HOSPITALITY & I

My view on the hospitality industry¬†as the greatest job opportunity in this world…

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True, waiting on tables is hard work. Nonetheless it provides free meals, a good income and comfortable living even in the most expensive vacation spots of today’s world.

 
HOSPITALITY & I
You looked at the title Waiter’s Digest! You looked at the chapters in STARTERS and now you rightfully ask: “So what’s the big deal about being a WAITER?”
“Sorry man! There is no big deal!”
They are all the same, known as a Set-up-person, a Server, a Food Server, a Service-Person, a Busser, a Bus-Person, a Beverage-Server, a Cocktail-Person or whatever the person who waits on customers in a restaurant might be called?

Doctors, accountants, scientists and many kind of business-owners study their field for a long time before they settle in one area, one spot and there they live till the end of their days. To move to another area is difficult for many professionals even in the mobile world of the USA. World wide travel on the job, to relocate anyplace and be able to work in the nicest spots is not possible for most professions.
Yet waiting-on-tables has what only a few other professions can provide, the freedom to travel, to see the world and getting paid for it too. Millions of people all over the world are working in the hospitality industry. There are more than a million waiters and waitresses in the United States alone. True in the U.S. waiting on tables is often a supplement to another job or something one does while going to school.

I have also noticed that some people look down on waiters and heard sayings like: “I shall wait on tables only if I am down and out.” For one moment let’s be realistic: Is it not true that work is supposed to be fun while living a reasonable comfortable life? How much more comfortable could I spend my evenings than in the elegant atmosphere of a nice restaurant, getting a free dinner, getting to meet all kinds of interesting people and getting paid for mingling with the rich and not so famous? Okay!

There is a price for everything. The price I pay is: Some sweat, occasionally resoling of my work shoes, and to show up for work. How much easier could it really be?

Let me share my view of a thorough training in the hospitality industry. This is no theory but my own experience of a reasonable comfortable life in many countries on this globe.

I lived in different parts of this world and I always supported myself with the trades learned. In Europe nobody looks down on you if you learn a trade. Schools in Switzerland and Germany are famous to turn out fine examples of specialists in the field of hospitality. People with similar trade backgrounds(1) work all over the world, may it be in Taiwan or Cabo San Lucas. Some work on the trains traveling all over Europe, others prefer positions on Luxury Cruise ships. A proper trained waiter can work in South America, on exotic island paradises in the South Seas or down under in Australia. Today many international hotels in Canada, Mexico, South America, Asia, Australia, South Africa and around the Mediterranean are actually managed by German or Swiss trained people. Look at the great chefs in this world they too weren’t born to cook! They learned their trade in some school and you may find that many of them had a thorough apprenticeship in Europe.

“Why would anybody want to waste years to learn to be a waiter? Anybody can be a waiter, there isn’t much to it!” Is one of the objections I have heard lately many times. I, myself, have four years of basic school and four years of high school, after that I signed, with my parents consent, a contract of apprenticeship. The contract was for three years and included room and board at a fine restaurant. I received twenty DMarks of spending money a month. I worked five days a week at the restaurant. This was called hands-on-training. I also spent one full day each week at school learning languages and basics. What the teachers called basic information became the foundation for my future. Much was boring then. Yet such knowledge came in handy over the years. In school we learned how to make distilled liquor, how to brew beer and how to make wine. We were taught to differentiate the distinctive characteristics of liquors, we tasted many types of beers and we wrote reports on wine tastings.

On the job I learned all about serving skills, table side and basic knowledge of cooking. I liked the kitchen part so much, that I opted to get more training as a cook following my first apprenticeship. After training in a truly international kitchen for two years I completed my thirst for knowledge with an apprenticeship in hotel and restaurant management. Such meant another two years of going to school and to work in all areas of the hotel and restaurant business. Knowing every niche in the trade made it easy for me to specialize. I decided the restaurant career to be my forte. My choice was and still is the direct contact with the customer. I love to be a salesman.

There are many reasons, why a waiter wants to be a great salesman. My reason was and is tips. Within my tips I get paid according to my own ability to sell in addition to my over all performance.
During my military training in Germany (which was not optional) I was in charge of a large Officer’s Club. And soon after, when I decided to spend additional time in southern Spain, I had no problem to find work. When I was ready to add some international travel and work experience to my portfolio I left the sunshine and work at the Costa del Sol, ready to see more of this world I looked at offers from Australia, Canada and South Africa. I choose the latter. Here I found out that it is not enough to know just a little bit. The job offered to me from a five star hotel included to be an On-the-job-trainer. I had no idea what such meant but confident I took the position. It turned out to be exciting and I got to train a number of natives to be waiters.

After three years in South Africa I came to the United States where I had a management job waiting for me in Kansas City, Kansas. I took a short vacation first and stayed in Big Sur California. I liked this part of the world so much that I wanted to stay. Here they did not need a manager or a waiter. But the position for a dinner chef opened up and knowing that I could do it, I applied and got the job.

Needless to say, I never went back to Kansas City but have ever since lived and worked in Monterey County. I like where I live and I like the idea of being able to work wherever I want to. I enjoy the freedom to make choices. And it is my choice where I live and I have nobody but myself to blame if I am ever unhappy in my chosen surrounding. I too have ventured out into other fields of sales. I have tried office work too. I even worked as a translator. I did boat deliveries along the North American Pacific Coast. I was a Real Estate sales person and have on and off owned and operated businesses oriented to sales as opposed to manufacturing. These days now I create webpages and play with computers as my hobby.

I love my learned trade, the waiting on tables, and I am proud to be a waiter. As a waiter my life is much less boring than sitting in an office. I also can be up front and honest about the product I sell. People need to eat. Giving them good service makes them happy. Yes I please people by doing the best job I can do. Food and beverages are environmental safe too. And what is of great importance to me is: Getting paid for my work. As a waiter I get paid daily. At my job I do not have to wait for my commission check to arrive in the mail. The income in the hospitality industry is okay and as a waiter can be far above average, depending on one’s abilities.

True, waiting on tables is hard work. Nonetheless it provides free meals, a good income and comfortable living even in the most expensive vacation spots of today’s world.

THE GOOD PART is that a thorough training in the hospitality industry due to international high demand for trained qualified men and women guarantees income potential at any hotel and restaurant around the globe.
THE BAD PART is that easy money is easy spent. I have seen many people leaving the hospitality industry disappointed, burned out by working more shifts than they could handle. I have watched coworkers falling prey to drug or alcohol dependency, I call these occupational hazards. There are more bad parts to the trade. The work hours are much different to regular jobs. Hotels and restaurants reach their busy peaks on long weekends and all holidays. Around Monterey there are many waiters and waitresses who work two or three jobs, all part time. Much of this is due to the ups and downs, the on and off in the business. It’s typical to be swamped on busy days. These are followed by slow days with little work. However part time workers are also hired due to the laws which require extra pay for overtime.
SUMMARIZING the GOOD and the BAD: Hospitality industry is the greatest job opportunity on this globe, provided one is willing to work long hours when needed and able to learn that service is a combination of diplomacy and sales. Restaurant work includes washing dishes, changing linen, clearing of tables, to clean and fill salt and pepper shakers, the washing and polishing of glasses. It can mean to vacuum floors and certainly asks for the ability to keep a straight face in the funniest situations.
However, as a waiter I am never alone. At the same time while I slave away serving guests and clearing tables, millions of people, just like me, do the same all over this our planet.
1. Having received a diploma for a trade learned from a European trade school and a certification from an independent organisation such as the chamber of commerce.

by helmut schonwalder