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5 invaluable lessons I learnt from working in the service industry

22nd Dec 2014
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As the nights get shorter, the weather gets colder and the festive season is almost here, many of us begin our year long tradition of frequenting one too many restaurants. Whether it be with work, the in-laws, sports team or friends, we all make the most of the service industry at this time of year.

I spent 7 years working on and off in the service industry. I held various positions as a Waiter, Supervisor, Manager and I even spent one (famous) evening as a Chef. I familiarised myself with all aspects of the business, and at one point even considered leaving University to start my own restaurant.

Over the 7 years I experienced it all- fires, ambulances, arguments, strippers, inappropriate comments, gas leaks as well as some of the most interesting conversations that you can imagine. From pioneering gay rights campaigners in South Africa to Hugh Jackman’s mum, there was never a dull day.

In truth I often loathed my job. Working day in, day out in a high stress environment takes its toll. The anti-social hours and irregular pay meant that my job was never as secure as many of my friend’s. Once I had decided not to follow a career in the catering business I often questioned my choice of early career, and worried over a lack of diversification on my CV.

It was only recently that I came to the realisation that working in the service industry has been a really smart decision, and it has helped be develop some invaluable skills.

5 Invaluable skills

Prioritising- Ever had 10 tables all shouting at you and all wanting something different? After a few busy shifts the service industry, you quickly learns how to effectively prioritise. Switch tables for tasks, and it’s a skill that I use every day.

Customer service- As a manager, complaints were dreaded and feared; especially as you never quite knew what to expect. I was always surprised at just quite how irate people got over food. If you’re able to calm someone down who’s hungry and had one too many glasses wine, you can deal with pretty much any dissatisfied customer.

Sales- Upselling olives was one of the banes of my life. Having said this, it taught me more about sales that any book ever has. Understanding when there was room to sell something (usually olives) to a customer, and looking for the right signs that they wanted extras is as applicable to the restaurant as it is to telesales.

Time management- People in restaurants love to talk. Whether it be to distract from an awkward dinner or because they’re simply curious, working in the service industry was always very social. Having said that, working out how much time you could spend talking with one customer without annoying the others was always tricky. Having to make such choices on a daily basis really helped me develop a basis for good time management.

Hiding emotions: No matter what was going on in my personal life, I always had to face the customer with patience and a smile. Even if customers annoyed me, it was vital to keep my emotions in check. I don’t mind admitting that even in my current role, I still use the same skill every day.

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