Advancing In The Restaurant Industry

Jeanie, in a comment on the blog, recently mentioned that after 18 years in the business as a waiter, she’s going to attend a college (University of Phoenix online) to get a Hospitality Degree. She wants to ‘do something else in the industry.’ I commented on her comment, but I thought I would expand on that comment here. It’s a very good topic for a restaurant blog.

Unlike most of my posts, where I expound as if I know everything there ever was to know on the subject at hand, I admit in advance I don’t have complete data here.

I do have a complete subset of data, however: my own.

The restaurant industry, for better or worse, is very old fashioned. You get your first job by meeting someone personally (usually multiple times), and it’s that contact that convinces your employer that you’d be a good hire. From there, it stays old fashioned. If you want to be a waiter, your best bet is to do your time as a host or a busser, impressing your bosses whenever you can, and wait for something to open up. Restaurants prefer to promote from within.

Likewise the jump from server to manager. Yes, all restaurants hire managers who have managed previously elsewhere. But those managers almost always get their first management job by being promoted from within their current restaurant. I’d also say a majority of GM’s come from the assistant manager ranks in the same company, if not even the same store.

Taken even another step, I’ve found regional managers are usually plucked from the best GM’s in a company’s stable.

Beyond that, I have no idea – though I would guess that upper level management spots do get filled by headhunters more than promoted from within.

The obvious moral to my story is that it’s probably more effective to dedicate ones time to climbing the ladder within the business, rather than getting a degree. At the very least, you’ll be getting paid for your ‘education.’ You’ll also have the ability to make more contacts as you move up.

Another factor is the consideration of where you’ll be after you get your degree? Likely, you’ll be applying for assistant manager jobs, just like you would have been getting almost automatically through working in the restaurant. The advantage of the degree is it’s possible that you’ll be ‘fast-tracked’ to a GM promotion – more so than the working slug who just traded in his apron for a $99 suit.

All that said, you’re still mired in the same hierarchy as the rest of the managers trying to get promoted into the corporate side . . .

But then, maybe I’m missing Jeanie’s point. Maybe she wants to get into banquet coordinating? Or hotel management (which is a whole other huge can of worms compared to running merely a restaurant). Or maybe she wants to become a chef? There, it would probably be imperative to have culinary school experience if she aspired to more than being a garden variety cook or head chef at a mom ‘n pop place.

If anyone has more firsthand information about the upper corporate echelons, let me and the rest of us know.

* * * * *

I’d like to thank the writer of the So You Want To Be A Waiter blog for giving me the Gold Standard of Shout-Outs: an actual blog entry commending Waiternotes and linking to the blog.

I poked around his/her site and couldn’t find a name, but I did try. Incidentally, the blog (fairly new) is excellent. The premise is ‘THE BEST BOOK ON WAITING TABLES THAT YOU HAVE NEVER READ – YET.’ As such, it covers in concise fashion a lot of basics about the food serving profession. There’s even been a ‘Glossary’ post, defining waiter jargon like ‘deuce, roll-ups, crumbers,’ etc.

He’s really on to something here. And it’s not a dry textbook in the making, as he has plenty of regular-style, more conversational blog posts as well. Not to mention, he/she was smart enough to recommend Waiternotes.

* * * * *

Yesterday at Michael’s wasn’t much of a day. I walked with $58. I’d had just two tables, and was down on covers, but Mickey was saving me for the 7-top reservation.

At one p.m. three ladies congregated at the front desk. They were in their sixties, dressed like dance hall tramps from the Wild West years, the ‘cherry on top’ if you will being gaudy wide-brimmed Crimson hats laden with feathers and ribbons. I had no doubt this was to be my 7-top.

Mickey led the three ladies to my meticulously-buffed table for seven, and handed me the reservation chit. It read like one of the best waiter practical jokes ever:

Party Size: 7. Table 12. Web Reservation. Notes: 1st time diner. This is a group of Crimson Hat Ladies – our request is for separate checks. Some of our ladies do not drink. Thank you. REQ A ROUND TABLE. Ms. P’s bday. Has cake in fridge. Please don’t cut until the table sees it.

I would have looked around to see the other waiters and manager laughing at me, wondering if I was buying the gag . . . But here they were. The Crimson Hat Ladies!

Yeah, Just Like This, But This Lady Is A 10 Compared To Mine

Four rhetorical questions: Separate checks? Their own cake? Not drinking? Are you kidding me?

Perhaps they also expected to pay with an expired coupon, and intended to order just two entrees to share buffet-style. And brought their own hot tea bags?

It actually turned out they were just fine. Three of the seven had wine or cocktails. They all ordered entrees. They were very polite and easy to work with. Even the separate check thing wasn’t a big deal for two reasons: A) they let me know in the beginning, so I could make sure each item was on its proper seat, therefore making it a simple computer maneuver to print up the checks; B) They each paid in cash, with exact change. Frankly, because of those things, paying out the table was no more difficult than any other table.

Lastly, the final aggregate tip was right in the range of 20%. Thanks Crimson Hat Ladies!


3 thoughts on “Advancing In The Restaurant Industry

  1. waiterextraordinaire Fri, May 29, 2009 / 4:59 am

    Great post waiternotes! Just as a follow up on the degree the girl is going for. Good for her and if she can learn a couple of languages work in Switzerland or better yet take some of her education overseas that would be even better. I am sure she has better plans than working with a corporate chain. Hey how about a spot in the Cayman Islands , Dubai , Australia , France. Get a degree and learn languages then the work permits will drop in your lap. Be pretty exciting.

  2. teleburst Sun, May 31, 2009 / 8:18 am

    Thanks for the mention!

    I looked around and didn’t all that many career guides (books) to be a waiter, and the few that I’ve actually been able to put my hands on seemed a bit dry. So I’ve been writing my own book – a book that I hope has a little of the snark that I’m so fond of experiencing but which covers more than a re-write of a restaurant employee guide. I’m about 18,000 words in and have taken a break to do some blogging. It’s helping me explore some issues and tinker with the structure of the book a little. Plus, I’m hoping that it will help me to have a blog when it comes time to shop around for a publisher.

    I thought that there weren’t very many blogs on waiting tables that stayed away from “tales from the front”. Believe me – I’ve got as many stories as anyone who’s been doing it for 15 years straight. I thought I’d have a different goal, and that was to inspire newbies to embrace the job and stop thinking of it as a placeholder type of job and also prod more experienced servers to delve deeper into the things that can make them a better server.

    Oh yeah, you can call me Dave.

    “So You Want To Be A Waiter”

    • teleburst Thu, June 4, 2009 / 9:13 am

      PS, It’s “Red Hat Ladies”. They are a real organization “Red Hat Society”.

      We have a group of them that dines in our restaurants. I agree that they confound expectations. Everyone should go through Red Hat training, that’s for sure. A delightful bunch of ladies who know how to comport themselves in restaurants.

      “So You Want To Be A Waiter”

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