9 Important Ways Being A Server Prepares You For The Real World

waitress

For a long time, I’ve asserted my opinion that everyone should be a restaurant server at least once in their lives. Usually, this opinion is expressed when I’ve been met with a difficult table, because I know that if these people had been waitresses ever, they wouldn’t be pulling this crap.

But in reality, being a server for a long time teaches you lessons about anticipating desires, balancing work and your personal life, and anger management that no other job can teach you. I’ve been a waitress for nearly eight years, and I can assert that there’s a very good reason job employers favor people who have worked in the restaurant industry: we’re efficient, multi-tasking beasts who don’t mind working overtime. I’ve learned so many useful things that have prepared me for real life in a corporate job, as an entrepreneur, or even as a restaurant manager myself. Like…

You become a master schmoozer

Typically, being a server means you get to meet some fun, gracious and food-loving people who do treat you like a buddy. Even though it’s such a cliche, laughing at the guest’s joke that they “hated” their food when they hand you their clean plate is a great way to communicate to your guests that you’re glad they’re enjoying their meal. Yes, I’m tired and my feet are killing, but I appreciate that you’re having a great experience, and that’s what I want for you, too. So I’ve learned to encourage the silly jokes and the quirks you have, like asking for four limes in your gin & tonic, because it does brighten my day to have really happy customers. I’m not a natural people person, preferring solitude and a computer screen to endless schmoozing, but I’ve become good at it. I’m happy when my customers are happy.

Multi-tasking like a BOSS

During rush, you will have 47 things to do for your tables, and piling up your tray with items your twelve tables need is a requirement. Being a server means planning your exact movements for every five minutes into the future, making that one trip into the kitchen count, and doing it all very fast to make sure no one table waits longer than any other. Organization and multi-tasking are both indispensable skills for any career, and being a server teaches you this like no other job can.

The value of hard work

If we all had our ways, we’d be sitting on a beach sipping a cocktail right now, all day, every day. Endless leisure is my dream, but hard work is my reality. I’ve learned that working hard and not slacking off is as valuable as the money that I make. I’m proud of the long hours and weekends sacrificed, because I’m proud of being a hard worker and being truly great at my job, even if it means that my skills include being awesome at remembering each guest’s order at a table of ten.

You learn how to read people

After nearly eight years as a waitress, I can tell just by looking at people if they’re the type that wants to order quickly and leave without dessert, or if they’re going to sip two martinis each while their menus go untouched or refuse the bread. You learn to anticipate the needs of people and fulfill their requests without even being asked. In a lot of ways, being a server for a long time is an excellent way to prep for that assistant position, which will prove your aptitude for helping bosses, and which may lead to being a boss in the long run.

Anger management like you wouldn’t believe

Obviously, there will be people who are impatient, irrational, difficult or just plain mean. I have dealt with all kinds of people who either treat you like you’re a servant, like you’re stupid for not understanding the complicated adjustment they want to make to their chicken parm, or like everything is entirely your fault. No, ma’am, I do not have control over what bowl the salad comes in. I can get you some extra dressing, though. Being a server teaches you the ultimate ways to control anger and frustration, because when something goes wrong, and it often does, your upbeat attitude, willingness to meet demands, and your stuck-on smile is the difference between placated customers and cheesecake thrown in your face. Oh, and that small thing known as a “tip.”

You learn how to compromise and make sacrifices

As a server, you’re pretty much guaranteed to work weekends, which means that while all your friends with typical day jobs are out celebrating “Fri-yays” and pounding tequila at the bar, you’re stuck at work, with sauce stains on your apron, serving that tequila to the people who are ushering in the weekend with reckless abandon. It’s not fun, but having to work weekends means you learn how to sacrifice certain experiences for others. You also learn to prioritize what you’re not willing to sacrifice, for example, relaxing Sundays off. Compromising and making sacrifices are both excellent lessons.

You grow a very thick skin

Some people—rarely, but it happens—just will blame you for everything. If their lamb chops are more medium than rare, they will yell at you. They will assume you did something wrong, as if you were in the kitchen grabbing the grill pan from the chefs and screaming, “MINE!” I’ve had people insult me for trying to replace their imperfect dinners, citing my accommodating smile as a “blank stare.” Very few customers personally take shots at their servers, but there are times when I’ve felt close to a breakdown because of guests’ terrible attitudes. After eight years as a waitress, I’ve developed quite a thick skin. You won’t be able to win over everyone. You have to accept that you’ve done your best.

You experience this incredible sense of camaraderie

Nothing makes people bond more than working four doubles together on Friday and Saturday, sneaking booze at 10 o’clock and covering each other’s tables during that third quick trip to the bathroom. Drinks after shifts are indispensable, but having a buddy or two at work forms complex bonds that are very hard to break.

You’re going to go to the bank with a lot of singles

I get paid in cash, which means I am constantly sticking huge wads of fives and singles in the ATM slot. I’m not a stripper, I swear.

About The Author
Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.