May I Take Your Order? Why Working at a Restaurant When You’re Laid Off Is A Good Thing

If you’re in between jobs, working at a restaurant may seem like a huge step back or a waste of time. But before you dismiss waiting tables, consider the incredible benefits it can have on your career. Don’t believe us? We show you how.

So you got laid off. That sucks. Have you told your parents you’re moving back in? I bet they were pissed. They turned your room into a movie theater when you moved out. Good thing there’s a cot in the basement for you to sleep on.

Now, you need a job. Something part time, potentially with high turnover, so you can bounce without inconveniencing anyone when something better comes along. But you need to make money. Maybe you’ll hit up that favorite neighborhood spot you frequent.

Don’t do that. Trust me. Your favorite spot should be your favorite, and I promise you, if you work there, it will quickly become your least favorite. You’ll realize how dirty it is, or how poorly the people are treated, or how crappy the management is. The green grass changes to wilted and dying when you go from patron to employee.

Instead, go to that dump on the other side of town. The one you ate at once and hated. That way, when you quit, you won’t return as a patron and find your former coworkers asking if you can cover for them.

There are all sorts of benefits of working in a restaurant when you’re unemployed.

Tips

Your ability to make money depends on how suave you are with your diners. If you’re too annoying or too friendly, they’ll be annoyed. Speaking to your diners is a lot like speaking to a boss or a potential new client. Conversing with them is a fine balance. You will learn this art quickly after you utter those five famous words: Can I take your order?

Your job as a waiter—or future businessman—is to present the facts as quickly and as interestingly as possible. When you’ve landed that corner office job, you’ll recall how easily you explained the menu and the additional specials. In the future, you’ll tell potential investors what your company offers—and what they could stand to gain in a partnership with you.

If you’re a really good server, you’ll be able to convince the party (the future investor) to order more drinks and more appetizers (or more client based services).

Networking

Chances are, there are other recently unemployed people in the restaurant industry working side-by-side with you. There is no shame working in the restaurant industry if you’re an aspiring lawyer, actor, writer, musician, etc. Somehow, it has become the acceptable interim job for people who aspire for more. It doesn’t have the negative connotation that comes with, “Do you want fries with that?”

Additionally, you may overhear a customer discussing how he’s dying for a good accountant and in this damn economy, just can’t seem to find a worthy one. Keep in mind that you’re their waiter, not their buddy. Don’t just walk up and hand him your resume with the check. Small talk the dude and tell him that you majored in accounting. He’ll know what you’re doing—so don’t harass him. If he wants to offer you a job, he will.

You’ve Got a Lot on Your Plate

Get it? Huh? Huh! But seriously, you have six tables and they’re all pulling you this way and that. And then your manager starts to bug you. Can you work Tuesday morning? And then, from across the dining room, you see the bartender waving you down. Those martinis for table 32 are ready. En route to the bar, some guy in a section that isn’t yours grabs you and asks for more olive tapenade.

And then, the snoody couple at 32 will start to bitch that the martinis aren’t good. They’ll want a new server. They’ll want to be in a new section. But the restaurant is full and they’re stuck with you all night. Can you dig yourself out of the hole and earn their respect? Or will they frustrate you and try to ruin your whole night? Can you handle the pressure of dealing with impossible people one second and then turn around and be charming and pleasant to your other tables? Or will they get in your head and turn you into a jerk?

The point is, at first, you’re going to suck at this balancing act. But in a few months, you’ll be a pro. And then, in a couple months or a year when you’re back in an office and your boss questions whether or not you can handle two back to back deadlines and also show the new guy around, you smirk and tell him about the Friday night when a coworker went home sick and you took your section and his. And then the dishwasher slipped and fell and so you did his job, too. “So don’t worry,” you say, “I can handle it.”

Dude, Chicks

All right, finally, there are hot girls who work in restaurants. Hey, this is a men’s magazine, right? I wouldn’t be proud of my article if I didn’t mention hot girls.

Kenneth Suna is a writer and full time, self-employed stock trader who lives in Washington, D.C. His first novel, Roman, was recently published. Follow him @KennethSuna.

  • http://jackbusch.com Jack

    I feel like the notion of a diner hiring his waiter for a white collar job is a long shot, but I agree with you that working at a restaurant builds character. I think everyone should do a stint in food service–at least a year long or more (none of this summer job B.S.). It teaches you hustle, humility and a deeper appreciation for those who wait your table down the road. I’m no hiring manager, but if I were, I wouldn’t overlook a tenure at a restaurant. I might call and speak with a supervisor to see if the person was an all star or a complacent slacker, but if it’s the former, I think that speaks volumes about your willingness to get it done under pressure and still be personable.

  • Joe

    Totally agree on the hot girls part. Working at a bar/restaurant is a great way to meet babes.

  • http://blog.fatshenanigans.com Britney

    Working in a restaurant teaches you leadership and how to be as efficient as possible. This translates very well into any sector. I’ve found that people who work in the service industry in high pressure situations can handle just about anything. Those who just go to college without ever having to bust their but in the service industry usually spends their careers sitting on their butts and expect you to pay them more based on their “charming personality” rather than the amount of output they produce.

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