I have been in the service industry my entire life and smiling just as long. In fact, I’ve always joked that I was born in a bar. Not that it’s really a joke; growing up my mom was a bartender, my dad was a bouncer, and my godparents owned the bar they worked at. I literally grew up playing in a bar. The regulars all knew me and would give me quarters for the arcade, I would “work” washing glasses and get “paid” in kiddie cocktails. I have so many fond memories of that bar. It only makes sense that I would grow up to be a part of that world.
Is the Customer Always Right?
I believe in great customer service and giving an amazing dining experience but I’ll let you in on a little industry secret… Sometimes the customer is an asshole.
Let me take you back…
I started with a Mexican restaurant sometime after high school as a host. It was my third-day training, working a particularly busy lunch rush and I was helping bus tables. As I was placing dirty dishes in a bus tub, a salsa dish slipped out of my hands, bounced once, and then miraculously bounced right into the bus tub. I sighed in relief, crisis averted! However, that was until I heard a loud “A-hem” behind me. I slowly turned around and took in the table of women right behind me.
My eyes immediately drawn to the blinding white of the pants on the lady nearest me. Well, mostly white. They now, to my extreme horror, were lightly splattered with flecks of bright red salsa. I felt all of the blood drain out of my face. I tripped all over myself trying to apologize. The lady across the table (NOT the white pants lady) cut me off and told me very condescendingly that I could save my apology and go get my manager. I made my way to the office, terrified I was about to be fired on my third day, to let my GM know there was an issue with a table who needed to speak with him.
Was this the end for me?!
He made his way out to the table and I followed, tail firmly tucked between my legs, not at all excited to face this table again. He apologized and told the woman we would absolutely cover the cleaning cost of her pants. To my shock, she smiled and told us it was okay, she knew it was an accident. Her friend, however, was NOT satisfied, and very snarkily dictated that it was salsa and there was no way it was coming out, and that he was to cover cleaning costs AND purchase new pants. I was, without a doubt, mortified. He firmly, but politely, informed her that he would cover the cleaning costs and that was more than enough. Besides, they weren’t even her pants. Everyone at that table looked uncomfortable.
I stayed at the host stand for the remainder of my shift and refused to help bus tables. And when that table left, I did everything I could to look busy and not make eye contact. White pants stopped next to me and gently said “It’s okay, I promise. It was just an accident.” and walked out. I furiously blinked back tears, grateful for her kindness. To summarize, I’ll never understand why her friend felt it was so necessary to be such an unruly jerk to a young person.
Thank goodness for… COVID??
Fast forward to right before COVID. I was managing a bar, having worked my way through all positions in a restaurant. Side note… managing is undeniably adult babysitting… I was getting really burnt out, really fast. A decade and a half will do that to you. Cue COVID. All of a sudden, all of the bars and restaurants across the country were basically on unpaid vacation.
A blessing in disguise…
I took this time to really reflect on my career choices (or lack thereof) and change the trajectory of my life. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t go back into adult babysitting… Excuse me, management. I signed up to go back to school, but I really needed a job too since kids don’t buy their own school lunches in elementary school. (Freeloaders…) So to indeed I went, determined to not end up back in a serving position or management. What else could I do though?!
A New Reason to Smile!
Indeed led me to a new adventure! I found a job with extreme flexibility, even more variety, and enough pressure to keep me on my toes but not burn me out. Heck, I’d even get to practice my marketing skills while still taking classes. Win, win, WIN! Welcome to Catering! Catering is like restaurants on steroids… You are serving anywhere from 35 people to 3,000 people on any given day. And while it might be just another Thursday for me, for the bride and groom, it’s the day they have spent over 365 days planning. I get to bounce from venue to venue, the menu is always different, the staff rotates, sometimes it’s fully formal, and other times it’s just business casual.