When I first arrived at college, I was too young and didn't have enough experience for an internship, but needed jobs to start out my resume and make me money. I decided to turn to campus dining; I worked for a food marketplace on campus and a cafe during my freshman and sophomore years. I also worked at a grill stand for a country club one summer. Food service wasn't always easy, but I learned some important lessons about both life and the food service industry while working my positions. Here are five lessons I learned from working food service.
1. You can't make everyone happy
In food service, there's always that one customer who will find something to complain about or who will never be satisfied no matter what you do for them. Every shift, there is always going to be at least one customer who is unhappy about the food or the service.
In life, no matter what you do, it's impossible that everyone will be happy with you or your decisions. It's also impossible to make everyone happy. If someone is unhappy with you even though you tried your best to make them happy, don't let it get to you too much.
2. Don't shoot the messanger
Some customers tend to blame their point of contact for any issues they experience. Usually, this is the server, the person who hands them their food, or the cashier. While sometimes these people are at fault, the problems can be things that are completely out of their control. These include running out of an item or long waits due to being short staffed.
Whenever encountering any problem in life, it's important to consider what really is the cause before blaming the most readily available option. If you blame whatever isn't causing the problem, you won't fix anything.
3. Crazy things happen
The world of food service can be crazy and busy, but sometimes, things that are completely unexpected happen. For example, when I worked at an on-campus cafe, we completely ran out of milk one day (besides a few small cartons of soy milk). In these situations, you have to think on your feet and think of creative solutions.
Expect the unexpected. When something crazy happens, try your best to work with the situation and improvise. Don't let an unexpected situation stop you from achieving your goals.
4. Basic kindness and respect are important
It's impossible to avoid rude customers; they may not greet you or just have a bad attitude. These customers make you appreciate those who show kindness and respect even more.
Kindness and respect are important. No matter who you are interacting with, be polite and show them kindness. It will brighten someone's day.
5. Take care of your mental health and try to reduce your stress levels
During meal rushes, working at a restaurant or cafe can get crazy. The lines are insane, orders keep flying in, and it seems to be never-ending. It's easy to get stressed during these times when it seems there is no end to the people coming in. However, you have to learn that you can only do what you can and try to calm down.
Taking care of your mental health and keeping your stress levels in check is extremely important. Even when you don't have time to take a long break, try and take some deep breaths and ease your mind the best you can. You can't always avoid stress, but you can take measures to keep it under control.