Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Hardest Job I Ever Had: Restaurant Server and I'm Not Alone

This blog is dedicated to the men and women that work their asses off to feed the country. They are usually under appreciated, under tipped, but mostly not understood.

Servers at America's restaurants are usually less educated than the people that can afford to eat at the restaurants which the servers work.

Patrons show high levels of contempt for this very reason. After all, having a bachelor's degree makes you a better person, right?

What is so easy to overlook is why a person may be working a job as a server. Many of these servers are young, in their late teens and have not even had the chance to work on a college degree. But many are also working these jobs because their circumstance makes it nearly impossible for them to rise through education to a white collar job.

When you are a single mother working 10 hour days to barely live paycheck to paycheck it is almost out of the question to attend, let alone pay for a higher education.

Does it mean these people are losers without ambition, cozy in a dead-end job? Quite the contrary.

Waiting tables is one of the hardest jobs in this country. You are paid a base salary as low as $2 and change an hour. As much as 95% of your income can be dependent on tips. This fact is something very few patrons know or appreciate. Couple this with the pressures of trying to satisfy managers, chefs, food runners, bartenders, and patrons all at the same time, and it is easy to understand why your service may not always be stellar.

There is also massive turnover in these jobs. This means many servers are literally learning on the job and make mistakes out of pure lack of experience.

It's nearly a lose-lose scenario. A year of work in this job is more than enough to burnout the hardest workers. And people wonder why some servers seem to care less about their job performance.

A cashier gets paid the same for great or terrible performance. A server however is supposed to work infinitely harder for just a few extra bucks an hour.

Now if you want great service everytime you go out to dinner, expect to pay for it. Go to a restaurant that costs $50 a person. These higher end establishments provide better service because the servers are tipped more as the cost of the food is higher. These jobs are few in quantity in comparison to the entire industry.

Servers at this level understand how difficult it is to make decent money and therefore work beyond what is imaginable to keep these jobs. After all, there are 100 other servers that would beg on their hands and knees for these server jobs.

When I was 18 years old I was lucky enough to get a job at a local upscale restaurant as a server. I worked 10 hour days on weekdays (Tuesdays-Thursdays) and 12-14 hour days on weekends (Fridays-Sundays).

The chef (also the owner) was an old-school Belgian that learned in the best restaurants in Europe. If service was perfect, I received no compliments. If service was imperfect in anyway small or large, the wrath I received was more than enough to mentally break the strongest of people.

I am anything but thin-skinned. I apologize when I make a mistake. I can take criticism and even anger from others and brush it aside as I work to understand where the anger may come from. It takes a person to target me viciously, relentlessly, and without reason to get my blood boiling or cause me mental strife.

When I was a server the chef broke me mentally. It is the only time in my life that I was crying on the job in front of customers, and I was still able to go through the motions to provide good service.

Did I deserve to be beat down mentally by the chef? Absolutely not. Was he trying to make me better at my job or merely unleashing anger on someone that he could? I'll never know. But I worked harder than ever after that night to be even better.

I've also worked white collar jobs that paid me double what I made at my restaurant while barely putting forward half the effort as I did while waiting tables. Serving food was the most honest dollar I have ever made in my life. And, I am not alone.

The next time you go out to eat and receive less than amazing service, try to remember all the reasons a server may not be at the top of their game before you leave a nasty note as a tip.

-B.

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