Transitioning From A Restaurant Manager To A Restaurant Server

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Transitioning from a restaurant manager to a restaurant server was one of the more surreal experiences of my career. I knew in advance it would take time to acclimate to my new role, but did not quite know what to expect. As a manager I felt that I was missing out on a great deal of the guest interaction that made me enjoy working in the restaurant industry. As a server I discovered that could  leave the restaurant behind at the end of my shift and had an amazing thing called “a life.” I also discovered that guest interaction wasn’t always as lovely as I remembered it to be.

Recently, I have seen a couple of good friends make this same transition. I did what in could to prepare them, but their experiences still were remarkably close to what I encountered. We have all had a good laugh at the karmic retribution we suffered being subject to policies we once enforced. While everyone is glad they made the switch, the adjustment period is filled with challenges.

In an effort to make it easier for anyone else considering this transition, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.

You just became a child again. If not a child, at least a teenager. So many things that you felt quite capable of regulating on your own, are now subject to a policy. There are cell phone policies, uniform policies, tardiness policies, and a myriad of other rules you are now subject to. Many of these were previously subject to your discretion. Now you must follow them along with every other member of the staff. These policies will often times seem stupid. Rest assured that the staff you managed felt the same way when you were enforcing them.

No one wants to hear what you know. Remember that server who always seemed to have advice on how you could do your job better when you were a manager?  Didn’t you frequently want to strangle them? Now that you are a server, don’t be that person. If your manager wants your opinion they will ask for it.

Choose your peers. By merit of the fact that you have been a manager, you are probably a bit older than most of your fellow restaurant servers. This may lead you to feel you have more in common with the restaurant’s managers than the serving staff. It is important to remember though that your fellow servers are who you need to count on in a jam. Find some common ground and integrate with your fellow servers.

Take it in stride. You will find many reasons to question your decision. While I would never minimize the challenges of management, you will find serving more challenging than you remember. In hindsight we all fondly recall how great of a server we were. In reality, tables will still put you in the weeds. Guests will still demean you. Managers will enforce ridiculous rules that you disagree with. At the end of the day, this is the path you chose. Don’t focus on the negatives. Instead, appreciate the positives and leave work behind you when you walk out the door.

Karma has a strange way of rearing it’s head when you make this transition. Chances are you will make the transition to restaurant management again one day even if it is not in this industry. This is where grace comes into play. You may one day have a staff of employees just like you. Extend grace to your new managers and coworkers because one day you will want it extended to you. Lord knows when you make this transition you will need plenty of it. Karma will see to that.

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