(This is an auto-generated transcript. There may be errors.)
This is part three in a three episode series. About my time working in the food service industry. In the past, I worked in three different roles at three separate establishments. I was a waiter at a 1950s themed diner, a banquet server at a hotel and conference center and a bus boy at an Italian restaurant at each establishment.
I gained valuable life experience, made a little bit of money, learned a lot about food, customer service and the human condition and met some fascinating people along the way. I made a few lifelong friends and broadened my perspective, becoming a bit more educated and culturally enriched. I also died a little inside at each job as my romantic image of dining, as an exciting career was shattered.
And instead I saw what you might argue was the ugly underbelly of an industry that portrays itself as glamorous, but is actually filled with people who are struggling poor broke, and sometimes highly dysfunctional. In this series, I will try to be positive about the aspects of the industry that I can.
But as I promised in my introductory episode of this podcast, I will be completely real and tell it like it is from my few years of experience, which is by no means authoritative, but it is my experience. Food service is an industry that you might love, but it doesn’t love you back. It is hard to make a living.
It is even harder to find a place where you can work that respects you. And no matter how many years you spend in the industry, you will always be completely and utterly replaceable. This is episode three of three, the final episode where I’ll share about the time I spent as a bus boy at an Italian restaurant.
If you’ve been following along in this series by now, you know, that I started working as a waiter at a diner, but quit after a few months because it was just a bad job. Then I upgraded to a better job as a banquet server at a hotel. That was a great job, but it was only a part-time position. And when I started thinking about asking for a more permanent role there, the hotel was sold to new owners who essentially treated everyone like dirt.
So I left and didn’t go back. My third and final foray into the food service industry was at an Italian restaurant. This to me was the next logical step. It would be the happy medium between the lighthearted goofy burger joint and the more serious black tie and sometimes white glove environment of the hotel.
It would probably have food that I could be proud of and it could offer a full-time job with decent money where I could stay for many years, or that was my hope anyway. No something I haven’t mentioned so far in this series is that part of the reason I entered food service in the first place is because I had previously taken a career assessment test that told me that I should.
After finishing high school, I was a part-time college student at the local community college and was taking lots of quote unquote core curriculum. These were the extremely boring classes that were required for graduation, no matter who you are or what your major is. As I looked ahead picking a degree, I couldn’t find any that resonated with me.
So I went to the local university and paid for a session with the career counselors there and took what’s called the strong interest inventory. Which is an assessment that supposedly helps you find the career you’re best suited for based on your skills and interests. The only thing I knew about my future was that I was absolutely certain, I didn’t want to work outdoors in construction, which is what I was doing at the time.
But what industry did I prefer or what job title or what category of work? I wasn’t sure. So I figured meeting with people at a university whose full-time job it is to find interesting careers for young adults, drifting aimlessly through life like me would be a good choice. I went in and took the test, which consisted of spending about an hour in a quiet room, answering almost 300 questions about my personality type work-related values and aptitudes.
When it was all done, I reviewed the results with a career counselor. The assessment gave a list of the top 10 careers that I would be a good fit for. I honestly don’t remember any of them, except the first two, according to the strong interest inventory, the top two choices for my potential career.
Number one, medical records technician, and number two restaurant manager. Now the first one, confused the heck out of me because a records technician that didn’t sound interesting at all organizing and sorting paperwork. I suppose the job itself would probably be interesting to me. Otherwise the assessment wouldn’t have recommended it, but Oh man, medical records, tech sounded like the most boring job on planet earth.
But the second one restaurant manager. Bingo. That was it. I liked everything about that. I’d been cooking and baking my whole life. Food is a great passion of mine and hospitality. One of the best ways I know how to show someone I care about them is to cook them good food and serve it to them. That makes me really happy.
So I took this assessment result to heart. Apparently I was cut out to be a restaurant manager. At least according to this test. And according to my own sense, that would be probably what was the most fulfilling career choice for me or the second most I had absolutely no experience in any professional setting, in a restaurant, of course.
