15 Sep To The Unsung Heroes Of Hospitality
Featured Image: West Bay Beach & Golf Club, Famiglia Olivini Wine Dinner
Do all superheroes wear capes and masks? Or are they sometimes hiding in plain sight?
In the midst of COVID-19, it is a pretty grim employment landscape in America and because of this, we try to find positives and silver linings in everything these days. In addition to silver linings, we are also now challenged to forge new relationships (online and offline) as well as find different ways to collaborate and help one another.
One of the most amazing things that America and Italy share in common is an ability to show Forza e Coraggio or strength and courage. There is no other industry that exemplifies this more than hospitality workers.
Some of my best relationships have been formed in the heat of a kitchen, the wet “office” area of the dishpit, the pre-service sidework or even in the thralls of an understaffed night of service working the floor. If done right, working in hospitality teaches you humility and strength; the strength in yourself to pull through, focus and possess an unwavering belief in your fellow team members.
That is a true hero.
A life in top hospitality environments has taught me many life lessons through experiencing both failures and success as well as the importance of teamwork and maintaining a sense of courage every single day. There is no other job that throws you in the fire and at the same time requires you to perform in seconds. It is this ability to overcome adversity that truly demonstrates the leadership and fortitude of hospitality workers.
Some hospitality heroes that come to mind:
Jose, Birdkey Yacht Club, Sarasota, Florida: Jose worked in the dishpit and was always there to help when you were in the weeds, especially if you took the time to speak with him in Spanish and learn about his amazing Mexican family and culture. When you were slammed because you got “double” or “triple” sat Jose would say “I got these dishes, get back out on the floor.”
At the end of service, he would wait on the last plates from the straggling customers. He washed all the pots and pans from the cooks on the line after they had already left. He was normally the last guy out the door with or after the service staff. Jose was the one that politely offered to take out the garbage and even walk one of the young female bussers/servers to her car after a late night.
What was the price of this level of service? A few kind words, making an effort to get to know him and maybe an occasional beer to thank him for working in one of the hardest places in the world.
James, Sankaty Head Golf Club, Nantucket: James was one of the top chefs on the line that would arrive at 9 am and regularly work 14-16 hour days on his feet in sweltering heat.
Smelling of grease from the fryer or pans, smoke from the grill etc., he cleaned, cut, chopped, cooked, prepped and processed food all day so that we would be ready for service at all times.
Line cooks are required to do so much. They recook dishes from servers’ mistakes or to appease a high maintenance guest. These men and women are the unseen and usually unheralded heroes of the symphony which is a restaurant. Many of them smoke and drink to deal with the stress as not many relationships exist when you are working 6-7 days per week for 16 hour days. Yet, they are a fun bunch that have your back whenever you need it and work in tandem with the front of house so long as you recognize their hard work, compliment them on their successes and share a drink or two. They a represent a mix of Ferraris who go fast and are exotic vs. Chevy/Ford work trucks that always get the job done, rain or shine.
FOH (Front of the House): This is the most diverse group of individuals. They are single moms, high schoolers, college kids, career professionals, individuals in between jobs, immigrants and more. They represent your favorite servers, hosts and bartenders.
The front of the house is where an individual’s diplomacy is tested. How a server treats the bartender will dictate how fast they get their drinks and or the willingness of the bartender to go the extra mile to help out when they need it. The servers are the “face” for the entire restaurant and deal with the customers (the good and the bad), the complaints, the lies and all of the compliments as well. This is usually a second job for them and they work into the wee hours of the night to ensure that your dining experience is spectacular. They do this to be paid a few dollars per hour but mainly for your tips…(which they really need). As a guest, the top servers are the orchestrators for your entire night as they work and flourish with all the other personalities to make sure that you leave happy.
The server assistant always appreciates being thanked for his or her hard work; you throw them a few extra bucks for bailing you out when you need it. The host keeps things flowing for everyone, especially their team. They will adjust the floor plan because you’re swamped, but then make it up to you by giving you an additional table at the end of the night.
Bartenders establish that sense of community and know everything about you, your family and your preferences. They are slinging thousands of drinks per night in a sticky environment yet with the poise of a jungle cat who have a quip for every customer and seemingly know something about everything. They are solace for many a clients that wonder into the establishment.
I would be remiss also if I did not thank all the people behind the scenes as purveyors, farmers, wineries who dedicate countless hours of work and travel to help support all of these people in hospitality.
Today, I would like to thank these unsung heroes that often go unrecognized. It is because of you that I and so many others stand here today.
Collectively, we are a more resilient America as a result of these people that represent nearly 15-20 million within the hospitality workforce. Are you needing inspiration from someone? Look towards your local restaurant! Not all heroes wear capes…