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    24 Food Service Workers Got Brutally Honest About The Difficulty Of Their Industry, And It's A Perspective You Don't Hear Enough

    "Most people who eat in restaurants could never be servers."

    We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who have ever worked in food service to get brutally honest about their jobs and to dispel any myths about the industry. Many hardworking folks stepped up to share their firsthand experiences in this demanding, underappreciated industry. Here's what they had to say:

    1. "I work at Olive Garden and I’ve been waiting for a place to express this. Everything on the 'never-ending favorites/starters' menu at Olive Garden is made to order by the servers. You want another salad? Okay, let me go in the back and assemble it. There is no 'salad maker' at most locations. People have asked where the salad bar is. I am the salad bar. Saying 'we’re gonna make it easy for you' when everyone at the table orders the never-ending soup, salad, and breadsticks combo is literally the most work for the server since the kitchen doesn’t make the salads or bowl up the soups. It’s also generally the smallest tip since it’s the cheapest thing on the menu."

    "When we ask you to let us know when to stop for the cheese and you say, 'never, hahaha,' and we don’t laugh, it’s because we’ve heard that joke three times today already and it wasn’t funny then either. If you want to share, that’s fine, but if you want things on your table to remain unlimited, you may have to pay extra. The salad and the soup isn’t free! It’s factored into the price of your entree — that’s why the prices are set the way they are. You can’t go to a buffet and pay for one person and expect to share that 'unlimited' meal between four people. When we say the soup/salad/breadsticks are 'never-ending,' that’s only for dine-in. If you want more for to-go, we have to charge for that. The same way you can’t come back after picking your to-go order up and get a refill. If you did dine-in with us and didn’t finish everything on the table, we will gladly get you to-go boxes, but if you want an extra soup for to-go, you’re gonna have to pay extra for it. 

    Finally, our landlords don’t take compliments for rent payments. I’m glad you enjoyed your meal with me today, but don’t gush about how amazing you thought I was only to stiff me. Yes, this is my job. Yes, I am technically getting paid by the hour, but most of my income is tip-based. I also have to tip out my bartender and my busser based on my sales for the day. So, if you leave me $0, I paid for the pleasure of serving you out of my own pocket."


    2. "We don't always get to eat for free. Some places make you pay full price for a meal and some managers act like the 25 cents worth of salad that they charge six bucks for is coming out of their pocket."


    3. "Every job in a restaurant is incredibly physically demanding. There are long hours, (often 10+ hours), you're always standing, you'll walk miles per shift, you're constantly bending/reaching/lifting, and breaks aren't a thing. I used to go to the bathroom just to have an excuse to sit down for 30 seconds. Plus, there's the emotional toll of always having to look good, sound pleasant, and take abuse from customers with grace. It is fucking exhausting to work in restaurants."


    4. "I do not control the prices. I just work the register. Also, just because I rely on the computer to do the math for me does not mean I am stupid. Do not talk to me like I am."


    5. "There is a LOT of drama in the food service industry. Food service generally pays employees so little that they are forced to work unbelievable hours. When you are in the same bubble as so many other people struggling financially, drama is unavoidable. People sleep with each other in work places because they are so over worked they don’t have time for a social life. 99.9% of the time, drama ensues from employees/managers hooking up, but when you’re forced to spend so much time with only a small group of people, it’s unavoidable. And even if sex isn’t involved, people in lower wage jobs go through all different kinds of stress and BS and it can lead to unhealthy competition for more money or hours."

    "People can and WILL screw you over for an extra 25 cents added to their pay. It’s sad, but the industry gives you almost no room for a real life, even if it did let you afford one (which usually isn’t the case)."


    6. "If you are rude to one of the servers, we will give you the smallest piece of everything (tomato, a bit of lettuce, one single ring of onion, etc.)."


    7. "I was a pastry chef in a busy NYC restaurant. The one thing I hated was that kitchen staff, or back of house, is always treated with very little respect and dignity. Back of house is expected to show up before everyone, keep the kitchen clean, stand in the hot kitchen, and put out perfect plates all night long with basically no breaks. The majority of us eat sad staff meals while working because we don’t have time. We do it because we love food and cooking and nothing is more satisfying than knowing that someone enjoyed what we’ve made. But it doesn’t mean it’s okay to dehumanize us and treat us like we’re servants when we work the hardest and get paid $10-15/hour. Back of house staff do not get tipped. What would you get at a restaurant if it wasn’t for us?"