So I knew I couldn’t just walk into a restaurant and say, hi, I’d like to be a manager. I have no experience working in a restaurant or managing people, please hire me. So I originally figured looking for a job waiting tables would be a way to get my foot in the door in the industry. It would be good to start at the bottom and work my way up, so to speak.
So I did, as I’ve already mentioned, I started waiting tables for awhile first at the diner, then at the hotel. In this case, I thought, well, if I’m going to do this the right way, I need to find a restaurant that I can plug into. For many years. It will have to be in a prime location, have a great menu that I can be proud of.
And it will probably be on a part of town where the clientele can afford decent sized ticket prices. So I can actually make money. Because don’t forget as a server, you make money based on your tips and tips generally are calculated as a percentage of the total price of the meal. So the higher the meal price, the better the tips.
I drove around town for a few days, noting many of the nicer restaurants in the nicer parts of town and asking myself, what about this one? Does this look like a good place to work? How far is the commute from where I live? What time do they open? What time do they close? Can I see myself working here for the next three, four, five years?
I narrowed down my list to the top five or 10 places in town where I could imagine myself working and slowly but surely it started going in, dropping off resumes and seeing if they were hiring. When I walked into the Italian restaurant, I was especially intrigued because it was very nice on the inside.
I really like Italian food and their menu looked great. I met the general manager, the GM and the assistant manager, the am, and instantly noticed two things. First the GM, who was a man, wasn’t very nice. Or for some reason, he just didn’t seem to like me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was weird. He was willing to talk to me and interview me.
And he said, polite words, like nice to meet you and thanks for coming in. But I just felt somehow that he didn’t think I was worth his time. Second the am or woman was very nice. And she definitely liked me. She laughed and smiled, punched me in the shoulder and said, I’d be a great fit. And that we’d have a blast.
I met with both of them, talked about my situation, told them how I was looking for part-time work, being a college student and all of that. We talked a bit about scheduling and logistics and they said, we’ll let you know. I waited for a few days. And then one day I got a phone call from the restaurant. It was the GM.
He said he was willing to offer me a job, which was great, but not as a waiter, which was not great. He was willing to offer me a job as a bus boy. Was I still interested in that? Hmm, that was a tough question. I wasn’t sure what to say on the phone. Why wouldn’t he, let me be a waiter. He probably said something like I didn’t have enough experience, which looking back now, I suppose that could be a valid concern.
It was a big bummer though, and it meant I’d be cleaning up tables, sweeping floors and not interacting with guests. It also meant that I wouldn’t be working for tips. So I’d essentially make the same hourly rate, no matter how much I worked or how many people were in the restaurant. And since I’d already been a waiter before, it felt like a step backward.
I didn’t like this, but I thought, well, the way to restaurant management is starting at the very bottom and working my way up. And I guess this is the bottom. That’s a good place to start. I did specifically ask him how long I’d have to be a busser until I could be a waiter. And he was nebulous, but said something like a few months.
We’ll see. Okay. Well, that, wasn’t what I had in mind, but I could probably put up with that. I had a job offer. It was a foot in the door at a real restaurant and could lead to what I wanted in a few months. All right, I’ll take it. I said, but even after I hung up, I didn’t like the way the phone call went.
It really felt like the GM was talking down to me. Like I was a kid who had asked for something he didn’t deserve. I distinctly remember thinking it won’t be that big a deal. I’ll probably report to the assistant manager anyway, and she’s really nice. I might not even have to interact with him at all. So there it was.
I had a job as a bus boy, of course, these days we call them bussers. On my first day of work, I woke up, got dressed, put on my uniform, put on my apron, walked in the front door and stopped at the hostess station and said, hi, I’m Ron Stauffer. The new hire. I then asked if I could meet with the am. I was shocked when I was told, um, she’s not here.
She quit actually. Really? I asked. Yeah, uh, it was kind of weird. She was a total, no call, no show earlier this week. She just didn’t show up, but that’s okay. The GM’s here. I’ll take you to him. As I walked behind the hostess, I thought, Oh man, this changes everything. In my mind, the am was going to be my buffer to the GM.
