How to Be More Mindful (Even Though You Work in Hospitality)
Ah how easy it is to live in the present moment when you’re sitting on the beach with a Daiquiri in one hand, Tina Fey’s Bossypants in another (because you never got around to reading it in 2011), and the sun shining down on you making your skin more golden by the second - work is not anywhere close to being on your mind. But then the day goes on and the sun starts to fade, your Daiquiri waters down, and before you know it 6:00 is right around the corner. Ugh - now you have to head home to shower and rinse your tanning oil off, even though you know you’ll be putting on a uniform covered in stains from god knows where anyway.
“How the f*ck am I going to make it through another Friday night dealing with annoying rich people, screaming children, and that one super-lovey couple who’s on their honeymoon? I seriously can't do it."
However, you can and you will because you do it almost every night and come out (relatively) unscathed. But sure enough, 30 minutes into your shift, someone just insists on pushing you over the edge. They're shouting at you because their "steak came out pink" even though they literally just asked for it medium-rare! What do they mean? Now you have to run back to the kitchen and tell them you need a well-done steak ASAP (which always goes over well). And there you go, the rest of your night is ruined. After that you forget the drink order for the table next to them, you spill the next drink you pick up, and you still can't stop thinking about how annoying that 'steak table' was.
Good news! Your night doesn’t have to go that way! Yeah the same exact events could occur but you don’t have to have a 'bad night'. Don’t get me wrong - I have nights where all I want to do after work is go out for a few beers, wait until everyone leaves, then head back to work to set it on fire just so I won’t have to go back the next day. I get it. But I’ve been trying to change my mindset so that I won’t have to dread going to work every day. Will I ever love waiting tables? Probably not. Can I change my mindset enough to make it tolerable and potentially even, dare I say it, enjoyable some nights? That’s what I’m trying to do.
1. Don’t take anything that anyone says personally
I know, easier said than done. Think about it though. The type of person to complain and demand to speak to a manager because their drink took longer than 3 minutes, is going to do it at any restaurant they go to. It could’ve been you, it could’ve been the girl you work with, it could’ve been Meryl Streep serving them - they were going to find a reason to complain no matter what. Seriously trust me. So don’t get upset by it! It can be hard especially if your tips depend on your service, but I find it helps if you imagine that person at another restaurant complaining to another random person about the same thing they’re complaining to you about. Then at the end just smile, apologize, and do whatever’s in your power to fix it. Don’t dwell on it! Don’t get annoyed, don’t carry that thought or interaction with you for the rest of the night. Listen to them attentively, fix the issue, move on. Chances are they were having a stressful night themselves before they come to dinner and just took it out on you. Do not take it personally.
This lesson also applies to people you work with, managers and co-workers alike. I’ve found so many times that I will absolutely love someone outside of work but during that busy rush on Saturday night, they turn into a completely different (read: worse) human being. So if someone snaps at you or says something rude, again just know it could’ve been anyone else they snapped at. You just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Certain people deal with stress in different ways and they’ll yell at whoever happens to be in front of their face at the time when they’re about to lose it. Don’t take it personally - move on with your night, forget about that interaction, and know it was nothing you did specifically.
2. Accept that you’ll sometimes have a bad night
Should you be spilling waters, forgetting orders, and mixing up drinks every night? Probably not. Every once in a while when you’re having a bad day and just can’t get it together, will you do all of those things? Probably! And that’s definitely okay. Even if everyone is yelling at you about it, if you know you do a perfectly fine job every other night - ignore them! Every person on this planet will have a bad day at work as long as we live on a planet where we're all forced to go to work. See the first point about not taking anything personally. Being confident in your abilities and being able to own up to your mistakes when you do make them, will go a very long way towards keeping your mind clear and helping you not get down if you’re having a bad night. Let it go. I promise you the Earth will keep spinning and the sun will keep shining if you forgot Table 23’s appetizer one night.
3. Appreciate the slow times
As human beings we tend to complain about virtually everything. It’s been nice for a week straight? Too sunny. It’s been raining for three days? Too rainy. You work every day for a week straight? They gave you too many hours. You have two days off in a row? How could they not give you hours?! Anyway, you get it. The same principle applies to when it’s slow at work - just take a second and appreciate it. Because tomorrow you’re going to come into work on a random Tuesday night when it was supposed to be dead, and you’ll be running around like a psycho wishing you had a second to yourself to just breathe. Plus appreciating the slow times and not wasting energy complaining will make you that much more refreshed and ready to take on the insanely busy night tomorrow.
4. Don’t complain out loud/with other co-workers
Make a serious effort to try and not do it. This is a habit I only tried to start to break at my last restaurant and it was….. hard. Complaining about customers is honestly half the fun of working at a restaurant. And it’s so so so so easy to do - there’s virtually an unlimited list of things that you can complain about on any given night. But try not to do it, it only wastes energy and prolongs whatever you were just complaining about. If you complain, that annoying moment not only lives in the moment that it happened, but it lives in the next 20 future moments because you keep brining it up and re-living it. Just stop.
Of course complaining is a hard habit to break and honestly, it is kind of fun to do. Maybe start off by just raising your bar for things you’ll complain about. So maybe instead of complaining about every normal thing you would usually complain about, only complain about the top 10% of annoying things that night. Don’t let the rest of the 90% get to you. It’ll get easier the more you practice and hopefully sooner or later, you’ll realize even the last 10% isn’t worth it. You’re really only hurting yourself when you complain about something over and over - whether it be a manager or an annoying table. Most likely, that person isn’t really thinking about you. So you’re sacrificing your own sanity for the moment to bitch about a table that’s long gone. Seriously, just let it go.
I am definitely writing this advice to myself as much as to anyone else who’s reading it. Working in hospitality is hard and can be very draining. You’re constantly forced to take on other people’s problems as your own and that can be exhausting. It can repeatedly take you out of the present moment and take a beautiful day that you had in the sun and turn it into a bad day, all in the span of three hours at work.
But if you put in just a little bit of effort to block out some of that negative energy and live in the present moment, even though you’re running around like a psycho at work - it can really change your perception of the night you had. Yes you may have had a few wrong turns, but overall your inner zen wan't affected. Then you can move on with your life the second you clock off and by then, you’ve already forgotten about that steak table.
Let us know if you have any other tips for refraining from punching someone at work. Cheers to doing what you have to do to get money to afford your next trip!