and make the smallest stuff so she can get everybody something, she is destroying the art form she loves. I think everybody is having to give up too much that way. What if she had her card printed with two parts like tickets, the front would be her regular card so they could take it home with them, the back would have a number on it for the drawing. As people come into the restaurant, if they would like to be in the drawing to win a balloon sculpture done for them at their table they would take a card and put the stub into a bucket. Better yet let the staff give each table her card and tear off the back and place it into the bucket for them to be in the drawings. Draw numbers out of the bucket, and work each table as the number is drawn.I think this would take the pressure off the twister to make one for everybody. Only the lucky ones will win tonight. They can come back as often as they like to win or they will have her card they could book a private party from her. As for the waitresses and waiters… If they don’t have a little extra pull, what good are they to their customers? Give them some cards to pass out as they feel will help them earn better tips, and to better their relations with their customers. This way the staff will be on your side and work with you. If they can give an extra card to be placed into the bucket they will feel like you are working with them and for them. Now that wouldn’t mean that every card they pass out will always win them a wonderful balloon sculpture, but they will know that their waitress or waiter is going the extra mile and should get a better tip. Okay so what if each table has two cards now… one for her and one for him, better chance they might keep one to call you with.

    Now the cooks, and rest of the staff, I’d take as many cards as there are people and write their name on one card. At the end of your shift go into the back and draw one or two names and make them their very own special balloon sculpture. Of course their names are gone from the bucket and until everybody has won no old names will be placed back into the bucket. After everybody has won their very own sculpture you can start again and place everybody name back into the bucket.

    Now this restaurant will have more of your cards floating around so anyone there should know how to book a party with you. No one should feel like you are slighting them and when they do get their balloon, they will jump with joy and wish this had been for millions. The feeling is the same every time you do a balloon for someone – they will feel like they are very special, and they are. This will also allow you to take your time and do the best work you can.

  • TOO COMPLICATED! Just get the balloon out there! Look, if you don’t get to everyone — SO WHAT! They’ll just have to come back another time. People don’t go on EVERY ride at Disney World. Sometimes the line is too long. They will catch it the next time. Restaurants want you there to satisfy the customers. As many as you can. They also don’t want you to bother the flow of them serving the food. Food comes first. As I said before. Look for the people that are either waiting for their food or are on the desert. Eventually everyone will fall into this category and eventually you will get to everyone. A lot of parents don’t want the balloons until the kids are finished eating anyway.
  • The card itself isn’t a totally bad idea though. What if you leave out the part about not getting to their table? What if it simply read, “If I have not yet reached your table and you are done/towards the end of the dinner, please see me personally.” Include a smiley face at the end of the statement to make it a bit light hearted and upbeat. It also serves as a great form of advertisement, so put your name and phone number on it as well. After all, the purpose is to advertise your business, not the fact that you might be too busy to get to them. In order for the card to work in your venue, you may have to change the wording. In some places the cards would be out of place. The key is to find something that works well for *you* in *your* millieu. We shouldn’t be scared to try new ideas, but we shouldn’t expect the same idea to work the same way in every situation in every part of the world.
  • Business cards: After she worked a few times she decided she was tired of making the same things over and over. We decided that would be an easy problem to solve by making a business card with pictures on it. Her business card folds in half. The front side is a regular business card. The inside shows 33 animal pictures. These are not balloon figures. These are clip art pictures of animals. This way, if she has time, she can make the creature more complicated. If she is pressed for time she can make the fast, easy version of the animal. {If they smoke she only makes the fast, easy version of the animals 🙂 } The back of the card has 14 pictures of other things; airplanes, toys, flowers… as well as a list of hats. All of these things take only 1 or 2 balloons.
  • Hand out these business cards when people are a little tired of waiting for you to get to them. This gives them something to do while waiting for you.
  • Hand them out when you’re tired of making the same thing over and over and over.
  • I also hand them out most anytime someone asks for a dog. I like to show off my art, and dogs just don’t do it, unless I have time to make a more complicated dog.

Books and Tapes

  • Look into Marvin Hardy’s Of The Part Time Frying Pan And Into The Full-time Fire for some good advice on how to sell a restaurant. You’ll find that his methods work very well.
  • I highly recommend ‘The Restaurant Workers Handbook : A practical guide to restaurant magic’ – by Jim Pace and Jerry MacGregor, not just for magicians (although it is written with them in mind) but to all who want to work restaurants. Check it out in your nearest magic store.
  • Mark Nilsen has a new 60 minute cassette tape audio tape “Insiders’ Secrets to Working Restaurants”. This is for magicians, clowns, or balloonatics, and it got an excellent review in the latest issue of M-U-M.Bottom line in Nilsen’s book: Keep everone happy and get the store to pay you. You’ll still get offered of tips, but it will be because the guest felt a tip was in order, not because they were obligated.
  • The tape “Insider’s Secrets to Working Restaurants” has all the information about getting and keeping a restaurant gig, and discusses money, tips vs. salary, approaching tables, etc. It was written for magicians, but the information is equally applicable to balloons, clowning, etc. It got great reviews in M-U-M and Linking Ring. I have them for $19.95 ppd, can accept VISA or MC. Mark Nilsen
    Incredible Productions
    2408 Napa Trail
    Waukesha WI 53188
  • See Mark Nilsen’s archive of columns originally published in MUM. It addresses some points about the business of ballooning. Although aimed at magicians, most (all?) of the information applies to balloons. To access the archive (and other ares) go
    Click “magicians only”
    password: Vernon (case sensitive – upper case “V”)

    or go directly to

Working in Restaurants 101

The first half of this chapter is called Working in Restaurants 101.

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