The Hospitality Survival Guide: Part One

Choosing the job

For the life of me, I can’t decide whether this is a logical place to start or if it’s actually just a bit patronising. No, seriously, I’ve been staring at one of these blank ‘WordPress’ documents for most of this evening, debating this with myself. Occasionally I’ve gathered the courage to write a few sentences, before deleting them and vehemently denying their very existence. I’ve drawn up a quick dialogue exchange (see below) to help illustrate to you how repetitive and unimaginative my thoughts process has actually been on this subject.

The logical strand of my thought process argues: “Of course this is where we should start this ‘guide’. No one can really benefit from a ‘guide’ if they aren’t themselves within the proper context that said ‘guide’ wishes to ‘guide’ them through. Therefore, and in-keeping with the intentions stated in the introduction of this ‘guide’, it is your duty Adam, to ‘guide’ them into choosing, and ultimately getting, a job within the hospitality industry. Otherwise, what is the point in such a ‘guide’ existing in the first place?”

The (don’t be) patronising strand of my thought process snaps back: “I don’t like how the logical strand of your thought process opened with ‘of course’ and keeps misusing inverted commas. Maybe we shouldn’t start it like this. It sounds like you’re mansplaining your own ideas to yourself.”

So here we are. In this instance the logical strand won out – if it hadn’t, I’d have had to scrawl more crude, barely legible notes over the ones I already have. When all is said and done, that’s simply more work to procrastinate over.

This section, then, shall cover the various places of work that the broad term ‘hospitality industry’ encompasses. You gotta know where you wanna go first, right? I’ll also continue providing little titbits of advice and insight, to further fool you into believing that I know exactly what I am talking about.

Are you ready for some real talk on breaking into the hospitality industry, by a man who literally cannot break free to find employment outwith it? Okay. Let’s get started.

Places of work

People choose to work in hospitality for all manner of reason, and for that reason alone there is a certain camaraderie that develops that I don’t believe could exist in the average 9 to 5 (he boldly claims, having never worked the average 9 to 5). Whether you’ve chosen to work in hospitality to support yourself through study, to supplement your pay as a second income or, indeed, because you actively enjoy servitude, one truth will remain consistent – in this industry, we’re all being shat on together.

More on that camaraderie in a later segment of this ‘guide’ but, bearing this in mind, it’s important to make this experience as painless and / or advantageous to yourself as possible in the first instance. Therefore, your first decision is to choose the genre, if you will, of the hospitality industry that you wish to sign your life over to. Temporarily. Sometimes.

To clarify: if you have a child, or similar dependent, you certainly won’t want to be working a graveyard shift, finding yourself trudging home at 3am, sleeping in the following morning and thus missing their school bus or valuable time with them. Or maybe you would. Conversely, a lot of university or college students choose this type of work for exactly that reason – hours are generally flexible and shifts are often at times that don’t clash with timetables or mean waking up early doors etc.

I would always suggest doing a little background research on the places available to you too. Proximity, travel time, potential contracts and other ‘common sense’ things all have their place, but there are also elements a lot of people may overlook. You’d want to work in somewhere you’d have a drink or meal yourself sure but I’d never ever apply to my favourite bar – why ruin that experience for yourself? Similarly, you shall certainly not be applying for a position in a nightclub that only plays heavy metal / deep house / whatever if you’ve never graduated passed (past?) beyond Nelly’s Suit / Sweat combo (great albums). That’s a migraine waiting to happen.

What I’m trying to say is – take the job satisfaction where you can! Naturally, being choosy isn’t a luxury we can all afford, but for those that do have a little leeway: here is my comprehensive list of the areas of hospitality work you could find yourself in.

Bar

Bars are great: they’re everywhere; they’re hugely diverse both thematically and in clientele (although there is a definite correlation between these two); and their patrons are (usually) in a good mood. After all, they’re all there for a good time – but that depends on your ability to keep the pints / wines / cocktails / gin in stupid oversized glasses / insert latest trend here, flowing.