I think she’s the one who suggested that the GM should actually hire me, even though he might not have wanted to. But now that she was gone, I’d have to work directly with the GM. And I didn’t have a good feeling about that. And that was so confusing. This lady had worked at the restaurant for months, years.
She literally helped run the place and helped hire me, but then disappeared before my first day of work. How did this happen and why did it happen? What are the odds as it turned out, this was a bad omen. I met with the GM learned about their online scheduling system. Then got started working on my very first shift as a bus boy ever.
I met with another busser who would be my trainer for the next few days. He was a decent guy and show me the ropes. It was pretty simple stuff, honestly, and pretty obvious rolling silverware, sweeping under tables, replacing white paper, tablecloths and crayons for kids, filling tubs with dirty dishes, taking them back to the busser stations, et cetera.
It was all basic and simple, but it was a little bit different than what I had been used to at the diner and the hotel. One thing that was very different from what I was used to in the past was the bread baskets at our restaurant. The bussers were responsible for starting the service of new guests. We filled water glasses, added extra place settings, or took them away as needed, and then brought out the bread.
We brought a basket of three kinds of bread slices of French baguettes, a red onion focaccia, and some sort of multigrain bread. We also brought a small plate to the table and filled it with olive oil, balsamic, vinegar, Parmesan, cheese, and other spices. This bread was really popular and that was no surprise because it was so good.
Not only did I have to put the bread baskets on the tables when people walked in, but when I opened in the mornings, my job was to get the focaccia out of the oven, slice it, manually, get the French bread and the multigrain bread, put them in the bread, slicer, prep, the bread baskets and the oil bottles and things like that.
One nice thing about this job. I was allowed to eat the bread. Oh man. Sea salt, olive oil, onions, Rosemary. Wow. I think the best part of working at this job was the free bread. Actually. The great thing about this restaurant in general was that the food itself was fantastic. I didn’t get to try a whole lot of it because I always had to pay for it.
But a couple of times I would take a lunch break during work and everything I tried was great. Chicken can Aloni the soups, the pasta, the tiramisu, still to this day, they had the best tiramisu I’ve ever had. And this was a highlight. I was definitely glad to be part of a restaurant where the product, the food, the whole point of having a restaurant in the first place was excellent.
I felt very comfortable with the menu here. And that’s always been really important to me.
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How cool is that? All right. All right. Back to the podcast,
working as a bus boy, wasn’t so bad. It was an honest, respectable job and a little more physically demanding than being a server had been, which I didn’t mind. Actually the work itself was just fine. My only complaint was that I didn’t apply to be a bus boy and that wasn’t my plan. So I was doing it because they told me I had to, before I could become a server.
My job consisted of turning tables, removing all the dirty dishes, removing the paper tablecloth sweeping under the table. Resetting chairs in proper order, wiping down benches, and then resetting everything from scratch. New tablecloths new paper covers new glasses, setting up bread baskets, offering water, refilling drinks, et cetera.
The name of the game was speed. The goal was to do all of this turning tables as fast as possible. So as many tables as possible could be available to new guests, walking in the door every once in a while, I’d get a random chore, like putting on gloves and going outside to pick out cigarette butts from the ashtray in front of the building.
None of this bothered me. I had been a janitor for a few years in the past and getting dirty. Wasn’t a problem at all. My biggest challenge was the coworkers similar to how it was at the diner. I didn’t really get along with them. One thing I had forgotten to take into account is that I had specifically picked this restaurant in this part of town due to my assumption that the people who frequented this restaurant would be, let me say wealthy.
I was definitely right about that. The folks who came into our restaurant were definitely on the wealthier end, but what I didn’t expect was that the same would be true of the employees. After maybe a week or two, I started looking around at all the other staff members and came to a realization probably much later than everyone else had.
I was very different from most of the people who worked there. They were almost all older than me, which wasn’t a problem, but they were also significantly wealthier. Here I was a starving college student driving a 1985 Toyota Corolla that I had paid $500 cash for that took me time to save up for when I was a janitor and I lived in a tiny apartment, sharing a bedroom with a roommate for $250 a month.
