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At 11:00am, the restaurant is relatively quiet with the low hum of music playing from the repetitive Spotify playlist. The servers, hostess, managers, bussers, and line cooks are all in their own worlds, focusing on their pre-shift tasks in preparation for the day’s work. It’s the calm before the storm.
At 11:30am, the doors open. I say a quick prayer, hoping that today’s not going to kill me. People begin to trickle in at a steady pace; so far so good. But then, the lunch rush begins. More and more people storm in either by themselves or in large parties.
“Hi, welcome! Do you have a reservation?” I ask as they walk in.
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“No, but it’s going to be 10 of us.”
“Okay, just let me know when everyone is here and I’ll try to get you guys seated as soon as I can. As of right now, for a group of 10 the wait is going to be about 45 minutes.”
This is considered to be a reasonable wait time, seeing as it’s a popular restaurant, prime lunch time, and a large party with no reservation.
“Well, we’re hungry. Can’t you just sit us now,” she demanded.
Time and time again, I’ve heard and I’ve been told that the customer is always right. But when you’re being talked down to, and a customer who you can tell has never worked in a restaurant before comes to you and demands that you cater to his or her every need, it’s kind of hard to still smile and respond with “yes, whatever your heart desires,” while you kiss the dirt they walk on.
While you have this one person holding up the line, the wait time has now just jumped to one hour and the phone is ringing and your manager is yelling at you and the day that started out peacefully, quickly turns to utter chaos.
Working in a restaurant gave me insider knowledge on what employees have to deal with when they come in to work. With this knowledge, I have the power to make their day a little better by being an understanding customer; a little smile goes a long way. When I go to a restaurant with a friend who is adamant about not even giving the server eye contact, it’s hard to translate to them how much just a simple act as giving eye contact when requesting something means.
Before I worked in a restaurant, my mother was one of those people who assumed that if someone worked in a restaurant, they weren’t the brightest person and shouldn’t be taken seriously. She’d be the type to talk down to them and show her impatience. However, if my mother had visited the restaurant I currently work at back then, she would have no idea that half the employees there are working there in order pay for college and grad school. If customers like her were able to see the amount of stress each employee goes through starting from 11:30am to 12:00am, they would show more grace. But they probably don’t see. They don’t see because with every interaction, we do it with a smile. With every complaint, we apologize like our life depends on it.
In a way, working in a restaurant feels a lot like war. It always feels like there is one side against the other, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The solution? Everyone should just work in a restaurant. The phrase “treat others the way you want to be treated,” would be the first hard hitting lesson to learn. It wouldn’t be a concept practiced only when in a restaurant, but also throughout one’s daily life.