Food is a huge part of our lives. Yes, we need it to survive, but it is a huge part of our culture, and it’s also become much more of a social experience. Many people don’t really eat to live anymore; they live to eat. But do we really appreciate the work that is put into getting that plate in front of you? I know from experience that not everyone does, and I didn’t either until I started working at a pool café, which is basically a poolside outdoor restaurant. I can honestly say that the job has really changed the way I look at people in the industry along with how I act. Whether it's waiting tables at a fancy restaurant or taking orders out of a drive-thru window, the lessons are the same and are oh-so-valuable to building character. Here are six reasons everyone should work in food service at least once.
1. You’ll learn not to let rude people affect you.
Let’s be honest, there are some pretty nasty people out there, and as with any business in which you interact with customers, you will encounter people who do and say some pretty terrible things. For example, one of my coworkers had a man throw a pickle spear at her after he asked for no pickles and the kitchen accidentally put one on his plate. Yes, it sucks when people are mean to you, but you learn to let it roll right off your shoulders and get the job done. It’s a skill you will use throughout your life in any industry. Take it from Kendra Thomas, who has worked at a fast food restaurant and told Fresh U that, "Of course I've got[ten] aggravated with customers and their rudeness, and yes I almost snapped but I know I couldn't because my job was on the line. So I kept a smile on my face and quickly got their order as soon as possible so I could get them out of the restaurant.”
2. You’ll be more aware of your actions.
I’ve never considered myself a rude person, but working at the pool café has definitely made me more conscientious of how I act in restaurants. I’m always polite because I know what it’s like not to be treated with respect, and I always try to make it easy for the employees of the restaurant to do their job. I feel bad if I unintentionally make it harder on them. For example, a couple weeks after I started my job, I spilled an entire drink all over the floor at a Jimmy Johns and I felt so horrible that I was seconds away from asking them where the mop was so I could clean it up myself. Before I started waitressing, I would have said sorry and just moved on with my life without a care in the world, but now I know how annoying that kind of stuff is. Yes, accidents happen, but now I try extra hard not to be a difficult customer. Elizabeth Williams, who worked at a Panera, told Fresh U that, "It taught me a lot about considering the impacts of your actions and now whenever I go into a restaurant I always try to be the absolute easiest customer I can be.”
3. Teamwork makes the dream work.
I think we can all agree that knowing how to work together in groups is an invaluable life skill everyone needs to know. It’s something used in any industry, but you practice it every single shift when you work in food service. Communication is key to ensuring a restaurant runs smoothly, especially during rush hours. This doesn’t only apply to the wait staff but also the kitchen: Samay Bansal, who worked as a line cook, told Fresh U that, "Whilst working in a kitchen I realized that it's a lot like an orchestra; each member has a very specific responsibility and when the team comes together perfectly, the dish comes out exactly how we want each time.”
4. You will learn how to perfectly multi-task.
Waiting tables might look easy from the outside looking in, but a waiter has to do so many different things at once. You may be in charge of the needs of multiple tables and have to ensure that every single one of them gets speedy service. It’s all about managing your time, doing several things at once and making sure you do everything correctly the first time. It takes some serious effort to consistently offer awesome service to anyone and everyone that you serve, especially during rush hours, like the one described by Sanjana Lahiri: "Through being a waitress, I learned the importance of a good work ethic, regardless of the situation or your ability level. If it's a crowded night and the restaurant is short on staff, everyone needs to put in their full effort so that everything continues to run smoothly. I'd really recommend that students try working in the food industry, not only because you develop an appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into it, but also because you learn skills that can't be taught in a classroom.”
5. You understand how important it is to tip.
It’s pretty much common knowledge that it’s polite to tip, but many of us only tip when a check is placed in front of us, even though food service workers in fast food are oftentimes super reliant on tips, so I always try to throw some money in the jar even if it’s just a few cents in change. For example, Olivia Humphreys, who worked at an ice cream shop, told Fresh U that: "I definitely relied on tips but I've always been a big tipper. I do feel more strongly about getting my friends to tip, I remind them every time.”
6. And most importantly, it’s fun!
The job is very fast-paced and interesting, plus much of the staff will probably be around your age, which means you’ll make good friends while you work. I know there hasn't been a single day that I've gone to work and haven't laughed, and I've made friends I never would have met if I didn't work at the pool café. Elizabeth Williams, the Panera veteran, sums it up well when she says that, "I learned that just because you're at work doesn't mean you have to feel like you're working. Last summer, I worked with a lot of my close friends, many of whom I'm still really close with, and while we got destroyed on a few rushes, there was never a dull moment. It's never impossible to have a fun time doing anything, it's about your attitude.”
Everyone I talked to when interviewing food service workers all took something away from it that has made them act or think differently. I know my own experience has impacted me in ways no other job has, and ultimately I’m a better person because of it. Not only does food service teach you valuable life skills you will use in any job, but I think if everyone worked in food service at least once in their life they would be more mindful of their actions and words. Not to mention there is no better time than now for those of you not considering making a career in the food industry, because it is a well-paying part time job for high schoolers and college students getting their degree.
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