The Life of a Restaurant Worker is NO Easy Feat!

I was basically raised to be a restaurant worker! My Mom was a waitress and my Dad a bartender. All of my siblings started in a restaurant but are out now. I grew a love for the business and have decided to make it my career. Only problem is, I seem to let everyday stresses of the job get to me in a big way.

Today I kinda flipped out on two of my managers. I’ve been working for this company for about a year now and I think I’ve dealt with a lot of B.S. in that time period. First, a delayed opening, leaving me jobless for a couple of months. Then, massive layoffs. Which I survived but was suspicious of the secretive nature in which they made and executed the decision. Followed by numerous manager changes, uncomfortable working conditions (kitchen is TINY!! Plus, dishes were washed outside with a hose or in afore-mentioned tiny kitchen. Either way, rather uncomfy.) and, last but not least, promises of a raise or promotion with no follow-through.

Desperate for recognition, I asked to be relocated to another restaurant owned by the same people. This restaurant was more of a fine-dining atmosphere and much busier. Finally, I thought, I can really show off my skills, this is what I was made to do!! Right? Then why did I want to cry everytime I was in the middle of a rush and a dessert plate would come back with the complaint that the zig-zag decoration of raspberry sauce was “messy”? Shouldn’t I have been able to reply “Yes, Chef. I’ll re-make it right now.”? That’s what they wanted to hear. I just feel like if I were that customer waiting for my cheesecake, I wouldn’t care if my zig-zag under the cake was in perfect lines or if they were imperfect a little, like human beings.

I like to think I care more about the customers than the presentation. Maybe I’m just making excuses for my mistakes? Plus my co-workers didn’t speak much English, making it hard to make friends or even communicate during shifts. After just a couple months, I felt drained of all hapinesss. I didn’t want to go out, or talk to anyone, I just wanted to get through my next shift and sleep the rest of my life away.

Feeling defeated since I hadn’t impressed anyone and was realizing my new-found friend, depression, was over-staying its welcome, I asked to go back to the first restaurant. The one I had stuck with from the very beginning; I forgot to mention it was a brand new restaurant and I had been working there since it’s opening. As luck turns out one of the cooks quit and they needed someone to fill his spot. Maybe this was what I needed the whole time: to go work in a fine dining restaurant so I could appreciate my laid-back bar job.

I work a couple closing shifts with another guy, again doesn’t speak much English but enough, so I can learn all the sidework involved. A couple days later I close by myself. Now I know the kitchen manager there is a dick. One of those ” you’re Zig-Zag is messy, do it again!” kinda guys. I cook the drunks food until 12:30, cleaning as I go. The night was unexpectedly busy, giving me little time to do all the cleaning but somehow I made it out by 1:30 feeling proud but anxious of what the manager would think of my closing. I soon found out!

It started out constructive, stock up the line (though in my opinion, I did!), clean….. then, it started to piss me off. “This job is not hard for everyone. It’s easy. Some days you work for hours and sit around for hours, I mean not you but everyone. That’s why you must always be kepping busy.” His English isn’t the best either. So it took me a while to understand what he was saying. Was he assuming that I hadn’t been busy and maybe forgot some things out of laziness? I don’t know but I’m pissed! I squint my eyes at him, putting all the anger I can behind them. I was honestly slammed that night! Most guys there would’ve asked for help but I got all the food out properly and on time. So now I was starting to feel all “rage against the machine” and “don’t let the man keep you down!” I mean, why do people have to be condescending? I’m still your peer even though you are a manager.

Well, back to present day, me, flipping out on two managers. I go into work at 9 a.m. for prep. There’s quite a lot to so I get to it. Two and a half hours later, I go outside to find my two managers outside sorting crabs, laughing, and basically enjoying their day while working. I ask to smoke a cigarette and they look at each other. “What have you done?” they ask. “I don’t know… breaded chicken, cut up lettuce, tomato, and onion for sandwich setups….” This wasn’t looking good for me. “I don’t know, what do you think Fernando?” asks Matt, my normally easy going manager. “No, it’s too early. Go finish the sandwich setups then come back and ask. Anger behind my eyes that are so squinted at this point all I see is blurry faces staring back at me.

As I turn to walk back in, Matt says something about how I can’t smoke five cigarettes a day. This set me off so bad it was like he were my husband making some smart ass comment behind my back. I turned on a dime and yelled that I only wanted one and that I wasn’t one of those employees who take advantage of breaks. I stomped back inside and told my co-workers my problem, hoping to rally them on my side. I’m completely aware of how immature this sounds but i was beyond the point of maturity. In my mind, I’m a hard worker. I don’t disrespect anyone unless I feel disrespected. I care about my restaurant and the customers who support it. I just hate how my management have sort of an overkill attitude towards expectations of employees.

So now, when all is said and done, I’m left feeling angry, unappreciated, embarassed and hopeless. My hope that I can work while enjoying my time there is gone. Like a child who has just been told the Easter Bunny and Santa don’t exist, I’m left to contemplate whether or not hapiness in the workplace is a story my parents told me, so I would grow up ready to work for some asshole who is happy to buy hours of my precious life for the bargain price of 10$/hour! I love restaurants, but managers and owners lose touch of why we love restaurants: they’re one of the oldest professions, they’re always in need, and working there comes with a family of coworkers moving around each other in ways and speeds that make it look like some choreographed dance. The feeling you get when a person walks out happy because of the time they spent there and the food you made for them.

No, managers are puppets manipulated by the owners. They’ve made it to the point where little to no physical labor is needed so they spend their time piling the labor on those below them. ugh. Is my outlook on work just a lazy and self-deserving one, or am I right to request common courtesy from my management and a cigarette break every now and then. Honestly: Is that too much to ask?