Cry Baby

I can’t shake a post I read this morning, written by a friend, who happens to own a local sports bar/restaurant type of place in the Fox Cities. They are open, full board, and they have been busy. Like many other businesses, they have been operating short staffed. There are a lot of reasons why places are understaffed, but that is not the topic here today. Just know that they are, and it is something they do hope will resolve itself sooner than later.

She is grateful for the business, the opportunity to keep people employed, to make money and to serve guests in person again. This last year sucked, and running a business on carry out orders only had to be a struggle, operating with a skeleton crew, the extra costs involved with packaging and having delivery services, whether in-house or third party. There’s a lot people don’t see, and that you as a customer never really need to know about. The people that could work, worked hard and for less money in tips than if the doors could be open. They were surviving.

So places are opened back up, and people are going out again, kind of with a purpose. That’s great, and in an ideal world everyone would give and get great service. There is no restaurant I have ever known that has been able to fully operate in the Ideal World. Things happen. People no-show for a shift, equipment breaks, you run out of an item, the list is long and gloriously frustrating. You do the best you can, to get people in, fed and watered, and have them go on their way so the next group can sit and eat drink and be merry. But when any one of the things that can go wrong do, you have to improvise, shift things, and hope upon hope your guests either don’t notice or are understanding.

If something does go wrong, whether it’s being out of something, short staff, or just anything that happens on a shift, when is it Ok to make a member of a restaurant staff cry? Never. It is NEVER ok. But guess what, it happens. This particular place had over an hour wait on food. That sucks. It sucks for the guests. It sucks for the staff. There is not one person in that building it did not suck for. But at no time in an interaction with another human being is it ok to be so callous and heartless to make someone cry. I don’t know if she cried in front of the whole dining area or if she took into the walk-in cooler and cried her eyes out. I don’t need to know. I know how she felt, and I hate that it happened.

If you are headed out for a meal and drinks, please take your patience along with you, or stay home. Nobody likes working short-staffed. And it may be the back of the house that is short, could be the waitstaff, but I guarantee you places are running short. It’s like that in retail too right now. But under no circumstance is it ok to treat someone in such a manner that they should have to walk away from you with tears welling up in their eyes. Even if the wait is their fault. You have zero right to make someone feel that small. Who do you think you are? That is someone’s family, that money they are trying to make might be the only income their household has. They have to put on a smile and make nice for someone who they do not know so they can pay their rent. If you think that is easy, I welcome you to fill out an application at any restaurant right now and give it a shot.

When things were closed, we had an attitude of support and empathy for others. Where has that gone if making a server cry is the thing I read about first thing on a Sunday morning? Why on earth would you not think before you speak, and phrase it all a little differently, using kindness? You think you are frustrated waiting? She has been back in the kitchen countless times looking in the window for your food and hoping her ticket is coming up next so she doesn’t have to face your steadily declining mood. But she has to smile through it, even though she is more frustrated than you are. Walk a mile in her slip-proof shoes for one minute. You have no idea, if you have never worked in the industry, of what it is like to look in the window and not see the order you have been waiting an hour for. And don’t get me started about the fact that she can’t even say a word to the kitchen staff because they are buried too.

I said it on Facebook earlier today, I will say it again here. If you cannot be patient with waiting for food, if you are in a hurry to get in and out of a place, you may want to stay home for now. This is going to continue. The staffing issues are not going to get better for a while. So if you cannot operate with patience and kindness when you go out, don’t go out. They are working hard, they are working usually without things like insurance, benefits, paid time off or even a 15 minute break most days. It isn’t like other jobs. You run for other people, and you hope to make enough to cover groceries and rent, and pray you don’t get sick. There is no safety net most of the time in the service industry. So a little of your kindness and patience is not too much to ask.

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