Diary of a Disgruntled Waiter: Now Hiring

by admin on September 28, 2011

Diary of a Disgruntled Waiter

Now Hiring

Getting a job as a waiter/server/captain in New York City has been probably the most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with as an adult. In all the time I have worked in the hospitality industry (all my life if you include my father’s restaurants), I have never encountered such red tape and political bullshit as I have here in NYC. From open calls where your entire day can be spent sitting in a room with about fifteen to twenty other unemployed hopefuls/losers vying for the same position, to having to pound the concrete up and down the island, going from place to place wearing your best “hire me!” face, only to be met with a constant barrage of “Thank you for your time. We’re still interviewing but will get back to you early next week if we’re interested”; the latter said through forced smiles and a sing-a-long tone of “don’t hold your breath, fucker.” With pride tucked between your legs, you actually throw a smile back, desperation dripping from the corner of your lips, praying, no, hoping that they don’t see you as the needy person you are. Oh, and make no mistakes about it, they know how needy you look and sound.

Open calls: when restaurants post on-line their need to fill a certain position or positions by allowing large herds of people to gather all at once at said restaurant, fill out applications, then be seen by an interviewer (mostly, the management of the place) for a quick review of your resume . Open calls are the worst. From Monster to Craigslist, they suck. Nothing says ‘we’ll hire you if you have a pulse’ more than an open call for a restaurant, the exception being new establishments needing quickly to staff their various positions. Most are held in the afternoons after 2p.m (after the lunch rush) and are typically first-come, first serve basis meaning if you don’t happen to come at 1:30p.m., there is a good chance your ass will not be seen until after 3. This really doesn’t help you if you plan on going to another open call in the same day and since most places don’t interview after five (dinner service starts around this time for all of you not in the biz), your chances of making that second one from where you are now on the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side probably ain’t gonna happen. This is why they are ultimately a complete and utter waste of time. Then again, if you’re unemployed, what else have you got to do with your time? Something to think about…

Applying on-line is the number one way that most restaurants in New York City go about hiring their staff. Long gone are the days of walking into an establishment and asking if they are hiring or not (unless you’re Spanish or of Latino descent and seeking a back of the house position. In that case, you can start tomorrow!). This allows the restaurants to screen out only those applicants who on paper (or computer screen) fit into the ideal candidate suitable for interviewing. To get the potential waiter’s attention, phrases such as “BUSY REST. SEEKING EXP. SERVERS!! IMMED. HIRE!!!” or “LAST DAY FOR INTERVIEWS IN LES HOT NEW CONCEPT!!!” litter the classified section on-line of the food/hospitality section of any search engine. But don’t get it twisted; they have ways of screening out even the ones that they do take the time to read be asking for a headshot or picture of the person applying. Yes, the same way actors go to auditions, NYC has conveniently implemented headshots into the application of process so if you don’t look like Ken or Barbie, you’re assed-out of the running. Damn that you have more experience. Damn if you can work until the cows come home. Damn if you haven’t been sick or missed a day of work in six years. You don’t look the part, and consequently, you won’t get the part. A legal form of discrimination accepted and fully practiced as standard operating procedure in a good portion of restaurant groups or mom-and-pop establishments throughout the city.

If you are chosen for an interview, if you interview well and seem to have impressed the interviewee with your charm, experience and charisma, you are not out of the woods yet. No, this is New York City; nothing is that easy. You then get asked to come in for a “trail.” This is where you come in during a shift to be observed in the restaurant while following a trainer or senior member of the wait staff to see if you have the chops to cut it there. It’s only for 3 to 4 hours that you are there, but believe me, you are being scrutinized by the trainer and the management on everything from the questions you ask, to even your body language. It can be a little nerve-racking to someone who isn’t as seasoned or it can be tedious to a “lifer” (someone who has done this type of work all their lives and can’t be taught anything outside of what they already know), but again, a way of restaurants weeding out the weak and only hiring the strongest who will help to increase the profitability of the place. In this practice’s defense, if you made it to a trail, more than likely you are in. I’m about 70% accurate on that one.

The uncertainty of our economy has bought out even more potential waiters/servers into the hospitality field; people who have never worked in such a capacity are now finding themselves with aprons and name tags on as part of their weekly outfits. This has caused an oversaturation of the job market, resulting in even fewer opportunities for the professional waiter/waitress. The struggle for job placement has been intertwined between blue-collar workers (industry workers) and white-collar professionals (anyone not in the industry, but rather a professional in their field) as our rollercoaster economy brings both together, creating quite the competitiveness for a solid job in a well-to do establishment. Add the closing of many popular dining destinations within the last three years (think Tavern on The Green), and the market gets that much more cut throat.

Bottom line: hang on to the job you do eventually land and stay with it despite the bullshit you may encounter along the way. It may not be what you are looking for, but it beats being unemployed and having to deal with the hassle and stress that New York City provides when dealing with job searches and placement. Perseverance is how this game is played out, trust me.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>