How to Kill it at Your New Restaurant or Bar Gig

Starting a new job is nerve-racking and when it comes down to it, it should be. You ought to always be nervous when you’re the new kid on the block, it will keep you frosty and help you do your job to the best of your abilities. This goes for serving and bartending as well. I do not care how long you have been in the industry, you should have some nerves about it. Trust me, it’s a good thing.

It doesn’t matter if this is your first serving job at a chain restaurant or you are moving into your fifth fine dining gig. There is a method to the madness of becoming a valuable member of the team and an overall asset to the business. Here are five things to help you achieve that.

Make your Intentions Clear

This should be the first thing you do when moving into a new spot. Do it in the interview if possible (it should be). Whether you plan to come into a restaurant and eventually revamp their bar program or your new job is going to be a couple weekday serving shifts to supplement your income, you need to make your intentions 100% clear. This will save you from various problems down the line. Think of it this way, if you come in with big plans and no one knows, your climb to the top can be stifled at every turn. Management and owners will simply not know what you really want out of your job and their business. On the flip side, if you do not make it clear that your new job is just a side hustle, you may be given responsibilities you do not want or get scheduled outside your availability.

Note: Please handle this first step with tact. Do not go into an interview saying, “your cocktail menu is garbage and I’m going to fix it as soon as I can.” Make sure you are not stepping on toes or being overly demanding of a job you will only be at 2 days a week. You have to get the job first.

Be as Helpful as Possible

I feel like this should go without saying, but many service industry professionals can go into a job with a sense of entitlement. My dad always told me: in the first few months of a new job do whatever you can to stay busy and be useful, after that you are untouchable. This is absolutely not an excuse to slack off after you have put in some work, but it is 100% true that first impressions last. Go into your new job and clean what has been neglected, help your coworkers at every turn, volunteer for the worst cut duties and help the food and drink runners if your new job has them. Do whatever you need to build a great first impression.

Pick up your Coworkers’ Shifts

One of my favorite things about working in the service industry is the ability to give up shifts to my willing coworkers if they need the money and I want the night off. It gives a certain sense of freedom I could not find in other industries. You will find people asking for their shifts to be picked up at almost every restaurant and bar for different reasons. Some people just want to go to a concert they found out about last minute, sometimes people are sick and need a coworker to cover for them. A lot of the time people are just unbelievably lazy. What I am saying is take advantage of this and be that person. Pick up those shifts and do favors. You will make more money and your new coworkers will have good things to say about you. Not to mention they will owe you some favors if you are in a tight spot.

Get to Know the Regulars

All food and drink establishments have regulars. They are the people who keep the doors open. They pay the staff’s rent and bills with their generous tips. They are the people managers and owners love. It will take some time to pick these people out of the general crowd but when you do make it a goal to get to know them. Introduce yourself by name, always say hi when they walk through the door. Give them the best service you possibly can. If the regulars like you, you will be setting yourself up for a good future with any job.

Get to Know the Staff

Much easier said than done but getting to know your coworkers can certainly lay a solid foundation for your new job. Some places have a very tight-knit staff that can be difficult to become acquainted with. On the other end of the spectrum, you could be working at a place where people are there to work and not make friends, which is completely okay. Either way, do your best to get a grasp on the social nuances of your new job. Find out which staff members have been there the longest and see what has made them successful. Invite people out for drinks after work if that’s your thing. Do your absolute best to integrate yourself into this new staff. Go full Jane Goodall if you must. You will have an easier time adjusting to a new gig if you are close with your coworkers. Plus, you never know who could become a great friend outside of work. I have met some of my closest and most trusted friends this way.

At the end of the day, doing well at a new job just comes down to hard work. If you’re exerting yourself and doing your best you should be just fine. This hard work shouldn’t just stop at your guests though. Sure, every manager or owner is going to appreciate an employee who provides good service but if you really want to be successful at your new job, you need to go the extra mile. Do the things most people wouldn’t do, get out of comfort zone and for the love of God don’t slack on your cut duties.