During the COVID-19 pandemic, front-line workers are typically thought of as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers. However, high on the list of essential workers are restaurant employees and fast-food workers.
With a large portion of these employees being teenagers, is the risk really worth it?
I've worked in a restaurant since I was 16, so the trials and tribulations that come with working directly with the public are nothing new to me. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, I can honestly say that I've never seen anything like it in the three years that I've been in the restaurant business. Obviously, the growing pains have been horrible going from a fully functioning restaurant to carry out only, but our business hasn't slowed down one bit. It seems every customer has the same mindset: "I am the only person in this town who is dining out, so my food better be ready when I want it to be (even though I placed the order three minutes ago)."
In the past week or so, I have been yelled at, belittled, and even cussed out more times than I can count.
On top of that, customers feel the need to tell me how I could do things to be more sanitary when honestly my fellow employees and I are doing our best. Restaurants right now are doing things in accordance with what the CDC suggests. We wear masks, we change our gloves, and try to limit as much contact as possible, but please remember that we are only human and most of us are just kids. In addition to this being a huge change in how we run the business, our pay has been cut as well. Waitresses are not used to working hourly, and those who work hourly are making $2 to $4 less per hour than what they would have made normally. We do all of this to serve those in the community, and because we honestly care about our customers. I promise you, it's not for the money.
After a particularly stressful night, I started thinking to myself, "Are we really essential?"
I mean, grocery stores are open, and with the prices people pay going out to eat, they could have bought half a week's worth of groceries. I started voicing my concerns to people around me and the response I mostly got was this: Restaurants are open so that other essential workers can come get food if they don't have time to cook. OK, that sounds logical, but is it really? The way I see it is that no matter how many precautions restaurants take, there is no guarantee that one of us doesn't have the virus and that we won't spread it to others. So, not only are we more at risk for getting the virus from essential workers who have been exposed, but we are also more likely to spread the virus to those who haven't been exposed. In my opinion, cooking at home is the only way to ensure food is not contaminated by others.
It seems more of a liability to have restaurants open than to close them down until all of this is over.
Yes, restaurants will lose money, but it could potentially save thousands of young lives that have barely even begun. Our future is worth more than this temporary inconvenience.