Running a Video Production Business

How Running Food Prepared me for Running my Business

I never wanted to be a waitress.  I was a hostess for a year before my manager asked me get out from behind the hostess stand and get out on the floor.  All of my friends were waitresses, so I knew how stressful it could be.  I was also aware of the money I was missing out on.

So I studied the menu, passed all the tests you had to take and learned the birthday song. The reason you had to take tests…there were certain things you were required to do and if you were “shopped” and you didn’t do those things, it could cost you your job.  Getting shopped means that someone comes in, posing as a normal customer and critiques your performance.  They have guidelines that they are to use, kind of like a rubric.  We will come back to this later.

So it’s my first night on my own, a Friday night, and I greet my first table.  It was uneventful really.  They were nice and very encouraging.  I gave them good service and they left me a good tip.

Fast forward a few weeks later.  My manager pulls me into the office and says, “you’ve been shopped”.  I was so nervous, fearing the worst, but then he laughed out loud.  He said “you failed the shop, but they wrote a book about how great you were!”  I read the short story about myself and recognized the author immediately.  Yes.  My very first table on my very first night as a waitress had shopped me!  Because I had been so nervous, I had failed to offer them a drink from the bar, which you’re supposed to do.  And I wasn’t even going to try to pressure them into a side of onions or mushrooms!  But I had made an impression.  To make a long story short, I didn’t lose my job.

Rarely did I ever really stick to the script (or the schtick).  It felt very rehearsed and fake…and I’m a very real person.  I was more interested in getting to know my patrons…feeling my way around the conversation and offering any suggestions that made sense.  I didn’t try to push the latest bar specials on the older couple that had obviously just finished listening to a Sunday sermon…and yes, I let grandma eat off the kids menu.  My food sales may not have been the highest, but my customers always had a good experience with me, and they kept coming back.  Any restaurant manager reading this might say that I’m not a good sales person.  But they’re wrong.  A good sales person never forces the client to purchase something that’s not right for them.  A good salesperson makes suggestions based on a conversation and observations.

I haven’t waited tables in 5 years.  But I keep those same ideals today.  First lesson learned was to never back down from a challenge.   Had I not stepped out of the hostess comfort zone, I never would have met so many great people and learned the things I learned about myself.  Being a waitress prepared me for the life I have now.  I am grateful to that manager that challenged me.

Second lesson is that sometimes all you have to do is listen.  Listen to what your clients are saying so that you can better meet their needs.  If your clients feel comfortable with you, it will keep them coming back.  While my food sales may have been low, my tips were high.  And my customers kept coming back.  A customer with a good experience that develops a loyalty for your product, is much more profitable than a customer with a bad experience that never darkens your doors again.