Notes from a Steno Pad

Posted on November 7, 2011


Last year I found myself working an odd combination of jobs: waiting tables and working in a tax office. I started writing the material for this blog on a slow day during tax season last year. After a few hours, I had filled fourteen pages of notes.

Before I put pen to paper, the ideas for this blog were circling around in my head during my restaurant shifts. Thinking about what I want to write, while doing something else, is usually the start of the writing process. For me anyways.

Since college, I had spent a good amount of time waiting tables, but at my most recent stop, things were really starting to click for me. Most of my thoughts were mental reminders to myself to stay more organized and provide better service. These thoughts, cues, and ideas started piling up.

Not all of them were original or groundbreaking. Some had been mentioned before and were just starting to sink in. One manager instructed that I consolidate my steps. Others talked about sense of urgency and prioritization, but didn’t offer much on implementing those practices into your shift. And I realize these are general topics, which are somewhat obvious or broad compared to some other finer points. There will be more to come.

Nonetheless, many of these details are not included as part of the training, but are offered at other turns. Instead they are mentioned during staff meetings. They are also mentioned during one on one conversations as between the lines suggestions. The information is not always absorbed. Like everyone else, I have been an example of that at times. More so, since this information is vital to the work, I questioned why it was excluded, neglected, or overlooked from the training and development of restaurant staff.

Considering this, I do not believe the existing training is bad or incorrect, but in most cases minimal. As for development, there are talented managers who develop great staffs. There are also talented staff who work hard to develop themselves. I don’t find this the case with everyone. I believe development, like training, is minimal. Having worked in restaurants, I understand why.

Restaurant owners and managers have a lot on their plate. Simply operating the restaurant is difficult, before you start looking at maximizing the potential of the business. After that, properly attending to the training and development needs presents unique challenges, which I could list over several pages. That could also be time consuming and tedious.

That said, I continue to write my ideas down. Why is it that I am still learning new things after waiting tables for 3 years? Why am I surrounded by college-age waiters and waitresses who are really bright, but aren’t really latching on to the job? Sometimes I pass my knowledge on to them. I wonder if I I may have learned some vital lessons earlier if they were presented to me differently.

My goal is to present my ideas to owners and managers for them to implement as they train and develop more talented staff. I believe rewards can follow.

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