The hospitality industry is lush with opportunities to network, strengthen your skills, and – of course – earn cold hard cash. Many people assume that restaurant work is only intended for students seeking part-time employment to pay their way through school, but this is far from true. Maybe you’re new in town and want to get out and meet people. Or perhaps you’re a customer service whizz and see a lucrative career opportunity. No matter your motive, the restaurant industry doors are open to everyone.
Once you’ve set foot inside, though, your next decision is whether you want to work back of house (BOH) or front of house (FOH). BOH positions are those that range from dishwashers to prep and line cooks. On the other hand, FOH positions are often understood to be “the face” of a restaurant operation and include hosts, servers, and bartenders.
Understandably, the decision to work FOH is not for everyone. If the thought of interfacing with customers, day-in and day-out, makes you anxious and uncomfortable, it might be worth your while to consider something a little more behind-the-scenes. However, if this scenario energizes you, then read on.
For this post I’ll be limiting my discussion to two FOH positions in particular: servers and bartenders. These guys and gals are a restaurant’s chief representatives, delivering product and front-line service to paying customers.
The question remains: to serve or to bartend?
To help you decide, we’ve drawn from our own and others’ experiences in the restaurant industry to pull together a list of personality traits we believe make for a match made in heaven. Keep in mind, of course, that this list is not mutually exclusive; what works for one may well work for the other.
You are: Extroverted. Patient. Conversational.
Seats at the bar tend to be filled by solo diners or those with more of a laid-back, laissez faire attitude. When working behind the bar, expect to engage in casual, rich, and lengthy customer interactions. If you’re someone who can keep a conversation going (even though sometimes this may be against your will), you’ll be rewarded with generous tips that often go directly into your back pocket (which isn’t always the case for servers).
Because the bartender to server ratio is so low, though, shifts are typically longer and may also involve covering off certain restaurant sections as servers are cut over the course of an evening. You should also be prepared to fend off packs of frenzied servers, each convinced his or her table’s cocktails ought to be your top priority.
You are: Organized. Multi-tasker. Problem solver.
Servers are presented with the challenge of managing multiple tables of customers – each its own mecca of personalities – simultaneously. Because tipping behaviours are often dependent on the perceived quality of service, it’s important to be skilled in the art of brief conversation and to always bring your brightest smile to work. Those who thrive in an environment like this are sure to reap the benefits.
Given the high volume of customer interactions over the course of a shift, servers must be able to juggle complex requests and competing priorities, all while maintaining total composure. This becomes especially important when you consider that you are first in the line of fire for an unhappy or dissatisfied customer. Knowing how to diffuse a potential conflict or emotionally-charged situation will serve you well (no pun intended).
Evidently, there are pros and cons to both serving and bartending jobs so it’s important to take the time to research which is best for you. It doesn’t matter if the job is short-term or long-term; to preserve your sanity and well-being, it’s critical to select a position suited to your personality and your lifestyle.
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