Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Job Files: Hostess with the Mostess

In honor of the summer, each week we take turns to recount a summer job we had back in the day. [Editor's Note: Back in the day refers to when we were in].

The summer before my sophomore year of college I wasn't satisfied with having just one job. I already wrote about my days as a camp counselor, but what I failed to mention was that one of those summers I had not one, but three jobs. Yea, I was an overachiever (if by overachiever you mean I really needed money to buy alcohol and outfits to wear while drinking alcohol).

One of those 3 jobs was working as a hostess at the restaurant Mirabelle at Ravinia Festival. Quick background: Ravinia is an outdoor music pavilion that is only open during the summer and is super, super popular in Chicago. People trek out to the burbs to see acts here because not only can you sit on the lawn, eat a little picnic and listen to music, but Ravinia also gets sick music acts (like this year Carrie Underwood is coming!). In addition to the lawn seats, there is also an actual stage with stadium seating available, so people who come to actually view the musical acts usually want to go somewhere to have a sit down dinner and Mirabelle is usually where they end up (since at the time it was the only sit down restaurant in the park).

It was a perfect gig for me because I worked in the mornings at camp and then would go home, change into my uniform, and drive my ass to my next job. So ultimately I ended up working a 6 hour shift at camp, get a little break, and then work a 8 or 9 hour shift as a hostess.

I had great expectations for this job. I had always wanted to work in a restaurant - I think mainly because on TV it was always the job of some teenage character. So I thought I would be making lots of friends, possibly meeting a boy who I could have some summer fling with, and I got nada of that.

Most of the kids that worked at Mirabelle were a lot older than me - almost all the servers were over 21 so they could serve alcohol which means they were seniors in college or in grad school (some were even in law school or medical school), so they really didn't want to hang out with my 18-year-old self (and because I was underage I was rarely invited to parties or to hang out after work). I also didn't realize that in the food chain of restaurants, or at least the one I worked at, hostesses were pretty low on the totem pole. So I ended up being friends strictly with the other hostesses. But we really weren't that close, especially when I realized they were all brownosers because they wanted to be promoted to waitressing.

Also, I didn't realize being a hostess is hard work. Since we had a bigger outdoor seating area than indoor, when it rained people got wet. And then they complained. But on really busy nights we had no choice but to let them sit in the rain and deal with it. Most people had no qualms about screaming at me about where they sat. Not only do we have to deal with unruly customers, but when there aren't enough busboys, guess who gets to help out? And sometimes the other concession stands would need us step in and assist, which means that summer I also worked as an ice cream scooper, coffee maker, and helped hand out greasy food.

Customers also didn't mind screaming about their food, their waiter/waitress, or really about people they think are in charge. Us hostesses got the brunt of all the problems. We also got no tips, but sometimes they let us take leftover food from the buffet table home (yay?).

The really only up side to this job was that I got to listen to a lot of musical acts for free. During that summer, I saw the Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones, and Tony Bennett (and others but I can't remember any).

Since then I've never worked in a restaurant again. Though I do really appreciate my servers now whenever I eat out!


Jessie said...

i hated hotessing! but i loved waitressing the best :)

kage said...

I think everyone should work in a restaurant at least once - like a mandatory high school work experience program. Maybe then everyone would understand that servers have sections and hostesses seat you at a certain table for a reason, and that servers are real people with feelings and you can't treat them like garbage!! People might also learn then that 10% is not a tip, it's an insult! Ohhhh man am I glad I will never have to serve again! It was fun, it was stressful, but it's not a position I would ever care to revisit.

Lauren Jade said...

Um....I am pretty much this woman's twin. My sophomore spring I worked as a Hostess in a small Italian restaurant and EVERYTHING she mentioned happened to me. 7 an hour, no tips and alll the BS from everyone. Even waitresses who didn't "Get enough tables". the kitchen staff who would whistle at me and call me Paris "i.e paris hilton". I have brown hair and look NOTHING like her.
I just stopped showing up and will never work in a restaurant again. I don't even put it on my resume because I learned nothing useful.

Constructive Attitude said...

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SarahBeth said...

"I really needed money to buy alcohol and outfits to wear while drinking alcohol." - This was SO me in college. I worked at the Olive Garden for a while and I agree with kage... everyone should work in a restaurant or some similar type of customer service at least once in life. To this day I NEVER treat someone in the service industry disrespectfully because I know exactly what they are going through!

themanhattantransfer said...

My parents recently realized that I never worked in a restaurant or the food industry and were upset- apparently that was supposed to be an obligatory part of my youth.

I think I'm a good customer- I sit where I'm seated and the rare times I have had problems about something, I try to handle them tactfully. I'm sure it's not easy!

A Dilettante's Perspective said...

In my very brief stint as a waitress, I realized that the 10% tips were because I was a terrible waitress and didn't deserve any more. I love that some wait staff think they deserve a 20%+ tip when they are really bad at their job. But the good ones, the ones without egos, the ones that master their jobs definitely deserve much more than they get. Dealing with people and their food is an art that goes under appreciated.

Natalie said...

I was a hostess too!! My goodness it taught me respect for restaurant employees!! Being at the bottom gives you a great perspective.

I also think that everyone should work in retail at least once. I worked the Buckle and Joann Craft and Fabric - and I am so nice to cashiers now!

Lindsay McHugh said...

People think hostessing is easy as and very mindless (and it very well can be at times), but when you're at a busy venue, it can be hell and pretty hard to keep your cool. I wrote up the "ultimate hostess workout" a few months ago while I was working serious overtime to finance my move it Australia. You can check it out here if you want a laugh:

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Magic City College Girl said...

restaurant work is hard. i have worked in a few myself. my fav restaurant job was a choclate/ice cream dessert place. i had so much fun there making desserts. it was hard hard too. it made me want to open my own place like that. someday i will.

Michaeline said...

I'm suuuuper late joining but i just got a job for the summer hostessing and i was trying to figure out what I've gotten myself into. Any tips? Is working the both the and dinner the shift worth the money? Thanks. I'm also heading into my summer before sophomore year.

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Lady said...

I'm very new at hosting and I love it some days, mostly because the people I work with are awesome.

But I am literally the only hostess in the entire place. Like that is total hell. I can't even ask off work because I am the ONLY ONE.

And my boss thinks I'm an idiot, but she can't tell the difference between geometry and physics.

Woman please, I am an educated honors med student, don't treat me like I'm four and point to something on a paper and say "tell me what color this is" in reference to something. I'm not colorblind or dumb.

It's good pay and crazy long work, and the food there is phenomenal, sometimes I get it for free ;)

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