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The Struggles of Being a Food Service Worker

Whether you are working as a server, or in fast food, or as a barista, there are always those certain things that customers do that really tick you off. Practically all of my jobs have been in food service in one respect or another, so I could give you enough cringe-worthy stories to last a lifetime. All of us food service workers know how annoying and petty customers can be, or how difficult it is to work with some of our co-workers. We have seen some of the most disgusting messes and experienced some of the most unpleasant things. For those of you reading who have no food service background, this is just the tip of the iceberg.


1. You will not want to eat some of the food when you see where it comes from… some things are left better unknown. 

Too often do I wonder if those mashed potatoes were actually once real potatoes… Actually, you know what? It’s really better to just not ask questions. 


2. It is so surprising to see some of the messes that GROWN people leave. 

I would like to think that people are graced with some practice in restaurant etiquette throughout their lifetime, but apparently it’s become normal to leave your unwanted food scraps on the table but somehow not the plate it came on? Yes, I totally wanted to pick up your discarded peas with my fingers. 


3. You’re either too busy you can’t keep on track, or so slow you are sure you’ll die of boredom.

There is seriously no in between; you’re either working at full speed, running around at 50 mph, or sitting alone in your section, searching for the smallest things to clean. 


4. Some people do NOT understand the concepts of “small and large.”

Describing portion size by making a shape with your hands is one of the hardest tasks, especially if you are trying to describe food measured in ounces. My favorite line is: “What’s the difference between a 6 ounce steak and a 9 ounce steak?” Ummm, 3 ounces I guess?


5. You just want to give up when you hear the term “86.”

It’s almost like a curse, once you run out of one thing its like everything else is magically gone too. “Oh 86 chicken pot pie, 86 salad lettuce, and 86 french fries…seriously what DO we have?” And you can almost always guarantee that a customer will ask to order a dish that just got 86’d.


6. Sometimes you encounter some of the most unfriendly people. 

“Hi! how are you all doing today? My name is…” “We all just want waters.”  Alrighty then, I guess I’ll just go?


7. Working in food service is always a constant battle between saying, “I hate myself,” or “I hate people.”

Talk about getting annoyed with yourself when you forget to put one table’s food in or that other table’s extra napkins. It sucks knowing that you’ve messed up since your tip reflects how well you’re serving. On the other hand, tables make you run back to the kitchen multiple time for things like a butter packet or another straw. Honestly, some people’s kids. 


8. You just know it’s your turn to be sat and you see the WORST regulars come in.

Nothing is worse than knowing you’re next to be sat and those regulars who are notorious for being extra needy and bad tippers are about to walk through the door. I love seeing regulars come in super often, but some of them you really should just avoid for your own sake. 


9. The restaurant closes at 10 and a group of people walk in at 9:50 and you have to pretend it’s okay.

“Yes of course you can sit down, our kitchen is 100% open for appetizers, entrees, AND desserts. That’s totally okay!” Haha, not. 


10. You actually do get nightmares. 

There has been countless times I have woken up in the middle of the night from a disastrous nightmare where I get slammed with huge parties and no one will help me. I’m getting anxious just thinking about it! 


11. There are always those people who always try to get a free meal cause they “couldn’t stand their food” yet somehow still ate all of it.

Okay ma’am, I believe that the food was not cooked to your liking, but unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about it now since its all gone. I seriously don’t know what to tell you.


12. Yeah it’s totally fine that your kid got spaghetti in the carpet. 

Cleaning up after kids is so frustrating. They color on the table with crayons, spill their drink all over the seat, and smash food into the floor, all on accident. This is unavoidable on many occasions, but still so frustrating. Not mention gross to clean. 


13. And of course, the worst of them all, non-tippers.

You know exactly what I am taking about. Those tables you spend extra effort on to make sure their experience is pleasant and enjoyable,  just to get hit with a 5% tip or lower. It’s totally understandable that some people can’t afford to leave a sizable tip, but still so discouraging. 


So if all of these (and so much more) happen to us food service employees regularly, why do we stay? No, I don’t enjoy picking crushed french fries off the floor, and I definitely don’t enjoy the customers that throw attitude from every possible direction. I don’t stay in food service because it just “pays the bills” either. I stay in food service for those families that come in for their daughter’s birthday for a special treat, or those regulars that always ask how you are doing and always actually care. Overall, food service can be really frustrating, but it can also be a really great experience that teaches you how to deal with people and remain calm in the toughest of situations—a crucial skill as we grow as adults. 


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