What 15 years working in restaurants gave me.

I have spent the last 6 months focusing on restaurants and their employees with my business Balanced Life. Lately, I have been writing in a direct “this is the problem and this is what you should do about it” kind of way. I noticed that I may make it seem that working in food service is just drudgery and exhaustion. I worry that this way of writing and story telling has left me with a holier than thou tone to anyone who is working in the industry.

So today, I thought I would take the time to write about what 15 years in restaurants gave me. Looking at the special skills that has allowed me to excel in other areas of my career and life. For anyone who reads this maybe we can take a moment to remember why we are so awesome in the first place. We bring a special kind of value that is rarely seen anywhere else.

What Restaurants Gave me:

#1 Confidence.

I started my career in food service at a place called 199 on Broadway in Orangeville Ontario. I started as a dishwasher saving up money for a school trip to Europe. I took the job because it was one of the first ones that said yes to my applications around town. Little did I know that this place was one of the top restaurants in the area. I switched from heart of house to front of the house and worked in various positions over 4 years.

I had a running quip that I served the “rich and the slightly famous”. Getting to serve the Eaton’s, Hasten-Fratz, and Bacardi families and Canadian music artist Sass Jordan. I learned early on that successful people are just people and I can talk to anyone without fear. This confidence, made it easy to get face time with any person at any workplace I went to. I also don’t get as nervous talking in front of large groups because I already had the practice of performing everyday at work.  

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“I learned early on that successful people are just people and I can talk to anyone without fear. This confidence, made it easy to get face time with any person at any workplace I went to.”

Many people don’t see working in restaurants as confidence building but it’s the best qualitative skill I learned over 15 years. I use this training almost everyday with clients and in workplaces I go to. Confidence gives me the strength to excel at almost everything I do.

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#2 Task Management

Everything you do has some sort of order or plan to it. Working in food service turns this dial up to 11. We have to manage many tasks when we are in the kitchen or on the floor and then we need to be able to manage ourselves when things go wrong and change plans quickly.

I work in clinics and organize people a good bunch. I am always surprised that a busy day at the clinic is child’s play compared to a Friday night at a restaurant. Working through varying tasks with a smile on your face and maintaining this pace for hours is a special superpower. It is a sought-after asset in many different careers.

An example of this is my friend in med school who just started doing her rotations in the ER. She spent her university years serving tables. She has found the training she learned on the floor translates directly to managing multiple patients and making sure they all receive excellent care. She has to move constantly, take in a massive amount of information each time she passes by a patient, use this information to augment every task she has ahead of her, and keep doing this for hours on end.

Sounds a lot like a 6 table section in a busy restaurant to me.

#3 Improv

Improvisation is something people take for granted, but it is one of my favourite assets I learned on the floor.

Nothing ever goes to plan. But being able to react and improvise makes you an asset to any team. This isn’t just with how we get the job done but also in how we manage the customer. Every time you greet a new guest you are going to have to analyze their needs and then change accordingly. You may have to change from funny to serious to playful in one pass through your section of tables. This process allowed me to think on my feet and adapt when needed. If you can’t improvise you probably are not going to last long in a restaurant. If you can improvise you are going to excel in anything you choose to do.

#4 The ability to create magic.

How awesome is it that within all the chaos, stress, and fatigue you get to work as a team to create magic for the guests?

From restaurants, to diners, to bars, and cafes we get to play a pivotal role in creating an experience for the people who come into our space. Our workplace is the starting ground of many friendships, connections, and excellent conversations. Facilitating guest needs and desires to create an energy that can relax, energize, or change how people feel.

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I experienced this magic first hand in many ways.  I worked in a café that was next to a book store and had many PHD’s finish their thesis during my shifts. I worked many New Years Eve’s where I helped create a feeling of celebration and joy. So many pivotal moments in our lives come from the food service spaces people pass through. As restaurant employees we create a little bit of magic each time we bring the needs of the customer into reality.

These are just a few of my thoughts on why I want to create solutions for Restaurants and their employees. Restaurants continue to play a pivotal role in creating spaces in society for connection and happiness. Creating spaces that do this is no easy task. Balanced Life is my way of combining my experience and training into something that can help support the people who bring the experience into reality everyday at their restaurant job.

If you made it to the end of the article, I ask you this:

What unexpected or special skills did/does working in restaurants give you? Comment below or tweet it at me @B_Life_Services.