I had been raised in a family with nine kids in a relatively small house. My coworkers. On the other hand, it seemed to me were mainly people who came from very small families with huge incomes and grew up in massive homes with swimming pools in their backyards. Their parents were military officers or C level executives at giant corporations or directors of global nonprofits.
They had high class hobbies, like golf and tennis. These were the popular kids in school. A lot of them had been given cars by their parents and it certainly looked like they spent more money on clothing than I did on rent. Their parents were paying for college if they were going and they were working here for pocket change.
These were the types of kids who would be going to a $40,000 a year, private college in new England after spending a gap year backpacking in Europe. Now I’m not saying that these are necessarily bad things or wrong, but I am saying that I realized one day that I felt like I was the butt of a joke where everyone else in the building felt like they belonged except me.
I had no understanding of their lives at all. We lived in the same country, state, and city, but our life experiences were worlds apart. Unlike at the diner or the hotel, I didn’t make any friends. And I didn’t really know how to, I felt a somewhat unspoken and barely perceptible feeling that I was the help at the restaurant and that they viewed me as someone who had no purpose on earth other than to please them.
There was definitely a dividing line between server and busboy. Part of that came from the way the servers treated me. Most of them didn’t talk to me or ask me any questions or even make eye contact with me at all. But occasionally I would have an interaction with the server and that usually wasn’t a good thing.
I remember one time, a server, a guy who wasn’t that much older than me, but who had a certain air of importance. Wasn’t pleased with how I had failed to turn his tables as quickly as he wanted. He angrily pointed his finger at me and shouted saying, you need to do a better job of being on top of this. I was almost stunned.
He wasn’t my boss. How dare he tell me what I need to do. I didn’t work for him. I didn’t even know how to respond. I just stood there. I wondered. Did anyone else see this exchange? Is this normal? Are people okay with this here? I certainly never talked to bussers like that. When I was a server, this work environment introduced me to a whole new type of person.
I had never really seen up close before. I’d heard of people like this rich kids who grew up going to country clubs, but I’d never seen them up close. The most challenging part of working with them was their attitudes. It was just a sense of entitlement. It was almost ironic. The term server implies that you’re serving someone.
I think a lot of servers at this restaurant totally missed that. There was one server, a guy with a shaved head who looked exactly like Michael Stipe from the rock band REM. I had a feeling he could really explode if things didn’t go his way, but I wasn’t sure until one night I saw his red hot temper.
One evening, as we were closing down the restaurant, he was serving a big 10 top that stayed until closing time. They bought some bottles of wine and stayed a long time. After they left, he opened it. The check holder saw the tip that they left and I’ve been robbed 10 bucks cash on a 10 top. It was loud enough for everyone in the building to hear.
I couldn’t believe it. What on earth was wrong with people like this? I Dan house serving a table with a ticket of, I don’t know, let’s say 200, $300 or more would make him think 20% of $300 is $60. This should be a good tip. I also understand the disappointment of finding a smaller tip than you expect. I totally get it, but telling everyone in the whole place that you got a bad tip and telling them how bad it was and claiming you were robbed, man, if that’s robbery, these people needed to get a life.
The ironic thing was that the people who frequented the restaurant, even the bad tippers were of the same social status as the servers, they drove the same cars, grew up in the same neighborhoods and went to the same schools. So in a weird twist, I felt kind of good about that. I had a bit of Schadenfreude watching servers who were jerks, get small tips from customers who were also jerks.
On that note, one big takeaway that I learned about food service, not just here but elsewhere is that you never know how people will tip. You can serve a big table with lots of people who stay a long time in order tons of food, but leave an insultingly small tip. Whether they drive a BMW or wear a Rolex is totally irrelevant.
On the flip side, you can also serve a small family of four who are quiet and don’t ask for much, but ended up leaving you a really big tip. The level of generosity, a person has, is completely disconnected from their level of wealth. And that was a good life lesson for me to take away. I also encountered antiques that I hadn’t seen at the other places I’d worked.
Some of the male servers would make graphic comments about the pretty women who came in and sat at their tables. There was one waiter who would go to the back and start talking with another server and say, did you see that blonde bombshell at number 38? And he would discuss in graphic detail, all the X-rated things he wanted to do with her, he would snicker and giggle about his sexual fantasies.
