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How To Maintain Your Health (And Sanity) Working In a Restaurant

Thank you to Megan P. Howard for this guest post article about how to stay healthy and sane in a restaurant. -BW

 

Hospitality workers are the unsung heroes of the modern world, and I’m not just saying that because I am one. 

Okay, I am, but it also happens to be true. Whether you’re in the kitchen, front of house, or working as a server, your job can be grueling, physically demanding, and often subjects you to some of the worst humans imaginable. 

 

Think a bomb squad member or neurosurgeons have the most stressful job in the world? Nope. Research indicates that low-paid jobs with a high work-load result in a greater risk of heart problems and strokes. The researchers also linked disruptive shift patterns, which are quite common in restaurants to cancer and poor health. Furthermore, they believe people who work in high-stress jobs, take less care of themselves and tend to smoke and drink more.

So I get it. While you’re in the midst of lunchtime madness, it can be tough to keep perspective on your health. But it’s so, so important. Your physical and mental health are key to quality of life. Your life.

Follow these tips to make it easier to stay healthy at a restaurant job.

 

1. Don’t Skip Breakfast

I know clichés are boring, but it turns out there’s something to that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” thing. Shift work isn’t always conducive to healthy eating habits. Make a commitment to a healthy breakfast, no matter what time of day you wake up. As much as possible, keep a regular schedule for breakfast. Stay away from cereal and processed foods. Eggs, fruits, almonds, and other healthy options will give you the energy to face your day, no matter how hectic your schedule.

If you get meals at work, opt for nutrient-rich, fresh meals with lots of greens, proteins and healthy fats. Avoid loading up on “white” carbs such as white pasta and bread, as they can induce an after-dinner dip which wreaks havoc on the rest of your shift.

2. Keep Your Sleep On Track


I am a person who likes my sleep. Seriously, I need my big fancy comforter and at least 8 hours of sleep and three cups of coffee before I’m ready to start my day.

Irregular sleep hours and going without sleep can contribute to everything from hypertension, increased stress and lowered immune system, leaving you susceptible to every sniffle that passes through the restaurant. Adjust your sleep schedule so you can go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. That might mean missing out on your 7-8 hours. So take time to get in a quick nap here and there.

Sleep hygiene is super important, so the goal is to give yourself a regular sleep schedule, no matter how unconventional it is. And if you’re like me, and you know you need more sleep, make sure your schedule allows for it, so you’re not a zombie at work.

3. Keep Moving



When you’re working all day the last thing you want is advice that means spending more time on your feet. But unless you want pressure points and corns, you want to make sure you shift your feet and walk around. A good way to get through it is to make sure you have the right equipment. Get yourself some comfortable shoes for standing all day. If you’re working in front of house, and standing in one place a lot, find ways to walk the floor. If you’re a server and running back and forth is already in the job description? Make sure to take time to sit when you can.

4. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated on the job isn’t always easy, especially in a hot kitchen. Resist the urge to drink coffee, which is a diuretic, and will only dry you out faster. Instead, bring a water bottle to make it easier and more convenient. You can fill up at work regularly. You should also incorporate fresh fruits and veg in your diet to stay hydrated in healthy ways.

5. Practice Mindfulness


Whether you’re a server or a cook, chances are you’re really good at ignoring the signals your body is sending like, “hey when’s the last time you’ve eaten?” or “Ow, the finger I cut yesterday hurts!” We press on and do the job. But too much ignoring your body’s signals can really do a number on your overall health.

And it doesn’t stop there. Restaurant jobs can do a number on your brain as well. With all the crap you get from customers, your colleagues, your manager, topped with a mountain of big and little things you have to keep in mind while working, stuff can get heavy.


A study by Mental Health America showed a correlation between the work environment in the food and beverage industry and a high level of mental health issues. Stress, low pay, long shifts, job insecurity, a toxic work culture, substance abuse and sexual harassment are all factors prevalent in this industry, and detrimental to anyone’s mental health.

Several mental health programs have been launched for hospitality workers, for example: “I’ve Got Your Back” and “Fair Kitchens”. But as long as those programs have not been integrated into daily restaurant life, it’s up to you to take care of you.

Mindfulness can be the first step. By being mindful, you stay in touch with how you feel. If your body hurts or you feel anxious or down, take action. Create pockets of rest or movement for yourself, and speak up about it.

If your lack of breaks is starting to make you forget what it feels like to sit down during an eight hour period, talk to your employer about reasonable break times, so you don’t have to literally starve yourself to work. And yeah, take toilet breaks!

