Photo: Marian Weyo/Shutterstock

9 Travel Tips I Got From Restaurant Work

by Emma Thieme Jul 8, 2014
1. A smile can fix a lot of things.

There are times when going to a table is physically terrifying. The times when you have to inform eight people who already ordered lobster rolls that the kitchen’s run out of lobster. Or you have to wait agonizingly at the server station in plain view, while a 72-year-old tyrant of a woman pouts for 20 minutes because you forgot to order her pork chop.

There are moments when walking out on your job, just slipping out the delivery door in full uniform and immediately shooting a gram of heroin into your central artery with a used needle you found by the dumpster seems like a smarter alternative to showing your face at a table.

The only solution is to smile. Be bright. Nobody can write a (completely) bad Yelp review about you if you smiled while relaying the bad news.

2. If you can survive a Sunday brunch on Memorial Day weekend, you can survive anything.

When your pack gets heavy on that 14-mile hike to the next village in Uganda, just think back to how many high chairs you carried up to the third floor patio and how many bus buckets filled with cast-iron skillets you brought back down.

3. There’s power in numbers.

Working back-to-back 16-hour doubles every weekend isn’t so bad when you can escape to the back stairwell and swap New Jersey bachelor party impressions with the upstairs bartender.

4. Always keep your cool.

Four tables just sat themselves out on the patio, a mile away, you’ve got a completely full dining room with 10 new people at the bar, and the ladies’ room toilet is clogged to the brim with tampons.

So what? They’re all just hungry people. All they want to do is eat a burger and a pound of fries, drink a beer, and clog your toilet again.

5. Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself.

When some silk-, pinstriped-, popped-collar-clothed Spaniard with stale cigarette breath and crunchy hair doesn’t get the point at the bar, you need to say, “Fuck off.”

When some polo-, pinstriped-, popped-collar-clothed bro with stale cigarette breath and no hair calls you a raging bitch because you won’t serve him his sixth Long Island iced tea, you need to say, “Fuck off.”

6. Quick math is key.

When you’re trying to bargain your way to five leather bracelets for the price of four at that Spanish open-air market in Fuengirola, you’re going to be thankful for those speedy number-crunching skills.

7. Multitasking is an art.

If you can memorize a six-top’s order while simultaneously bussing a deuce and planning what you’re going to eat for staff meal, you can multitask. Negotiating cab fare in a foreign language while translating a map and decoding a bus schedule will be a breeze.

8. Some people will fool you.

That elderly couple at table 44 wanted to know all about your last trip and what your hometown is like. By dessert you were on a first-name and inside-joke basis. And they only left $13 on a $100 bill?

They totally hustled you. Just like that smiley, charismatic Dominican man selling sunglasses is going to totally hustle you.

9. Learn to let things go.

Maybe you had to escape to the beer cooler and cry a little bit because you dropped the last order of calamari and that pregnant lady’s insult really got to you. Maybe your flight out of Maine in the middle of January got postponed indefinitely due to a severe ice storm. Take a deep breath. Let it go.

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