And I’d wonder boy, I sure hope nobody can hear you say that because you’re not being very quiet. What really confused me is that one time I gave him a ride home and I found out he was married. What I wasn’t married at the time, but I was pretty sure that that is not normal conversation for married men or at least it shouldn’t be.
One of the employees laughed and told me that he secretly had a nickname for one of the female servers. And it was the name of a sexually transmitted disease. He thought that was pretty funny. I just shook my head and confusion thinking, why would you even tell me that one day our bartender came in to work in the morning for the opening shift and had a really bad attitude and was complaining as he set up the bar.
I didn’t think much of it until a coworker told me, Oh man, I feel so sorry for him. And I asked why she told me because he’s so hung over from last night. It sucks serving alcohol. When you’re hung over, I was utterly confused. Our bartender showed up to work, hung over. That’s insane. And why on earth would anyone feel sorry for him?
That was his own dumb choice. I didn’t feel sorry for him at all. If I’m coming across, like I’m just complaining and this is all sour grapes and secretly, I was jealous of them. I assure you, that’s not the case. I wasn’t jealous of them at all. Mostly I was frustrated and confused by them. I started feeling disillusioned by the restaurant scene in general, when I was at the diner, I was surrounded by people I didn’t want to spend time with.
I didn’t want to be like them mistakenly. I think I thought it was because we were just working at a really low end restaurant and the standards were very low. So my solution was to find a nicer restaurant where the clientele would be more demanding, more pride was taken in the food, the service, the appearance, and the general attitude of the restaurant.
Why not nicer food, nicer silverware, nicer building, nicer side of town, nicer people, right? No. The employees here were the same. They weren’t nice. They weren’t people I wanted to spend time with and they clearly didn’t want to spend time with me. Many of them seem to know each other and spend a lot of time together, outside the restaurant, but I had nothing in common with them and I think it showed as much as we like to say in America, we have no class distinction and we’re all equals.
This really felt like I was in a building full of people who perceived themselves a class above me, which I disagreed with the worst part about it was that it wasn’t just the employees, the GM, I hate to say it, but I think he felt the same way. I remember one evening during dinner, the GM called me over and said, Hey, Ron, you got to pick up the pace.
I need you to move faster. I was really annoyed by this. I was already moving quite fast and we weren’t in that big a rush anyway, but mostly I was angry at him for singling me out and telling me in front of the other employees that essentially I wasn’t working fast enough. And the worst part is that the other Buster on duty was standing at a table, chatting with some of his friends.
I couldn’t believe that he would let the other busser, the one who trained me shoot the breeze and spend 10 or 15 minutes just hanging out with his buddies on the clock while criticizing me for not working fast enough. The other busser wasn’t even working at all. What’s up with that. I wanted to argue back with him and point to the other guy and say, really, why are you picking on me?
It was just such weird feedback. I’m a really fast worker. That’s never been a problem for me, but from day one, it felt like the GM had kind of singled me out for negative treatment. And I still don’t know why it wasn’t just that he was a cold callous guy who treated everyone like that, that I could have worked with because that’s consistent.
But this guy did a lot of buddy buddy chatting and fraternization with the other staff. I remember one time during a really hard evening with lots of insane rushing right in the middle of dinner. He looked over at one of the guests and motion to a server and asked him, Hey, come here. Who do you think would win in a fight between him and John’s dad?
I was astounded. He had time to joke about bizarre hypothetical scenarios about who would win in a pretend fistfight, but it was harassing me about not filling up water glasses fast enough. He never talked to me socially like that. It was clear that he had a group of people that he liked hanging out with and chatting and joking with.
And I definitely wasn’t one of them. I’ll give him this. He mostly had a solid work ethic. He was there essentially all day, every day and was a very active manager who would literally roll up his sleeves and help get the work done. He would frequently chug energy drinks just to keep up with the pace of the evening, but he just wasn’t nice to me.
I had hoped that this would change over time, but I eventually realized that just wasn’t going to happen. Finally, I think the thing that really pushed me over the edge and made me decide that I was wasting my time was Scott. Scott was a nice enough guy. I have no complaints about Scott as a person. I liked him.