 

6. Get Your Exercise In

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do on your days off is hit the gym. But living on restaurant meals can really do a number on your waistline. As your job is already pretty physical, you want to stay able to lift those weighed down trays. Exercising will also help you get some anger and frustration out, and give you happy hormones.

Instead of doing it because it’s good for you, find fun ways to keep yourself motivated. So how about a Fitbit contest at work? Yoga’s also great when it comes to staying balanced, and “un-cramp” those overworked limbs. So there are definite upsides to regular exercise. Also, you can totally crush Janet from Front of House, who is always bragging on her Fitbit scores.

 

If you like a gentle workout specifically for servers, try this great yoga routine by the lovely (and occasionally hilarious) yogi Adriene:

 

7. Take Care of Life Outside Of Work



Make your life easier by forcing yourself out of the house on those days off. If you’re lucky enough to get two days off a week, schedule one of those days for errands, and the other for socializing.

Give yourself at least one day to reconnect with friends, so they know you’re still alive. It’s a great opportunity to vent about the job and get back to yourself.

Try to cultivate an outside-the-house hobby (Something that isn’t Netflix, perhaps?) to keep you from moping around the house on those few days you have off.

8. Cultivate Work Relationships


Speaking of socializing. It’s really important to develop a good working relationship with your co-workers. Not only are they the only ones who really get why you have a least favorite table, or the sheer horror of that moment when you realize that group of five are just getting appetizers (why do they need to sit here for four hours?!).

But it’s also essential for a well-oiled team. Listen, you’re going to have sick days. And when you do, it’s a good idea to have people you can call. There are going to be days a group of 20 come in an hour before closing, and your co-workers are the only thing keeping you sane.

So do yourself a favor and build a great relationship with the people you’re working with. Sure, there’s a chance you only see them at work, but it turns out, that’s a depressingly large amount of time!

Working in a restaurant a stressful job no matter your position. Shift work takes its toll on your health and the day-to-day stresses leave you exposed to kitchen dangers and rude and aggressive customers. Keeping a tight grip on your health is just one way to ensure you close out your shift with your sanity intact. And if you fail, there’s always steak knives.

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I Just Created the Best TV Show Ever

This week, MTV announced an upcoming show call Ghosted: Love Gone Missing. It’s a docu-series that features two hosts helping distraught individuals track down and confront former lovers, family members or friends, all in an effort to get to the bottom of why these people suddenly disappeared. The show seems a bit invasive and “stalky” tracking down people who bounced out of relationships. Like, I can’t imagine it’s going to give much closure to a woman who finally finds the guy she dated two times six months and finds out why he ghosted her. (Spoiler alert: he just wasn’t that into you and didn’t have the emotional maturity to tell you.)

But this show got me thinking about a much better TV show that all of us in the restaurant industry would watch: Stiffed: Tip Gone Missing. It’s a series hosted by me and I help pissed off servers track down and confront restaurant customers, all in an effort to get to the bottom of why these people who received great service and were totally appreciative suddenly left a big, fat goose egg on the tip line.

Can you imagine how awesome this would be? With the help of detectives and private investigators, we’ll scour the country to find the garbage dumpster people who led us to believe that our service was top-notch and then bailed on us without so much as a 5% tip. The confrontations would be epic.


Bitchy Waiter approaches middle-aged white woman with an “I want to speak to the manager” haircut

BW: Excuse me, Karen? Karen who dined out at Olive Garden on June 12th, 2017, is that you?

Karen: Yes, my name is Karen… what are you talking about?

BW: Does this look familiar?

BW whips out an Olive Garden receipt totaling $68.45

BW: Is this your signature?

Karen: (eyeing the receipt) Yes, that’s my signature, what is this about?

BW: Care to explain this??

dramatic music as BW points to the zero scrawled on the tip line

Karen: Oh, well…uh…I didn’t leave a tip that day because the restaurant was too loud and my baby was trying to take a nap.

Karen’s server, Brittney suddenly appears from behind a hedge

Brittney: Bitch, that didn’t have anything to do with me! I gave you great service and brought you so many freaking bread sticks even though I knew you were putting them in your purse. And then you stiff me?? Naw, bitch.

Karen: Well, you also let my glass of iced tea get too low once.

Brittney: Hell, no. I filled that glass ten fuckin’ times and the one time I let it get almost empty, you’re gonna stiff me?

camera pans over to Bitchy Waiter as Brittney berates Karen in the background

BW: That’s it for this week on Stiffed. Tune in next time when we travel to Kyle, Texas with Robert who wants to know why a certain Mr. Ray Jackson stiffed him six months ago at the Texican Cafe even though he specifically told his server “everything was great.”


