I had a class this semester that required us to write a paper on what culture defined who we are the most? It could have been anything as broad as being an American to something as small as work culture. I thought long and hard about what has influenced me the most and I realized it was certainly work.
The difference between my industry and let’s say another random industry, like insurance, is that only people who want insurance come to you but, everyone needs food. On a daily basis, I have to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly.
What the restaurant industry has taught me:
1. To fake a damn good smile
I list this not because it is the most important was one but because it is the skill that has benefited me the most. Being able to put my feelings and emotions aside to do a job has taught me respect and responsibility. This is the most useful when dealing with rude customers or clueless management and not let it affect my performance.
2. Everything comes out in the wash
Working for a salary that is based on other people's generosity has taught me more than I could have imagined. It has helped me keep my head level when I otherwise shouldn’t. Getting angry over a table that left $5 on a $100 check will do nothing but affect my other tables. What I learned is just because one tabled stiffed me doesn’t mean my night is ruined. Especially knowing that my next table might leave me $20 on an $80 check putting me right back on track. Even if it doesn't all work out that night by the end of the week I am always right where I should be. It’s the yin and yang of serving!
3. Hard work doesn't always pay out
If you ever want to see a great example of inequality in the workplace just look at the different positions in a restaurant. Waiters by far make the most out of any hourly staffed employee and sometimes we do the least amount of work. Not so say this job is easy but it certainly isn’t as hard for what we get paid. There have been multiple times where in two days of work cleared the a full works pay of a back of house cook who worked 40+ that week doing doubles and all I did was ask a family for their order.
4. Talking to strangers isn’t so bad
I distinctly remember the first time I ever spoke to a table as a server. For some reason, I thought it would be this terrifyingly awkward moment where I would not know what to do or say. Every since then I realized how ridiculous that was and that you can meet some pretty awesome people just by talking
5. Some people have no idea what they are doing
I am sure that this can be found in any industry but it amazes how some people can function on a day to day basis. On more than one occasion I had a customer complain to me that they didn’t order the “gratatouille” and I had to explain to them that it says gratuity while another customer asks “y’all serve food?”. This amazement goes way beyond customers. I once had a manager who instead of telling my table that the floor is not a safe place for their child to lay down instead told them that she doesn't know the last time we cleaned our carpets and they should get their child off the floors because it's disgusting...
6. The art of controlling a situation
Learning how to speak to people is hands down the most important skill I learned. Having to deal with rude or obnoxious people on the daily has taught me a lot of things about communication. Most importantly that I must keep my emotions in check at all times and how important wording can be to a guest. People love it when you make them seem like the most important person in the room which has saved me time and time again.
7. Only waiters and drug dealers make cash this quick
There are very few legal jobs where I can walk out the same day with a couple hundred in cash come back the next day and do it again. Being a front of house server can range from making something as low as $20 for the day or my record high of $520 off of a double. What other job ranges this much in hourly wage for little to no labor?
8. Importance of leaving baggage at home
Having worked in several restaurants that range from corporate to fine dining to family-run I can tell you this is a lesson learned time and time again. Not only do some people enjoy telling you about every detail of their life others let it affect how they work. Putting up with rude responses when it comes to picking up tables, anger being taken out on spaghetti squash as it flies across the kitchen hitting a waitress in the face (true story, I swear) to just downright being miserable and taking it out on everything that breathes. I try my best to let my home life stay at home and my last table stay at my last table.
This is one of the hardest industries to leave because it is one of the most fulfilling.