When I look at job boards and such, you know what I see all the time? “Any hours, any job, just not food.” Why? Yes, there is a stigma that working in food service is one of the worst areas of work. And part of the belief or stigma is valid and justified. However, it is what you make it to be. A job is a job, and you can make it as hard or as easy on yourself as you want to. Your attitude is within your own control, even if your circumstances are not ideal.
And so, here are nine things that I have learned from working in food service for the past few months.
- The customer is sometimes wrong, but they still deserve help and respect. This is important. Remember the old saying, “the customer is always right?” Well, in theory, yes. But not in reality. In reality, the customer is often very, very wrong. But when they are wrong, when they are confused, it is not our job to make them feel foolish. It is our job to make them feel listened to, heard, and then to fix the issue as within our power without making the customer feel stupid. This doesn’t mean lying or coddling, but speaking the truth in love, which is what we are called to anyway, am I right?
- Don’t speak badly about your managers, they really do work hard. This is key here guys, your managers, even if they are grumpy or annoying, are working hard. They are for you, and they are for the team that you are working in. Their vision is going to be a little different than yours, which is fine. Their communication style will be different than yours, which is fine. Their goals will be different than yours, but as you learn how to properly serve the company you work for, hopefully, your work-related goals will complement those of your bosses. Also, feel free to watch your managers, you might be surprised at what you see. Something I have had the privilege of witnessing is the managers jumping in and helping with whatever task is the most needed at that time, whether it be mopping, serving food, dishes, cleaning bathrooms, whatever needs to be done. This is a trait that makes a manager great.
- Work hard even when no one is watching. This one has been kind of hard for me, especially when there doesn’t seem to be anything to do and it is tempting to just stand there and wait for something to do. And I still do this sometimes, when there really is nothing to do. But honestly, there pretty much always is something to do in a restaurant or a café. So, do it, even the thing you’re dreading, the thing you hate doing. Which leads me to number four.
- When in doubt, clean. Always clean. A restaurant can never be too clean. Think about the place that you want your food prepared in, and then make it even better. When there’s nothing to do, see if there is something that needs to be cleaned. Cleaning will take up a lot of your working hours. If you don’t like to clean, too bad.
- Go above and beyond, always. This is also connected to number three. You should go above and beyond when no one is watching as well. What do I mean by above and beyond? Well, were you asked to check the bathrooms? Take out the trash if it needs it. Do you see something that should be done that no one else is doing? Do you have time to do it? Then go for it. Don’t tell anyone, just do it silently and move on.
- Do your best to make people smile. You can work on this because you will learn what is effective and what isn’t. But, if you are the face of the restaurant that someone comes into for a specific experience, do your best to guide them, and make them smile. Can you compliment their hair because it reminds you of your best friend? Are they wearing your favorite color? Do they have a really cool tattoo that you want to ask about? These little things can make someone’s day. Just think about a time when a stranger complimented you in a non-creepy way, and how much it made you smile.
- Stay on the good side of your co-workers and they will always have your back. Good co-workers are a huge blessing. Need to switch a shift? Need someone to help you out with something at work? Need advice? Good co-workers are great for that, the ones you get to talk to when it’s slow and no one’s around, who you end up sharing things with that you haven’t told very many people, because it’s easier to tell a stranger than your best friend, and your good co-worker friends won’t judge you because they are telling you their own crap that they can’t tell anyone either. You might even get close enough to some of them, that you invite them to your wedding.
- Find the joy, because it’s there, I promise. Joy can be elusive, especially in a minimum wage job. It’s hard to be happy working 40 hours a week to barely make rent. But there is joy in the little things, like making someone’s day and seeing them happy, listening and realizing someone is trusting you with something big, a manager noticing how hard you work and buying you lunch to say good job. Work hard, and you will be rewarded in some way or another, even if it’s just being able to find the joy.
- Do your best. It’s always a good idea to do your best, no matter what you are doing, no matter what you are asked to do, no matter how crappy you feel, how angry, how discouraged. If you do your best, there isn’t anything else you can do, there isn’t anything else anyone can ask of you, there’s nothing anyone can say that will discredit you. So, no matter how you feel about your job, do your best.