Hospitality.. lifestyle choice or chore?

I have been working in the hospitality industry since I was 15 years old. So literally half of my life. Most of what I write here is from my personal experience only and in may not be the opinion of others in the industry but of course it most probably will be, lets be honest.   

I have worked in pubs, small town restaurants, hatted restaurants, pizza shops, cafes, Chinese restaurants, resorts, hotels, even a restaurant within a National University! I feel like I have tried it all. I have even been that pizza delivery gal. I guess the next step is catering in a gaol (is that a thing?) Actually, I have not worked in a fast food chain restaurant so maybe Maccas or KFC is my next step. No, but in all seriousness, it has basically taken over my life. I live and breathe it. I even married a chef after having crushes on nearly every chef I met – even the gay ones. I love eating out, I love tasting new food, I love drinking new wines. When I travel food and wine is my main priority when planning where to go and what to do.

On the other hand, I hate it. It is hard. I work stupid hours. I have always missed out on family events. Normal weekend activities are never an option and I am always sore. My feet are ruined and my back is f*@!ed. This is brutal but it is the honest truth. In saying all of this, I just can’t get enough of it and I honestly think I never will stop. It is like an addiction. 

I also often hate people. Mainly the people I have to serve. Until I meet them. I look at the bookings for the night, I see a car pull up and I think ‘oh great, who are these idiots’; I am serious. I think this. Then I take a deep breath, smile and start to ‘fake nice’. Fast forward 2 minutes into the conversation and I am in love with them and the ‘fakeness’ disappears (most times). People are fascinating creatures. Their lives are interesting. Every person has a story. I met a man last week who was travelling alone. He commented how cute my ‘daughter’ was, I explained he was my ‘long haired son’. He apologised and said that he reminded him of his daughter back home in Germany. His daughter is now 16 years old. Her mum and him have separated but he normally sees his daughter every day. She visits him at home in her school lunch break so this was the longest he had been apart from her since she was born. It was still a while before he would see her again. He then came in 3 nights in a row and each night I learned more about him. It was nice. It made me miss my Dad, whom I am living even further away from now.

That’s another thing about hospitality. It takes me to some random places far away from my family. The Whitsundays, Coffs Harbour, Canberra and now, the middle of South Australia. I have never stayed anywhere longer than 4 or 5 years.  That is also a great thing about the hospitality life, it can take you anywhere. Hospitality is a universal industry. This leads me to ask myself; will I ever feel settled? Will I ever feel completely grounded somewhere?

The hospitality industry employs people of all ages, genders, nationalities and demographics. This is pretty amazing. I have met some of the most incredible people during the last 15 years. People who have the same passion and drive for the industry as me and also people who are just doing it for a bit of extra money while they study or work a full time job. Either way, some of the best friends I have I met in the workplace. These are people who have seen you in your best and worst. Hospitality brings both out in you. You spend so many hours at work with the same people they grow to know everything about you. I’ve even been so in sync with most of the girls I end up working with so our ‘time of the month’ falls basically the same day. This way our PMS is all over and done with at the same time too which make life easier for everyone else I guess. Colleagues in the hospitality world become family. Its bloody nice.

It is not all good though. People can be hideous. I once worked with a chef who made me and every other person on the floor cry at least 10 times each within the 5 weeks he was there. He also smelt bad. French guy, who had the biggest ego. I have worked with some mean people, some people who have either worked in the wrong industry their whole life or just are plain horrible people. The customers and guests can be the most horrible though. Some of the stories you wouldn’t believe. However you get better at reacting to these people as time goes on. One that happened recently – this week in fact – was this: It was the end of the night, I was chatting to a guest who was dining alone. He was very interesting. A young Canadian guy travelling alone and was missing home. So of course I wanted to give him some extra conversation. Plus he was actually quite interesting as he had travelled all over the world before ending up here. While I was chatting to him, I hear this whistle from a table behind me – mind you, everyone had finished up in the restaurant and just needed bills given to them. Like an actual whistle you would do to a dog!! I wish I could attach sound to this to emphasise the kind of whistle it was. They did it 3 times!! Each time I decided to speak to the Canadian gentlemen that little bit longer even though the conversation might have been getting a little forced. Stuff that! I do not get whistled at for attention. I will not respond to that kind of behaviour. Perhaps when I was 15 I would have ran over to them and bowed down to them. Not now. This is not unheard of though. Some people treat hospitality staff like scum. It’s as if we are their own personal servants or slaves – which doesn’t make it any better either!
I have had money thrown at me (and no I wasn’t a stripper), clicked at more times than I can count, spat on, sworn at, pushed whilst 7 months pregnant and spoken to like I am a piece of shit! These things have all happened for ridiculous reasons – the pushing one was because I had refused service to a drunk full grown man. Things like steaks not being cooked to their liking, accidentally giving them the wrong change, forgetting their drink order whilst trying to remember 68 different orders at once. People are mean. People are rude and people need to be educated.

Something else I get all the time is ‘Oh what are you studying, this must be your job whilst studying for your proper career?’, ‘What is your real job?’ or ‘how long will you wait tables for?’. Waiting tables is a real job, being a barista is a real job, restaurant supervising is a real job and restaurant management is a real job. Yes ,I also have been an event coordinator, wedding and event manager and Functions manager however I have always waited tables whilst having these titles. I haven been to university. and I have a degree. I also have a child and a husband. Waiting tables is my job.  Waiting tables is the job of many people. Many people who deserve more respect than they often get. When was the last time you really thanked the person who makes your morning coffee, who brings you your $10 Schnitty on Schnitty night and even the person who gives you your Big Mac?

I could rant about this for hours. All I wish is that every person who ever enjoys dining out be educated in what is actually involved in the food service industry. Of course it is sometimes our fault and we stuff up orders, overcook your steak and even speak to you a little rude. That is because we are human. We make mistakes, we have bad days. Please just have a little empathy. Like most work forces, hospitality is tough. There is a lot that goes on that you don’t see. As I said in an earlier blog,<You can read it here> be more like Spot the dog. Be happy. Be kind and love one another.

With all of this said, my 15 years in hospitality has grown me as a person, made me one of the most open minded people in the world, I have such a broad knowledge on food and the industry itself. I love teaching people the ins and outs of this world. I also love warning the same people of the bad parts. You have to be resilient, have strong work ethic and be able to work as a team to be able to withstand the ups and downs of this industry/lifestyle. I say lifestyle because it does become this. The longer you are working in it, it turns into your life. If I didn’t choose this path I would not have met my husband, some of my best friends or lived in many parts of Australia. I am grateful and wouldn’t change MOST things.

To Wedding and Wine..xx

Oh, and I will also be leading my son into a different industry because I want him to attend my family events and have a ‘normal’ life – selfish I know but as much as I love it, I also am quite jealous of these ‘normal 9-5 working people’ who get weekends to go to Sunday markets, go out for cocktails on a Saturday night and brunch on a Sunday morning.