Ma’m, how do you want your steak cooked? Oh, well-done. I would recommend medium-well.
No. Make it well-done. Thanks.
That’s not a fun conversation. You take the order, but the person wants their food cooked in a way that the chef doesn’t believe in.
But I took the order and sent the ticket back to the chef. And began the slow walk to kitchen.
If you’ve never been in a restaurant kitchen before, let me describe it. Four letter words. Chaos. Food in places it shouldn’t be. Weird phrases like 86 the halibut. Loud noises. And broken glass. Everywhere.
I cringed and the chef ripped the ticket I just sent back. You see a well-done steak is just doing yourself a disservice. It’s not good.
Or as the chef put it - you should of told her to order fucking shoe leather. Fair enough.
He asked me to explain or convince the person not to order it well-done. Just try, he said.
Here goes nothing.
A tuxedo. Credenzas. Tickets. Crumber. And lots of long hours.
I worked for a fancy restaurant for two years in college. Made lots of money. And spent it all.
The experience has never been on my resume. Yet it’s the most relevant to any employer.
Think about your job. Whether you’re an engineer, CEO, teacher, or salesman - it’s about communication. You have to know how to write. To listen. Ask questions.
Communication is the key. And that’s exactly what working in a restaurant teaches you.
As a waiter or waitress, you interact with the hostess, the chef, the bus boy, other wait staff, and the real live customer. These are all people.
These are people that can make your life difficult or easy. So you must communicate clearly and be friendly. It’s your only choice.
For example, the cooks are people too. Even the the ones who aren’t the chef. I’m talking the line cooks and people that work the fryer.
At the end of each night, as a waiter or waitress, you would be starving. Being around food all day and not eating is plain cruel. So after the shift, you had to get lucky to grab something from the kitchen.
Or you could treat the line cooks like they were important. You could talk to them as if they were people. Even if they did speak another language. And at the end of night, you would have a sandwich ready.
The first time I walked out with a sandwich already made for me, all the new wait staff was stunned. How did you do that?
It’s simple. I treat the line cooks like people. And communicate to them that they matter. The reward is a sandwich.
Have you ever felt buried at work? Stressed out? Burned out? Like you’re in over your head?
Try waiting on rude people for 6 hours. Juggle tickets and forget to punch in a order. Be on your feet and pour Shirley Temple refills.
It’s pressure. And hard work. It feels like it will never end. Like you can’t do it.
Working in a restaurant forces you to learn how to keep your cool. Yes, this means you might lose your shit a couple times. But it also means you will be able to handle busy situations.
You’ll understand that it’s ok if you screw up. You learn what you’re not good at. And how to ask for help.
If you help others, they will help you.
You get to make decisions every day. Whether you realize it or not, you’re in control of your choices. This means you might have to make tough decisions.
Firing an employee. Quitting your job. Telling a client no. Refusing to compromise.
The same types of decisions happen when working at a restaurant. You asked what do you recommend? You get to choose to upsell. Or be honest to customers.
You decide how to treat people. It comes down to choices. And you get to make the easy ones and the hard ones.
Ma’m, I’m sorry but we’re not able to serve the steak well-done. Medium-well will give you the flavor you want.
You see our chef prides himself on how he cooks this meat. He’s trained his whole life to deliver you an amazing meal. And serving the meat well-done crushes his pride.
Just try it medium-well. If you don’t like it, we will pay for your entire table’s meal.
She loved it.
The next time someone asks how much experience you have, be sure to think.
Because odds are you have unlikely experience that is better than any internship or apprenticeship. It’s working with real people and developing soft skills.
Don’t be afraid to share your experience. Even if it’s unlikely.