Although my time in the restaurant industry is temporary, I learned so many valuable skills. I am a firm believer that every experience is a good experience, it is up to you to perceive the value.
Finding Calm WITHIN the storm
It is Friday night, you have 18 heads currently. Table 56 needs a coke refill, the Manhattan to table 58, table 59 needs entrée orders, and oh, the check to 60. In the middle of the dinner rush, you are multi-tasking while under pressure AND keeping a smile on your face.
For me, it’s a few deep, conscious breaths, focusing on my intentions. This can be done anytime, anywhere. Now, I catch myself doing it habitually. It helps me focus and be more present; therefore, handling the task at hand with ease.
Conscious breathwork actually has many health benefits including increased clarity and focus, lower blood pressure, and may even benefit your immune system — researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that the group who performed breathing exercises had significantly lower levels of three cytokines that are associated with inflammation and stress in their saliva compared to the control group. Their findings are published here.
In order to work in customer service, you have to be personable; your people skills dictate your tips. I have always been more reserved but serving tables taught me the right balance. It is essential to be well-spoken and confident but also friendly and humorous.
Being a good communicator is essential for a lot of careers. It is a skillset worth focussing on and polishing as you grow in your career. Professionalism is always my priority but personality and a little wit can go a long way.
Patience is very important in any industry and in life in general.
Somedays are going to be slow days, the kitchen may have to re-fire your well-done steak, or your last table camps out an hour after they are finished. Things frequently don’t go as planned.
I like the phrase “good things come to those who wait”. One time, it was a slow winter night. I was just serving my second table. Then, randomly, I got a walk-in 8 top. They were incredibly friendly and left me the largest tip I have received to date. Sometimes we act like a dog with a bone; it is important to savor life and appreciate the journey. You never know what may come your way.
Smiling through the negativity
There are bitter customers and co-workers will have bad days or maybe someone spills orange juice all over you – Laugh it out and let it go.
I keep in mind that we are only responsible for our reactions, not other’s actions. Carrying positive energy with you is contagious and always prevails.
When it comes to a dispute, I always ask myself, will this actually matter tomorrow? What about in an hour? This exercise funnels how you are expending your energy.
Being early is always a good thing
Time is money, simple as that. So many times, I’ve come into work early and BOOM, three tables walk-in; boosting my sales and tips for that night. It also gives you time for a buffer – personally, I enjoy this time to prepare and get myself in the zone. I usually practice the specials for the evening and double check my section.
Taking the extra step is always worth it, plus it looks great to managers. Arriving early to work also sets a precedent for being timely in general. When it comes to growing in your long-term career, being a “Last-Minute Larry” can give you a negative reputation. When you are early, it proves that you are accountable; in turn, it proves that you have value.
The restaurant industry is fast paced and fun, yet it is rigorous and hard-as-nails. Everything I learned made my experience valuable and I’m grateful for everything I learned.