He was a hard worker and a valuable person for me to know, since I could ask him questions, Scott was a busser, just like me, unlike me. However, he had worked there since the restaurant had opened, he had been a busser for eight. Years. He was, if I had to guess in his mid thirties, which meant since I was 18 or 19, he was twice my age and he was still a bus boy.
I looked at him and thought, this is my future. If I stay here, I will become Scott this thought. And I’m only exaggerating slightly. Terrified me the fact that he was nearly 40, didn’t have a college degree. Wasn’t married and worked in the same position for almost a decade. Made me feel like this restaurant was actually a cult.
Like they’d say anything to get you to sign up and join, and then you get sucked in and all your life force is drained away and you stay there forever and you can never leave. You never accomplish anything. You never own anything. You never climb the ladder or advance or graduate. You just live in a permanent state of neoteny, like a Caterpillar that never becomes a butterfly.
I couldn’t fathom the mindset of someone like that and how he would be okay with that. Heck for all I know, Scott might still be there working as a bus boy at that same restaurant today. Scott, if you’re listening to this, I love you, man. I enjoyed working with you, but I sure hope you’ve at least gone to school or gotten married or something.
What was the end goal of the people working here? What did they want with their lives? I couldn’t figure it out. What were they working toward? Was I the only one asking this question?
So this was my quandary. I wanted a career in food service. I took a test that told me being a restaurant manager was the ideal career for me, but I was stuck working in a position I didn’t want for a boss that I didn’t respect and who clearly didn’t like me with coworkers who did nothing with their lives.
And I had nightmares that I would wake up at 40, no further along in my life. Then when I had walked into the building at age 19, I thought about it and decided I got to take some action really soon. I figured I’d give it one last chance. I talked to the GM. I reminded him that I wanted to be a waiter.
That’s what I applied for. That’s what I interviewed for. And that’s what I had intended on doing. He said that he still wasn’t comfortable with me as a server yet, but maybe I could eventually become a runner. I asked what was involved with that. And he said, just shadow Oscar sometime and see what he does.
So I did. I spent some time following Oscar, a Brazilian guy, a hilarious, hardworking dude. I really liked him. I watched what he did and it was pretty simple. He’d run food out to tables and do his little dance taking away, used plates with one hand, running the crumb sweeper over the tablecloth, and then setting down new dishes with new entrees and disappearing.
It looked okay, but it didn’t seem like an improvement. As far as I knew the wages were still the same and he wasn’t in a server. So I wondered, well, hold on. If that’s the case, is there a plan that I’ll be a bus boy and then a runner and then a server, because we never talked about that. It started to feel the terms of the deal I had agreed to were being changed without my consent.
I had put in about three months, the equivalent of quote a few months, which is what we discussed and being a server wasn’t in the cards for me. So I went to the office one day and I told him, I quit. He asked why, and I’m sad to say I lied. I told him I had to focus more on school and I didn’t have enough time to work and do school at the same time.
Like I thought I did. I regret that now I wish I had been more honest and had just told him what I was actually thinking, but I was young and it was too awkward for me. So I made up a story that would be more socially acceptable. On my last day I worked my final shift, then turned in my apron and walked out.
There were no handshakes, no goodbye from friends. And I’ve never talked with any of my coworkers since. When it was all over, I wasn’t even sad. I just felt like, wow, that was a weird experience. What a waste of three months. It’s kind of strange. I wasn’t fired. I quit on good terms respectfully with notice, but it felt so weird.
You know what? Looking back now. I remember that when I told him I was quitting, he said, can you give me two weeks? And I said, I can give you one week. I’m actually proud of the boldness of that move. Honestly, I want it to do what the assistant manager did and just be a no call, no show. It’s not like I was burning a bridge.
There wasn’t even a bridge there. I didn’t need his recommendation. Since I knew I was out of food service, nobody would ever call him as a reference and I didn’t care back then and even more so now my biggest conclusion was that food service was not the industry for me. I was sad about this because I really did want to be a restaurant manager.
