After recently leaving my office-based job, full of reports, schedules and useless, uninspired and unnecessary meetings, I have rediscovered the charm and simplicity of hospitality work. I have a solid background in hospitality, working both as a staff member and manger for over seven years. I left the industry because, like most, I viewed it as a way to get myself through university to travel and to gain employment skills for my future. I never saw my future being based behind a coffee machine, collecting meals from a kitchen pass or behind a register. I was bound for bigger, better and brighter things!
So off I went, leaving the hospitality industry in my wake as I stepped into the next phase of my journey; launching my professional career. My goal was event management, festivals in particular. It took all my time and effort however I managed to rise to the level of General Manager for a medium sized festival in just shy of three years. I held this position for two and a half years, then walked away knowing that turning my back on this ‘career’ was the best decision I could make for my own sanity and hapiness.
It was not the constant drama, the late hours or the hard work that made me leave my office job. It was not the performer’s demands or tantrums, it was not the fact that we were dangerously understaffed at times and it was not the stress of recruiting and training all the staff myself. That was all part of the role and I took it all in my stride. So… what was it that made me walk away from the goal I had been chasing since University? It was the deception that I was expected to engage in, the complete disregard for people’s feelings and the borderline corruption that punctuates your life in an office job. You’re no longer a person, you’re defined by a number, or set of skills and qualifications on paper. Your sole role is to made your direct boss happy no matter the cost to yourself or the truth.
There is a certain joy that working in hospitality brings to you. It is the joy of feeding people. It is one of the simplest necessitates of life. For the unacquainted, the job involves a customer placing an order, the kitchen making that order and the front of house staff delivering that order to the customer to complete the circle. Simple. No hidden agendas. No corruption. Hospitality will never ask me to deliver a steak with pepper sauce to a customer who ordered a vegetarian frittata and explain to them how this is our ‘interpretation’ of a vegetarian frittata. I will never be asked to consult with a customer about why they ordered the fries instead of salad, with the express intention of getting them to change their mind and order the Caesar salad instead, all because the manger does not want the customer to know that whilst we do have fries on the menu, we do not actually have a deep fryer to cook them. He just thought they looked good on the menu.
A hospitality job will never require me to convince a customer that we have in fact delivered them their food, showing receipts and my time sheets as evidence, when in-fact the kitchen just decided they did not want to cook today, and the customer paid for food that will never come. You cannot lie in hospitality. You cannot cheat the system. Favoritism will not help you when the kitchen is slammed. Your grilled-cheese take away cannot be made any quicker because you’re a regular customer, the cheese still takes two minutes to melt. Fact.
The first week back of working in hospitality I felt lighter and happier than I had in the past four years. I felt like I had done an honest day’s work and made people happy. I was reflecting on this the other night while the TV played away to itself, and I overheard a line from a customer in the diner of Two Broke Girls say, “You don’t want to be a waitress all your life, do you?” I have no idea what quip the witty waitress character retorted with, but it made me think. I had not seen hospitality as a career, ever. I had always seen it as a stopgap, albeit one that made me incredibly happy. Why was I so keen to dismiss this role as temporary? The answer: social pressure, questions like. “You don’t want to be a waitress all your life, do you?” It’s the arrogance of people seeing a waitress, chef or bartender as lesser humans because they live outside of the 9 to 5 cycle. I for one am breaking that trend.
I have lived the office life. I have seen time and resources wasted, I have seen hundreds of people in middle management who are not even sure what their job titles are let alone what their role is within the organisaiton. I have seen billion dollar companies cry poor when asked to support the community and I have been asked to lie as part of my job. Hospitality will not ask me to lie. It will give me a fair wage, not the one that my inflated sense of self thinks I need, but one that simply gives me enough to live happily on. I will be able to sleep-in on weekdays and take Mondays off to enjoy cafes, shops and parks in peace while the rest of the world is at school or work. It will give me the freedom to write, to explore myself outside of my job and it will connect me with great people, who will drift in and out of my life.
So, do I want to be a waitress all my life? Maybe I do. If it means a clean, uncorrupted existence, then yes please. That is exactly what I want to do.
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