Michaels: Waiting tables and building character

Rowan student and waitress Madison Miller stands with her five-star Yelp review. - Photo / Lilly Frankel

The restaurant industry is not an easy place to work, but the character it builds and the experiences you can gain make it an exceptional job. It has been a belief of mine for years that everyone should experience a work environment in the realm of the food industry at some point in their lives. 

That being said, I may be a bit biased here. While my passion in life may be writing, I have been working in restaurants since I was 16 years old. It has been a mix of thrilling, stressful, memorable and challenging. But I have learned so much, as have all of the coworkers I have ever spoken to. If you have ever worked in the food service industry, I am sure you can agree. 

Working in the food service industry teaches a person a plethora of incredibly useful skills that you can’t learn sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen, or a job that doesn’t include a constant influx of work to make people happy.

You quickly learn the most efficient ways to fix problems. Oftentimes, customers will have an issue, and if not handled promptly and kindly, you can lose the customer — or risk getting yelled at. When those things happen it can be very upsetting, but the feeling of calming that person down and making your guest happy is like no other. 

Through this, I have personally learned the most valuable life lesson — people can quickly take their feelings out onto customer service workers. Whether it be they feel entitled to do so or simply know they may never have to see that person again, they may lash out. It is not okay to do, but it can happen. So, when I am out and having a bad day, I take that moment where I could lash out and instead I am kind. When you are kind to others it will make your day and their day better. 

The people you meet and the connections you make are also another huge plus, from coworkers to guests. 

Most people working in a restaurant have career aspirations elsewhere. I have worked with nursing students, teachers and college students, just for a few examples. Everyone has taught me something new that I was able to take away with me. Plus, when you’re working in a restaurant there is a shared sense of exhaustion and stress that can lead to some incredible memories to be made. 

I have met guests who have offered me internships, who have shared stories of traveling the world, have had women pray for me and made friendships that I hold in my heart to this day. When you take the time to care for the guests you have, you learn things and I think there is something beautiful in that. Making connections like those and hearing stories from others’ lives can change yours. 

With the restaurant industry being such a fast-paced environment, you also learn to let go. When situations arise or you are utterly so stressed you want to cry, you work through it quickly and then it is over. There is no time to dwell on a situation, as once it’s over you simply move on. This is something that has thoroughly helped me through life, because of the realization that everything will pass and nothing is as big or bad as it seems. 

Lastly, I want to share something I was told while working in this industry. There are some bosses that actually won’t hire someone who has never worked in the restaurant industry — because they too know what this job teaches and the character it builds. This is just word of mouth, but it is a pretty interesting thing to consider as a boss. 

Overall, I understand this may not be a job for everyone — but it is something everyone should try once. You can learn so much that can help you move through life as a breeze, taking all the punches that get thrown your way. You also meet some incredible people and hear stories you can only dream of. 

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