The Restaurant

The Restaurant
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting a Job in a Restaurant: Expectations

I suppose I put the cart before the horse when I started writing about how to get a job in the hospitality industry without putting much emphasis on what you are really getting into. I firmly believe that there are a few classifications of people in the world, among them are 1) people that can hack working in a restaurant and 2) people that cannot. Working in a restaurant is a very challenging thing, it is constantly changing.
First, a few obvious points that most people realize. You will be working nearly all weekends. You will be working some evenings typically. You will be working holidays (including Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas Eve, Independence Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, some places even Christmas and Thanksgiving, etc. etc.) You will be at work when your friends want to get together. You might not get off work until late, then every where is closed. Might not seem horrible, but sometimes you'd like to end a day with some friends and a cocktail, forget about it.
Your schedule will typically change. Some people in the restaurant industry work a pretty regular schedule, but most change every week. This just makes it difficult to plan life more than anything. If you want to get away from the 9 to 5 life, then a restaurant is a good place to start.
You will be on your feet 95% of the time. While this doesn't seem so bad consider this, you won't just be standing and strolling along for a few hours, you will be constantly walking, some times almost at a jog, (occasionally a sprint). You will be standing for potentially hours on end. My longest day in the restaurant was working from 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. (16 and a half hours) and I had to be back at work the next day at 8 a.m. for Mother's Day, the single busiest day for most restaurants. I have worked in restaurants where literally the only place to sit down is the toilet. Your feet will hurt, your ankle will throb, your knees will ache, get used to the idea.
Restaurants are filled with a handful of, while not necessarily deadly but still, dangers. There is hot grease, slick floors, sharp knives. It gets really hot and it gets really cold, this is not your climate controlled office building.
While you will normally be doing rather light weight work, there are times when you will need to move tables, change soda BIB systems (roughly 40 lbs), change the trash (??? pounds), carry a drunk out, change a keg (roughly 150 lbs), it's rough.
There will be days when two people call in sick and you will have to work the kitchen alone or you will be stuck with a ten table section, you'll be so busy you will look up and realize the restaurant is closed! Time flies when your stacked. Some days you will have prep work, set-up, this and that and won't have a chance to do anything but work. Some days are so busy. These busy days require a lot of time management (we'll get into that later).
On the other side of that coin there will be days when there is nothing is going on. You will not spend this time looking over the sports page, you will be cleaning. Cleaning floors, chairs, tables, the walk-in, the freezer, the reach-in, the bathroom, the parking lot, the dry storage, the drains, the ovens, the side stations, the office, the everything. You will be cleaning constantly. In addition to cleaning all day you will make squat in tips and it is going to suck.
As a front-of-house employee, you will have to work with the general public. These people can be morons. As a back-of-house employee, you will have to work with the front-of-house employees. These people can be morons. Either way you go you will have to work with management, and these people too can be morons.
After all that is said and done at the end of the day there is still nothing like working in a restaurant. There is a certain thrill, a necessary rush to it. You will be doing many things at once, and hopefully having a good time. There will be long days and hard days, but it is all worth it. The more I work in the hospitality industry the more I realize that ultimately if you expect to stick around for very long the restaurant business will pick you. You may apply, interview, get hired, and start work, but you will know within a month or so if this is something you can live with. Too commonly do people say, "Oh you're just a server/cook anyone can do that." This is not true. It takes a special breed of people to come to work and put up with all the ridiculous silly nonsense and still maintain a smile. While anyone can do it, you need to have a certain set of skills and ability to really be good at it, then you need an attitude of service to do it day in and day out.

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