Now THIS is a TV show we can all get behind, am I right? Share the hell out of this and let’s make it happen!

This Is Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Kids Be Barefoot in a Restaurant

A woman in Moscow, Idaho learned this week what exactly can happen when one lets a toddler run around barefoot in a restaurant. Mary Jo Foney took her 3-year-old Joanie to lunch at popular area restaurant, Doug’s Donuts Diner. “We wanted to go to the Applebee’s over on Warbonnet Drive, but I couldn’t find a parking spot close to the front door so we gave up and went to Doug’s,” says Foney. Once inside, Joanie quickly removed her shoes and began wandering around the restaurant completely unsupervised. What followed was a true tragedy.

Long time server, Honey B. Adger, knew it was not a good idea. “The moment I saw that little girl throw her shoes off, I knew it was going to be a problem. Them floors are a mess.”

Within two minutes, Joanie got a splinter on her heel from the well-worn hardwood floors. The tyke began crying and went to seek comfort from her mother. As she walked back to the table, her other foot grazed a piece of broken glass that had been there for two days when a bus boy dropped a tray of water glasses. “I saw it there yesterday, but didn’t get around to picking it up,” confirmed Adger. Now, with both of her feet hurt, Joanie’s wailing became louder and she began to run toward her mother. This is when she stubbed her toe on the high chair she had refused to sit in only minutes before. Coincidentally, this is the exact moment that a child at Booth 10 dropped an entire box of Legos onto the floor which Joanie promptly stepped on. As she fell to the ground, a 9″ rusty nail made it’s way into the arch of her left foot.

“I knew that was there too, but Honey B. Adger don’t care.”

By this point, the youngster’s feet are in severe pain. Suddenly, and without warning, someone across the restaurant yelled out, “the floor is lava!” and began counting down. Five seconds later, for reasons unknown, the floor did in fact turn into hot molten lava. The splinter, glass, stubbed toe, Lego injury, and rusty nail were no longer of consequence as the skin on the soles of her feet began to bubble and burn. Unfortunately at this time, a line cook accidentally spilled a box of salt, most of it landing directly in the wounds.

As the manager of the restaurant tried to assist the child, Mary Jo Foney was seen logging onto Yelp to leave a 1-star review. She also requested that her meal be wrapped up to go and that it be comped for her trouble.

Paramedics were called to the scene and the child was air-lifted to St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Boise where she is suffering from third-degree burns, gangrene, tetanus, scurvy, encephalitis, tendonitis, appendicitis, conjunctivitis and an unexplained rash on her neck that may or may not be poison ivy. Says chief of staff Dr. N.B. Carres, “If her mother made her wear her damn shoes in the restaurant, we wouldn’t even be here talking about this right now.”

The little girl is expected to make a full recovery.

A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help with medical expenses. Click here for more information.

Woman Uses N-Word at Restaurant and Is Totally Okay With it

I had no plans to blog today, but sometimes something falls right into my apron just like a piece of ice does every once in a while and I am forced to pay attention to it. I give you Nancy Goodman.

According to WRAL TV in Raleigh, NC, Nancy was none too pleased with two African-American women who were dining at a Bonefish Grill because in her opinion, they were too loud. So Nancy took it upon herself to go tell them to settle down and in the course of not minding her own damn business, she called one of the women the n-word. Of course, it was caught on video because it’s 2019 and if you’re gonna pull some bullshit, racist behavior, you better know someone is gonna record your racist ass.

Once the video made the rounds on social media, WRAL tracked down Nancy to interview her and Nancy doubled down on her behavior.

“I used that word because they forced me into it,” she said. She also said she would use the word again and that she’s not sorry.

That’s where I come in. I want to share the hell out of this video so Nancy will learn that there are consequences to her behavior. Yes, we have freedom of speech in this country but that doesn’t mean that you can float through life and say anything you want without any residual effects of your overall shittiness.

When Nancy chose to use the n-word, she took the situation in a different direction. If she would have called the woman a bitch or an asshole or an ignoramus it wouldn’t have made the news, but she decided to turn it racial. (I also wonder if Nancy would have thought two white women were “too loud.”) 

I hope this video gets shared thousands of times so the next time Nancy is making her way into a restaurant, someone who works there might recognize her as the racist lady from the Internet and decides to refuse service to her. Restaurants do have that option, you know, and that would be just the kind of consequence that Nancy Goodman would understand.

You fucked up, Nancy. And then you fucked up again when you didn’t apologize. I’m sorry you have “tremendous anxiety,” but I hope you enjoy your Internet fame. Consequences!

