I have worked in the restaurant industry for seven years. I have been a hostess, a waitress and a bartender. And I think I’ve pretty much seen it all.
“Waiting,” starring Ryan Reynolds, is basically the story of my life in the food industry. Being a hostess and a waitress, you deal with a plethora of interesting situations.
You get the incredibly needy customers – you know, the ones that ask for a glass of water, and then when you return with the glass of water, they ask for a side of ranch, and then when you return with the side of ranch, they ask for a new fork, and so on. That’s called “running your server,” and people do it like it’s their job.
And then you get the couple that’s in the middle of a monumental feud. You’re standing in front of their table, ready to take their order, and there’s this intense cloud of awkwardness. It’s as if you walked into the middle of World War 1 and you definitely weren’t invited.
Next, you get the guy who sits at a four-top all by himself talking on his cell phone. You think to yourself, “Should I go over to him? Interrupt his phone call? If I do will he think I’m being rude? If I don’t will he think he’s getting poor service? And why in the hell does one guy who’s probably going to order $10 of food and going to tip me $2 need to take up a four-top and a screw me out of a potential $8 tip?”
Then you get the family with three kids that the parents let run rampant around the restaurant. First, the children are occupied for a split second by using crayons to vandalize the table. Then they’re amused by running around with balloons, nearly tripping all the servers carrying big trays full of drinks and entrees. Oh, and don’t forget the children that climb over the booths and wreak havoc on the neighboring table.
Being a bartender is slightly different. You deal with a different crowd of people. Sometimes, you still get the families with obnoxious children, but more often, you deal with drunk assholes.
As a bartender, you get the dirty old men, staring at you creepily from across the bar, waiting for you to acknowledge them so they can make some dirty, sexual remark that you just have to smile and nod off.
You get the alcoholics that sit at the end of your bar getting progressively more drunk throughout your shift, eventually looking as if they are about to fall asleep right in their whiskey.
You get the seducers. These are the best. These (for me) are guys that come in just to flirt. They drink, of course, and that’s their excuse for their lame pick-up lines and inappropriate comments. It turns nasty when they actually try to grab-ass. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to slap a customer across the face for putting their arm around me or trying to pull me onto their laps. It’s disgusting. Calling me “baby” or “sweetie” will not get you a free drink. In fact, I’m inclined to charge you as much as possible.
And, no. I will not give you my phone number.
I’ll be honest, sometimes bartenders, myself included, perpetuate this “naughty” behavior. I use the fact that I am a female, working in a predominately male environment, to my advantage. If you flirt a little bit, your tips seem to magically double. As long as you don’t cross the line, you’re in the clear. Comes with the job.
Working in the food industry also has its perks. Being social and able to talk to a variety of people has set me up with some fairly decent contacts throughout the years. I actually got an internship and several job offers while working as a bartender. You can make good friends and connections if you are friendly and cordial to customers. You develop regulars that can ultimately assist you in the future (such as in my current job search).
In general, I have loved working in the restaurant industry; I have met some great people, made some great money and had a great time.
A word to the wise; however, don’t mess with the people that handle your food.