Monday, December 1, 2014

Server Turned Student – How Slinging Burgers Translates to PR

Allow me to set the scene.

Me: “Hi there, welcome to the Hard Rock Café. My name is – “
Old lady from Jersey: “Diet Coke”
Me: “Uh, sure. Be right back.”

This was typical of most of the tables I’ve waited on over the last 10 years. Not exactly the epitome of politeness, is it? How would you react if that was the fourth time in 45 minutes that someone did that to you? 

Pop Quiz! What would you do in that scenario? Would you:
a) yell at the guest
b) roll your eyes while you were still at the table
c) “accidentally” spill the diet coke on that lady from Jersey

As a good server, and subsequently, a PR Professional, the answer is d) none of the above. Servers often have to set their personal feelings aside to make the guest feel that they’re having the greatest experience they've ever had. This also usually means that we end up taking the heat, or answering for any “mistakes” that happen along the way. If the table is sticky, the drinks “don’t taste like there’s any alcohol in them”, or the burger/steak/ANYTHING is overcooked, the servers answer for it – and have to do so with a smile. The server truly is the face of the restaurant, and their primary concern (ok, aside from how much they’re making in tips) is the relationship between the company they work for and the guests who dine there.

The other thing that people may not realize is that servers are professional communicators. We have to communicate quickly and effectively, establishing and maintaining two-way communication with every single person (staff or guest) we come into contact with. If you need something from the kitchen, you need to know who to ask and how to ask for it properly, otherwise you’ll find yourself “up” three Caesar salads when you really needed a Haystack Chicken. If you run out of something behind the bar, you’ll need to properly fill out a rec. sheet and give it to the manager who is the least busy. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with empty kegs and upset guests. I have to receive and act on instructions, communicate important information (read: FOOD ALLERGIES/DIETARY RESTRICTIONS) clearly and to the right people. I have to make important announcements (Attention everyone, it’s Tim’s birthday today!! Wooooo!!!), and deliver bad news (I’m sorry, we don’t have any mint for your mojito. And we’re also out of brownies.). 

Starting to sound familiar?

I don’t think I realized that I was completely prepared for a career in PR when I started in this program. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn't intimidated by the educational experiences my peers had. I was under the impression that I had no idea what I was doing – that is until I applied for my internship. As I began dissecting my resume, hunting for anything that would pass as relevant experience or transferable skills, I realized that there were plenty more than I had originally thought. While I wasn't a classically trained PR professional, I had the basic foundations of the profession down. The only difference was that I had been doing it in non-slip shoes and an apron the entire time.

I suppose the moral of this story is not to doubt your experiences. While they may be different than those of your peers, you’ll never know just how relevant they are to your current path if you give up. Now, can I get a time on table 17 please? They've been waiting 25 minutes for nachos and a poutine. Come on! 

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