Why Everyone Should Work in a Restaurant
Personally, working in the restaurant industry is one of my favorite things. My first real job was serving tables at a retirement home, and since then I have worked in two different restaurants, The Eagle Tavern and Red Star Craft House. I was raised in the restaurant industry, something I am forever thankful for, both of my parents were servers at the Tavern when my sister and I were little, and my dad stayed at the Tavern even when my mom left for a different career. Being raised in that industry, I never knew that customers could be so disrespectful to the people working in it until I started working myself. In my four years working as a host and waitress I have met some absolutely wonderful and kind people that I adore. However, I have also encountered some people who deserve their own special level of hell.
My personal favorite horror story is from my lovely walk-in 30 top last December. I don't have enough time to write out the entire story of how terrible the party was, but to sum it up I cried in the back office two times and had three people walk out without paying their checks. The main woman from the party followed me up to the computer to instruct me on how, and when, to enter her order. She then came up to me again at the computer, while I was putting in an order for another table, to tell me that her edamame was "not salty enough." She also said, despite the fact that she had never heard of edamame until I explained to her what it was that night, that "it was not cooked properly and she could've done it better." She then came up to me one more time, while I was heading into the kitchen, to tell me that she didn't like the sauce that had come on her salmon and asked me to name every sauce we had available in the restaurant so she could pick a better one. It took her five minutes of deep thought, but she decided on melted butter. The best part is, before she had ordered the salmon she had me stand and wait at her table while she called her friend who had apparently eaten it before to ask if it was any good and if it was worth ordering. A truly ideal guest.
I have had people compliment my "excellent service" and then tip me little to nothing because they think their kind words pay my bills. They don't. I have worked a party of over fifty people, with all separate checks and then had them complain that the time it was taking to run all their checks was "taking too long." I have taken a to go order, and when I rang the woman up she made me unbox all of the food so she could check it. And when I say check it, I mean she took apart each burger and asked me what every topping was. I have had people eat 3/4's or the entirety of a meal and then demand that it was terrible and they shouldn't have to pay. I have had to smile and laugh at incredibly inappropriate jokes from grown men. I have been screamed at by so many adults for things that were entirely out of my control on more occasions than I like to think about.
None of these things phase me anymore, and I think the same would go for most people who have been a server, host, or bartender in their life. It's a job which forces you into learning how to deal with entitled people and how to still be kind to them. I think working in a restaurant teaches you valuable skills, and that is why everyone should do it at least once.
It teaches you how to be kind when you are having a bad day, but also when customers are rude to you. One of the keys in dealing with rude customers is the classic "kill them with kindness" technique. For one, it makes you feel better, but it also is likely to either infuriate the customer that you aren't as upset as them, or make them realize they are being shitty and they'll feel bad. Both results are equally good.
You will learn how to work as part of a team. It is literally impossible to have any job in a restaurant and not work as a team, everyone relies on everyone else to have service go smoothly. And if you work with great people, like I do, you'll make a lot of fantastic friends a long the way.
Getting yelled at will no longer phase you, like at all. I am a naturally pretty anxious person and before I was a waitress just the idea of being yelled at would sky rocket my anxiety. Now, you can yell at me for absolutely anything, be it my fault or not, and I will barely be phased by it. There are only so many times you can allow a 45 year old woman who is upset that you are out of avocado fries ruin your day, and I reached that limit like a year ago.
The most important reason that everyone should work in the restaurant industry is that you will learn how a restaurant functions. You'll be able to learn the difference between genuinely bad service and a great server who is struggling because the restaurant is understaffed in the middle of a rush and the kitchen is running red tickets. You'll learn what it is like to be weeded on a Saturday night with a full section and three pick up tables, trying to keep all of your tables happy while constantly being asked to do something new every thirty seconds. There is no better multi-tasker in the world than a good server. It is a hard industry to work in, and from the point of view of a customer who has never done it, it can seem simple. Which is why I assume those customers are so quick to anger on most occasions.
If you have worked in a restaurant before, and you're like me, I'm sure you complained the whole time but really loved it. You also probably have thicker skin and a more believable fake smile than you did on your first day. And I guarantee you are a better person for having worked that job, you're also most likely an ideal customer whenever you go out to eat. Props to you.
If you have never worked in a restaurant but when reading any of the scenarios I mentioned above thought to yourself "that doesn't seem that bad, I do that all the time. The customer is always right you know." Then please either head down to your local Olive Garden to fill out an application or never go out to eat again. The customer is right approximately 0.1% of the time, usually they're wrong and we are just forced to make them feel right because our paycheck is in their hands. So please be kind to restaurant staff and tip 20%+, otherwise just stay home.
Aim to be the customer that servers get excited to see walk through the door. Not the customer that they see walking in and they go hide in the kitchen to pray that you aren't going to be sat in their section.