Experiences in the restaurant industry: The good and bad

I have worked in restaurants and nightclubs since the age of 18. The hospitality industry is the best place to make money fast. It is also the best place to study the human condition: A perfect lesson for any sociology, psychology, or behavioral studies class. By studies, I do not mean the customers, although they do provide ideal insight. What I am referring to is the 100’s of restaurant workers that I have encountered over the years; high school students earning a paycheck for the first time. Immigrants looking to send money back to their home countries. Thirty-five year old bachelors looking to still feel young. Single mom’s looking to make ends meet. All of them have a story. They all have a motive.
. My experiences in Washington D.C. and Rhode Island reflect the good and bad of the restaurant industry. Proper leadership is essential for the success of a restaurant. I have experienced management that is ideal, others that are not. I have had managers who not only lead by example, but go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction and workforce happiness. On several instances I have witnessed managers compensating workers who went the extra mile during a shift. Managers who have offered their homes to workers that need a place to live, Owners that have paid for Ubers and taxis for their dishwashers at 3 A.M so they would not have to walk home.
I have also witness the ugliness that the restaurant industry attracts. In one particular instance I witnessed a manager making anti-Semitic comments regarding the gratuity left on a customer’s bills. Another manager displayed behavior detrimental towards the clientele and workforce as he has alienated foreign workers based upon their names and heritage. In another instance, a manager laughed when an employee was working ankle deep in hazardous and unhealthy conditions when a blocked grease trap backed up sewage. Unfortunately, managers like this create an environment that is unpleasant to work in.
My tenure as a restaurant worker has exposed me to some of the hardest workers I have ever met. Unfortunately I have met some of the laziest too and while many of my co-workers are the most compassionate and caring people I have come to know, I have also met some of the most dishonest and corrupt
. I have had the privilege of working with immigrants and exchange workers from Latin America, Europe, and Asia. In D.C, a 50 year old gentleman from Honduras worked an 18 hour day alongside his 19 year old son to earn a living. Not only was this man hard working but compassionate, as he has offered me lodging and food after long shifts. I have seen waiters give busser extra money out of appreciation for the hard work that they put in on a given night.
On the flip side, I have seen a my share of misguided, morally corrupt workers who use the restaurant business as an avenue for laziness and selfishness on their road to making a quick buck and using a business as their own personal liquor store. Stories of a bartender stealing a $2,000 dollar bottle of cognac, waitresses that charged their own food on customers’ bills, workers that show up two, three hours late with no repercussions. I experienced a particular instance where a bartender broke a bottle in front of me, only to leave the bottle untouched, glass shattered on the floor, to have a smoke break – this entitlement and disregard comparable to an 8 year old making a mess. Perhaps even less mature, as the 8 year old would at least attempt to hide his or her mess.
Undoubtedly you find all kinds in the service industry. You meet people that you build everlasting relationships with, while other people make you wish you had never met. As I venture into my late 20’s, I will continue to work in the restaurant industry as a source of income and undeniably will I will be sure to come into contact when many more people and witness many more experiences.

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