Monday, October 31, 2011

Dinner is Served

I’ve talked about my job at an Italian restaurant on this blog quite a bit, but really it makes sense to spend so much time discussing it. In addition to being a full-time student, I am also a full-time waitress, putting in 40 hours a week serving loafs of bread, pouring drinks, and dealing (patiently, of course) with belligerent and sometimes intoxicated guests. (At C’s, there is no such thing as customer – everyone is a guest.)

The entirety of my weekends are typically spent at the restaurant; I often don’t have time to leave before shifts, and can spend 12 hours in my uniform on one Saturday. This weekend was one such weekend, and I am writing this in a corner at the restaurant because there was no place to park at the Starbucks where I usually spend my breaks. This morning was not an easy morning. For a variety of reasons, nothing seemed to be going right. We were shorthanded and the food was taking far too long to make. In the midst of the insanity, I had one table in particular that demanded more attention than usual due to a mistake made by some other server the last time they were here. The couple was originally furious with me because they thought that it was my fault, and accused me of lying. They were much kinder once they realized that I was doing everything I could to help them and that the blame did not lie with me. It was a lesson for both parties, however, in that we both had to be patient with each other in our pursuit of a common goal. Needless to say, it was a slightly stressful morning.

My roommate Beth, who also works at the same restaurant, wrote a really excellent blog post issuing instructions to anybody who wants to eat at a restaurant. I wholeheartedly agree with her on every point, but it is also helpful to remind myself why I like this job, so here goes.

1.     The coworkers
The people I work with can be frustrating, but they can also be fantastic as well. I have learned to never judge a book by its cover, nor, in fact, by its pages. There have been people who have frustrated me to no end, but then surprised me by helping me or doing me favors out of the blue. There are between 30-40 people who work here, and basically all of them are nice, despite an occasional initial cold shoulder or snappy response. There seem to be very few people who share my values, but everyone is very respectful of each other’s background and religious beliefs – or at least, they are to me. We spend so much time together that we really do become like a family, joking and bickering alternatively, but in the end we are all looking out for each other in a way I’ve never really experienced outside my own family.

Addendum: Not long after writing this post, a coworker whom I had previously assumed dislike me for no discernable reason went out of his way to help me with car trouble. (Note to self: Learn to change flat tire.)

2.     The food
….is delicious! In my opinion, we’re much better than Olive Garden. I’m currently munching on Italian chicken nachos, minus the chicken and jalapeños, but with the black olives, roma tomatoes, and alfredo sauce. My favorite meal is the Spicy Romano Chicken, (minus the chicken, of course) with bowtie pasta, spicy Romano cream sauce, artichokes, mushrooms and green onions. We get 50% off any food we want, but more often than not I end up eating the mistakes made in the kitchen for free, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a really great way to eat on a budget. Compared to the cafeteria food I’m now totally sick of, this is a banquet.

3.     The challenge
This job isn’t easy. It’s much more complicated than my previous job at a burger restaurant. The ingredients are more complicated, and as it’s a corporation, there are very specific rules I’m required to follow when I greet a table, take an order, or serve a meal. Inevitably, something must go wrong at least once a night, so being a waitress means much more than just doing the basics of my job. We have to be able to problem solve under stress. For example, the issue I mentioned earlier with the unhappy table meant quickly prioritizing my tables’ needs while outsmarting the computer we use to keep track of our orders. I was successful; the computer was defeated, and sanity prevailed.

4.     The money
Not gonna lie, the money is a big part of it. This job pays very, very well, in part because I have an opportunity to work, but also because bills end up being very high, what with alcohol, desserts, and $15 meals. 15% of $50 is much higher than 15% of $20. Typically, if people can afford to eat here, they can afford to tip well. (College students are the exception – they like to eat as cheaply as possible and tip as poorly as possible. Come on, guys.)

5.     The hours
So far, I’ve never had to work when I asked not to, and the managers work around my class schedule, which is very, very helpful.

6.     The guests
The guests should be the real reason why I am motivated to do my job well, and I think that, for the most part, they are. I know what its like to sit at the table and try to communicate with a waitress. All the guest wants is a pleasant experience, and it’s my job to help that happen. The people I meet are very interesting and fairly diverse, so I’m never bored. I only wish that I had more time to get to know them better, as I did at my old job, where I could talk with regulars the entire time they were eating, asking about their family and friends, school and work. But I guess a few minutes in passing is better than nothing.

Oh, and by the way – did I mention?

I get an apron embroidered with my name.

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