by NICK BUCHANAN
As college students, our job choices are limited. In the summer, most of us get pushed over to minimum wage manufacturing, retail, or food service positions that nobody else desires, and let’s be honest: we take them only because it’s great to make money after we’re wiped clean by tuition.
But let’s focus on food service, an industry that originated in 18th century France as the poor started to eat food prepared by the poorer. Not much has changed since then, eh?
Out of all of the entry-level jobs we college kids are eligible for, food service is arguably the most mentally taxing. Don’t know why? You clearly haven’t worked in a restaurant. Let me just fill you in on a few things I’ve learned in my two years as a cook and waiter.
Food service workers are brave souls. I think that military personnel, Caitlyn Jenner, and food service employees should all be hailed as American heroes in their own rights. Even after they realize the disaster they have gotten themselves into on their first days on the job, they still show up day after day.
Customers normally see only their peaceful dining area; they don’t enter the battlefield that is the kitchen. Waiters and waitresses storm back to complain about rude customers, cooks yell orders over all of the noise, and managers glare over their empire in search of a new thing to complain about. It’s like a National Geographic wildlife documentary back there.
Eight times out of ten, waiters and waitress put on great poker faces. Inside, we really want to throw things at a wall and peace out.
The smells of dirty dishes and raw food linger. I had to buy the strongest-smelling hand soap on the market – I’m talking about a Bath & Body Works type of emergency – to get the smell of dirty dishes out of my hands after each shift. Even greater yet, some of my tee-shirts still smell like raw pizza dough and grease after multiple runs through the washing machine. I’ve heard that Chanel is going to bottle that seductive scent as Chanel No. 6 sometime soon.
Employees judge your weird food orders. But in the grand scheme of things, we’ve probably seen some stranger requests than yours and don’t really care.
Customers are always right... even when they’re not. Taste is subjective and all customers think they’re foodies. This summer, a table sent a complaint back to the kitchen because our tomato sauce tasted like tomatoes. Enough said.
Higher-ups are always right… even when they’re not. On separate occasions, a certain someone told my co-workers and me (with complete confidence, mind you) that HIV is curable, Benghazi is a political figurehead, and dogs can fall into clinical depression when humans call them fat.
Don’t take unharmed fingers for granted. Throughout my time working in a restaurant, my poor hands have been through a lot. Cuts, bruises, and burns were normal, often blamed on knives hidden in soapy sinks, splash-back from fryers, and hot pans. The real struggle is the dry skin, though; washing dishes in hot water for 90 minutes after each shift does quite a number on the hands. Once again, this called for a heavy duty purchase. Even the thickest lotion on the market took weeks to fix the damage.
There is an art to “cleaning” objects that were just cleaned an hour ago. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” That’s easier said than done when everything has already been cleaned three times over. To look like a diligent little worker bee, just grab a sponge and polish the surfaces that are already gleaming – they’ll never know.
The workplace is just like high school. We all gossip, camp out in the bathrooms to check our phones, rarely get along, and just want to go home.
One co-worker can make a world of difference. A girl who went to high school with me joined the staff this summer, and we were partners in crime. Work days were so much smoother when we were on the clock together. Well, for us, that is; I'm pretty sure our other co-workers hated us and our bouts of laughter that were so loud that they sounded like bloodcurdling screams (normally cued by jokes concerning the best Internet hoax of all time: Demi Lovato's 'delete it fat' story).
Weekends become the worst part of the week. The typical anarchy of the kitchen is amplified by tenfold on Friday and Saturday nights; not all employees make it out alive.
(Kidding, I’m kidding.)
(Actually, no I’m not.)
Do not walk into a restaurant five minutes before closing time. We have to serve, but don’t expect us to be happy about it; last-minute customers halt clean-up and delay our going home by at least 45 minutes, if not longer. Many restaurants don’t have a defined “last call” of sorts, but use common sense and courtesy. We don’t come to your workplace and keep you there for an extra hour, do we?
Thirty cents is not a tip. The minimum wage for tipped employees in Ohio is $4.05 an hour; tips are supposed to make up for the other $4.05 that these workers miss out on per hour. If a waiter or waitress was rude or inattentive, fine. Otherwise, tip us with more than nickels and dimes. It’s demeaning and discouraging for those of us who deliver your $65 order.
Food service workers probably shouldn’t make $15 an hour, but they sure deserve more than $4.05 or $8.10 an hour. Did you read this whole list? We don’t make enough money to put up with all of this.