5 Life Lessons I learned from Working in a Restaurant

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Whether you are interacting with a client or serving pizzas, you will have to deal with customers to some degree in your career. Throughout college I have been working part-time at a restaurant to ease the financial burden of attending a University, and I’ve been surprised to see how many of the skills I will be able to take with me when I embark on the real world. Here are five things I learned from working in a restaurant that can apply to (almost) any career.

1. How to hustle under pressure. This is something that you are forced to learn very early on in your customer service career whether you work in retail, food or hospitality. Imagine that it’s a busy Friday night, food and drink orders start rolling in, and a keg blows while you’re pouring a beer for an impatient customer. Ugh! Now you have to hold up the line to run to the back, move a heavy keg and pray that it doesn’t spray all over you while you tap it. Then, you have to run the beer to the table and run back to the counter and continue to take orders while constantly keeping your eye on the expo window to see if there is any food to take out. *sigh.* Yep, nights like these are stressful, but more often than not a customer will notice your hard work and praise you for it or give you a tip. And believe me, those little things are what make the stressful nights bearable.

2. Patience is key. This rule applies to customers and coworkers. Don’t rush the kitchen when they are  working hard to make food and ESPECIALLY don’t rush a customer when they are deciding what to order. Take the time to help out first-timers with the menu and offer advice about what’s good. Hungry customers take food very seriously, so if they seem unsure, ask them questions about what they are in the mood for and give them recommendations; after all, you know the menu better than anyone. If they are being rude, remember that they are hungry and cranky, and being inpatient will end badly for both of you.

3. Kill ’em with kindness. You aren’t only representing yourself, you are representing the company that you work for. People will talk down to you and they will treat you like you’re stupid- unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the job. Remember to stay calm and be polite- this mantra will get you far in any industry.

4. Teamwork. Think of your coworkers as a team fighting to reach a common goal; whether it’s to get as many people to sign up for a rewards program or to simply run a smooth dinner service. When it starts to get busy and mistakes are being made, don’t lose sight of the goal. Your team is there to help you succeed, and without them you would be running an establishment by yourself. Not a good time.

5. Build relationships with your customers. After working somewhere for a while, you will get to know the clientele and what they like. Pretty soon you will start talking to them about their grand kids and what they got them for Christmas while typing in an order that you have memorized because they get the same thing every time. Going that extra mile to remember an order will impress your customers and make them feel important. Even if you don’t have time for a long chat, it’s really rewarding when a repeat customer refuses to be helped by anyone else other than you because you made such a lasting impression during his or her previous visit.

So, those are some of the things I have learned from working in a restaurant. While I sometimes dread going to work because of the long hours and the odd people, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. If nothing else, I have gained so much more respect for other people who work in customer service and I will forever be a great tipper. *wink.*

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