Restaurant experience can teach you many skills; a great experience from being a waiter. You learn how to treat customers, deal with different types of people, money experience and much more. Different than my parents whom both worked had restaurant experiences when they were young, I grew up with part time jobs, but none of which are related in the restaurant field.

It started yesterday, when I started to have my first behind the counter experience at a Chinese restaurant. I didn’t submit an application and have an interview or any of the typical professional job search process; I’m more of a helper since my boyfriend’s relatives own the restaurant. Before my internship begins, I still have a month of free time, so this is the chance to get that restaurant experience that my parents hoped that I would have as a young adult before I enter the real world work force. I’ve ordered from Chinese take out restaurants before and had Chinese buffet and the menu from place to place are all fairly similar. Given the familiarity, I thought that everything should be a piece of cake or at least fairly straight forward, simple and stress free. I was wrong about the stress free part and things are always harder than what you expected as an outsider.

When you’re a non-business major, you expect all business classes should be easy. How hard can business be? Then again, will you be able to start your own business and successfully make a profit for more than five years? If you’re a lawyer, you might think nursing is really easy, taking care of patients, it has to be easier than dealing with clients! If a 90 year old is short of breath and has a heart attack, what are you supposed to do? The point is that as an outsider, it is usually the case that because you do not have sufficient knowledge of the job or field, you tend to underestimate the complexity and difficulty of the work that it involves until you step into their shoes and experience it yourself first hand.

I picked up the phone at the restaurant for the first time, “Panda Garden, how can I help you?” I felt fairly confident with how it should go, then they started ordering and I was skimming my eyes over the menu, trying to find the entree, lunch special, and appetizer dish they had just said as fast as I can. My heart is racing faster, but still trying to keep calm. Thinking, I’ve got all of written down with prices, I told them the price. Now what. Oh yea, “For pick up or delivery?” Delivery. What do I need for delivery. Uh uh. Address. Got that. Now what. Oh yea phone number would be helpful. Got that. Now what. payment. They’d like to pay with credit card. How do I use credit card machine. Needed assistance on that. How long will it take? What do I say?

This was the first phone call. After a few more calls, it became easier, picking up how much certain dishes were and how to use the cash register and credit card machine. I’m still learning something new along the way every hour. What size of rice goes with which dish, what size of paper bag to use for the order and how to organize all orders into the bag to prevent leakage, how long to fry the chicken fingers, how to tell the difference between egg rolls, spring rolls, and shrimp rolls, and even how to make crab rangoons! I will not be able to advance to the cooking, but I don’t want to underestimate how much is going on in that part of the kitchen.

What I had though as a simple phone call, cooking, order, ready process was in reality, a systematic way of my expected simplistic process. Each person has a role and menus are places with the bag and goes down the line of orders, rice are placed sideways for easy identification and labeling on the take out boxes helps to know what is what. Business operations is quite neat and impressive, in all types of businesses, from small businesses like restaurants to big businesses like for profit hospitals. It’s amazing how the each role is performed to contribute an end result that’s delivered to the ultimate customer. It required more than one person to accomplish an order, a doctor visit, a purchase.

I’m enjoying my second day and the next ten days or so at the restaurant. I look forward to the hectic moments which will mean our business is profiting and yet I wish I didn’t have the stress and time pressure of all the customers waiting. Again, customers are always the number one priority for the business. Get some restaurant experience or any work experience in high school will do you much good a few years later when looking for a job! (get those experiences on your resume as they provide as a talking point for interviews and have transferable skills as preparation for your potential dream job!)

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“The only source of knowledge is experience.” ~Albert Einstein

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