At the ripe age of fourteen I began working in the restaurant industry. Nine years and many a job titles later, I can tell you one thing: working at a restaurant is not for everyone. Yes, there are pros. Many pros. Quick money and a flexible schedule is what trapped me for so much of my young life. Now, at age 23, I have finally escaped.
I have never been happier. And I will never go back.
***I by no means want to offend anyone who enjoys the restaurant industry. I know many people that want nothing more than to be servers, and are content with doing that every day. And good for them! It is quick cash in the pocket. This is only one person’s perspective, and it is to be taken with a grain of salt!
I know many servers who took up serving to go back to school, or to give themselves more free time to do creative things. But in almost every case, either they are scheduled too much, aren’t making enough money for school, or any downtime they do have they are exhausted from the nonstop heavy lifting, balancing, straining, running, and my favorite –> emotional stress. And how do they react? They take to their beds and spend unnatural amounts of time resting/napping. Others start a nightly drinking ritual that will temporarily suppress any pent up stress that resides after work. Almost every server I worked with developed a drinking problem at one point or another. I know I did. And it wasn’t healthy.
After my shift ended and I raced through my hefty side work load, I needed to get drunk, and FAST. Why? Why does the restaurant industry do this to you? I have searched and searched and have come to an ultimate conclusion. Restaurants are STRESSFUL. No matter how cool you think your boss is, or how awesome your coworkers are: stress and negativity can CONSUME you. And this is how:
1) NEGATIVITY: Because for me, at the end of the day, it is not joyful to wait tables. It is one of the lowest jobs on the totem pole. The pay is good, sometimes great, but not good enough for the amount of work that is required. How can one genuinely enjoy handling stranger’s dirty dishes and scraping all the food off with their used utensils? How can one genuinely enjoy being mistreated or mistipped by ignorant customers? How can one genuinely enjoy sucking up to customers just for an amount of money you can never be certain of. Serving tables took away much of my happiness, and my enthusiastic energetic self turned negative and cynical. It did the same for most all of my coworkers. That negative energy flows all around and every person in the room takes it in and feels it too, no matter how hard they try to stay positive. I saw many warm-hearted sensitive coworkers turn hard-shelled and emotionless. When I asked them why, the same answer would always come up. “It’s just hard to be happy when I’m constantly surrounded by unhappy people.”
2) UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: It is the restaurant manager’s job to keep their every eye on you, and to push you to work harder. They get this pressure from their boss the OWNER. So this means no matter how hard you work, no matter how many hours you soldier on, or however many favors you do: it will never be good enough for them. It is their job to push you to impossible levels even they could not achieve. It is demoralizing, unfair, and has drastic effects on ones self esteem.
3) FAVORITISM: At every restaurant I have ever worked at, there has always been a few STARS of the show. Meaning, when the managers make the floor plan, they give their favorites aka (their drinking buddies, the men, or girls they want to sleep with) the best sections. In my particular restaurant, this was always the case. Any time someone would confront the managers as to why they got the worst section, the managers responded by making up some rule or tell you that you are not ready for a prime section. This did not just happen to me, but happened to many of the nice, hard-working underdogs who didn’t deserve it. This favoritism was also the deciding factor for your schedule, and requests off. I once took off weeks in advance for Mother’s Day because I was going to be out of the state. When the schedule was posted, I saw myself on a double on Mother’s Day. When I confronted my manager about it, he told me I would have to get someone to cover the shifts or I would basically be fired for not coming in. After no luck at begging every coworker I could to cover the shifts, I looked at who had off that day. Much to my surprise, it was only the manager’s male friends, who did not even request off. I did not end up getting fired, but spent my whole vacation out of state worried about it.
4) SEXUAL HARRASMENT: At the early age of seventeen, I worked as a hostess, where I first experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. My manager there would always comment on the size of my breasts. He would constantly come to me and talk about how sexy some of the lady customers were. This was supposed to be my professional manager, not some horny middle aged creeper. At my last restaurant job, one particular manager would touch girls in every way he knew how. He slapped their butts, grabbed their breasts, and even fondle their vagina if they bent over. It was a horrific experience to watch these girls put up with it just because they didn’t want to lose their job. I, sadly, was one of them. When I tried to speak up to some of the more professional managers, they sent me to the head of HR, who ironically was buddies with the inappropriate manager.
It was all just unfair, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. Yes, I am sure there are many restaurants around the world where people can enjoy working. I just didn’t come across them in my personal experience. While I wish I could post nothing but positive messages, I publish this so that you can be informed of a different angle before jumping into the lifestyle. I am so happy now that I wanted to share the joy of life OUTSIDE the restaurant industry.
Since quitting my final restaurant job, I have moved across the country, am living in a great house in a city full of creative opportunity, and now wake up with endless amounts of energy to pursue my dreams. I will never regret working as a waitress, because I learned so much about what I truly wanted and deserved. I believe everything happens for a reason, and there is always a lesson to gain. I now see that working as a server was a destined detour on the path towards my life legend.