If Covid has taught us anything, it has proven that this industry is a cornerstone to the American economy, the soul of the community, and a small business American dream. Out of the 8 occupations hit the hardest, leisure and hospitality jobs saw almost a 12% increase in unemployment this past year. During the peak, 1 in 5 Americans on unemployment, came from the hospitality industry.

A wise old boss used to light up when he would talk about how intriguing this industry is to new hires. It’s so unique compared to other industries. We produce the goods in our kitchen, so we are in the manufacturing business. The guest buys the goods we produce, so we are in the service business. And lastly, and most unique to other industries, the guest consumes the goods in the same place where it’s made and sold. It is extremely complex but we have control over the whole guest experience! Most rewarding, you can tell when you are winning or losing in real time just by walking around the dining room.

So why do people have the perception this is not a real job? I have heard owners, managers, co-workers, friends, and guests make comments that blow my mind. They’ll say, “Suzie is leaving because she got a real job.” Or “When you get your real job, make sure to come back and visit.” Real job?  Real job?  Is this somehow not a real job?

Blood, sweat, and tears, this has been a real job for me. Do you know how many people pay their rent and have shoes on their feet because of this industry? Nearly 15 million Americans work in tourism and hospitality. As leaders, we are responsible for how people feel at work. Every job in the restaurant industry is a real job. If you currently call non-restaurant jobs “real jobs”, please stop it! If you hear other people say it, explain why it is flat out wrong.  Language is important and using this phrase is demoralizing.

As a leader, you need to help people understand why working in hospitality is enhancing their life.  This is not a bullshit sales pitch. Do you wish that everyone worked in hospitality for at least six months? We know what kind of people this industry breeds. If, and when they do leave the industry, the transferrable skills gained will help them outperform their competition.


our people have a wide range of degrees and skillsets

we are more diverse as a team than in other industries…. 4 in 10 managers/supervisors are minorities | 6 in 10 chefs

service is high pressure and provides many opportunities to practice skills

we are conditioned to adapt and have bouncebackability

Sound like a real job yet?

Here are the top 4 skills your staff gain working in this industry

Ability to read people

The rapid rate of meeting new people is impressive and gives us the opportunity to hone this skill with precision. We know when someone is looking for a chatty server or a serious silent server, if people are in fight or even which client needs to be impressed. We are observant to people’s needs. Moreover, we know within seconds what kind of experience the guest is looking for and how to switch from one character to the next to fit the role. Severe social chameleons…. you might mistake us for psychotherapists at any after bar.

Problem solving

Want to find a problem to solve? Walk into any restaurant and they will be waiting for you. They won’t all be catastrophic but they will be relentless, untimely, and wearing on the soul. The good thing is the natural diversity within restaurants teaches the team new tricks all the time. People drawing on their own natural talents and experiences at other restaurants in guest complaints becomes a springboard of ideas for all those involved.

When a problem occurs, the guest doesn’t typically have a lot of time to process and can be irrational and hard to deal with. You need to equip people with a system and a strategy. It is such an important topic we’ll save that for its own blog post…. But there must be a company strategy. Don’t leave them guessing or defending.

Increased salesmanship

Servers are introduced to items they have never heard of or tried and a few moments later are selling it in mouth-watering terms. We often learn by practicing on live guests and normally don’t receive any formal sales training. I learned by listening to other servers and saw what worked. People should feel proud of the sales skills they gain in this industry. This skill can take you to the top of this industry and transfer into many other fields.

Here are just a few:

Build trust with strangers

Set sales goals

Game face in battle

Positive body language

Painting a picture with words

Extensive knowledge of food and beverage products

Enhanced communication skills

Increased mental and physical stamina

Doubles, triples, clopens, 14 in a row, 3 jobs at the same time…. Pretty normal stuff in the restaurant industry. We are bred to beat our competition. We can outwork them… um hello, look at our shoes! And what about our bladders? We might just be superhumans… or at the very least, selfless care takers that could have our own Olympic category:

-no food, water, or bathroom breaks required

-can run around for hours….often on too little sleep and having too much fun the night before.

Mentally, we can dance circles around non-hospitality workers. We are used to things going wrong all the time and develop a natural bouncebackability to hardships. We are flexible, solution oriented, and move on to the next challenge quickly.

Hooray for hospitality! We learn a great deal of transferrable skills working in restaurants. We should celebrate the skills that are worked on every shift and remind people how incredible we think they are.

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