Diatribe With Dave: How to Find Your Dream Food-and-Beverage Job
Let's get something straight: working in a restaurant should be fun. I get it--it's stressful, unpredictable and sometimes downright disheartening. But we're not chained to a desk, staring at a computer. Nor are we driving a forklift, digging ditches or embalming bodies (although embalming can be cool, too). The mere fact that the biz can be so much fun lends itself to employee loyalty and satisfaction. And people rarely show up at a restaurant/bar to be jerks and have a lousy time, except in Corona Del Mar.
A lot of first-timers have asked me over the years about how to not only get a job in the biz but, more importantly, how to get one they love. Ahhh, that's the tricky part. Anyone can land a gig making sandwiches at Subway, but is that really your aspiration? There is nothing better than working in the right shop with the right group of people and there is nothing worse than working in the wrong shop with the wrong group of people.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I worked at a not-to-be named theme restaurant (Medieval Times) that started to run a promotion that was less-than-popular with the crew. It was driving down tips and taking staff morale with it. In retrospect, it was possibly one of the worst situations I can remember as far as esprit de corps in the biz. What was management's solution? Hold a massive meeting and basically tell the minions that whoever doesn't like it can leave--while pointing at the door, no less. A prime example of the kind of atmosphere you want to avoid.
I've been in the business a long time now in one form or another and have seen a lot of poorly prepared applicants with little or no idea what they were doing. I have also seen some really sharp ones that had done their research and showed up with their game face on. If you are getting ready to dive in it's a great time to do so; there are lots of new shops opening up. The most important thing is getting your foot in the door in some capacity and then showing your willingness to learn. So for what's its worth, here's my best advice:
1. Being Open to Possibilities is the First Step
|Photo by Taylor Hamby|
|Positive like her!|
If you wake up every morning with the "Everything is stupid and nothing's ever going to work out" attitude, guess what? I guarantee that's the way it's gonna go down. There are two reasons for this: 1) You are setting yourself up for failure before your little foot-o-mobiles ever hit the floor and 2) Nobody likes being around that kind of energy except people of the same mindset--and people with that mindset generally don't get much accomplished. Be positive. Good energy begets good energy and it's an attractive quality for a potential employer. Smile. Be nice. Everything's easier that way.
2. Pointing Yourself in the Right Direction is Next
|If the boss looks like him, you're in the right direction|
There is a bit of arcane knowledge called the OODA loop, conceived by hotshot fighter pilot/eccentric genius John Boyd and currently used by special forces badasses and gung-ho corporate types. OODA stands for "Observe-Orient-Decide-Act,' I'll spare you the details but if you ever want to read about it it's quite fascinating. The most important part of finding your dream restaurant job here in OC is evaluating your situation (observing) and pointing (orienting) yourself in the right direction. Where do YOU like to hang out? If you have friends in the industry where do THEY work? I guarantee you will be way happier working with people you know at a place you like being anyway. Do you really want to work at the corner fast-food joint where everyone looks pissed-off and miserable? Probably not. Do you want to work at the place where they have a great product/brand and everyone looks stoked? No-brainer, right?. Restaurants that are no fun to work at are owned by lousy, petty people, run by lousy, petty managers, and employ lousy, petty crew. Avoid them at all costs.
3. Put Time into Looking for a Great Job
I thought it was lame when my father told me looking for a job was like having a job. I was wrong. If you are currently unemployed you should be looking/thinking about looking for a job eight hours a day (okay maybe four; go catch a surf). Put down the bong for a bit, you'll do just fine. And online applications are great for an intro but should always be followed up by a personal visit and chat. Additionally, I don't know when or why people started putting headshots on their resumes but unless you're a stripper, don't do it.