eating, dining, service, and experience a melting pot

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I’m almost 25 years old. In that time, I’ve put a lot of things in my mouth (what an unfortunate way of wording things). I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing dozens on dozens of different cuisines. Of the restaurants, eateries, cafes, and food trucks I have been to, I’ve had many delectable eats and some not-so wonderful eats. I’ve always wondered about the food industry. How does the magic happen and how do the pieces of the puzzle fit together? What differentiates a good restaurant from one that fails to meet expectations?

That brings me to one of my first questions, which begs to be answered: what is the difference between eating and dining? I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “eating to eat”. I’ve heard that expressed in so many ways. In essence, eating, in scientific (or not) terms, is where food product enters the mouth and goes through the digestive tract. Eating is for sustenance and for getting nutrients; it says nothing about anything else other than those key things and it is generally an emotionless and non-engaging activity. The byproduct of eating, then, is the taste, the smells, it’s effects on the body, and the waste product on the opposite end.

Dining is an experience.

There is a reason people say “wine and dine”. It is more than just fulfilling a natural need for nutrients and satiation. Dining involves people other than yourself. It involves quality food, chefs, farmers, emotions, and a genuine connection to all of these aspects. Taste is important, but so is creativity and atmosphere. Not only is dining about the restaurant, it is about community – the energy community provides, and thus, the level of service.

Mediocre or nonexistent customer service is memorable, but in a negative way. To make an impactful, positive memory, you need to provide a higher level of service. The reason I bring this up is because I just took a part-time job bussing tables and it’s been a learning experience for me in so many ways. I love to try food, especially unfamiliar or “strange” foods. The weirder the better. Although I’ve worked in the service industry for many years, I’ve never worked customer service in the food industry. I’ve only been on the job for about a week, but I’ve learned so much already. I can’t begin to cover all of it in this blog post, but I’ll highlight a few things that struck me right off the bat.

I have a thing for collaboration and teamwork. Ever since I was little, I’ve believed that the power of one can be greatly enhanced simply by working together. When you work as a part of the team, your weaknesses are supported and other people can help you out in those departments. Likewise, your strengths can balance out others’ weaknesses. The restaurant is the same way. Yes, everything has a place and everyone is a tiny cog in a large and well-oiled machine, but without one of the cogs, the machine is in danger of falling apart. That doesn’t mean you can replace the cog though, or take a cog out completely and have other cogs fill in. This is how we adapt to severe challenges. I haven’t experienced this level of teamwork since I went to boot camp 6 years ago. It doesn’t matter your position, your status, or what you know: what matters is that you’re a team and a team will always have your back. Every person is important and everyone’s contribution matters. An individual’s feedback is always considered with open arms.

The restaurant business is hard work. I went through a lot of training to get on track. I mentioned customer service, atmosphere, and the dining experience earlier because I wanted to jump off of that and straight into this: Although I’ve dined in many restaurants, I had no idea what it took – in terms of manpower, energy, and work – to run a successful restaurant. The dedication, team spirit, and selflessness of everyone involved really motivated me to put in 150%. I figured out early in the game that there was always something that needed to be done, there was always something that needed to be prepped, and always something that can be improved. I never knew how tightly-knit we would become in the matter of just a few days. We’re now a family – proud of our product, proud of our values, and dedicated to providing excellent service. We help each other out, support each other, and work toward a team goal – just like in boot camp.

This is something I’m extremely proud of and I’m still learning. There is always something new to learn because you can never learn it all in a restaurant (I suppose you could apply this to life, too). I hope I can continue to explore and find other outlets for my energy. How can I best serve this customer? How can I best present the menu? How can I tell people exactly how fresh our ingredients are? I’ve already started training on how to be a cashier. I’ll have more answers soon. At least that’s the hope.

  • Hannah

    I’m so surprised to learn that you’re that young! Now you’re making me feel old over here, approaching 26 and all… Although clearly I’m not showing my age yet, because I’m still snickering if your opening sentences. 😉 In case I don’t comment before then, happy early birthday!

    • Aww stop it! You’re ONLY 26 years young and I’m glad someone is snickering! =P Oh I hope you do comment before then and I’ll make sure I keep my eyes peeled for your blog. I absolutely LOVE your photos.