Everyone can learn something from being in the service industry
Listening weekly to my teenage son talk about his part-time job as a dishwasher/prep cook – specifically on our way home at the end of his shift – I am reminded of all those wonderful days and nights spent both at the front and the back of the house, as well as off-site caterings.
The hard work, the laughs, the venting about annoying customers and people who think it’s appropriate to “walk-in” on a Saturday night with a group of 50.
Learning to work on a line and yell “behind” or “hot” or “coming through” to literally prevent injuries; having to cut off customers at the bar who have had one too many; gently, then not-so-gently explaining to dinner guests that they can’t change the menu on a whim.
Dealing with those who are either super annoying or very rude to the staff they encounter; those who believe they should get anything they want when they want it; and those who think the that “the customer is always right” is a true statement.
The fact is in many cases, the customer is wrong (VERY WRONG) and when their behaviour is unacceptable, they should be made to clear tables and wash dishes for a month at the business they disrespected.
On that note, and with all our friends and family who have learned how to be snarky in the friendliest manner possible over the years, here are my Top Reasons Working in Food & Beverage Should be Mandatory for Everyone . . .
Problem-solving. The keg ran out and there are four orders for that particular beer; the kitchen ran out of trout and a loyal customer arrived wanting that dish; two staff called in sick at the last minute and a large group walked-in without bothering to call ahead; the out-of-towners at the bar are now past their limit and getting obnoxious; and these things all happen at once. That’s literally an example of any given night. Navigating these difficult situations helps hone one’s problem-solving skills and makes future challenges seem less daunting.
People skills. Let’s face it, the only way to learn how to interact with different personalities is being forced to be around them almost every day. Whether it’s a soft-spoken but super polite elderly couple, or a brash and loud self-important millennial – or anyone in between – you’ll learn how to navigate many personality types.
Teamwork. There was a question once asked by Chef Randy Spencer to his team that I worked on many years ago that holds true to this day: what is the most important job in a restaurant? The answer came to me as I heard the others say, cook, server, etc. Every job is the most important job in a restaurant because no one can do their job without their colleagues also doing theirs.
Appreciation for others. Specifically, when going out to eat or drink. You know how to recognize a short-staffed restaurant or one that suddenly got slammed at a generally slower time of day. And you then act appropriately by ordering drinks and informing the server that you are not in a rush and can appreciate the situation. Then you have a nice drink, a nice meal and leave a good to great tip.
Humour. Other than an old-school newsroom, there is no other place where dark and, at times, inappropriate humour is tacitly approved by everyone. Some of the funniest jokes and comments I’ve ever heard came from either cooks, servers or journalists. These are not safe spaces for snowflakes.
Good work habits. Being punctual; keeping yourself and your work space clean, being as prepared as possible for your shift, getting stuff ready for the next person coming in to work, and just having a get it done attitude are all things even those with poor work ethic will pick-up after a short time working in a restaurant, pub or other F&B establishment.
Communication. Oral, written and other non-verbal forms of communication are abundant in the F & B industry. The manager, chef, cooks, servers, bussers, host, dishwasher and even the customers all need to respectfully (or as close as possible to respect) and accurately keep each other informed in order to be successful.
Multi-tasking and prioritizing. This one is self-explanatory. Whether in the front or back of the house, you will almost always have a multitude of things on your plate (pun intended) to accomplish at any one moment. Learning how to handle the situation and prioritize items in order of timing and importance is a useful life skill for anyone.
Accountability. Everyone makes mistakes and high-paced F&B environments are prone to their fair share. The one thing everyone worth their salt will come away with (if they didn’t have it already) is a greater sense of accountability when they make a mistake. Remember the part above about no one job being the most important, well that’s where accountability comes into play if you mess up on yours because a mistake was made. The best part is everyone else has been there before so an apology and getting the error rectified is usually all it takes to move on.
Confidence. If you can make it through even one consistent year working in a busy F&B business, you’ll have the confidence to take on the world. With so many transferable career skills and a whole bunch of life hacks (plus some of the best stories to tell), the future is bright for those who have successfully tackled the world of food and beverage and lived to tell about it.
If I missed anything, feel free to comment or message me and we can add it to the piece!