All The Ways Waiting Tables Can Change A Person

At some point in your life, you will probably work in the food service industry. You’ll get to experience the drab uniforms, mandatory flare, and delightful clientele. I did it for four years. It can be menial, thankless work, but you can definitely learn a lot along the way about yourself (and others). Also, about how to use latte foam as a canvas for your art.

Below are some of the ways that working in food service can improve and/or damage a person:

You think quickly on your feet.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but that can easily be modified to “the food service will change the way you problem solve.” Whether it’s a broken machine, a new system of working through a backlog of orders, or developing catlike reflexes when dishes fall, working in food service tends to make you approach things differently.

You can sense an oncoming adult tantrum.

Have you ever had to look a harried soccer mom in the eye and inform her that you’re regrettably out of soy milk? Because I have, and it’s not pretty. People — especially hungry and caffeine deficient ones —  are prone to outbursts when things don’t go their way.

If you’ve worked in food or beverage for any stretch of time, you’ve surely dealt with your fair share of angry customers. You know how to read body language and verbal cues that indicate that someone is about to lose their sh*t — another invaluable life skill that you can use in your relationships and in workplaces where people won’t throw sugar packets at you if they’re having a bad day.

There are some things that you just won’t eat anymore.

I’ve made hundreds of roast beef sandwiches. It was the most popular lunch item where I used to work, so I made them daily, and for a while, it was fine. But eventually, I began to notice a faint metallic sheen on parts of the meat and a smell that would linger on my hands for hours after my shift was over. After a while, I just couldn’t stomach that smell anymore and I haven’t touched roast beef in years.

So long, French Dip sandwiches. We were never meant to be.

You’re (mostly) good at keeping your rage in check.

When you’re in any kind of service industry job, you have to keep your temper in check at all times. You can’t get too emotional behind the counter, so sometimes you have to find other ways of coping. Got a group of loitering former diners that don’t seem aware that it’s now time to close up for the night? Why not blast Semisonic’s “Closing Time”… twice. They’ll get the message.

Telling an annoying regular customer that you are all the way out of their favorite thing when there is plenty in the back also counts. Oh, and backhanded compliments. That’s a great way to vent off some of your rage — another worthwhile life skill.

You are super patient in the face of bad service.

There is no despair quite like the despair that comes when you watch a gaggle of teenagers saunter away from your counter with an array of frozen drinks without leaving a tip. It’s enough to make you lose your faith in humanity. This may feel like a small injustice, but they start to add up after a while. Because of this, you are certain to treat your waiters, waitresses, and baristas with more respect than most might. You always leave a tip, and rarely complain about a long wait or really bad service.

Because you’ve been on the other end of the table and it’s not easily forgetten.