A Real Job

A  real job . . . I bet there is no other group of people working in any other occupation who hear and say those words as often as we resties do. It is almost always used in a negative way, as in ‘If you don’t like [insert any random injustice or indignity restaurant workers are routinely required to endure], then get A Real Job‘ or ‘Someday I’m going to quit this place and get A Real Job.’

As if working in a restaurant isn’t a real job. Okay, in many ways it isn’t.

We work unreal hours, put up with an unreal amount of stress, handle unreal complaints lodged by unreal customers, comply with unreal rules made by unreal managers and do it in an unreal environment. All while being paid at an unreal rate of pay. Unreal as in not real. As in Not A Real Check,  which is written on many FOH* employees’ paychecks.

* * * * * * * * * *

To the casual readers of this blog who aren’t restaurant industry insiders, you might occasional happen upon the terms FOH and BOH, which are short for Front Of House and Back Of House respectively. And just so you know the difference, the BOH (or kitchen) is a hot, hazardous, cramped work environment where you will get cut, burned and yelled at but the plus side is that you don’t have to work with the public. The FOH (or dining room or bar) is a hot, overcrowded, hostile work environment where you will get cut, burned and yelled at but the plus side is that you don’t have to work in the kitchen.

* * * * * * * * * *

Restaurant workers comprise roughly 10% of the American work force, with the restaurant industry being the largest civilian employer as well as the fourth fastest growing employment sector. Is that real enough?  Every day, everybody has to eat and (thankfully) we Americans love going out to eat.

So, if so many people eat at restaurants so often and so many people are needed to work in them then why is there such a negative stigma attached to this kind of work? Why is sooo much shit collectively heaped on us? Bear in mind that I’m not bemoaning my fate or career choice. I’m the kind of sick freak who loves this business but that doesn’t mean that some things about it don’t need to change.

People who hold restaurant work in low regard view it as unskilled labor performed for the most part by uneducated kids or adults without any sort of ambition. Corporate managers treat their employees however they want because they can fire them and replace them easier than they can replace a broken glass. So many employees come and go that nobody can stick around long enough to effect any sort of positive change to working conditions, so no one bothers. Instead of backing up their employees managers will often throw them under the bus at the slightest sign of a customer’s displeasure.

This all feeds into a downwardly spiraling cycle of negativity that leads people to believe that working in a restaurant, that being a part of that 10% of the workforce, isn’t a real job. A job is nothing more than a method of trading labor for currency. If you exchange your work for money then you have a real job. You might have different benefits than somebody else but you have a real job.

Yes, I’ve had ‘real’ jobs outside of the restaurant industry before. I’ve been a manager of a bookstore, a furniture store manager, the assistant branch manager of a lending institution and several others. They all have their pluses and their minuses. Asshole managers are as widespread as asshole customers no matter what business you’re in.

When I clock out after my shift, though, I look back on the day and realize that I didn’t cheat anybody or lie to them. I didn’t charge them a barely legal interest rate for a loan they shouldn’t have gotten. I didn’t have to repo anything from anybody. I performed a service for some people and they paid me for it. And even though Operation Condor* might have been in effect for a while, I didn’t even have to take my clothes off.

* * * * * * * * * *

Operation Condor is when you unzip your pants and let your wang hang free behind your apron while at work. I hear it can be quite exhilarating. And breezy.

* * * * * * * * * *

Despite what anybody else might think, I feel like I have a real job. I have respect for myself and for what I do and the role I play in the economy. Besides that, all those other businesses that I had those ‘real’ jobs at have since closed down. If I had stayed at those places eschewing the foodservice industry I would have no job.

And that’s real.



Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear


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16 responses to “A Real Job

  1. Love this post. Great job. I’m going to post it on my SNS facebook group wall.

  2. Manager’s don’t exactly treat us like a broken glass. They are far more hesitant to replace the glass.
    Good Post

    • Not all managers are bad, Tipsy. I have met some managers that were actually pretty decent human beings. They rarely last long, though, before one of their slimier colleagues cheats them out of a promotion or they drink the Koolaid and they turn into bonus worshipping bastards.

      But yeah glasses don’t have to fill out applications but you don’t have to wait on a new applicant to arrive on the truck so of course glasses rank higher in importance.

  3. Hannah

    Well said JerBear! =)

  4. I salute you for working in this industry. I couldn’t handle it. I’d snap the first second someone pissed me off. And anyway, without servers who else is going to get people their food on a night out?

    Great post.

  5. hi, short-time follower, shorter-time blogger : )
    Love this post. I despise being asked ‘so… you go to school, right? gotta keep that up! you don’t want to do this for the rest of your life, right?!’
    as if there’s something unworthy or base about being a server. I love the fact that I have this experience in my back pocket and know I’ll always be able to get a job when I need one.

    • Thanks for following! Yeah, the old Where do you go to school?/What else do you do? line is just a poorly-veiled way of saying ‘I don’t think you or your job are of any value’. It gets to me too.

  6. Lauren

    very well put. I am so tired of being told that I need to get a real job by my family. My absolute favorite are the customers I talk to about my college experiences. At the end is the inevitable “you have a bachelor’s degree? why are you working here?” It’s just insulting. Oh, and how do you mentally approach people who treat you like crap(verbally and through tip)? I would love to know any positive thoughts

    • People that treat you like crap and don’t tip probably DON’T have bachelor’s degrees, so that would be foremost in my mind. Just be a better human being than those people. That helps me.

  7. TMS

    I can’t count how many times I had to bite my tongue when people would have negative things to say about being a server, usually something along the lines of “How hard could it be?” I’ve always wanted to say to them: Let’s see how “easy” it is for you to memorize the whole menu, remember who ordered what, any little changes to the orders, remembering to check on the tables, remembering to check in the kitchen to make sure your orders are ready, remembering who was drinking what when you go for refills, and never mind it’s not just one table, but five or six (or more). Never mind the other little things you’ve got to do during your shift.

    I’ve always joked with my fellow servers how hard I was resisting the temptation to smack smart ass people in the head with my order book.

  8. I had no idea that practice had a name. Much less that it was common enough to earn a name. I thought I was the only one.

  9. Marie

    Every time I hear someone mention a ‘real job’ vs waiting tables my internal monolog instantly cranks up to eleven with “Oh yeah? YEAH?! What if every single server in the world suddenly decided to get a ‘real job?’ Who would bring you your food, then, asswipe?! If you think this isn’t a ‘real job,’ then maybe you should get up off your big fat ass and serve yourself! You try being on you feet for 8+ hours a day with idiots constantly making demands and yelling at you OMGWTFhjksasdfjklbbqaarrrgh!” So far I have managed to avoid saying this out loud, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

  10. I, too, have had “real jobs”. Not one of them was as fun, mentally challenging or financially rewarding as waiting tables.

    • I think a job by definition sucks on some levels. But if a Checkers commercial ever taught me anything it was ‘You gotta eat’.

      By the way, thank you for being such a prolific poster in my comments.:)

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