Whether you need a full time job, or just a part time job to supplement your income a little bit, getting a food service job can provide you with decent pay for relatively pleasant work – -provided you get the right sort of food service job. I know that a lot of people try to avoid this sector as much as possible, tending to equate restaurant jobs with the mall food courts and teenagers getting paid minimum wages. But workers in the restaurant industry can do quite well for themselves. Here are a few facts and pointers to help you decide if this is something you’d consider doing in your own life.
Just like any other career, there are places where you’ll get paid well, and places where you won’t. In order to get paid well through the restaurant industry, you need to work some place where you can get tips. For a lot of people, working on a tip basis seems like too risky a venture. Thus, many people will tend to gravitate towards hourly jobs, which will typically pay less than $12/hour, if they don’t require any special skills to qualify. People are shocked when I told them that my average hourly when I waited tables was $25-$30/hour. There was almost never a shift when I didn’t at least make $18. Certainly, there isn’t the contractual guarantee of a given wage – -but unless the restaurant instantaneously goes under, you’ll probably make about the same amount every shift, and more on weekends.
Getting a good food service job is not something that you can waltz into, however. Almost every place will require waitpersons to have prior experience, if not a few years of it. Some places will train you but you will have to show them that you have an extraordinary capacity and willingness to learn: in short, you will probably have to blow them away at your interview. You should show that despite your lack of experience, you have a strong interest in customer service. If you can display food and wine interest and knowledge, it will definitely help your chances. Learning about French table service may impress potential employers at a nice establishment. If you know any other languages, make sure to note that on your resume, especially if you are applying at a tourist or business hotspot. You should be polished and tidy in appearance at your interview, with clean hands and fingernails. This is understandably an attribute that interviewers in this business can’t help but notice. Customers will notice it, too- particularly if you looked like you just came from digging in the yard.
Waiting tables and bartending are where the real money is at. If you have any bartending knowledge, definitely note that on your resume. Most waitpersons begin as hosts and bussers, and you will likely have to, as well. Bussing tables will be good training for you, especially if you’ve never worked in a restaurant before. It will expose you to the fast pace of the work, as well as how much work is really involved. If you dine at a restaurant, you will (hopefully) be spared the sight of the total panic that the working atmosphere takes on at times. A good floor staff makes it look effortless, which is just a clue to how much effort that they are really putting into it. A shift is usually about 6 hours of being on your feet, lifting plates and dishes, darting back and forth from the kitchen, and from table to table. At any given time, you will be dealing with a problem with a customer, a new table, an irritated kitchen staff if you messed something up, or a spill on table 12. It is not an easy job, and it takes awhile to get the pace down. By beginning with bussing tables, you can nail that pace.
Hosting can be one of the most stressful positions at a restaurant. There is perhaps less manual labor that bussing, but that is made up tenfold by customer interaction – and it’s not always pleasant interaction. A host will typically be the victim of a customer’s frustration when things don’t go according to plan, whether or not the host has any control over the problem or not. When reservations are messed up, or when the wait is long, a host has to soothe ruffled feathers. Thus, only the patient and good willed should attempt hosting – the person that can exercise control, without looking the least bit rude. That type of person truly has a gift, and makes an excellent host. While it is an invaluable part of the restaurant, it is often a thankless job. But it will teach you wonderful people skills, and really fine tune your organizational skills.
When you have serving experience, you might try and get a job at a place that will maximize your earning potential, or just has the type of environment that you’re looking for. Make sure to take the following into consideration when looking for a job:
1. Does the restaurant serve alcohol? Alcohol increases a check by a significant amount, which then increases your tip. Do they serve wine- and wine bottles? (A wine bottle will typically add at least thirty dollars to a check, if not hundreds.) If they do have a large wine selection, your chances on getting the job will definitely increase if you know about wine or at least have a diverse palate.
2. Check out the menu. What is the average price of an entrÃ?Â©e, what does the appetizer list look like, do they serve dessert, ect. How many tables are there? Look up reviews of the place, and see how the community has responded to it so far (the last thing that you really want to attach yourself to is a sinking ship. It sounds heartless, but a huge percent of restaurants fail, especially in their first couple of years, and then you’ll just have to go through this process all over again.)
3. What are the hours? If the restaurant is also a lounge, you may be expected to be there until it closes, which could be the early hours of the next day. Then again, you will likely make more money by working nights. If you have another job, a few night shifts during the week can give you a couple hundred extra, so long as you can handle it. Some people just can’t stand working nights, which is understandable. Most restaurants will ask you for some degree of flexibility.
4. Are they corporate or family owned? This fact could have bearing on what your job will entail. Family owned restaurants made tend to create a more welcoming, intimate work environment. The staff may be smaller, and the rules less regimented. You might feel like more of a team member than a replaceable body. But corporate restaurants may provide you with more stability, and more perks. Corporate restaurants often have a larger budget, which means that they may offer advancement through the company, and the possibility of benefits (some family owned places may, too, but it is less frequent.) Benefits are definitely something to take into consideration, particularly if you are looking for something long term.
But working with a good staff- corporate or not- is typically the deciding factor as to whether it’s the job for you or not. A lot of creative hard working, and fun people work in restaurants. So do a lot of other people. It is just like any other job, and it’s usually clear which kind of people you’ll be working with within the first week or so.
Many people feel tied to their nine dollar an hour jobs today. But if you are willing to get your hands a little dirty, learn some new skills, and work really hard, you can make twice that amount in a restaurant. It is definitely something to think about, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet, but don’t think that you are qualified for anything that pays better.