When I first came to London, I had never worked a day in my life. I had always studied hard but working a proper job? Never. I thought I had it all figured out – I was studying law and getting good grades – life was easy.
My only worry was picking what restaurant to go to for lunch with my friends. We would usually go to a very cosy bistro called La Tartine, in the Vieux Lyon (the historical quarter of the city) because the food was delicious, and they didn’t mind us laughing like idiots.
Now I am embarrassed to admit this, but I was a bit of a nightmare customer. I would get so impatient with the poor waitress and wonder how hard it could it be to take a simple order and get it right?
Do you believe in karma? I do. Soon after moving from Lyon to London to continue my studies I had to get a job and waitressing was my best/only option. On the first day the manager was yelling at me: “How hard it is to take an order correctly for f*cks sake?!” I held my tears until I reached the bathroom and then cried my eyes out. The first image that came to my mind was the face of that poor waitress in La Tartine trying to please our demands.
At the time I hated the experience but looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Here are my 5 reasons why I will make my kids work in hospitality for their first job:
1. It teaches you how to be humble
It is very hard to empathise with someone if you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. When I got my first job as a waitress, I realised how hard and draining it really was. It can be fun at times, but the reality is you are on your feet for 12 hours, often hungry and tired. Whenever I go to a restaurant these days I am extra nice to the staff because I can still remember how my legs used to ache at the end of a shift.
2. It builds your resilience
I had people yelling, whistling, and clapping their hands at me to get my attention. It took a lot of willpower to not throw drinks in the face of every customer who did this (I’m French remember). I learnt a breathing technique to calm myself and eventually I grew immune to customers’ rude behaviour – I had built up my resilience bank. Almost everyone is going through some sh*t and often they end up taking it out on anyone who is serving them. I just felt sad for them and carried on with my day.
3. You will make friends for life
I have met people through hospitality jobs that are still my dearest friends to this day. I’m talking about friends you can call at 2am if you are in trouble and they will be there to help you. Maybe it’s the long, hard hours you spend together that helps form such a solid bond. Your workmates become like a second family – you eat your meals together, share funny stories and complain about customers for hours on end. When you look back at this time you will realise how much you were all growing together.
4. It offers flexibility whilst you are studying
I do not know how I could have survived and studied in London without hospitality. I could organise my work around my studies. Every time I had an exam I got the days off without a problem. I could work evenings, weekends or only mornings. If I needed extra cash, I could cover a shift or two. This sort of flexibility is what you need when you are studying or have other goals you want to achieve.
5. You will have some stories to tell
I could write a book about all the crazy things that go on behind the scenes in the London hospitality scene. I worked at Shoreditch House (a favourite of international celebrities) for a lengthy period and we had some mad requests. There are also things that happen in smaller restaurants that would make your stomach turn (cleaning up vomit on multiple occasions is just the tip of the iceberg). If I had got an office job I doubt that I would have even one story to tell.
The skills you learn working in hospitality are invaluable, and I’m not talking about how to carry three plates at once or how to recommend a wine. My future kids will learn values and experience life in a way that will benefit them greatly. Anyone have their own hospitality stories to share? I would love to hear them.