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Diners: They’re Not Like Us

Anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry for more than five years understands the tendency toward tunnel vision that we all get from time to time. When you live and breathe restaurant, it sometimes feels as if everyone you know works in the industry in one capacity or another. We often form bonds with people based on our commonalities, and when you work in restaurants, your world has a tendency to shrink so much that you wake up one day to find that your only close friends are fellow restaurant industry employees.

Picture this: it’s Saturday night, five minutes until closing. The dining room has emptied, and your wait-staff has begun wiping down countertops, putting away condiments, pulling out the brooms and dustpans. It’s beginning to look like you might actually get home to your family at a reasonable hour. . . when in walks a group of about 7 teenage girls. They are giggling and just thrilled to death that they are the only people in the entire restaurant. Your heart sinks. Sound familiar?

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that not everyone who dines with us has worked in a restaurant. Although: to be perfectly honest, I think everyone should work in a restaurant at some point in his or her life. In fact, it should be a requirement for gaining the privilege of eating out. Do you have your “I have worked in a restaurant” card? No? Sorry, we can’t let you dine with us. Go work as a server for a minute and come back again next year. Am I right?

Sadly, our world does not operate this way. And as unbelievable as it may seem, we have to remember that most folks who dine out have never actually worked in a restaurant. And you know what? That’s ok. Our job is to love on people and to serve them, not to complain about their “ignorance” or their “inability to grasp the difficulty of my job”. Those teenage girls haven’t the foggiest idea that they are inconveniencing you. How could they? As tired as you are, and as frustrating as it is to have a group of non-alcohol-consuming youngsters holding court in your dining room at closing, just remember that for the next hour they are your guests and it is your utmost pleasure to serve them.

It’s important to keep this in mind in a variety of situations: when someone asks you to “just whip up some mashed potatoes” for them, when mashed potatoes aren’t even on your menu. Remember your calling when someone takes up an 8-top for four hours on a Friday night, or when someone’s sneaky four-year old absconds with your cash tip. As restaurant employees, we must always remind ourselves that it’s not called “the Service Industry” for no reason. It is our duty (and our pleasure) to serve. Our focus should always be on the needs of our guests, never on our aching backs, feet, or feelings. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below!