Being a bartender, server or support staff in a restaurant is usually looked upon as a "job," not a career. I have worked in corporate America, I have worked in retail (which I consider a close second to restaurants) and I have been a nanny. But out of all the positions I've held, nothing has been more rewarding, painful and real-life educational than being a server at a restaurant.
Here are seven reasons why people should work in a restaurant at least once in their lives:
1. The People
When you work in a restaurant, you deal with every type of human there is. You have the cheap ones, the sweet ones, the old ones and the young ones. You encounter the trashiest of all the trash, and the ones who think they're owed something because they happen to be rich.
No matter who is sitting at your table, you have to treat and tolerate them the same. Being a restaurant worker gives you a new view of how different people are from one another, and how to deal with whatever they throw at you.
The amount of patience you develop while serving is astronomical. People will ask you the most ridiculous questions, and you have to look the them straight in the face and answer politely.
"Does the bread have gluten?" Yes, people ask this question. No, you can't punch them in the face.
You have to serve the people at your bar or table for the remainder of their meal, however long that may be.
3. The Liars
You learn very fast in the restaurant industry how much people lie. You learn even faster how to deal with their lies, and how to outsmart them.
People think complaining about something there isn't an issue with will get them free things. Now, this "liar spotter skill" is transferrable in every career you'll ever have. You have to be diplomatic and kindly tell them, "too bad, so sad."
Once they realize they can't pull a fast one over you, they either won't come back because they know you're not stupid, or they'll apologize when they're caught.
4. Hard Work
It's 90 degrees, and the kitchen's conditioner is broken or nonexistent. You have five tables that all need something at once, and another is about to be seated. You haven't eaten in seven hours because you haven't had a chance. And peeing? Forget it. You're on your feet nonstop until closing time, or you hit the ground, whichever comes first.
What does this teach you? To appreciate those around you who work hard. You're multitasking, handling money, running and trying to handle everyone's needs at once. When you sweat for every dollar you make, you understand the actual value of money.
Sometimes there's a flood, and sometimes there's a drought. With restaurants, you never know what you're going to be making. Your pay relies solely on the people tipping you. What most people don't understand is servers do not get paychecks. If they do, it's maybe $40 dollars for 60 hours of work. (Thank you, $2.13 an hour.)
Knowing that the money may not always be there, you learn to save. You learn when to say no and when to go out for a few drinks. Budgeting is one of the most important life skills working in a restaurant will teach you.
You truly become a family when you work in a restaurant. If doesn't matter your title, pay grade or seniority. At the end of a 12-hour shift, when you sit down with everyone you just fought through hell with, you look around and love on them.
You laugh about the idiots and smile about the the nice ones. You joke about how three hours ago, you were all screaming at each other and threatening to start slaughtering people with a lemon, but it's all OK. You drink, you laugh, you come back and you do it all again. Being in the restaurant industry teaches you to be humble at the top and responsible at the bottom.
Maybe you can't spend Christmas or some other holiday with your family because you need to work. Loving your restaurant family makes missing a holiday with your actual family just a little less sh*tty.
Your weekends, your nights, your holidays and your vacations are all sacrificed in this profession. Sure, if you want to take off a random week in October, it's fine. If you want to give up your shift on a Tuesday, you can have the day off. But, that's only because you worked 45 hours between Friday and Sunday, and you're picking up three doubles next week.
If you take vacation or sick time, there is no pay, so you don't call out unless you're dying. Your personal days come at the cost of your cashflow.
There will be missed family parties, birthday parties, Friday nights at the bar and Sunday brunches. You learn that whether you're 16 or 60, working in a restaurant is as real as the "real world" gets.
So, before you roll your eyes at people when they tell you they work in a restaurant, just remember there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into making your meal delightful.