I recently read one of those “day in a life” articles about a restaurant manager. It was aspirational, motivating and slightly unbelievable.
“What a load of codswallop,” I said to myself as I knocked back my wheatgrass booster shot and transitioned smoothly from a handstand scorpion to the one-handed tree pose.
Let me tell you what a real typical day in the restaurant industry is like. Written with a little tongue in cheek.
You sleep through your alarm. Or perhaps you forgot to set it. Either way the result is the same. Eventually you open your eyes and realise you overslept. This doesn’t bother you as much as it should. Fourteen-hour days will do that to you. You smell vaguely of kitchen grease, cigarette smoke and general human exploitation. None of which are your fault. A shower is needed, but not a shave. You can get away with it for another day.
Your fridge is empty, which shouldn’t surprise you. It doesn’t. There is left over Lebanese cheese bread and a half full (keeping things positive) diet coke on the couch. A breakfast of kings. You add some milk into your coffee. You only realise after the first mouthful that the milk is fizzier than the diet coke. You take another sip anyway, because coffee.
You arrive at work, hoping the closing shift didn’t F&^k anything up. They did, of course. A credit card terminal wasn’t closed properly, a liquor cabinet was left wide open and inventory wasn’t done. You check who was on closing last night. It was you. You give yourself a verbal warning.
Three staff have called in sick. You try to find replacements, but no-one is answering your call. You borrow a prep cook’s cellphone, so they don’t know it’s you calling. Eventually you convince a runner to pick up an extra shift. One of the sick calls was actually just late. He was late because he had to queue for his cold brew coffee. You question him whether he values his cold brew more than his job. He genuinely takes a long look at his coffee and says “Yeah, kind of.” You kind of also agree with him and go in search of some coffee.
You try to get the team together in an energetic and motivated pre-shift huddle. You try. The truth is, a cutlery shortage during a rush is the only time the team comes together with any real energy and motivation.
Doors open and guests start to arrive. You do a quick kitchen inspection. You eat a mozzarella stick. You walk the floor, checking on tables, mainly to make sure none of corporate are in house.
You hear a waiter tell a table that it’s her first day on the job. She has been working there for 3 years already. She gets better tips that way. And customers forgive her when she forgets their order. Which is regularly. But she is always on time, so there’s that.
You deal with a boozy lunch table that complain and tell you the following three truths. 1. They know/are the owners. 2. They are going to write about this on TripAdvisor. 3. They are never coming back, and neither is anyone else they’ve ever known. You say a silent prayer that the third one is true and comp their mozzarella sticks.
Some of your regulars arrive. By the way, if you’re a regular at a restaurant, you have a nickname. You smile at Vegan Lady with Big Hair and have a quick chat about fish with Fish Guy and head back to the kitchen to check service flow. You eat another mozzarella stick.
You order a duty meal and hide in the office to answer emails. You also spend your time posting a wheatgrass shot that you claim you drank that morning on Instagram.
The restaurant is in full swing and you flail around trying to keep the wheels from falling off. It is reactive, urgent and stressful work. Everyone’s got a floorplan until a 12 top of tourists arrive. You eat another mozzarella stick from the kitchen.
You finally say goodnight to the last guests and start closing procedures. You sign off several portions of mozzarella sticks under a promo code.
You get home late and put Ugly Delicious on Netflix. You fall asleep before it loads and forget to set your alarm.