    8. "Don't think that service workers won’t remember you. If you’re rude once, you have a reputation in the restaurant now, and we will know who you are."


    9. "I'm a manager for Arby's. The worst thing? People get mad at us when we no longer offer items. Example: fish. We only carry it from Christmas until a week after Easter. Why? Off-season, it gets expensive. We also, over a year ago, stopped serving ham. Why? Corporate announced those stores that do not serve breakfast had to stop selling ham and potato cakes (yet another thing that we got screamed at for by customers). Once the ham was off the menu, two fan favorites, the Chicken Cordon Bleu and the Loaded Italian sub disappeared. For a long time we couldn't even offer salads (due to lack of product with our supply company). However, we were able to get them back, just in time for them to go away permanently next month. We get customers who are rude when you try to explain to them that we have no control over what goes on the menu or the prices. There are times we aren't paid near enough to deal with them. *Sigh*"


    10. "There's a common misconception that food service work is mindless. I can't stand that. I was in customer service for many years and that experience prepares you for the unexpected. It requires so many skills to care for others in any format, especially those being served in a restaurant. You need organizational skills, interpersonal skills, the ability to do physical labor, problem-solving skills, and a knack for multitasking, all while handling an unfair ratio of customers with a smile. You put on a show every shift to customers, whether they're grateful or not. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting."


    11. "If your order is too complicated or annoys the cook, they'll purposefully make it as shitty as possible while still giving you what you asked for. Example: When I was working for Pizza Hut, I discretely ordered the big dinner box for lunch (two deep-dish pizzas, a pasta, and some cheese sticks). To avoid being made fun of for my eating habits, I told no one it was mine and hid in a corner to eat it. Well, my boss joined me for some reason and was like, 'Oh, that was your order? Well, if I had known, I would've tried harder. I thought it was just another complicated order from a pain in the ass customer.' Wanna know what said 'complicated' order was? I wanted bacon on my pasta."


    12. "I'm a hostess and people really struggle with the concept of reservations. People walk in all the time and expect a table immediately, but are livid when told there isn't anything available. 'Why can’t I have that table?' 'We actually have a reservation booked at that table.' 'But, it’s empty!' 'Right, the reservation is in 20 minutes.' 'So, you’re holding empty tables?' 'No, there is a reservation.'"

    "Another *great* experience is when it’s the dog days of July and August. I call to confirm reservations, and if tables are still available indoors, I always ask people who had outdoor reservations if they want to move inside because it's 95 degrees. Nope! Outside is great! Until they arrive, it’s still 95 degrees, there is not a table to be had, and they no longer want to sit outside."


    13. "If you work in the kitchen, you're probably getting yelled at and laughed at daily. It's an intense job with a lot of hours, especially in nicer restaurants. I worked at a Michelin star restaurant, and let me tell you, the chef runs the show. They have the ultimate say-so in hiring and firing. And, they will usually treat you like hot garbage all day and then let you leave early and praise you at the end of the day. It's a hard job where every small mistake like not saying 'behind' when you move past someone can start a fire or cause injury or ruin food and lead to a waste of money/time. It's a really, really hard job. Oh, and the back of the house? We almost never get tipped."


    14. "It’s brutal. Customers go out of their way to take advantage of workers and exercise their 'customer privilege.' Plus, the industry is full of insufferable, control-freak managers who despise being questioned and love to talk down to and discipline employees, however unjustified. It’s hard."


    15. "I’m a host, server, to-go server, and a bartender at a very popular restaurant. I get comments all the time about how the food is cooked wrong or how people don’t like their order and they always try to say it’s my fault. I also get comments about how long the food takes to come out. It’s not my fault that your entire table ordered well-done steaks that take about 15-20 minutes to come out when we aren’t busy, and since we are constantly at full capacity with every sever filling every section, they'll probably take more like 45-50 minutes to come out. Then, when the food does come out, customers will look at me like I’m the biggest inconvenience ever for making sure their food is what they ordered."

