Tales from the Restaurant

Tales from the Restaurant
Where you'll find all the restaurant dirt you'll ever need.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Greener Pastures

In the service industry, there are one of two paths - You can remain in its throes and ultimately try to improve it, or you can quit and get a ‘real’ job.

I spoke with one of my bartender friends tonight who dropped a 900 megaton bombshell on me.

After I sat in awkward shock for a few minutes, I began returning to life proper by using things like adjectives to express my emotional disposition. I was taken aback by the notion that someone in the service industry that I knew, trusted, and formed a relationship with was suddenly not going to be there anymore. Although I tried to sound as not gay as possible, I let him know that he was the only reason I came to his bar in the first place.

It got me thinking about how my shift went that evening.

The first table I waited on was a thug date. In my heart, I knew that assuming how patrons were going to tip me based on their outward appearances was how one ends up reserving a space in hell. But I did it anyway. As servers, we all do. I reacted from afar accordingly.

As a rule, I don’t let it affect my service, but the sad truth is that stereotypes wouldn’t exist if they weren’t fueled by some sort of truth. I felt myself giving up inside as I brought over their tap water.

They got a whole lot of food and amassed a significant check. It totaled perhaps 80 dollars.

After his meal, the gentleman grabbed my arm and handed me the book containing his payment. He shook my hand and said “I left you a 20 dollar tip. You’ve been great, player.”

It floored me. I had had no premonition of this situation, but I continued my shift as usual. It was actually by percentage one of the best tips I had all night.

My last guest was an older, well-dressed black gentleman who looked very familiar. He was by himself, and was generally in good spirits. I put in his order for dinner and chatted with him for the last hour the restaurant was open. Turns out he was a World War 2 veteran who on D-Day charged up the beaches of Normandy. He went on in his life to work several low-paying jobs scrubbing floors and serving people. After that, he quit it all and moved on to establish the first syndicated African American bank chain in the country. He developed real estate and became a developer for some of the most prestigious office buildings and high rises around. I googled him after my shift, and it completely checked out.

The one thing he wanted to impart upon me as my last customer of the night was that there was nothing you couldn’t do if you simply worked hard. After seeing my bartender friend that evening telling me about his hard work paying off, I began to wonder when my time would be.

It gave me a small epiphany. Since people can get stuck in the service routine doing the same thing for years, the hard work that you do isn’t entirely without advantage; you gain the knowledge it takes to transcend where you are and perhaps apply that knowledge to a higher pursuit. It might be towards opening your own restaurant, or it might be so that you take sales knowledge to a different line of work. You might even leave altogether and go into real estate or piƱata manufacturing because you’ve learned that you can no longer tolerate serving.

I recently took on another full-time job, and will be applying myself on multiple fronts until I completely burn out. Or get super rich.

Time and hard work. Seems fitting that those two concepts came together for TFTR’s 50th post. Thanks for reading!

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