I liked everything about the work. I just didn’t like the other aspects of it. The people in particular, I mean, that sounds offensive, but it’s true. The people are the best thing about it. And the worst thing about it. Also, I think it’s hard to be a young man. I wasn’t fooling around about this job. I was looking at this as a serious career choice and I was thinking of getting married in the very near future and starting a family very soon.
I wanted to get a job at a nice restaurant serving delicious food in an environment that I could stand to work in every day for many, many years, to support a family. In a sense. I had approached this job with mathematical precision and research and professional career counseling. I even specifically picked this restaurant that I wanted to work at on top of that, I accepted a crappier job offer than I wanted, because I believed in what they were doing.
And I was betting on the future. You’d think a restaurant would be dying for someone like that to come work for them yet. For whatever reason. I think the people at the restaurant just looked at me like I was some punk kid who didn’t know what he was doing and wasn’t serious. What’s funny is I ended up getting married and starting a family that same year, only a few months later.
So I did end up finding a serious job with a great company in a serious career field. It just happened to be construction, which was the industry I was trying to avoid, but I feel like I gave food service, a try, and it just didn’t work. Working in food service requires that you work nights, weekends, and most holidays.
Why? Because that’s when everyone else wants to go out to eat. If everybody wants to go out and eat on mother’s day, there’s gotta be somebody actually working on mother’s day to make that happen. In my short time there, I did end up working a few holidays and there was one notable event where everyone in my extended family got together except me.
And I thought to myself, I better get used to this because if I keep working in this industry, that’s going to happen all the time. Food service is really hard and management in particular. Yes. I was interested in being a restaurant manager, but the job sucks. It’s awful. You’re a slave to the store. You can’t ever leave.
You can’t even really take a day off. It’s like being on a hamster wheel that never stops the store owns you. Not the other way around. When you’re a restaurant manager, I doubt you could just take three weeks off for a cruise to The Bahamas. Even if you have another manager to help run things. When you’re gone, that manager might quit without notice.
Like the assistant manager did. When I first came to work there, even when we had more than one manager, the GM would still come in sometimes on his day off to check on inventory in the kitchen or meet with a guy from corporate who flew in from the East coast or whatever reason. I saw his job. It sucked.
Maybe that’s why the assistant manager quit. It seems like working in management in the food service industry is just an intrusive job that ruins your private life. Very few people. I knew if any, at that restaurant were married, the GM wasn’t and how could he be? He was there at the restaurant at least six days a week from 10:00 AM to midnight, or even later.
By the way I Harbor no ill will towards this GM. If I met him today, somehow somewhere I would shake his hand and offer to buy him a beer and I’d laugh and say, thanks for putting up with my moodiness. And I would also ask what was all that about? I wasn’t sad to leave that restaurant, but I was sad about what it represented my third and final attempt at building a career in food service and it failed.
I got the hint and I moved on. I’m not saying that it’s an awful job for everyone or anything like that. But I am saying that from what I saw in the couple of years, I worked in the industry. It’s very rare to meet successful people with families or people with children who work full-time in food service.
It’s the exception, not the rule. I don’t need to keep going on about this, but I’m telling you, the people that I met had difficult, sad lives filled with divorce and extra marital relationships with employees and managers and drunkenness and hangovers and drug use and poverty, and just so much dysfunction.
So having said all that, keep that in mind. Next time you go out for dinner or order any food really odds are, if you’re going to taco bell or red lobster or Outback, steakhouse, or any place, your life is probably easier than the person behind the counter or behind the line or behind the apron, treat them nicely, give them a handshake or a smile or a thank you or a tip.
Or all the above. And by the way, if anyone’s listening who has worked in or currently works in food service, thank you for what you do. Even if you are an entitled jerk whose parents pay for everything. I still appreciate you. And if I sit at your table, I’ll leave you a nice tip with a big smiley face.
Thanks for listening.
If you liked this episode of Micron (or even if you didn’t), let me know! I’m always open to feedback, including questions, comments, and episode suggestions. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also leave a review on Apple Podcasts here, which would be super-helpful as I try to grow the reach of the show. Thanks!