I graduated college just over a year ago, and ever since, I have been fortunate enough to be working at Toast full-time.
There are plenty of things I have happily forgotten about my life before now, but one thing I have not forgotten is the time I spent working in one of my hometown's favorite pizzerias.
On the morning of July 3rd this year, I found myself with the day off and little to do. Next thing I knew, my boss from the pizzeria asked if I was around to help out with the dinner shift.
It was my hometown's night for fireworks and the restaurant is located in a plaza with a perfect view of the spectacle. Even though I've moved out, I live less than an hour from the restaurant.
Without a second thought, I told him I'd be there.
Within minutes of throwing back on my branded t-shirt and stepping behind the counter, I was overwhelmed with everything that I realized I had forgotten about this place. Specifically, I forgot how much I missed my time working in the foodservice industry.
Make no mistake - I love my job now! I had just forgotten the things that made me call this pizza place my place of work for six years.
Many people who have worked or do work in a restaurant - myself included - often complain about the usual tropes: long shifts, no weekends, less-than-amiable customers, etc. However, thanks to this blast from the past, I've come up with the list of six things I miss about my days working in a restaurant.
1. The Schedule
Right now, I'm fortunate to work for a company with a flexible hour and time off policy. But still, most Mondays-Fridays from 9-5:30 or so, you can expect me to be in my office.
In a restaurant, that's never the case.
In the course of a week, I could have a Monday off, work all day Tuesday, have a split shift on Wednesday, work Thursday lunch, work all day again on Friday and Saturday, and may or may not be called in on Sunday.
While I was lucky enough to have more input in my schedule than most, this non-traditional schedule gave me more time to sleep in, spend with my friends who worked similar schedules, and enjoy the day in a way most office jobs don't allow - especially over the summer.
Granted, I had maybe four or five Fridays off throughout high school (and got an earful from my boss for taking time to go to my prom and my high school graduation), but there's something exciting about working 40-50 hours a week and always having it be a different lineup.
2. The Smell
Did I mention I worked in a pizza place?
If you work in the right restaurant, that aroma is unbeatable. Nothing's better than freshly-prepped bacon or a pizza right out of the oven.
Maybe it was just because I had stepped back in for the first time in months, but there was something welcoming - even comforting - about that familiar sensation.
3. My Coworkers
Going back to work at the pizzeria was genuinely like going back to hang out with three old friends for the day.
Another rarity about my restaurant job: all of the cooks in back have been there since before I started and are still there. I've known these people since I was fifteen, and so it was great to spend the day with them again.
I read (and write) about the horror stories of restaurants with a turnover of 72.9%, and I'm glad to say the restaurant I worked at fights to beat that statistic.
4. The Free Food
Need I say more?
Once again, I worked at a pizzeria - a pizzeria I frequented long before I started working at it. Before I visited Rome while studying abroad in college, I was fully convinced this restaurant had the best pizza in the world. So let's just say I made the fatal mistake of getting high on my own supply.
And you better believe I did that again earlier this month.
With the owner's permission, of course.
5. The Unpredictability
My job entails a steady workload, a normally predictable schedule, and a pretty manageable work-life balance if I plan my day accordingly. It's not too common where I have seven tasks to do at once and then nothing to do for 45 minutes straight, because in an office you can prioritize and manage your time.
That's not what the restaurant industry is like at all.
Granted, if you asked me about this during a Friday night shift where both phones are ringing, the kitchen is slammed, the pizza oven is backed up, and the store is full of customers either waiting to order or waiting to eat, I probably wouldn't admit to saying I necessarily "miss" the chaos.
But when you're in an office, you don't expect the unexpected or stay on your toes the way you do in a restaurant. Sure, I'm a lot less stressed throughout the day and am consistently productive rather than swamped for some of the day and dozing off during another.
There's just something to be said about the excitement one feels while working in a restaurant.
That deep breath you take when the last customer steps out after the rush? Nothing beats that.
Admittedly, there were some names that would make my eyes roll when I saw them pop up on the caller ID while working the phones, but overall, customers are a unique differentiator when comparing an office job to a restaurant job.
When I went back behind the counter, there were some customers who recognized me instantly. They knew my name, they knew my face, they asked me about my job, and jokingly inquired as to whether or not I had been fired.
Sure, there's no way I could name every single person who has ever come into the restaurant I worked in. Thousands of people over the years came in, grabbed their pizza/sub/salad/whatever, and went out the door after we wished each other a good day.
Still, you never know who will call in for dinner or walk through the door.
While working in a restaurant, I met landscapers, lawyers, real estate agents, soccer moms, and teachers. I've maintained casual acquaintanceships with people I have only spoken to over the phone. Believe it or not, I even met the producer of The Hobbit Trilogy.
The sheer amount of diversity in thought, lifestyle, and background that is represented in any restaurant's customer base still astounds me to this day.
Will you ever miss working in a restaurant?
Not all of us have worked in a restaurant, but a lot of us have. For those of you working in one now, this may not be your permanent career unless you advance to some sort of management or ownership role.
One day - whether it's in a fiery moment of "I quit!" or a retirement after decades of work in the service industry, you will have your last day working in a restaurant.
So my question is: what will you miss most about working in a restaurant? Let me know in the comments!