What I’ve Learned From Being a Server

I started serving at a family-owned restaurant when I was a senior in high school. This summer marked my third summer there, and in my tourist town, summers are crazy. The restaurant stays busy pretty much the whole season and it can pack a lot of people in with a dining room, a sports bar, a loft, and an outside deck. When I first started, I was constantly nervous around my tables and stressed out of my mind. I had a red face and crazy eyes from the moment I clocked in until I left. After all this time though, I feel like a seasoned server. I’ve dealt with a lot of ‘characters’ and some pretty crazy situations, and at this point, almost nothing phases me. I’ve learned a lot working food industry and here are some of my key lessons:

1. You can’t make everyone happy

Some people are grumpy from the moment they walk in. Maybe they’ve had a long day of dealing with their family, or maybe they’re just like that all the time. Some people are unforgiving of mistakes and things like not having baked potatoes (read my one-star trip advisor review for more information on that one). It doesn’t matter how much you flash them your winning smile, they are determined to dislike you. I’ve built a thick skin over the years and learned to brush these people off. Their bad mood is not a reflection of how good of a server or a person you are.

2. You are so much more than a server

It’s definitely weird to work a job where the amount of money you make is based on people’s judgment of your service and personality. I used to get into ruts of feeling like I was constantly being judged by people and that my tips reflected my worth. I would also start to feel like people saw me as a servant rather than a real person with a life. Clearly, these are harmful ways to view your job. Now, I make sure to constantly remind myself that I am so more than a server. It’s okay to have a bad day of tips, and it’s okay to not be the best server in the world. It’s important to disconnect work from your real life. Go home and do something for yourself every day after work.  

3. People can wait

When I first started serving, I would run myself to death trying to get to my tables as soon as they sat down and make sure that they were never waiting on me in the slightest. I was definitely the fastest server, but I was also the only one that looked frazzled all the time. It's important to remember that people can wait. Sometimes I have to repeat that to myself in my head like a mantra. Most people don’t expect immediate service all the time, especially if they are enjoying a meal with their loved ones. And if they do expect immediate service, they shouldn’t go to a busy restaurant!

4. A smile goes a long way

Most people appreciate a smiley, friendly server. I know it's hard to do all the time, but I’ve found that being friendly with my tables creates better experiences for everyone and puts me in a better mood. Fake it till you make it! 

5. You’re going to mess up sometimes

No server is immune to messing up. It comes with the territory. Sometimes its the kitchen that messes up and you have to take the hit for it. Try your best but don’t expect perfection. Learn to forgive yourself quickly when you do mess up and don’t let it haunt you all day.  

6. For the most part, serving is a great job

I know I’ve made it seem kind of horrible, but honestly, I love my job. I get to meet and work with people from all over the country and the world (also, don’t expect tips from foreigners and you will be pleasantly surprised when you actually get one.) My amazing coworkers are the best part of my job. I like that it’s fast-paced because I rarely get bored, and the time flies by. Serving has opened up opportunities for me like going to college out-of-state and doing study abroad classes because it is such a good paying job. Overall, I have gained so much from my experience serving and I wouldn’t change it if I could.


Photo courtesy of author