The Life-Changing Lessons that I learned from working in Food Service

I feel like you can always kind of tell the type of person who worked in food service. I’m not even sure I can put my finger on how, but there’s a certain sense of confidence, scrappy-ness, and I think a little resilience...but maybe I’m biased. I’ve worked in food service since I was 16 (it was my very first job!) which makes it a total of 9 years! I’ve been a pizza cook, bus boy, beer-cart girl, hostess... all the things. Food service helped me get through school both financially and socially. I met so many great people who I probably wouldn’t have been friends with had it not been those jobs.  It also taught me so much about myself and how to deal with people from a very early age. The lessons I learned from the service industry have definitely changed me:

1. Acting fast and going with your gut

I can be a very nervous and cautious person, but there’s really no time for that at a restaurant. If you’re not speedy, then you won’t make it. There’s no time for calculated decisions- you have to keep about 50 thoughts in your head at one time while maintaining a positive attitude (hello tips!) while anticipating your next move while keeping your area clean while running around people carrying trays. It’s a lot. I remember the first time I tried to work the coordinating host position (the person who determines the wait time and makes sure we can plan for all the reservations) and I just froze. I couldn’t do it. I stood at the host stand and just stared at the screen until someone took over. After easing my way into it I learned to just react. Just do something and then deal with the consequences after. Tell them yes or no. This skill has helped me so much in my every day life, because life doesn’t just stand still and wait for you to decide. You have to make a decision based off of what just feels right and then deal with the consequences later. I know that sometimes waiting until the right choice is obvious works, but most of the time waiting around to figure life out turns into years off of school or missing the dream job opportunity because you didn’t know if it was right or not. Sometimes you just need to make a decision and see what happens later.

2. Some people are just mean 

This took me a while to learn. I remember I used to get so upset when customers would yell at me and many even ask to talk to my manager. I have been told that I’m very nice so I would work so hard to be even nicer to employees...but they kept complaining. My managers would never write me up or anything so I must not have been that bad, but it still bothered me because I do care about how other people think of me. So I just realized one day that some people are just mean no matter what. No matter what you do they’re just going to be kind of crabby. And then sometimes the opposite is true too- some people are just really nice! This has helped me in real life brush off other people’s mean comments and down-grade my hyper sensitivity to if people like me or not. I’ve accepted that some people just have a negative outlook on life and they want everyone else to feel like that too. So don’t take it personally- it’s really not about you.  

3. You can always find something in common with someone

I started working in food service from a very young age, so a lot of my workers were 10+ years than me. At first I had no idea how to co-exist with somebody like that who also just had a way different background than me. But then I learned to just ask questions and find common ground. Whether that’s talking about the city you live in, or being interested in their kids, or even just venting about work. You can always find something to relate to someone else about. This has taught me sooooo much about networking in the real world. I feel like I can strike up a conversation with anyone about anything. No matter how different they are compared to me. And this is how you start to make relationships with people and  network! True networking is about relationship building and it’s a true talent to be able to do this with people who have nothing in common with you. But your future employer possibly won’t have much in common with you. It’s important to be respectful but also find some sort of relationship that will tie the both of your together and make them life you enough to hire you. 


What do you think? What have you learned from working in food and bev??