5 Life Lessons I’ve Received From Working in the Food Service Industry

To earn money for college, I spent the summer working as a cashier for a local restaurant. Following my last day of work, my father had sat me down and asked me what I learned. Initially, when I heard the question, I scoffed and responded: “I learned that people are idiots, and I can make pretty good chicken wings.” My response earned a laugh from a few family members, but my father looked slightly disappointed. Later that night, I revisited his question. By approaching the topic more seriously, I managed to compile a list of the 5 most important things I learned.

  1. How to Handle Stressful Situations 

Anyone, anywhere can tell you that at some point in life things will inevitably go wrong. Orders will get mixed up, you’ll run out of take out boxes, the soda machine will break, and countless other stress inducing mishaps will occur. However, you can’t allow these problems to prevent you from doing your job. You have to grit your teeth, think up a solution, and keep working

2.  You Can Do Everything Right And STILL Be Wrong

One time, during our lunch rush, a customer came in with his friend to get a quick bite to eat. He placed an order for bone-in wings then sat down to wait for his food. A few minutes later, he approached me and asked if he could change his order to boneless wings. I alerted the kitchen to the change, then informed the customer that his boneless wings would arrive shortly. When the customer received his food, the first words out of his mouth were, “I ordered bone-in wings”.

In this situation, I did everything the customer asked, and I still fell short of his expectations. This holds true for life outside of the restaurant as well. There will be moments where you work as hard as you can to achieve a goal only to fall short. Accept your failures, learn from then, and come back stronger.

3.  Sometimes You’ll Get Cheated

I’ve learned that some people will go out of their way to make sure that you’re wrong. They’ll leave the restaurant, eat half of their meal, then come back and say, “Excuse me? You only put half of my chicken in here.” Eventually, you’ll recognize which customers will try and cheat you, and you’ll develop helpful tactics to prevent it from happening. It’ll be frustrating, but it’ll also be a valuable learning experience.

4.  People Love to Gossip

Wether it’s about the customer that loves to complain, who makes the best potato salad, or who just got hired/fired, my coworkers were always gossiping. Apparently, gossip is a habit that no one ever grows out of. Everyone will always be a little interested in knowing who did what with whom. Just be wary of who you gossip with; if they’ll gossip with you, they’ll gossip about you.

5. Friends Are Essential To Your Survival

It’s hard to maintain an upbeat attitude when dealing with stress, complaints, and gossip. By the end of the day, you’ll feel exhausted, and want nothing more than a good nap. However, a friendly face coupled with a nice conversation can go a long way. Whether its having a laugh with a coworker or dealing with an exceptionally nice customer, it’ll always lift your spirits.

When hearing that I sold chicken wings for a living, a lot of people offered me pitying smiles and head shakes. They assumed that I was working a minimum wage job that would offer me no real experience. What they didn’t – and still don’t – know is that any job, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can offer a infinite amount of life lessons. Hopefully, the five lessons I’ve shared can inspire you to look at your own work place interactions a little differently. After all, who knows what you may learn?


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