A friend told me today that she could never, ever work in the restaurant industry, but she admired those who did. I've heard that before...many, many times. I also used to feel that way. After a couple of years in college, having a fantastic internship learning to program front end software, organize databases, and re-draft user manuals, I didn't think I would ever have to.
I took my first job in the industry at Pizza Hut as a delivery driver in January 2012 out of desperation. Two and a half years later, I truly feel that I am a better person because of this "humbling" decision, as I considered it at the time.
Before working at a restaurant, I'd worked retail, daycare, and software development, and been on numerous mission trips, but I didn't really learn the meaning of hard work until I swept and mopped a store larger than my house after doing dozens of loads of dishes. After a night of delivering, answering phones, and folding boxes.
Manual labor isn't all that bad. I am pretty sure the work is only about the same as a typical trip to the gym as far as burning energy goes. But I often need the physical exertion to redirect my energy from my emotions to productivity after the degrading way I've been treated for the past 6-8 hours of my life.
You get to see the best and worst of people in this industry. Noting that most people are not as sensitive as I am, without dwelling too much on the bad, let's just say I have cried so many more tears over how customers talk to or look at me after a mistake is made, occasionally by myself and often even the customer, than I have over any guy (...all combined).
But often enough to make all of that worth it:
The pizza girl is their favorite person when she brings joy right to the door.
The barista recites your drink order to you so you don't have to talk before your morning caffeine fix, which makes you and those in line behind you smile.
The cashier saves the day with her clever substitute for an unavailable product.
The table busser makes children smile after they find out Panera doesn't have french fries...
...the hostess, the server, the bartender, the cook... These people are the unsung heroes of our society.
Be aware of the human connection with everyone you encounter because you don't know how they have been treated or will be treated right after you. Remember names-like we do, smile, make eye contact, pay attention, ask questions when necessary, accept tactful and relevant correction, own up to your mistakes, always leave gratuity for tip-based workers and as often as possible for hourly associates who make your day that much better, and ALWAYS say thank you.
The restaurant industry is for everyone, whether you are a consumer or producer. Whatever role you play, we have to be sure to always recognize the humanity of the people we engage in business transactions with. Whether you are responding in kind or killing them with kindness, you will find yourself becoming a better person in the restaurant industry as well.
(formerly "Bare Barista Threads" and "Memoirs of a Pizza Girl")
With a year of delivering pizza, two and a half years as a barista, and some more time in the trenches, I have plenty of stories, thoughts, and musings. The days that threatened to break me all the while built me. I want to help others in my profession view their work as an opportunity, too. This is my soap box.