Skip to main content

7 Tips for Surviving Your First Restaurant Job

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Jessica has worked at various restaurants and cooking jobs over the past eight years.

Getting your first restaurant job is so exciting!

Getting your first restaurant job is so exciting!

Your first restaurant job can be daunting, but it should also be exciting! Follow these seven no-nonsense tips to not only survive but thrive in your first job in the food service industry.

1. Be Quick but Not Sloppy

If you take anything away from this article, let it be this. Yes, you need to be fast when you are working in a restaurant. Whether working as a server or a line cook, the goal is to get customers their food quickly. However, don't get so caught up in doing things fast that you are not doing them well.

For front-of-house employees, this may mean taking the time to smile and make sure customers have everything that they need, even if you have a list of things in the back of your mind that need to be done! For back-of-house employees, this may look like only starting the number of tickets that you know you can keep up with. If you try to start everything at once, you are going to get flustered, and it is so much easier to make mistakes when you are overwhelmed.

Most customers are reasonable, and they understand if you are understaffed or just slammed. In my experience, they are going to be so much happier with a little bit of a wait and a delicious meal than they will be with getting their food fast but lacking service and quality. Just breathe, smile, and do the best you can.


2. Give Your Coworkers Some Grace

People get grumpy when it's hot, and restaurants are hot all the time. If you see the chefs sweating during a rush and all of the sudden they have an attitude when you ask them a question, it may very well be the heat.

Sometimes normally happy people just have bad days, and they might be a little shorter with you than usual. When you are working with people in such close quarters, it can be easy to take things personally, but for your own sanity, don't.

Does this mean to let your coworkers walk all over you and be rude to you? Of course not! This is just a reminder that everyone has bad days, especially at a super hot, physically demanding job, and most of the time, it doesn't have anything to do with you.

3. Restaurants Have Their Own Language

When you first start working at a restaurant, you may be surprised at all the new phrases you hear. You will quickly learn what heard, behind, 86, in the weeds, 10 top, and many other phrases mean. These little phrases are fun and, more importantly, efficient! It's not likely you will get through a shift without hearing "corner!" or "behind!"

Before you know it, you will be using these phrases in your everyday life, and your friends will be wondering what you are talking about when you tell them work stories.


4. You Will Most Likely Deal With Some Rude Customers

In any customer service job, you are bound to deal with people who are just unpleasant. Sometimes their complaints might be a legitimate problem that you can take care of; sometimes, not so much. What you can do every time is keep a calm disposition, hear them out, and do your best to help them.

Although this doesn't happen often, you may find yourself face to face with a customer who is being unreasonable and cursing at you. In this case, don't be afraid to get your manager! They are there to deal with these types of situations.

Whatever happens, the best thing you can do is to try to give customers a nice dining experience. I have seen cranky tables leave huge tips and friendly tables not tip at all, you never know what people are thinking, and good conflict resolution skills can help a lot.


5. Don’t Take Work Home With You

One of the best things about working at a restaurant is that you don't have to take work home with you. There's no paperwork to be done and nothing you can do for the next day once you are home. Once you are home, you can sit back, relax, and be done. It is awesome.

There is no point in stressing over forgetting to bring someone a ranch, feeling like you didn't cook your best meal, or not being caught up on the prep work. The next day it all starts over, hungry people are fed, prep work gets done, the kitchen gets cleaned, and you get to go home!

6. Stay Hydrated

It is so important to stay hydrated while you are working. Spending hours on your feet while surrounded by fryers, grills, ovens, and a lot of people will definitely dehydrate you if you aren't drinking plenty of water. Keeping ice water as close as you can, or drinking water on your breaks helps.

It is super common to see people drink coffee, red bulls, and other energy drinks on their shifts since restaurant shifts can be very early or very late. This is understandable, but don't forget to drink a ton of water, too, especially if you're in the kitchen!


7. Have Fun!

If the rest of this article seemed a little scary, know that I have so many happy memories in a restaurant kitchen. Restaurant work is tough, but it teaches you so much. You learn to work hard, be part of a team, and really take pride in what you are serving.

You will meet so many interesting people in a restaurant. Your coworkers will often be a really cool mix of people from all walks of life, and you will get to meet customers from all over. You get to be part of people's celebrations; their anniversaries, birthdays, promotions, and more. To me, that is really special.

One of my favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes is, "For me, the cooking life has been a long love affair, with moments both sublime and ridiculous. But like a love affair, looking back, you remember the happy times best."

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Jess H