Go to college, they said. It will open doors, they said. But after stepping across the stage with that liberal arts degree in hand, you soon find yourself walking into food service serfdom because you have virtually no choice and need to pay the bills. You're serving food and drinks to people who more than likely have better careers than you.
Food service jobs are among the most abundant and easiest to get because they usually require no skills whatsoever except to follow orders. Unfortunately, the industry offers some of the worst jobs in a supposed civilized society. Yesterday, protests were staged around the world, including in Miami, over low wages in the industry.
The industry sucks not just for the worker. Maybe it's the owners who are struggling under a failing business with unreliable employees and no one is having a good time or making any money.
But let's first take a moment to consider why such a monstrosity exists. People love to eat out. According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry accounts for more than $683 billion in annual sales and 10 percent of the overall workforce in the U.S. To be fair, not everyone who works in it hates their job. Some people enjoy it and have ambitions to work in the industry, earning formal educations learning how to become bartenders, chefs, etc. These people dedicate their livelihoods to making the customer feel right. And to that end, do whatever makes you happy.
We've all seen Waiting, and the movie is funny, but the reality is much more depressing. Working at a restaurant and bar might seem fun, but low wages is not the only reason workers picket. The food service industry sucks in so many ways. Let's count them, shall we?
25. The food service industry is a remnant of a feudalistic era.
Eating anywhere else besides your own domicile and having food and drink served by peasants was a luxury once only enjoyed by kings, queens, and anyone else who was filthy rich. With the dawn of capitalism and industrialization, people were able to get jobs earning wages, turning eating out into a small luxury anyone can afford.
24. Most food service industry workers have higher aspirations.
One of your first jobs was probably a food service industry job. But you worked it to save money for college. Then you graduated and realized the job market had bottomed-out, leaving you with no other choice but to get some industry job paying barely enough to afford food and rent. If you're a chick with a good body and pretty face, you might be lucky enough to get a bartending gig.
23. Sometimes bartending jobs do not make any money.
Bartenders work for tips, therefore they earn hourly wages that are typically below the minimum. The tips can be great, but you could be walking away from your shift with less money than it costs to pay for a tank of gas.
22. Bartenders deal with drunk people all of the time.
Drunk people are fucking obnoxious. And because alcohol affects each one of us differently, bartenders must learn to deal with a multitude of drunk personalities. Alcohol doesn't make people stupid, it just exposes their true selves.
21. Industry personnel must put on a happy front for customers.
But this is true when dealing with most service-connected jobs. In a lot of ways, each one of us is an actor, putting on a happy face to mask the drudgery of working a job we do not like, or else no job.
20. Bartenders are full of themselves.
What, you think because you're a hip bartender serving intoxicating liquids that it somehow makes you a superstar? Bartenders don't do jack shit except pour liquid into a cup.
19. Your eight-hour shift is really nine, ten, 11 or 12 hours.
No matter how busy it gets, there are essential duties to be completed before the shift is over. When clock-out time is nigh, you realize everything must be cleaned and prepped. Wave your free time goodbye.
18. You're exposed to life-threatening pathogens and other occupational hazards.
Work in a dirty kitchen? Clean that shit before you make everyone else sick, including yourselves. It's not entirely your fault, though, because some places are too dilapidated and simply beyond cleanable. Can you find the first aid kit? Do you even have one? Loud music, sharp knives, broken glass, cigarette smoke, open flames, caustic chemicals, below-freezing temperatures, lifting heavy objects, and the list goes on.
17. You never really get to take a break.
Breaks are not required by federal law, but some places allow them anyway. Depending on where you work, like in tourist locations for instance, it would be foolish to take a break because the potential to make more money never ends. Periods of rest are usually limited to five or ten minutes.
16. Kitchen work is some of the most grueling work in the industry.
Doesn't matter where you go or what restaurant it is, repeat after me: "...sharp knives...open flames...caustic chemicals." Add non-stop tickets and then throw a few incompatible personalities in the mix.
15. Cramped spaces with heavy objects
This just fucking sucks.
14. Running out of supplies
And right when you need them the most: during a rush.
13. Running out of reliable workers
12. Micro-managing bosses
It's best when they come during the middle of a rush and pretend to know exactly what the fuck is going on.
11. Dealing with kids
This will purge the prenatal urge from your soul during your most fertile years, but will eventually return when it's too late to have kids.
10. Extremely complicated orders and 1,000 questions
No one wants to deal with this -- at all. It devours precious time and slows you down. Meanwhile, the stress builds as the tip potential diminishes.
9. Surveillance cameras watching the employees
Cameras trained on registers is standard practice in any cash-intensive operation. When it starts getting weird is when you see cameras popping up in the kitchen. Does it keep us in line or make us figure out ways to avoid being detected?
8. If you are not single, you will be.
It's the stress, man.
7. (Almost) everyone is banging each other.
It's like sending men and women out to sea on ship for months at a time, what do you expect?
6. Drama, drama, and more drama
5. If you're not at least moderately addicted to some narcotic, you will be.
Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, weed, coke, crack, meth, heroin, huffing gasoline, or all of the above. Pick one.
4. Low wages
3. Unions don't work.
Fewer than 2 percent of U.S. food service industry workers were members of unions in 2013. The high turnover rate could have something to do with this.
2. Your bosses ultimately do not care about your aspirations.
Thankfully, not every boss is like this (you know who you are). But the reality is that most of them just simply do not care what you do outside of the job they hired you for. They just want you to be there on time and do the job.
1. The customer is always right.
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No. No, they are not.
Make it easy on the workers and learn how to cook at home. Grow your own food. Grown humans should be able to feed themselves. Aside from all the bullshit, the best part of working in the food service industry is that, occasionally, you get to meet some pretty awesome people.