We all have a favorite venue to eat or drink. I'm sure plenty of you have spent enough time and money there to question why you don't just work there already.
Being someone who's worked in two of my favorite establishments in my hometown, I'd like to offer some advice that I wish I'd been given before taking on the jobs (or any job in the food industry).
For reference, I worked in a family-owned ice cream shop and a pub, each for two years. One job was as an ice cream server and the other, a hostess.
Practice Your Acting Skills
Almost every type of job in the food industry involves human contact. You're going to be having a lot of small talk with a lot of people during just a few hours. The difference between you and your next pair of shoes is all in the tips (which I'll mention later). What I've found is that tips come from your ability to hold small talk and put on a smile no matter your mood.
This is not an easy task. I've had to go to work after horrible fights with my boyfriend, rejections from college and several other circumstances that made me just want to curl up in a ball and not deal with anyone. Cue the fake (sometimes painful) smile that ensures my customers won't have to deal with any of my drama on their night out.
Good customer service doesn't mean your waiter is always in a good mood; there's a bit of acting that comes into play. A lot of jobs in the food industry involve this. I would definitely suggest considering your desire for a job like this and then making a choice of dealing with the customers or taking a more "behind the scenes" role.
Location is Everything
Think of all the types of eating establishments you've been to. There are coffee and ice cream shops with never-ending lines, non-stop fast food places, family-friendly restaurants, family-not-so-friendly restaurants and everything in between. A job in the food industry can mean many different things.
Personally, I preferred the fast pace of the ice cream shop where I worked. As a hostess on a Monday night at a family-friendly restaurant, I found I was never doing as much as I'd like to. I didn't want to waitress, but I wanted a little more action.
Fast moving places are not as easy as just scooping ice-cream, ringing up the customer and moving down the line. There are a lot of responsibilities behind the scenes and one mistake could be fatal for the entire rest of a shift. Different places come with different pressures, so I would definitely suggest looking into what you want to get out and put into your job in the food industry.
Would You Like Tips with That?
As a hostess, I received no tips except for the occasional one for hanging up a jacket in the coat closet. In the ice cream shop, the majority of my money came from tips. Tips, to me, are like a little game. You play around, see how different people respond to different levels of humor and charm with their tips.
I personally prefer a tip job for the mere fact that it's in my hands. A fixed wage has less incentives to give a great experience to a customer. I have a bit more control over how much I walk away with at the end of a shift.
Tips are not essential and jobs without tips usually pay a little more as compensation. For some, tips are incentives to be a little nicer and smile a little more. For others, it's more of a burden. Whether you pick a tip job or not, just make sure you feel that you're being financially compensated for the work that you put in.
Coworkers = The Ultimate Frenemy
I've worked with all types of people. There's been the boyfriend, the best friend, some classmates who I had nothing in common with, younger and inexperienced people, older and over-experienced people, people who loved the job and others who didn't.
What I've learned is that you're not going to love everyone you work with. Actually, you probably won't even like plenty of them. Even your best friend is eventually going to drive you crazy at work.
What I suggest are three things. First, keep your personal life and professional life separate. Even with super close friends, you have to put the job first. You need to be able to tell them what they are doing wrong and vice-versa.
Second, this is not your job forever. The people who are awful to work will not be in your life past the job and shouldn't be able to completely ruin it for you.
And thirdly, learn to cooperate. It's not going to be pleasant if you are only looking out for yourself and never lend a hand. The job is not just about you, but the entire establishment.
It's Not Supposed to be Torture
The best way to enjoy your part-time job in the food industry is to really think about why you want it in the first place. If it's just for the money and you have no interest in customer-service or food, maybe pick a different job. Don't just go in because you need a way to fill some time. If you pick a job that you've always wanted or with a fun atmosphere, it really won't (and shouldn't) be awful.
Take the job for what it is and put some careful thought into what you want to walk away with (aside from just a pocket full of cash). No matter how many of these things you put into consideration, the job will only be enjoyable if you have a good attitude about it. My biggest advice is to embrace what you do and take any negative aspects as part-time.