Lately I have spent a great deal of time playing restaurant matchmaker. One of the cool, but unexpected, results of writing this blog is getting to know some of the top restaurant owners in the area. I always encourage them to let me know when they have a job opening. This is handy because it seems like I have no shortage of former co-workers who are looking for a different serving gig. This does not always mean that the server is the right match for the restaurant. It is not an insult to either end, but just like romantic matchmaking, availability does not always equate to a match.
When looking to make a match between an employee and an employer, it is important to address several factors. These are also important factors that you should consider when looking for a long term relationship with a restaurant.
1) Money- No one wants to take a massive cut in pay. You have to feel secure that you can support yourself with the new job. At the same time, you have to determine how many of the other factors you are willing to compromise on for the money offered.
2) Management Style- If you dislike your current job because you feel you are being micro-managed, going to a restaurant with the same style might not be a fit. Management style is a major factor in job satisfaction. You need to make sure that the style is something you can live with.
3) Rules- Smoking policies, tattoo policies, paying for parking, mandatory on-going training, uniform policies, etc should all be considered. If you are self conscious, you might not want to apply at Hooters. If you are not chipper, you might not want to sing “happy birthday” 20 times a night.
4) Clientele- This is often overlooked, but very important. If the primary clientele is seniors, foodies, hipsters, or young families, you better have the personality that is conducive to working with them. Each group presents challenges; you have to decide which ones you can overcome.
5) Location- A 30 minute commute cuts severely into your day. It also requires you to plan ahead and allocate time for any traffic issues. The time and gas money can compound other issues that may arise with the new restaurant.
6) Hours- This is a huge quality for life factor for many servers. If the restaurant is open until 3am or opens at 6am, you need to make sure that it fits into your lifestyle. Missing your friends or family due to work will often breed resentment.
7) Section Size- Putting egos aside, not everyone is cut out for small of large sections. Some servers are better suited to charming the pants off four tables while others will make more efficiently handling eight tables. Be honest with yourself and optimize your strengths.
8) Environment- This is often the “x factor” in serving jobs. Physical limitations might not make a restaurant with stairs or heavy trays an ideal fit. Some servers don’t do well with cooks shouting or working on patios during summer months.
9) Uniforms- This is a huge issue with many servers I know. Some just hate wearing neckties. Others feel that t-shirts are not flattering. Some uniforms can feel objectifying. You will be wearing the uniform every day, make sure you feel good in it.
10) Tips Share- A new restaurant that is preparing to open locally just lost half their serving staff when they announced in training that tips would be pooled. Other restaurants often have tip outs as high as 7% of sales. Ask these questions in advance so there are no surprises.
A relationship between a server and a restaurant is a commitment. Both parties are investing a great deal. You are investing your time for money. They are investing in training you in hopes you will work out. Unfortunately neither investment can be returned if the relationship sours. Take the time to find out about these issues in advance and you will be on your way to a long term relationship rather than a one-shift-stand.