What we do is different than the norm. There are other jobs and career choices that live with this same reality, but this difference is simply accepted until we arrive at those holidays that involve family and family memories. This is a time of the year when many people relish the opportunity to get together with family and celebrate the ending of one year and the coming of another. This is an opportunity for many to recognize the religious significance of a time and simply give thanks for what they have and whom they enjoy by their side. To restaurant employees – cooks, servers, and managers, this is a time of the year to hunker down and prepare for a relentlessly busy time – in some cases the busiest time of the year.
For those in the restaurant business there is far less time to be concerned with preparing their house for guests, for gift exchange and large family meals. There is less time dedicated to reflect on the memories of a year coming to an end or the opportunities that lie ahead – the focus is on what is in front of them – another busy day of guests relying on the restaurant to provide meals and a different type of memory for them. This is not a complaint, but rather a reality that sets the stage for this article. This is another example of why what we do is different and a wake-up call for individuals who want to pursue a career in food.
To choose a career in food, especially the restaurant business, is to accept a different lifestyle, a different routine, and a much different approach towards those things that others may take for granted. All across the country this time of the year (mid-December until January 2) restaurants are humming. In resort communities Christmas Eve until New Years Day may very well be the busiest week of the year. After the holiday parties and before people settle in to the charge of another busy year – restaurants, hotels, and resorts are home to individuals and families playing, relaxing, skiing or enjoying that fun-in-the-sun finish to the year. This is when people in the food business pull out all the stops to demonstrate how hospitality runs through their veins. If you want a career in the business this is what you must accept.
What has changed is that American culture has adopted the restaurant experience as a preferred substitute to cooking at home. With nearly 50% of the American food dollar spent in some type of restaurant we (those who chose to work in the food business) are experiencing the results of our effort to make dining out a necessity vs. a luxury. With more than one million freestanding restaurants in the U.S. the culture of eating has changed. On the positive side this change has created hundreds of thousands of “first jobs” for the American workforce and an increasing number of career positions for those who choose to invest their professional lives in the kitchen. Additionally, owning a restaurant has become one of the most sought after entrepreneurial opportunities (albeit not always successful).
This is what people have to expect if they seek a career in the restaurant business – good, bad, and ugly at times, the reality of the restaurant business is this:
- YOU WILL WORK NON-TRADITIONAL HOURS
- YOU WILL WORK THROUGH THOSE TRADITIONAL HOLIDAYS
- YOU WILL NEED TO ADJUST YOUR LIFESTYLE AND HOW YOUR TIME IS VIEWED BY FAMILY AND FRIENDS
- IF YOU ARE AN OWNER YOU WILL NEED TO HELP YOUR STAFF ADAPT TO THESE REALITIES
- IF YOU ARE AN OWNER YOU WILL NEED TO ADJUST TO THE CHANGES CREATED BY THE EVOLVING NEEDS OF THE GUEST
In the end, this is simply a change that you must choose to make if you are able to enjoy the positive aspects of a career in food. This is a great industry, an industry that teaches valuable life skills and provides a portal to other careers or to a long career in some part of the food business. This is an industry comprised of people who may occasionally regret what they do during the holidays, but understand that what they do allows others to enjoy a more traditional life. In the end, we all make do.
Over the next few days make sure that you take note of those people who are working in the food business – adjusting their lives over the holidays. Take a moment when in your local restaurant to smile and say thanks to those who cook and serve the food that you enjoy.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training
**PHOTO: The Mirror Lake Inn Resort Culinary Team