Tavern on the Green’s Ronny Webb Likes to See You Smile

"When Im taking their picture I sing 'When I see you smile'"Photo: Melissa Hom


Fifty-four-year-old Ronny Webb worked at El Morocco and the Rainbow Room, eventually making $40,000 per year as a hotel-restaurant manager, before he decided to take a step down and pursue what he says is a less stressful existence. For the past five years, hes been making cash money as a butler for billionaire Ron Perelman (something hes not allowed to talk about) and as a captain at the citys most profitable restaurant, Tavern on the Green. (Apparently, attempting to track-down 2 percent milk and off-the-menu spaghetti for Robert De Niros wife and kid is considered low stress.) We asked him more about this lark of a job.

What are the signatures of your service?
Other employees always call me to sing Happy Birthday with them because Im very brave. I always sing in a tone that people like. When Im taking their picture I sing [breaking into song] When I see you smile

How much do you rake in in tips at New York Citys most profitable restaurant?
On a Sunday, you could make anywhere from $150 to $250. In the night shift, anywhere from $170 to $300 and change. When you get into the latter part of October or December, you can have $500-a-day dinners.

How many tables do you oversee? What tricks do you employ to avoid slipping up?
During Sunday brunch I personally have 32 covers. One waiter shakes so he cant keep his hand steady and serve drinks. When he gets the order ready in one tray, I give him two more orders and grab the tray he just prepared and go and serve the table. I make it look flawless so you dont notice he is incompetent in that way.

What are wedding receptions like there?
Some of them go too long they should only be able to drink three hours. After seven hours of drinking, a lot of people are stumbling or vomiting at the end of the night.

Do people get fussy about which room theyre seated in?
This gentleman and lady hadnt been here in 27 years they were married in the Crystal room. They sat them in the Chestnut after a bottle wine, they started fighting, they got upset with me because they said, We really wanted to sit in the Crystal. They left unhappy.

Do people flip out when the bill comes to more than they had imagined?
A lot of people look at the menu and then theyre there for ten minutes and all of sudden everyone gets up and walks out. That happens often. Theyll make any stupid excuse.

How many plates can you carry at a given time? Does the job take a physical toll?
Serving, I can carry up to six plates, but its not very professional. Clearing, I can clear up to ten plates. I did four doubles one day. You're really tired the next day youre brain-dead and cant walk. But you drink a lot of coffee. I recently worked 21 days straight. At my age, thats pushing it but you got to pay the mortgage.