May: Restaurant Industry Pivots, One Insiders Perspective

I’ve worked in restaurants for over 30 years. I’ve appreciated the accolades I’ve received from guests at the end of a meal, their generous tips and strong ratings on social media. I like giving people an exceptional dining experience. I think that people who choose a career in the restaurant business do it for the flexibility, social interaction or simply financial means. But one thing that joins us together is our desire to take care of people, to show people that great food, service and atmosphere make for memorable experiences. It’s one of most difficult things to deal with right now; the fact we can’t do what we do best. And it’s giving us time to be introspective about our job, regardless of what role you have, from owner to dishwasher. There’s a quote that I love from James Lane Allen who said: “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

So what does that mean for restaurant workers? Where do we go from here?

Each state has difficult choices to make in terms of safety protocols and the health of its citizens. Minnesota says they are getting us back to work on June 1st, albeit in new ways. The majority of us want to go back to work now, not just sit around collecting unemployment (no matter what you’ve heard). I love restaurants, bars, food, wine, and everything they represent. At my restaurant, the staff is a family. I truly love being a great server, when someone writes a review or gives you a sincere thank you for the experience, that’s meaningful. But COVID 19 has changed everything. Now the question is: when we go back, what will it look like? For some folks it might be the only job that works for them right now. But for others, now may be the time to pivot to a new career.

I’m a firm believer that when there is chaos, there is also opportunity.

I made the decision to hire a career coach for a few reasons. First, I have no idea what the future of restaurants will look like. The reality is that the industry will go through systemic changes in branding, business models, food preparation and overall execution of service. That change is worth giving serious thought to.  Second, while I know my skill set would fit certain professions, by using the Career Compass program, my career coach has helped expand what I thought was possible. I personally have never had a professional resume produced for me. I’ve done one myself from templates on the internet, but having a professional career coach do what they do best, is going to help not only my professional prospects, but has also got me thinking about goals beyond employment.

We are certainly facing challenging times in our industry. So we can choose to wait for things to happen or we can choose to be ahead of the game. Strengthen your current position by exploring a new career path and watch how it enriches your life in ways you never thought possible.

Hire a career coach. It’s made all the difference.