‘Does this have milk, gluten or air in it?’ and everything else you learn when working in hospitality

The feeling of taking out a hair doughnut is like no other

Late hours, dench arms from carrying trays and stiff uniforms are just highlights, but as summer jobs go, there is so much to learn from the experience.

How do you really keep quiet when customers think rocket is too dry and they’re seeking a refund? Or how do you not rip your hair to shreds because people were “meant to order this, but instead ordered this” and all of a sudden they want their money back?

There’s too much to learn in a short space of time, so here are the key lessons we’ve learned about pinning a doughnut or even just working at the bar.

Break in your shoes as fast as possible

There is nothing as swag as the shoes that are mandatory in the workplace. That added heel, the mule front and that swish leather is enough to make knees wobble.

But they are fucking painful if you do not break them in in time for a shift that’s eight hours long and don’t have Compeed. Spend time running round the house in your Shoezone beauties and you’ll thank yourself later (bring a pair of trainers for after too.)

‘it’s called fashion Brenda, look it up’

Allergy fairies and fibs run riot

“Yeah actually I can’t have this because I’m allergic to fruit picked at the right time and carrots because they’re too orange.” Vegans become the bane of the dinner service and the allergies means the chefs have to make up something on the go – something you gotta take face on.

If they get mad at you for not getting their RSVP about their seasonal pescatarianism, it’s not your problem. Walk away with a smile and just count your blessings.

The fight for the last drops of alcohol can get naaasty

The minute the word gets around that the bar is closing/no more alcohol left, skeletons get out the closet and the elbows are out. People will go to no end to ensure they have that last drop of wine. If they get snotty because there’s none left, tough shit. Be cruel.

For girls – pack an extra bobby pin or 3 for those tight doughnuts, for guys – a t-shirt for setup

It’s not for debate. Do it once and you’ll regret ever not doing it.

The human rights declaration is dismissed

Taken up a job with a hospitality agency? We’ll wave goodbye to your liberties. As a zero hours employee prepare to be royally fucked over by being sent home after 2 hours of work, paid less than the London living wage to travel to somewhere out of Zone 9 called ‘Surrey’, and telephoned on a daily basis pressurising you to work a ‘REALLY fun shift’ somewhere in North Wales.

Primark formal wear feels like you’re being wrapped in death

All hospitality staff will end up heading to the men’s department in Primark for shirts that feel like tarpaulin, a £2 tie, and a waistcoat which isn’t designed for female birthing hips. Just don’t even think about how all of this is going to feel once you’ve been perspiring in a hot kitchen for 6 hours.

Smile and serve boys, smile and serve

People have ridiculous requests, especially at high end hospitality events. Often you’ll be serving fancy lawyers or insurance brokers or investment bankers who need to know whether it IS in fact champagne, or just sparkling wine. Some of them even just ask for… tap water. You panic. Where does tap water come from? Is this breaking company policy? You tell this difficult customer you’ll be right back.

Yet no matter how much we can tell you to learn fast, it’s all up to experience. Do a shift and like Marmite, you’ll love it or hate it. At the end of the day, we all need money, and we’d rather fake smile than be unemployed.

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King's College London