5 Things I Learned Working in the Food Industry


My first job was at a family-owned Italian restaurant in Newport Beach, CA called Mama D’s. The whole place was as big as my living room but, while I was a hostess, the restaurant was the #1 rated in America. Boring shifts were few and far between and customers came to us with the expectation of experiencing excellence.

We were not number 1 because it was fancy, and although our food was delicious that was not what we were known for… We were known for customer service. The lessons I learned as a hostess at Mama’s D’s from age 15-17 are ones I apply to my everyday life now, even years later.

Here are 5 tricks of the trade that every woman should know!

1. Find a need and fill it.

Standing around is not an option in the food industry. You need to keep yourself busy at all times. Create a mental checklist of the tasks necessary to upkeep the restaurant (bathrooms, menu cleaning, sweep the front porch, fill waters, etc.) and make sure they are all done before you complain to your boss that you have nothing to do.

Real life: How many times have you sat around thinking, “Ugh… there is nothing to do around here? Well, the food industry teaches you there is always something to do!”

2. Hard work always pays off.

I rode my bike to my interview because at 15, I did not have a license yet. I filled out the application on my own and was so proud that I got the job. Wanting to prove I was worth the hire, I worked my hardest day in and day out receiving four raises over two years.

Real life: Raises ARE possible. If not monetary, you’ll receive more respect, responsibility, and a recommendation moving forward. Let your grit and grace push you through when you think no one is watching.

3. Remembering someone’s name makes a world of difference.

As the host of a restaurant you take the name of the party and ask them to wait or be seated. A “regular” wants their loyalty remembered by acknowledging you know their name by now. It shows that you pay attention and are grateful they keep coming back.

Real life: My Dad is the best I know at remembering names. He taught me a trick. Repeat the name 3x before the encounter is over, “Nice to meet you, John. John, this is my husband, Brian. Well, John, we’ll see you later!” You’ll be shocked at how natural the repetition is and how it makes the name stick!

4. People don’t show up for your meatballs.

This is a catchy phrase the owner of the restaurant used to say before every weekend shift. Maybe you didn’t work in an Italian restaurant, but the point is people are coming to be wined and dined. Meatballs alone do not motivate someone to wait two hours. Give each and every customer the experience they deserve.

Real life: Loyal customers keep coming back because of an it-factor in you. Stay authentic and true to your mission statement because as services and menus change, you’re the reason a lot of people come back.

5. Customers are why the business is possible.

Always, always, always thank the customer so much for coming. No matter if they were the rudest table you’ve seen all night or tipped you $100—thank them. At the end of the day retail, restaurants, and nonprofits are all possible because of the customer! So, let them feel that way.

Real life: Food service, retail, and nonprofits can be thankless jobs. It is easy to shine light in your industry with gratitude! At first it may feel forced from a tired heart, but gratitude is contagious. Put it out into the air and watch it spread.

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