Opinion: What the people who serve you actually think

The job is really not as simple as it looks! Photo: Emily Patrick
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I remember on my first day working in hospitality, my boss warned me there would come a point when some customers would make me lose faith in humanity (“but continue to smile and have fun,” he said).

While I was shocked by such honesty, I must say that his statement holds a degree of truth.

Having worked in hospitality for over 12 years, I have experienced first-hand how much of an impact customers can have, simply by their attitudes and responses towards us. Customers who are overly demanding, impatient and rude will ruin our day without a doubt, and this affects our service – as much as we try to keep things professional.

When greeting customers, taking orders, or doing anything, we are always told to smile.

Now, let me tell you unless you are a Disney Princess, it is not normal to smile constantly – especially at people who have stared at their menu, trying to figure out what to order for over 20 minutes and asking silly questions like, “Where are the Bluff oysters from?” They’re from Bluff, duh! And “does the fish and chips come with fries?” These kind of questions are enough for anyone to ask if there’s any sanity left in the world.

Before I started working in hospitality, I was expecting something laid-back and bluntly put, brainless. And I am pretty sure this is what many of you think, too. But the job is not as simple as it looks! A lot of customers believe that they’re smarter than you, but many hospitality workers are the most switched on people with common sense, and that is priceless.

There’s so much more to hospitality than just ‘standing there and looking good’, as some would think.

Working two or more days in a row can be exhausting. By the second or third day, you’ll wish you owned a pair of crocks (from being on your feet all day) and slug back at least two cups of coffee to stop you from yawning while taking someone’s order.

As service crew, you have to wash the dishes and wash the coffee machine. Also, there will be many occasions when customers put you on the spot and you will be required to think quickly on your feet to meet the myriad of requests and expectations that they have.

People will ask you for really specific, pretentious drinks and then look at you like you’ve spat in their cereal when you tell them you can’t make it. Many times you’ll want to say to them to have a beer or a G&T and to get over themselves.

Punters often tell us many secret and problems. Somehow they find it appropriate to open up and express their feelings and life troubles, but unfortunately, for us we are not paid enough to be counsellors, “how about a nice cocktail to drown your sorrows instead?”

Part of the excitement about working in hospitality is the idea of being able to eat all the nice food on work days – or so I thought. Think endless gourmet burger dishes and chocolate tarts! But contrary to popular belief, working in a bar or café doesn’t grant you the trump card of ordering from the menu for free all the time.

The truth is, you’ll be too swamped serving and attending to customers most of the time that you will hardly have a chance to eat. In fact, as ironic as it may sound, working in hospitality has the potential to mess up your eating habits because you do not get to eat at regular timings; in extreme cases, it gets so crowded that you might not get to eat for the entire duration of your shift! Yes, it is part of the deal.

Sometimes it’s the most simple things that’ll make your day working in hospitality: The rush of endorphins you get from telling someone the bar or kitchen is closed, and you can’t serve them anymore, is almost orgasmic. And the moment the last customer leaves and you lock the door, IS orgasmic.

Each drink served is the product of a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion – there’s so much more going on behind that cosmopolitan or cup of flat white that you Instagram before drinking!

Pouring latte art or making a perfect-tasting cocktail takes months after months of practice and sheer determination – it is not as effortless as it looks. Every pour is made very seriously and we are constantly trying to improve on techniques and invent new designs to present. So please do take some time to appreciate your drink (work of art) instead of chugging it down immediately!

Working in the hospitality world can be a super fun environment, but also incredibly frustrating. It’s hard not to hate people who wave their hands or money at you – we will go out of our way to avoid you, even if you are next to be served.

It doesn’t matter if you make it abundantly clear to people not to stand somewhere, they will stand there. They will also get aggravated when you ask them to move.

On the other side of the coin, we appreciate friendly and understanding customers – especially ones that tip.

A $2 tip you receive for remembering a simple drink feels like you’ve just won the lottery jackpot.

When working and serving in a café or bar for hours on end, friendly customers are almost like an instant gratification and perk for us.

Be it leaving notes for us on serviettes, or simply thanking us before heading out. Such gestures mean a lot, especially on long days.

One of my favourite things to do in order make a regular customer smile is to ensure their order is ready by the time they walk in the door. Top tip: People love this and it’s so simple – they look at you as though you’re God!

I have met many of my good friends through serving them at a bar or café, and for me, this outweighs all the crazy people I’ve had to deal with to find them. They, for me, are most definitely the diamonds in the rough.

I think the moral of my story is to be aware of others and always try to use your common sense (what you have of it).

Emily Patrick

Emily Patrick

Emily is originally from Essex in the UK but has been in New Zealand for the past seven years. Lucky for some, she has definitely shaken off any resemblance of a good old Essex girl – her white stilettos were ditched years ago! She is currently studying at The New Zealand Radio Training School in Auckland.
Emily Patrick
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