    "I’m sorry that I’m making $2.13/hour and all I do is bring the food to the table, make sure your drinks are always filled, and accommodate all of my tables."


    16. "I work on a prep table and people think that every time we make them a burger, it’s fresh. Those burgers will sit there from the time we open to the time you order. I promise you your food is rarely ever fresh."


    17. "I worked at Taco Bell and Pizza Hut as a teenager. I never saw anyone spit in the food or otherwise mess with a customer’s order, even if they were rude. We washed our hands frequently and disinfected everything regularly. We just didn’t want to get in trouble with our boss or the health inspector. I’m sure there are bad employees and restaurants out there, but I think they’re the exception, not the rule."


    18. "I worked at McDonalds as a teenager, then in all types of restaurant/bars — upscale hotels, chains, dive bars, etc. I never once saw anything sketchy. People definitely threw fits in the back over rude people or food getting sent back, but there was no messing with peoples’ food."


    19. "People think serving is a low-skill position, and that's how it became a minimum-wage job. But, modern servers need to be incredibly dynamic, highly intelligent, organized, have a good memory, and know how to prioritize tasks to be good at their jobs, not to mention they have to be physically capable of working on their feet for 10+ hours at a time. Most people who eat in restaurants could never be servers. The level of product knowledge alone that comes with a serving job is something many people could never accomplish. Try remembering that the sauce from a certain menu item contains a specific allergen while remembering another table's drink order, carrying food for another table, and noticing that another table needs their bill. Serving comes with a highly developed skillset and should be paid accordingly."


    20. "I work at a very laid back restaurant as a server. We do not tolerate guests treating the employees poorly. We will humiliate you in front of the entire restaurant and make you leave. The customer is hardly right and they do not get to tell us how to do our jobs. Plus, the amount of times people leave with out tipping is horrid! Normally, we can stop them before they get out side and shame them for being an awful person."


    21. "I worked in an on-campus Starbucks for two years during my college days. College students need their coffee and lines were chaotic at all hours of the day. The store was usually understaffed in the afternoon when most of us had classes, which meant 2-4 people managing orders for undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and visitors. The biggest misconception other students had was that the 'perks' AKA free stuff outweighed the strain of running around for a minimum of four hours at a stretch. We were allowed one grande drink and a pastry at the end of a shift where we'd get yelled at for standing still just to catch a breath. Oh, and let's not even talk about the 'strike system' that was developed to penalize those caught sitting down. Working in the industry helped me build my confidence and multitasking skills, but I was left exhausted as a college student with a full course-load and extracurriculars."


    22. "The food industry has a lot of layers. I've been a dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, and chef, as well as a food service director and a food salesman. Now I'm a buyer for a foodservice distributor. This industry, regardless of your position, is never ending. It's a thankless job. But, we do it because it gives us a sense of satisfaction. You get to meet all sorts of people, rude, pleasant, fake, real. At the end of the day, I get a sense of accomplishment...until you realize tomorrow you have to do it all over again."


    23. "In all my years of being in the fast food business, the only restaurant that was ever actually clean was In-N-Out. Everywhere else was absolutely filthy. At one of my old jobs, the manager thought hand sanitizer was a wonderful substitute for washing her hands. She would regularly smoke cigarettes and then prepare/serve the food immediately after. She cared more about me making the windows sparkly clean than me sanitizing any of the items people actually touched. This was all during the height of COVID, too."


    24. Finally: "I’ve been out of the fast food game for a while now and have a good career using my degree. I still stand by my opinion that fast food was the hardest work I've done and for the least amount of pay. The stuff I put up with...never again. Not to mention, I guarantee most of the people who look down on food workers have never worked that kind of job (or they sucked at it and their coworkers carried them while they confidently but incorrectly thought it was SoOo EaSy), and would have an absolute meltdown during their first lunch rush or the first time they got a taste of their own medicine when a Karen screamed at them for something out of their control. All my respect and love to the fast food and other service industry workers! Keep fighting for those wages you so very much deserve!"


    Have you ever worked in food service? What would you like people to know about your job? Tell us in the comments!

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.