After 6 years of working in advertising sales, I moved to San Francisco and started working as a food runner at a restaurant. I can honestly say it is one of the happiest jobs I’ve ever had. I know that not everyone has the luxury of doing work they love because they have families to support or student loans to pay off, but for anyone who has found joy working on a great team serving great people at a great restaurant, here are 12 reasons why working at a restaurant can be the happiest job you’ve ever had.Shutterstock
1. TEAMWORK. Everyone has a distinct role and responsibility at a restaurant and each role is equally important. Without the line cooks the food doesn’t get made, without the chef the food might not come out right, without a runner the food doesn’t get to customers in time, without a busser the tables aren’t ready for customers, without hosts people won’t feel like guests, without servers, the food doesn’t get ordered, etc. etc. Everyone has an autonomous role and every role fits into the overall goal of serving happy customers. Having a distinct role that you can master while serving and being recognized are keys to happiness.
2. SERVE FIRST MENTALITY. To work at a restaurant you need to demonstrate a serve first mentality. As the saying goes, the customer is always right but at a restaurant this is everything. If the experience isn’t a pleasant one, people won’t come back, they won’t recommend you to others and they will leave bad reviews. Only by consistently working to serve the customer can a restaurant succeed. Adopting a serve first attitude is one of the quickest ways to feel happier.
3. NO ELECTRONICS / NO FOMO. For the first few weeks of the job I had my phone in my pocket and would check it constantly. It became a habit and a crutch that I found myself returning to whenever I was bored. It would also bring up the fear of missing out on somewhere else or waiting to see if someone I had reached out to got back to me. It wasn’t until my boss saw me on my phone and told me he would write me up if he saw it again that I took his advice and now I leave my phone at home. I’ve found I’m more in the present without my phone, I don’t worry as much about what else is going on and generally more things come my way when I’m not obsessing over them. Being in a job where you are disconnected from technology is a sure way to be more present in the moment and that leads to happiness. Let’s replace FOMO with YOLO.
4. IT’S FAST-PACED. At our restaurant, weekend brunch is bonkers. From 11am to 5pm every Saturday and Sunday, the line is filled with tickets. That means you have to be on your game and running the right food to the right person at the right table over and over and over again. It requires patience, quick thinking, quicker feet and a desire to do the job in the right way. This type of work keeps you in the zone or what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly calls “flow” which has been called the secret of happiness.
5. INCENTIVES KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY. The restaurant business is a well-oiled incentive machine. The more people are served, the more people are satisfied, the more they will recommend you to others or return and the more money the restaurant (and you) will make. It is that simple. It requires all hands on deck and everyone shares in the rewards of doing a job well done.
6. IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE. At the end of the day it’s about making the people who come to your restaurant happy. You are constantly meeting different personalities and regardless of what is going on in your life, you never know what is going on with someone else when they are guests at your restaurant. You can’t pick who comes to your restaurant but you can choose to deal with people as best as you can and with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. That attitude is generally met with respect in return and that makes everyone feel happier. And if you are met with difficult customers, it’s good practice to deal with those situations too and to remember that it’s only a temporary situation to have that person at your restaurant.
7. I WORK WITH AWESOME PEOPLE. At our restaurant they hire great people and everyone is on the same page (most of the time) and are genuinely good and pleasant people to spend time with. That camaraderie or culture is invaluable no matter where you work and getting this equation right leads to a much happier work environment where people feel accepted and safe.
8. YOU GET TO EAT A LOT OF FREE FOOD. Pretty self-explanatory. When you work at a restaurant you enjoy a lot of great food and drink on the house. Not a lot of things make me happier then really great free food.
9. EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT. At our restaurant there is an amazing outdoor patio that overlooks the bay and a shipping port. If the weather isn’t just right (and it usually is) that affects how busy we are. You can never predict what type of customers will come in or what mood the Chef’s and employees are in or if you find yourself running food to an important business person or a cute group of girls. In that way, every day is truly different and everyday can be looked at as a new adventure.
10. IF YOU’RE NOT ON YOUR “A” GAME, THE FEEDBACK IS IMMEDIATE. As a food runner, my job is to wait in the kitchen for the food to come and then deliver it to the right person at the right table as soon as possible. There are a lot of moving parts involved with remembering the right seat at the right table when you have stacks of tickets and dishes sitting in the window waiting to be run. If I’m not careful reading the tickets and going in and out of the kitchen without running into the other runners and servers, the wheels stall and things can go disastrously wrong, very quickly. If that happens, the feedback at our restaurant is immediate. The chefs will verbally destroy you and if you keep dropping the ball, you will get fired. It is a simple and direct feedback loop and it keeps you on your toes, putting out the energy of doing the right thing, in the right way at all times. At the same time, if something goes wrong the moment is so fleeting that you can bounce back and do better on the next play. Instant feedback keeps you striving to improve from play to play and that leads to a mindset of constant improvement.
11. IT’S MEDITATIVE. If things are slow at the restaurant and you don’t have your phone, all you have is time for your thoughts while standing in the kitchen and waiting for the food orders to run. At times like this I find my mind wandering the most. This is also a great opportunity to remind myself that I am thinking and usually of the past or worrying about the future, and to simply let it all go, return to the present moment or the here and now, the only place where happiness can ever really exist.
12. I GET TO USE SPANISH. Since studying abroad in college, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to speak Spanish anymore. That’s changed now that I work in the restaurant business. A lot of my friends in the kitchen speak Spanish and while I don’t understand all of it (usually making fun of me I’m sure), I’m using it in conversation every day. Improving my ability to communicate with others in a different language is an invaluable skill and learning leads to a happier life.