There are hundreds of restaurants in our area and many college students, like myself, find themselves working in one to help pay for the cost of school. However, this job comes with stress and craziness that many people might not be able to handle, so this is a guide on how to work in a restaurant without going crazy.
I have worked in an Italian restaurant in Barrington called Ciao Baby and despite its small size; it comes with the same problems most restaurants deal with. Like many students, I realized that working in the restaurant business was not my career path but more of a stepping stone to help pay for college. Even though people might not see it as a career there are still valuable lessons to be learned from it and to help compile this survival guide, I sought the assistance of my co-workers.
David is one of the first employees I met at Ciao Baby as he started a couple weeks before I did and he usually is the person that clocks the most hours every week. When asked about his full work schedule he said: “The more you think about it, the more it will drive you crazy. Just get there and find something to do and get into a groove.” This proves to be true as it is easy to feel down about the lack of free time one has each day, but worrying about work is one of the worst ways to spend time away from work. If you feel as though you’re being overworked, let a manager know and adjust your schedule.
When asked if he wish he worked less hours, David said, “No once you find your balance; you get used to it and can adapt life outside of work to make things easier and more money is always good.” So before giving in to the pressures of the busy life, give it a chance as it may not be quite as bad as it sounds.
When asked his favorite parts about working in a restaurant he said, “You’re moving around most of the time when it gets busy, which I prefer. And getting tips gives me spending money in cash so it makes it easier to save most of my paychecks.” This is important for college students especially who are trying to save up their money for school but still want to have fun. Adopting David’s idea of saving paychecks and using tips for spending cash is a great way to be responsible and still be able to use it for leisure.
There are many different reasons to love working at a restaurant and sometimes it seems like there are many more reasons to hate working in such a place. Customers can become condescending, co-workers driving each other insane, and the physical toll it takes can be draining.
David was also asked his least favorite parts of working in a restaurant and he said: “When there is too much downtime it is hard to stay motivated to stand around waiting for people to come in.” This is a common problem, especially in a small restaurant like ours where the restaurant may be totally empty for the first couple hours of the shift. This is the time to do things people would not normally do during busy times, like deep clean equipment and get work stations organized. Using the down time to clean and get organized will help immensely when the lunch or dinner rush comes around.
Customers obviously play a huge role in most businesses but in the restaurant and hospitality business, they can cause problems for the untrained employee. “Sometimes people will be rude to you for something beyond your control or for no reason at all,” David said when describing his worse interactions with guests. There are rude people everywhere but somehow when working in a restaurant, it feels like every single ornery person gathered in one place. It is important to remember to stay professional and remember that as an employee your job is to make guests feel comfortable whether or not they are acting ridiculous. This is one of the hardest aspects of the job and will take plenty of time to get used to, but remember doing even the smallest task for a needy guest can go a long way.
Many people believe restaurants simply exist to sell food and nothing more but it is imperative to remember that selling food is simply an aspect of what restaurants are selling. A successful person in the industry would say that restaurants sell the experience whereas everything about the customers visit should be considered and done pleasantly. Everything from the ambiance of the dining room to the cleanliness of the bathroom should be done in a way that is pleasing and comforting so the guests not only enjoy their food, but also stimulate the other senses.
It is important to remember why people go out to eat, whether it is to celebrate a birthday or a quick meal after a long road trip. If they simply wanted to satisfy their appetite they would go to a fast food chain restaurant, however if a customer walks in the doors to your restaurant that means they have chosen you and your staff to give them a comforting experience. Looking at it from that perspective helped me see past the primal notion that people sought us out strictly for food and it helped me change my attitude to better serve them.
The attitude of employees is a key aspect to a successful restaurant and a healthy attitude starts with healthy thinking. Realizing the importance of your job, no matter how small, can truly change your perspective and help you take pride in your work. Working in a restaurant is not the most glamorous job especially as a college student with little experience but it can still be quite rewarding.
Everyone should try and work in a restaurant at least once in their lives, it might not be the perfect job but it has many redeeming qualities and teaches how to treat others.