Waiting tables in a restaurant is a terrible idea. For starters, your schedule is the complete opposite of that of everyone else in the world. When people are getting out of work, you’re just going in.
Everyday, you have to deal with an endless amount of commands, rude people and poor tippers. You’re stuck as a server who earns close to nothing compared to the amount of work that you do.
Don’t get me wrong; waiting tables can be fun for a summer job. The weird hours and endless restaurant bullshit forms an impenetrable bond between you and your co-workers.
This bond usually equates to nights of aggressive binge drinking, sexual relations and mild drug use. ANYONE who’s worked in a restaurant or bar can attest to this. It’s just part of the business.
The money isn’t what’s wrong. Waiters make enough money to get by on. It’s the habits and mindset you’ll build as a server in a restaurant that will ruin your life.
So if you managed to avoid the hospitality industry your entire life or have never had a job, I’ll illustrate why waiting tables is the worst possible job for members of Generation-Y.
Here’s a familiar scenario:
You come into work a few minutes late and take a minute to look at the schedule for the next week before the shift meeting starts. Your idiot manager says something, but you brush it off because you don’t really care what he has to say.
Realizing that you are scheduled to work two weekend shifts and two weekday ones, you know that you’re going to make good money but you also know that you’ll be late to [insert coworker’s name here] party on Saturday night. Oh well.
Even though you hate everything about your job, you keep coming back in week after week. You say you enjoy spending time with the cool people you work with, and unfortunately they’re in the same position as you. However, you know that nothing about these people, or your job is actually cool.
The only thing that may possibly be cool about your job is that as a server, you get paid in a way that’s very uncommon for the rest of the job market.
You go into work and you leave work with money.
You go into work and you leave work with money.
Generally the amount of money you leave with depends on the number of tables served, average check size and quality of work.
Questions for consideration:
What other jobs do you go into work and get paid the exact same day?
In what other lines of work can you expect to earn a decent living at a job that doesn’t require a college degree or any skills?
There aren’t many. Immediately stripping comes to mind, but you have morals.
How many people do you know started serving tables during college and now that they’ve graduated are still doing the same thing? It’s usually not a knock on their intelligence of aptitude, but actually a result of them getting caught in the server’s mindset.
The Server’s Feedback Loop
A server expects an immediate return (cash) on their investment (time).
The immediate return (cash) acts as positive feedback, a direct reinforcement for the work that you just did.
It’s okay that you just spent eight or more hours getting covered in spaghetti sauce, bringing people extra money and wiping off dirty tables, the money’s there. Money to pay your bills, money to go out, and money to buy things, money is comfort.
You might be serving tables one day in a horrible mood ready to quit and never return, but then someone leaves you a gigantic tip. If you’re a girl there’s probably a phone number attached. Your serotonin levels start soaring and it all becomes bearable again.
Cash is scientifically proven to bring us happiness. Getting to go home with it every single night isn’t a bad thing.
Oh wait, it’s a terrible thing. It’s the worst possible thing you can be teaching yourself.
Why The Server’s Feedback Loop is Terrible
Most of the world looks forward to payday every other week. There's no better feeling than seeing your check get direct deposited into your account right before your big weekend. It triggers a very powerful emotional response.
Servers or waiters get that same reaction each time they pickup a check from a table and then again at the end of the night when they close out their checks.
Here’s what happens:
You become accustomed to getting paid to take orders and follow instructions. This becomes a habit.
The habit becomes a mental state. Your concept of work changes to this employee attitude.
The employee attitude stifles your creativity and drive. There's no reason to be creative or try something new. You know what it takes to get paid and will do just that.
You become dependent on this money and work environment. You find yourself unable to survive in other environments and situations.
There’s absolutely no freethinking or problem solving involved with waiting tables. I don’t care whether you work at a five-star-steakhouse or local faux Italian chain. You’re taking orders and bringing people things they’re going to put in their mouths only to shit out later.
Why this should terrify you...
The jobs aren’t coming back. As a member of Generation-Y, you’re sitting in a talent pool that runs deeper than that of any other time in history. You aren’t just fighting your peers either; you’re fighting the girl in India who taught herself how to write Ruby on Rails in two months from tutorials on Youtube.
If you have the server’s mindset, there is absolutely no way you will be successful.
Why? Because in real life, there is no direct way to measure input and output.
Who knows how many networking events you’ll have to attend before you meet the right recruiter, client or business partner.
Who knows how many times you’ll have to call, email, visit or text that prospect before you're able to turn the relationship into the biggest deal of your life.
Who knows how many times you’ll have to face rejection, get thrown out and pull yourself together before you finally find the success that you’re looking for.
Success can never completely be defined. You cannot throw hours at these problems and expect solutions. You need to be constantly learning, working and evolving to end up in a position where you will be “lucky” and be in the right place and right time.
This could take weeks, months, years or decades.
If you continue to work a job where you’re developing the server’s mindset, then you’re going to be stuck. You aren’t going to wake up one day and figure out what you’re meant to do with your life.
Each day is a struggle, an adventure, and a grind to work harder and explore creative solutions to the problems that surround us.
But if you’re locked into this mindset where you take orders and follow instructions to get paid, that’s all you’re ever going to be.
Top Photo Credit: Waiter via Shuttershock