This Woman Was TOTALLY Not Drunk When She Was Cut Off

As servers, we are responsible for a lot of different things. It isn’t just bringing out a freakin’ hamburger and wiping down tables that we have to worry about, we also have to be concerned about over-serving a customer who can’t keep track of their own alcohol intake. After all, if we over-serve a customer who then gets behind the wheel of a car and proceeds to mow down an innocent pedestrian, it’s not only the drunk driver who can go to jail, the server can too.

That’s why this Yelp review from Carrie L. really gets my blood boiling. On June 1, Carrie went to Gastro Grub & Pub in Waukee, Iowa to stuff her gullet with fish tacos, shrimp and grits, and/or pork belly tostones and in the process she had a drink or two. The host, being a fucking responsible restaurant employee, told Carrie that she had reached her limit with the libations and asked if she needed an Uber to get home. Of course Carrie got all pissed off that someone who wasn’t her mother cared about her safety and well being and Carrie did what any non-drunk person would do and went home and immediately gave the restaurant a one star Yelp review.

Read Carrie L.‘s review of Gastro Grub & Pub on Yelp

“Never in my life have I been told someone is done serving me and asked how I was getting home. I could understand if a customer was being drunk and belligerent, but I definitely was not,” says Carrie.

So now Carrie says she will never go back and she would suggest her friends don’t either. Flash forward seven weeks and Carrie goes back to her Yelp account and posts basically the same review again, this time adding “hopefully you learn from this and don’t ever ask another person these questions again.”

You know what Carrie? Hopefully, the restaurant does ask those questions again, because it’s their obligation to make sure their customers are being served in a responsible manner. If you can’t see that they were doing what they thought was best for you, maybe you had had too much to drink. I dunno, since I wasn’t there, but this is what I do know from my experience:

Telling a customer they are cut off is not an easy decision and we only do it when we feel it’s absolutely necessary. None of us want to go there because it’s awkward, uncomfortable and it pretty much guarantees that we will get no tip or a bad review. If the restaurant staff was willing to take that step into the land of awkward customer experiences, they probably had good reason to do so.

Carrie should be grateful that she went to a restaurant that truly cares about the people who dine there. If the staff misjudged the situation, that’s not a reason to be angry. It’s an opportunity to say thank you to Gastro Grub & Pub for being observant and willing to ask uncomfortable questions in order to make sure a customer can get home safely.

Grow up, Carrie. If you were drunk, it’s fine. If you were sober, it’s fine. It just seems like you got called out and you couldn’t handle it so the only choice you had was to try to shame them on social media with a bad review. Well guess what: I can do the same thing. Cheers, girl.

 

Attention Servers: Do NOT Do This to a Receipt

Every server wants a decent tip. I mean, it’s why we do what we do, right? It’s certainly not for the joy and fulfillment we get from burning off our fingerprints and having the smell of honey mustard permanently embedded into our clothes, hair and souls. We give good service with the hope that our customers will find it in their hearts to toss a few meager dollars our way so that we can pay our bills and maybe have a few pennies leftover to purchase a much needed cocktail.

And then came Emilee, a server in an unnamed establishment who wants the tip just as badly as any of us, but got a little bit desperate for it. You see, Emilee thought it was a good idea to write in a suggested tip at the top of the receipt so that the customer would know exactly how much Emilee thought she deserved. No, Emilee. That’s not how it works.

If a restaurant has a suggested gratuity factored into the bill and it’s automatically printed at the bottom of the receipt, fine. A customer may or may not see those numbers, and if they do they won’t think much about it. However, if the server personally writes a suggested gratuity down on the receipt next to a half-assed “thank you,” it comes across as rude, disrespectful, and needy. I can guarantee you that any customer who sees it will be turned off and may end up leaving less than they had originally planned.

Emilee, here’s why it’s wrong:

  • You’re assuming that the service you gave is worth at least an 18% tip. That’s not your decision, it’s theirs.
  • It makes the customer think that you think they aren’t smart enough to figure out how to calculate 20% of their bill. Never make a customer feel stupid.
  • It’s just tacky as fuck.

Servers, if you’re reading this, please don’t be Emilee. Writing a tip suggestion onto a check is the equivalent of standing next to a four-way stop sign with a squeegee and a bucket of water with a cardboard sign asking for money. Give good service, be polite and earn your tip. If a customer chooses to not leave a tip, don’t dwell on it and focus on your next table. Too many people already look down at us for what we do, so let’s not give them another reason to think we’re lowly beggars. And if you absolutely feel the need to have a suggested gratuity added to the receipt, let the restaurant take care of that so we can at least pretend we had nothing to do with it.