A Service Industry Story

My work experience has primarily been in the restaurant and hospitality industry. I held almost every job within a restaurant and picked up a passion for food. For decades, I worked job after job all sharing a common denominator, food. And as everyone is aware, where there is food there are people. If the food is exceptionally good you can plan on lots of people. The restaurants I worked in are top notch and served large volumes of customers every day.  People from all over the world and all different walks of life have crossed my path as it was my job to help feed them.

In the restaurant industry dealing with the public is a way of life unless you are tucked away behind the scenes preparing salads or desserts. Providing food to the public is tough and unpredictable yet one of the most important services that any business could possibly provide. Food services keeps the whole world running happy, healthy, and on a full stomach. Let’s face it; the outcome would be unfavorable for most of us if food wasn’t prepared at least to the point where all we have to do is place it on the stove or in the oven for 30 minutes. It might not be too crazy to suggest that food service eliminates one of our most basic needs by making available more food than the American population can eat.

Food service is just one of the many services that make up the service sector. To give you an idea of just how large the service industry is the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the service industry to include all industries except those in the goods-producing sector like agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing. Many careers are considered to be a part of the service industry such as lawyers, managers, dentists, architects, engineers, social workers, artists athletes, chefs, soldiers and hospitality workers to name a few. The service industry accounts for almost 80% of the private sector’s workforce. That translates to approximately 120 million Americans currently working in the service industry. In fact, the service industry is so huge that it accounts for 79.7% of GDP in the US.

Working in the restaurant industry isn’t for everyone and it takes a special type of personality to excel in this industry. Across the span of my career in the restaurant industry the number of people I helped is astronomical. Most of the people I had the pleasure of meeting needed my services at that time of day when the stomach takes over the brain and directs you to the nearest restaurant. Whether you need a drink, a meal, or a friendly social setting restaurant employees are there on the front lines making people happy shift after shift, day after day, year after year. To accomplish a goal of the highest customer satisfaction a restaurant employee needs to provide food that not only provides the necessities to sustain life but it has to makes us happy as well. This is no easy task considering everyone’s individual likes, dislikes, and the fact that it’s almost impossible to make everybody happy.

Working with food and the public you have to take ownership of people’s basic needs to effectively help them find a solution. This is easier said than done. Not everyone is familiar with the basic steps of service that every restaurant employee must follow. That is, greet the table with menus in hand, suggest drinks and appetizers, introduce entrees, check for satisfaction, offer dessert, and bill presentation. There are many more very particular steps of service within the basic steps. For example, a fine dining experience presented by a professional server versus a basic restaurant experience provided by an order taker.

Not only restaurant servers have to deal with the public on a daily basis but bankers, flight attendants, doctors, plumbers, almost every job out there involves dealing with the public. Whatever your job title, if only a portion of your day is dedicated to working with the public you definitely have a few stories from the dark side of the service industry; I’m talking about the nightmare customers. The small number of angry customers that seem to take it upon themselves to make your day miserable. The contagious customer that should be hospitalized but instead shows up to your workplace. The frightfully unorganized and increasingly frantic customer that needs your immediate attention. Customers that are mean, arrogant, annoying, hard to please, unrealistic or all the above. Worst of all, you cannot avoid them because they will find you!

Services can be delivered more efficiently therefore making happier customers if everyone knew more about how services are actually delivered. As a matter of public service it should be the duty of every citizen to work in a customer service related job for at least one 40 hour work week. A real life, first hand, behind the scenes look at what it takes to provide a lifestyle we may have taken for granted. A week would only be a glimpse in the life of a customer service industry employee but would help some appreciate the superhero effort involved in providing a clean and comfortable society. It might even make the world a friendlier place to live. Instead of the customer service industry maybe it should be called the human kindness industry.

The main goal is that we take something from all of this so if I had to summarize this article in a sentence it would go something like this. Eat well, drink well, and be kind to each other because it is food that brings us together from coast, to coast, to shining coast.

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