Food service experience serves you well, no matter where you go.
At one time or another, many of us have been paid to prepare, create, serve or clean up after food. One out of three Americans has worked in food service, and it's not hard to see why:
- Plenty of entry-level jobs that require energy, not experience
- Flexible hours perfect for a wide range of lifestyles
- Opportunities for advancement
- Builds valuable experience
There's a reason so many of us have stories about a summer spent serving ice cream or a job waiting tables. From hauling trash and cleaning tables to seating guests with a smile, the restaurant industry is full of jobs that can build valuable experience for nearly any future career.
Attention to detail and time management
Bussing tables isn't a job that gets much glory, but no experience is necessary– making it a perfect first job for teens. This job isn't all just wiping tables and picking up empty glasses. The best bussers are practically invisible; their service is so seamless that tables seem to clean themselves and water appears in glasses before guests even think to ask for a refill. If you ever dreamed of being a ninja, bussing is good practice.
Bussers must be coordinated and attentive. Tables need to be cleared, cleaned and prepped at just the right time to help hosts seat guests as quickly as possible. In between cleaning up spills and clearing tables, they strategically refill drinks, appear the exact moment a waiter needs help serving a large order of food, empty the kitchen trash before the chef asks and generally do whatever needs doing.
Good bussers can be promoted to food prep or wait staff positions, and depending on restaurant policy they may get a percentage of the tips earned during their shift. Outside the restaurant industry, bussing experience shows you are a team player who pays attention to detail and time management– great skills for almost any job.
Customer service and management skills
Wait staff and hosts arrange seating, take orders, coordinate food and deal with customers in every mood you can imagine. Taking on special orders, spilled food, missing flatware and questions with a smile, these customer service pros are the face of the restaurant. They provide a key part of the experience that people pay for when they go out to eat, and the better the service (in theory) the better they'll tip. As a waiter or waitress your performance has a direct impact on your tips, making this job good practice for sales or other commission-based jobs later on.
No matter what kind of day a waiter or waitress has had, a top-notch server is always attentive to their customer. They're pleasant when the customer is cranky, professional when someone complains, discreet during awkward break-up dinners and are absolutely delighted to hide that ring in the Key lime pie for you, sir.
Not only will you pick up some wicked cool plate-balancing tricks for parties and family dinners, you'll gain key people skills that can serve as the foundation for almost any career. Ten years down the road when you're a manager trying to arrange schedules, resolve employee conflicts and monitor production, you can lean back at your desk and think "at least no one's spilled their drink on me today".
Production and teamwork
If you walked into the kitchen of your favorite eatery, you'd see an amazing display of team work: prep cooks making gallons of ingredients, line cooks creating multiple orders at once, dishwashers ensuring that there's a plate for the food to land on and a chef coordinating the whole well-oiled machine. The kitchen is an environment all its own, with a unique language, pace and culture possibly quite different than what you'd imagine from the dining room.
Anyone on the kitchen side of a restaurant is getting a major lesson in being part of a team and meeting deadlines. With close quarters, sharp objects and hot surfaces there isn't time to slack off or room for error. "Order up", "fire" and "on-the-fly" are just a small sample of the marching orders that keep a kitchen running. But if you can hack it in a kitchen, you'll gain some super valuable skills. Unshakably calm under tight deadlines? Rock solid teamwork? Impressing dates with home-cooked meals? Check, check and check.
No matter where your career takes you, you can't go wrong with a start in food service! Check out restaurant jobs today and start building skills that will serve you for the rest of your life.