First job out of school? Wait!


On tables. In a restaurant. The higher the scale, the better. The stress will be incredible. The hours, the customers, (regulars are the worst) the staff, like chefs, cooks (note the distinction) bartenders, managers and worse, owners, will push you to your limits of patience and endurance. You will be the conductor in a symphony of a hopefully successful dining experience that someone has paid good money to receive.

You will have difficulties: like miscommunications, timing, not understanding the menu, garbling the specials, kitchen conflicts (cooks usually win) no clue on body language, giving the check to the man when the woman gave you the credit card, food complaints, check disagreements, stiffs, drunks, and when the place starts filling up, so will your tension levels.

You’ll ask someone to watch your station while you find a stall to have a cry in. Meanwhile, the host or hostess is plopping menus down on all of your tables while scouring the area for you. I spent twenty five years in the industry and I’ve seen them break by the hundreds.

No amount of training will get you totally ready for this experience. You are set up to make or break someone’s birthday, anniversary, business dinner or romantic interlude. It’s on you. You will do the hustle double four time. Multitasking is an understatement in that business. But, as they say, whatever doesn’t kill you…

Contrary to popular belief, people don’t go to nice restaurants just because they’re hungry. I don’t. You can serve me a shit sandwich and get away with it as long as you pay attention to me and make me feel like your guest for the evening.

I spent thirteen years in sales and I went to restaurants for a living. If I was hosting a large dinner with important clients, I would arrive into town early, get to the manager or owner, give them my credit card info, told them if all went well, don’t drop the check at the table and just add 20 percent, send me the check later.

I usually carefully picked my seating to be sure I didn’t have swinging doors and bar patrons distracting me and more importantly, don’t give me a stiff for a wait person. That was critical.

So there’s more going on at these tables than what goes on at Chipotle’s. It’s your show and one slip can have a cascading effect and get ugly in a New York minute.

Now, why would you want to do something that horrible to yourself after you’ve gotten that degree and the world is waiting to offer itself up to you? Because some of you breast fed little weenies haven’t had to have a linear conversation in the last four years, looked up from your iPhone for more than a minute and never had to take care of anyone but yourself. That’s why.

This is your finishing school. You’ll learn politics, diplomacy and empathy. You will learn to placate, juggle and come up with amazing excuses. Yes, you will become extremely, desperately, creative.

You’ll be more focused and pay close attention to even the most minute detail. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ready yourself for the real world. I am always amazed at some of the people skills young people exhibit when I go out to dinner. You just know they’re going to do well in life and I usually make a point of telling them so. So if you can’t join the Marines, wait tables. Be all that you can be.

We usually frequent an Italian restaurant that serves delicious focaccia bread with olive oil as soon as you’re seated. Our waiter never brought any. We thought maybe Paparazzi’s had changed their policy. When some one sat next to us as we were finishing, I saw they got the bread.

When I asked our waiter what the deal was, he said, “well, I saw you were having pasta and figured you didn’t need the extra carbs.” Must have gone to Harvard.

He looked pretty well off, so I figured he didn’t need any extra money.

If you have any questions or need advice, please feel free to reach out to me here.

Bob O’Hearn

113 Wintergreen Lane
Groton Ma. 01450

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Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

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