I got my first taxable job, and first job in the food/restaurant industry, when I was 16 years old. I worked at McDonald's for three months during the summer. This was the WORST job I have ever had, and let me tell you, I have held lots of jobs.
But I didn't give up on the food/restaurant industry after my first bad experience with it. The summer going into my senior year of high school, I went to work for a local pizza buffet... Again, this job was terrible! I was almost never scheduled and when I was, I regretted coming in to work.
During my senior year of high school, I decided I needed a job at someplace I enjoyed. Olive Garden, one of my favorite restaurants, was not too far from my home so I decided to apply for the position of the hostess. I got the position and had an amazing experience working for the Darden company. I moved on to serving, specializing in To Go!, and sometimes acted as a busser when there were call-offs.
When I moved up to Michigan, I thought I would work for Olive Garden in Novi since the Olive Garden I used to work for was such a great experience. Well... lesson learned. Each location is run differently. Needless to say, I no longer work for Olive Garden.
Although I haven't always had the best experience working in the food/restaurant industry, it has taught me some valuable life lessons I wanted to share.
1. A good manager can change everything at work!
When I worked at Olive Garden in Ohio, I had amazing management. As a result, we had an amazing workforce filled with people who enjoyed coming to work (as much as one can). Workers cared about the quality of the work they put out because they were cared for.
When I went up to Michigan to work at Olive Garden, management would yell and scream at employees all of the time. Employees were quitting left and right; the ones who didn't were always grumpy. There was no respect for the company caused by poor management.
2. Your coworkers will be your best friends... during work, that is.
There is a great amount of camaraderie among food industry employees. Everyone is dealing with the same shitty customers so we all understand each other's troubles. Coworkers often get close are a result of the constant help they are providing for one another.
Of course, there is a lot of drama! I just always tried to stay out of that!
3. Be prepared for anything to happen.
It might seem like it'll be a slow day and then... bam... right before the manager was going to cut you, five six-tops just walked in.
The unexpected will always happen in the restaurant industry. Things will break, customers will be rude, and your feet will hurt; I had to keep trucking through it for the tips!
4. You might mess up but you can't let it hold you back.
I have seen so many servers break down and cry over being stiffed on a tip or from being yelled at by management. I have learned to shrug it off.
Sometimes customers can be assholes. Sometimes I can be an asshole. So I understand that things are hard for people, it probably wasn't personal, and I just need to maintain a happy face in order to keep making that money!
5. Attitude is everything.
To survive the hectic career of food/restaurant service, you must keep a positive attitude. Even when you spill hot food on you or fall and sprain your ankle. Even if you pour a glass of red wine on a customer's white shirt, just be sorrowful and alert management... but do NOT let your stress show at other tables unless you want to get stiffed.
6. Some people will never be satisfied.
There were always some customers or coworkers who were terrible to me even though I hadn't really done anything to deserve it. These people were usually not dissatisfied with me; they were usually dealing with personal issues and taking them out on me. But for my sake, having an attitude where I can't please everyone frees me from the stress that comes with always feeling the need to be perfect.
While my experience in the food/restaurant industry has not always been positive, it is an amazing opportunity to teach young adults the skills of customer service, positivity, and teamwork! I wouldn't be the worker I am today without my years in the food/restaurant industry.