The worst things about working in the service industry

‘Hi, how can I help you?’


In the past six years of working at my mother’s breakfast and lunch diner, I have nailed the sweet, ever pleasant exterior needed to work in the service industry. That bright smile, that effervescent charm has become a body armor against the annoyance that is the everyday customer.

Don’t get me wrong – I really do enjoy my job and I’m definitely lucky to be working with the people that I do, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that somedays the last thing you want to do is be a welcoming, helpful servant of the public, especially when you don’t get the recognition you deserve.

I could probably go on for hours about the trials and tribulations of working in a job where you come face-to-face with ninety percent of the clientele, but instead the list has been weeded down to the worst things about working in a restaurant.

No one tips on to-go orders

Eighty-five to ninety percent of customers who come to pick up take-out orders do not leave a tip for the person in charge of putting together their order.

The mentality for not leaving one is understandable – you’re not sitting down, so you’re not being served. However, you are being served, and putting together a to-go order – or multiple to-go orders – while attempting to also pay attention to your main job as cashier or hostess is harder and more time consuming than being a proper waitress taking tables.

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The cashier can’t adjust the price of your meals

A common issue a cashier will often find themselves faced with is an ornery customer who, for some reason or another, is upset with the prices of their food.

And, of course, because you are the one who takes the money, you must have some say in how the prices are chosen. “I’m being robbed $1.99 for egg whites,” they say. This is a no-win conversation: you can’t agree with the customer, because then you’re insinuating that your employer is overpricing their menu, but you can’t disagree with them either, because the absolute last thing you want to do is start a fight with a customer. So, you have to take the third option– put on that smile and pretend as if they said nothing, because, honey, there’s absolutely nothing the cashier can do for you except take the money you owe.

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The cashier discount theory 

When a customer comes up to pay, it is customary to ask, “How was everything?” Nine times out of ten there is a positive response. Then you get that one who says, “I didn’t like ‘insert food item here.'” The next question then becomes, “Did you tell your server?” “No.” Well, now we are at an impasse, because the cashier’s next response is a solemn, but upbeat, “I’m sorry about that, but next time if you tell your server, they’d be happy to fix it for you.”

This is not the answer the customer is looking for; they’re looking for the meal to be taken off. However, like before, the cashier- despite common thought- really is just the cashier, and not a manager in disguise.

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People who come in right before closing

A gentleman comes in one Sunday afternoon at 1:29pm. We close at 1:30pm. When notified of this fact, he grins and goes, “I made it just in time!” Whether it’s pure oblivion or just apathy has yet to be determined, but when a customer comes in just before a restaurant closes, it takes the entire staff an extra hour at least to close and clean up.

To make matters worse, when employees try to start cleaning around the offending customer– they begin to sweep or they start to collect syrup bottles that need refilling– the customer gets mad that they are not getting the experience they wanted. Yes, the saying is the customer is always right, but my god, they are not always right.

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Hosting and all of its evil

The true hell of the service industry. When you want people to seat themselves, they wait at the door. When you want people to wait at the door, they go seat themselves.

Scientists have yet to explain this phenomenon, but it causes stress and unneeded frustration to hosts everywhere.

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The employees- you either hate them or love them

The Other employees at a restaurant become like your family.

Your very frustrating, immature family. If you thought Game of Thrones was complicated, you haven’t worked in a restaurant. Besides the almost constant turnover of servers, the ones who stay can never seem to get alone (don’t get me started on the gossip), resulting in some quite tense shifts where you just pray a fight doesn’t break out.

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All in all, the restaurant business is a little rough, a little frustrating, but if you find the right place it’s worth it.

Plus, let’s be real, the money is pretty good too.