I’m thankful to have had different kinds of “family” in my life. There’s my biological family, my high school cheer squad, my friends who became like siblings to me. Then, when I was 18, I met a completely new kind of family. The restaurant family.
First and foremost, they are your crazy yet can’t help but love them coworkers. They know what your family is like, what your roommates are like, what kind of friends you have. They’ve helped you grow into the person you are. And most importantly, your coworkers are the ones who have your back when you are caught in the inevitable, awful, soul-sucking jungle more commonly referred to as “the weeds.” For non-restaurant people, the weeds is just a fancy word for being behind in your work, which happens way too often.
In a restaurant family, the community is always ready to help. Recently, I had a coworker undergo brain surgery from an accident. He was hit in the back of the head with a softball, and it cracked his skull and created a blood clot that needed to be removed immediately. Olive Garden began a bake sale to raise money to pay for his hospital bills. In addition to that, Darden Dimes, an emergency account created by Darden to aid any employees if they ever needed it, was going to match every dollar we raised. Even though everyone was tight on money, we still contributed because this was someone we knew and saw every day. How do you achieve greatness? By helping others.
I’ve also made some lifelong friends working in this industry. Yes, this is a way for me to get through college, but the lessons I’ve learned I will have with me for the rest of my life. Last year, I had a guy come and fix my refrigerator, and he shared that he used to run a catering business when he was younger. He said that the most important thing I can take from this experience is that I will always be comfortable in speaking to strangers, which I couldn’t even imagine not being able to. Talking to strangers isn’t something you can learn overnight. The first time I ever served a table, I remember telling my manager at the time that I was scared and I wasn’t a people person. She promptly told me that maybe this job wasn’t for me. I remember thinking “God, she probably thinks I’m an idiot” and told myself to make sure no one ever doubted me like that again. Three years later, here I am, working at my second restaurant and just as comfortable speaking to others as if they were my own family.
No one really knows what it’s like to be a server unless they are one. And it really isn’t a job for everybody. It is physically and mentally taxing. I’m not sure I know of another job where you’re on your feet for hours, not getting a second to even take a drink, getting verbally abused by people who don’t know what proper restaurant etiquette is, let alone have manners, and you’re not even making half of what minimum wage is. It’s a job where you have to smile even if you don’t feel like it, and that is a punishment on it’s own. I don’t regret it though. I love the mental push. I love working my ass off to be rewarded tenfold. I love having a payday every day. It’s like one of those things where you get to be in charge of your cash flow and it’s all purely dependent if you want to work hard for it or not.
For this project, it was only right that I cover a restaurant. Every restaurant has a story. People always rave about the food and the experience but where would that be if it wasn’t for the staff? The restaurant business is one of the most under-appreciated industries in this country. From the moment you step into a restaurant, someone is taking care of you. No one really knows how a restaurant works and the steps taken to ensure a guest is taken care of. From the host, to the server, to the cooks – it’s all a chain of actions that work flawlessly (okay, well sometimes flawlessly) together to keep a restaurant running. I want to look at the history of how the restaurant started, what kind of hardships they faced, what their restaurant family is like, and maybe uncover another story altogether. The only difficulty I face is choosing which restaurant is lucky enough to be covered by me. 🙂