I’ve had my Hospitality career experience, and here’s what I learned.
For those of you who have read my ‘Why I Quit Uni‘ story, you’ll know that I went there to do a Hospitality degree, disliked it, and left fairly promptly.
Before that, I had experience working in small independent cafes, bars and hotels, and that brought with it its own host of life lessons…
WHAT I LEARNED:
- People care way too much about random traditions
There is a process for everything. Obviously the table must be laid just so, with X amount of weird forks and glasses in the precise position, but there’s also the order of which you must serve people their meal, and from which side and with which hand. I like routine and structure, but Dear God have mercy.
- You will have nightmares about ‘corking’ the wine
Each time you serve a table, your fingers will be secretly crossed that they don’t order wine, because heaven forbid you need to go through the whole ‘cork-popping’ routine at the table, in front of everyone. At uni they were like ‘just go home and practice!’, and I was like ‘bro you think I can afford wine with corks??’.
- Dish-washers will have fingertips of steel for life
Handling 100 degree dishes straight outta the dishwasher and burning your fingers on multiple hotplates has its benefits. Mainly that I’m now blessed with the talent of removing things from the oven with my bare hands like some kinda superhero!
- Working on reception is kinda fun
The few times I’ve ever got to work on reception were like paradise. It was like organisation heaven; booking systems, filing systems, stapling documents, creating documents. I could totally do that for a living.
- It’s good to check your rights…
When I was 14/15, I worked in a tiny cafe in Cornwall (no names, they still exist!), and it would be standard that the other waitresses and I wouldn’t get a single break in an 8 hour shift. This is essentially child labour and is illegal, but at the time I didn’t know that…
- Using coffee machines is fun, until you work in a coffee shop
Working in restaurants at lunch times and in the evenings for some reason meant I’d rarely need to make coffees, and when I did, it was like the most fun thing ever! But then I worked in a coffee shop and it became a hideously stressful mistake-machine.
- Being the restaurant host/hostess is the easiest job ever
We’d all fight over this job in the mornings. You literally just have to greet people, take their coats and show them to their seats. The only thing you had to worry about was sticking the the seating plan. Sweet.
- You will learn the joys of repetitive tasks
I’m not actually joking. Being given a repetitive task like polishing cutlery or folding napkins was a welcome respite from being out on the floor talking to customers. A few moments to let your brain wander was much-needed.
- You’ll become the master of plate-balancing
Yeah you’ll probably drop one or two in the beginning, but once you’ve mastered the skill, you’ll be able to impress your whole family at Christmas with your professional abilities. Also being able to use two forks or spoons like an extra limb.
- Comfortable footwear is a winner
I’m talking ugly, clumpy shoes that make the most svelte of bodies look squat and frumpy. They are your new best friends, and anything else is just a form of torture.
- Always make friends with the kitchen staff
If you’re lucky, they’ll make you little treats and save leftovers for you. A friend with food is a friend indeed.
- There is an art to asking ‘Is everything okay with your meal?’
I’ve been asked before if there’s a certain amount of time you’re supposed to wait before asking customers this, but there isn’t. It takes years of experience to get it right and not come off as annoying or pushy, something I do not have.
- Brush yo’ teeth
This is lesson number one in hospitality school. Brush yo’ teeth and grin like a fool ’til your cheeks are sore.
- You will master the art of ‘looking busy’
Looking busy when you’re actually not is a key skill that you’ll want to acquire quickly in order to get out of unpleasant tasks such as cleaning the loos, serving that difficult customer, and OPENING THE WINE!
- It’s an introvert’s nightmare
Okay, maybe not all introverts, but definitely for me. In front-of-house roles, you have to be ‘on’ all the time, and for an introvert, 8-10 hours of talking to customers and being attentive is extremely energy-sucking (< made up word?).
- It will teach you patience
Overall hospitality has taught me to be a more patient person.
Oh wait who am I kidding, it’s taught me that human beings are rude and annoying AF.
I hope I’m not giving hospitality a bad rap. It is a genuinely solid career choice and once you’ve worked your way up, your opportunities are endless.
Hospitality wasn’t for me because I realised that shift work (ie, working random days, nights and weekends) doesn’t fit in with my priorities. I’m a family person, and I’m sure some people are ready to make that sacrifice, but I’m not.
Anyway this was supposed to be kinda jokey, so lighten up ;)