Is Your Restaurant Job “Real”?


Can't wait to drop that tray and walk the hell out?

Read on.

After moving to United States in year 2000, my career took a few turns. One of them was joining the restaurant industry. A year in to it, I labeled it as a trap to get out of. 

My industry debut was as a bartender in Brooklyn NY. Bartending led to management; then to ownership of a restaurant/lounge; a corporate management position with a private restaurant group, many start-up assists along the way, and now my own coaching and consulting business.

I asked for my first gig way before I knew what the heck I was doing. I had done a half of a Bartending Course at Riddlers Lounge in The Bronx NY with an entire 15-minute internship under my belt. I got hired on the spot, but "easy" ended there. On-the-job training while learning cultural differences and overcoming a language barrier was no fun. I didn't speak any English just 1 year prior, and here I was learning Patwa at work, since most of our customers were Caribbean. 

A year later, I was managing a different restaurant in Brooklyn. Few months in, I ended up partnering up with the owner, and called the place my own. Yes, it was exciting... until it wasn't. We both knew how to run a restaurant, but neither of us knew how to build a business! I cut my losses and got out before they shut their lights off for good. 

Next move was a corporate management position with a restaurant group. Here, I got to organize my restaurant industry knowledge and put it to test. I learned about franchising, chain operations, multi unit management, budgeting, profitability in restaurants, how to lead a staff of 80 people on any given day, and much, much more. With the big responsibility came a big sacrifice and a bigger payoff. Monetary payoff - yes, but more importantly, personal & professional growth is what made this experience worth every sacrifice, like the 12-14 hour workdays and 9 years of literally sleepless nights. 

9 years in, I knew I could become more and give more. My resignation conversation was exactly that. They say that when growing stops, life stops; this made my decision a no brainer. I walked away from corporate management grateful for the experience, and proud of my own bravery to walk away from the familiar and comfortable. 

Today, I help restaurants elevate their games and stand out in their marketplace, getting them away from average and into excellence on all levels. Having been on every side of the restaurant business, I've developed a third eye and a platform unlike any other to speak and teach from. From in the weeds pulling a line shift, to the pressure of board rooms, to having $100k on the line to make my own business work - I've been there! And I feel you..

When we elevate restaurants, we elevate entire community and we elevate the world. That's why I do what I do. 

Starting out as a bartender, I didn't know what I didn't know. Restaurant coaching was unheard of at the time, and a career in restaurants seemed like a silly idea to me. 

As I took on leadership roles still in my early 20s, I began to appreciate the restaurant industry more. I saw the impact it had on society - not just on guests, but also on employees. 

The restaurant business is the ultimate social business, and it has a direct affect on how people think, feel and grow. 

As a manager, I loved being able to lead groups of people, create profitable changes, teach the skills and mindset needed to succeed, and even figure out difficult customer situations. 

 As a coach and consultant, reviving restaurants and giving a new life to those who are so greatly invested in them is the biggest pay off for me. I feel VALUABLE. 

The restaurant industry and it's employees get looked down upon. There is a stigma attached to industry workers. So many outsiders don’t view it seriously - hence the rhetorical “when are you going to get a real job?” question. And soon we start shushing to those raised eyebrows with, “it’s just a side thing,” or, “until i find a way out." Or worse, we play the blame game. I was guilty of the same thinking back in my day, until I gained perspective and saw the bigger picture.

Restaurants are a unique business. All the moving parts of a business machine are under one roof: product creation and development; sales; marketing; distribution; service; management; operations; finances and much more. There is no true outsourcing in a restaurant. As owners, we become all things in our businesses. And whatever we don’t master will certainly have a mastery over our bottom line. As employees, we learn valuable skills that translate to all other areas of our lives: sales, communication, leadership, teamwork and strategic planning to name a few. And, my gosh, hopefully - plain hospitality and kindness!

What we learn in restaurant industry prepares us and what we don’t learn, defines us. 

So, why is there a negative stigma attached to being a restaurant employee? Why is it viewed as the proverbial layover to more prestigious fields? If reality television hasn't done it yet, I'll tell you: there are great heights to be reached in our industry. But celebrity should not be the focus. What should be the focus? Creating experiences, developing people, adding to your community, setting high standards and making a difference. 

For many, the big picture of life is blurry. Many people need acceptance so much that other people's beliefs become their beliefs. Their lives are lived in conformity and they never find their truth. 

Prestige is found through one's courage and self-esteem, not in seeking acceptance. 

I dare you to stand alone for a while, block out the noise, get to know yourself and find what makes YOU feel valuable. Then, go do that thing. Do it fully. Do it with all you’ve got. Do it until. 

You just might find yourself in a restaurant.