Like a lot of other people, my first job was a waitress. I served at a local retirement home for three years before leaving for college, and I ended up going back this summer. I wore a lot of hats at this job, and it taught me a ton of skills and responsibility as well. Here are a few things I've learned in my time as a server.
1. A smile and a positive attitude can solve a lot of problems
It sounds cheesy, I know, but it's true! Serving can be incredibly stressful, especially when everyone is behind or you're understaffed. A hard situation can be made a lot easier if you're in a good state of mind. Staying cool, calm and collected will help you keep your head and will rub off on others around you. In the service industry, it's also very helpful when dealing with an unhappy or impatient customer.
2. There is a huge difference between skim milk and 2% milk. HUGE.
Of all the things that can bring out a person's bad side, I never expected milk to be one of them. Honestly, I don't understand why people get so worked up over this, but for some it's a big deal. I have had several encounters that resulted in getting yelled at for daring to bring the wrong kind of milk, and I have also heard people openly fighting over which type is best. Hey, more power to these people, though. Being aware of what you're putting in your body is never a bad thing. Maybe just don't take it so seriously; at the end of the day, it's all milk.
3. You will encounter people who will always have something to complain about
Everyone knows someone who's hard to please. In the service industry, these people really come out to play. It's a harsh reality of life that some individuals just aren't going to be easily satisfied. I recall quite a few residents in the retirement home who actively sought out things to complain about. Even if there was nothing wrong, these people would find something. This requires a lot of patience and a good attitude, as mentioned above. However, it was valuable to learn from these individuals that giving your best effort is important.
4. Cliques never go away
This was one of the most apparent things from watching the same people come in for meals every day. Each person had a set spot at "their" table and if the natural order of which people sat together at their table was interrupted, chaos ensued. Everyone had their set group, and these groups were almost never broken. It was a little sad for me to watch, but it was a harsh lesson to learn. Cliques exist from childhood all the way to late adulthood. Some will be friendly and some won't, but they'll always exist in some form.
5. Time management is essential
Never underestimate the importance of a minute. I learned this the hard way a few times at work when choosing to take a break at the wrong time earned me a reprimanding from my customers and poor time management slowed down my night. Time management is one of the most crucial skills to have, both in working life and personal life. Being able to balance everything that needs doing will help you be better at whatever it is you're doing.
6. The customer is always right
I know that everyone hears this all the time, but it's so completely true that I had to include it. It does not matter what the situation is: the customer is always right. It might stink to always be the one caving even if you're not the one in the wrong, but that's just the way it is. You'd probably expect the same thing if you were in their shoes, so just put on a smile and bear it. You'll be seen as an excellent server if you do.
These definitely aren't all of the things I learned during my time as a server, but they're some of the ones that stick out. If you have any others that you've experienced or seen, feel free to comment below!