Perks of working in bars stem largely from alcohol, and the licencing laws (to be discussed in a later section) surrounding this. Most pubs are quiet until the evening time except during holidays and weekends, meaning rotas tend to work to the advantage of those that need the earlier part of their day. Unless you’ve chosen a bar with a late licence – a cocktail bar for example – most then usually shut up shop around midnight or 1am at the latest, dumping over spill on nearby clubs, casinos, kebab shops and taxi ranks. This means there’s still plenty of time left for your own activities; or more realistically after a busy shift, to get yourself home and to bed. There’s also the benefit of choosing to work amidst a ‘theme’ that you like – in which case you’re more likely to hear good tunes, and meet new and interesting people that you actively want to get along and work with.

You’ll notice however that the cons of working in bars also stem from alcohol, and the licencing laws surrounding this. Despite the flow of alcohol directly impacting the merriment of the patronage directly impacting your haul of tips for an evenings work, there is inevitably going to be 2 or 3 (or 22 or 23 in the city centres) people who have a bit too much / get carried away. When people have journeyed to a place solely to be served a bevy, to then have that supply cut off due to their inability to handle it, well then that becomes your problem, for some reason. Some of these instances can be quite entertaining; most can be defused with the right attitude and a firm voice. Unfortunately you will still often find yourself wondering “how did this person get this far in life on their own?”. At the end of the day, some folk are just pricks. Don’t let it keep you up at night.

Restaurant

Again, restaurants are a great choice to explore in your search for employment, largely because of the diversity in menus and clientele. Unless you have opted for a restaurant & bar hybrid, a lot of kitchens tend to close between 9 & 10, meaning that having a night to yourself becomes an even more viable option. I’d have to admit too, that working in restaurants is where I picked up most of this trade: the ability to talk to customers regardless of circumstance or personal situation; different types of meals, how they are prepared, ingredients and allergens etc; what wine or beer or juice should go with what, and most importantly, how to earn the ever precious tip.

Perks of restaurant work then definitely circle around these things: the earlier finish, the increased ‘tippage’, the ability to actively learn on the job, if you’re ready and willing to throw yourself into it.

Unfortunately, like everything else, there’s always a downside. Long hours with the prospect of multiple ‘busy’ periods means even early finishes can be entirely draining. The nature of service in a restaurant means a lot more bending over backward in order to please, even if they’re the most intolerable beings you have ever had the misfortune to encounter. And that’s just considering the customers. Don’t get me started (yet) on the kitchen staff.

Café

Ah, the little sibling of the restaurant, and the closest to a 9-5 you’re likely to get in this industry. Although realistically, it’s more likely to be a 9-7. Despite the rising trend of the ‘café bar’, an entrepreneurial effort to crush the day shift in this industry once and for all, most still operate on early morning to late afternoon timelines.

Cafés are smashing if you’re looking to fill up your days or weekends and earn some decent cash while leaving your evenings free at the same time. They’re generally quite small, usually allowing for a maximum of around 20 – 30 customers at a time, and limited lunch menus or coffee and cake deals make for a fairly hassle free environment.

Be warned though – the older regulars may look cute and cuddly, but if their lattes are anything less than burnt, it’ll be your blood they’re baying for. They’ve given this country too much to be ripped off in such a disrespectful manner.

Hotel

Wouldn’t you just love to take all the pros and cons I’ve talked about in the bar and restaurant sections but make them available to you on a 24 hour basis?!

The availability of hotels to the general public mean that, for you, the hospitality worker, there is always plenty of work to go round. You can dress it up however you want – hotels provide a bed for when the clientele gets bored of drinking and eating, for the most part. Sure you can get some that cater almost exclusively to business men, who want a strong coffee and a decent sized breakfast on their way to work; or better still, those that are basically a box room which all but have a ‘fend for yourself’ poster emblazoned on every wall and the door. You’re still likely to come across more than one person who is expecting just a little bit more than they’re really entitled too.

If you’re set on working in a hotel, I’d recommend at least going for one that offers functions. This spices up the generic ‘serve drink now serve food’ attitudes of restaurants by mixing it up with weddings etc – adding a bit more pzazz to your working life. Such functions usually mean that you can rake in maximum hours over fewer days, leaving more of your week to yourself.

Hotel work is how I cut my teeth in this industry. How I’ve made some of my firmest friends. Despite this, I still would struggle to wish it on anyone.

Venue

Free gigs and events, I hear you cry? What could you possibly find wrong with that?

Actually, very little. Different events mean you’re constantly kept on your toes, and meet new people from various backgrounds almost every day. Huge staff pools mean the same thing, although you’ll quickly learn the areas of the venues you prefer to work, based on both of these elements. Get your face known and you’ll tend to find little perks here and there magically pop up: free tickets to this gig, an easy pass into this event etc. Other than that, we’re talking an almost identical set of pros and cons to the bar and restaurant types.

There are only two real flaws I have found working in venues. The sporadic nature of gigging or conference ‘seasons’ means that one month you could have a huge influx of hours and cash; whereas the following month sees you scraping the barrel of your holiday allowance desperately. Venues are definitely not for those looking to earn a steady, reliable income.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of venue ‘brands’, shall we say, tend to have shady parent companies that enforce the strangest of rules and regulations upon the lower tiers of staff whilst keeping their own affairs tightly under lock and key. If you’re not a fan of having some of the tiniest of these nitpicked, whilst other seemingly much larger issues continue to go unaddressed then avoid, else your blood will boil.

Nightclub

Think bar pros and cons, but a bar that opens particularly late, closes in the early hours of the morning, and has to deal with the incredibly drunk straight off the bat. Add in eclectic mixes of music at eardrum bursting sound levels and bar tops covered in jäger, tequila and a white powder that that guy is still insisting isn’t his, even though his jaw is half hanging off, and you’ve concocted a nightclub using your very own imagination.

Working a nightclub is sometimes worth a laugh, and ideal for students with minimum course contact time. If you don’t enjoy being in nightclubs in your own time, don’t do it even for money. It isn’t worth it. Also, see Venues note on shady parent companies.

Fast Food

I don’t think I admire anyone more than fast food restaurant workers. Dead serious. The mental fortitude it must take to deal with the general public gormlessly ordering big mac meals and complaining that the milkshake machines aren’t working day in day out – and then continue with daily life between shifts like this doesn’t happen to you – is unimaginable to me. I’d be a shell of a man. My hat goes off to these unsung heroes of the hospitality industry.

Being the only sector of this industry I haven’t worked in at least once, I can’t really speak for the pros and cons of this one. I imagine the pros go along the lines of the nature of the work being methodical, almost rhythmic. You’re tasked with a station and as long as yours is going smoothly, hell the whole franchise could burn down around you. You’ve done your bit. The cons appear to be pretty much everything else about working for a fast food restaurant. Especially the ones with a drive thru, or those bracing themselves for a flood of revellers every night. Respect, comrades.

Member’s Club

‘Member’s club’ is the blanket term used to describe golf clubs, sailing clubs, tennis clubs, bowling clubs, masonic halls etc. Pretty much anywhere that caters almost exclusively to a certain clientele. There are some differences to the licencing laws in these places, but for the most part, they’re just bars with a (much) higher chance of catering to a regular crowd. And all the pints cost an extra quid. To be fair, they are great for a party.

Part Two Prelude

I’m very impressed if you made it through that essay in its entirety. Even more so if you did it in one sitting. It took me three to write it.

I was going to include another section on ‘Getting the job’ in this part, however I feel you have all suffered enough, and so I’ll begin part two with all that nonsense. I hope you enjoyed the first of what I feel is ~actual content~ on this blog. Cheers for sticking around!

Back to ‘Introduction’

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