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Let's Bust Some Myths | Beyond The Pass

Let's Bust Some Myths | Beyond The Pass

The hospitality industry is home to a myth or two. I blame this on the media’s penchant for romanticism.

But still, you can’t do any meaningful research on what life is truly like on the inside because you’ll inevitably end up reading some fictionalised account of a person’s career, or at the very best, some journalist who’s played chef for a day.

It’s very rarely a real depiction of what it’s really like, day in and day out, for those of us who chose a career in this industry.

More often than not, we’ve been fed a lie.


Myth: hospo staff survive on tips because their pay is so low.

There’s a reason everyone thinks waitstaff work for tips, and that is the soulless drive of the American capitalist machine.

Over in the ‘Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave etc.” they’ve somehow made it normal for the actual business to pay as little of their staff’s wages as possible, and for the diners to pay for the majority of it (on top of their bill) in the form of tips.

This, in turn, has led to everybody assuming that waitstaff the world over are living in abject poverty which, although might be true on occasion, is a myth.

Over here in glorious Australia, we have these things called laws that prohibit anybody being paid less than $20.33 per hour (at the time of writing) which means that if you work in hospitality full-time, like a lot of us do, whilst still not granting you the celebrity lifestyle you so crave, doesn’t leave you begging for tips from people who are already paying for their dining experience.

That’s not to say they don’t exist, it’s just more of a nightly bonus rather than the main bulk of your pay.

And there’s levels to them also. For example, it’s not uncommon for waitstaff in fine dining restaurants to take home triple figures in tips for a single shift. On the flipside, your average barista would be lucky to score that much over an entire week.

Staff Meals

Myth: staff get to eat whatever they want when they’re working.

This one is a little more subjective.

You see, if you manage to score a job working for somebody who actually cares about their employees then yes, odds are that you can eat whatever you want from the menu.

And why shouldn’t you?

I’d much rather my staff taste everything on my menus because it would mean that when they’re asked about a certain item, they can answer more accurately than if they’d only been told about a dish.

I understand not doing this in a large operation, but for most places it’s a savvy move.Feeding your staffI’ve also worked in places where you were allowed a free staff meal on shift, but it was limited to a couple of items. This was also fine—free food is still free food, but it does get a little tedious if you’re working every day.

Finally, there’s the places that charge their staff for food on shift. This is, in my opinion, disgraceful. No matter how they dress it up with discounts, if you’re working long hours on your feet for minimum wage, the least they can do is feed you.

Regardless, there’s very rarely time to actually eat your meal (without feeling pangs of guilt for leaving your team a man short for 20 minutes), so most of our meals are wolfed down as if we were against the clock, or pushed aside because we’re too busy and eaten later, stone cold. 

There is no in between.

Dealing with problematic customers

Myth: don’t be rude to the staff or they’ll spit in your food.

Do any of you realise what would happen if you got caught tampering with a customer’s food?

The council would be around quicker than Usain Bolt and if they didn’t shut you down, the bad publicity would.

In my 15 years working hospitality I’ve never seen anybody even hint that they would mess with a customer’s food. And that’s because, despite what people might think of us, we’re some of the most professional workers out there.

Our products are pretty much an extension of ourselves, and we’re not going to jeopardise that because some Karen threw a tantrum in the dining room.

Even the kids working in fast food wouldn’t dare, not least because of the cameras and the ever-watching eye of their managers. Dirty floors? Less than great lettuce? A slightly passed it cake? Sure. But deliberate tampering? That’s the road of no return.

Workplace relationships

Myth: everybody’s hooking up with each other in hospo

I mean, wouldn’t you? We’re a pretty attractive bunch.

And no, I’m not joking. Think about it, if you were constantly on display at your work, and had to essentially perform each night for a room full of customers, you’d want to look good doing it, right?

And now imagine that you’re forced to spend 8 hours a day working with like-minded people, and then you all get drunk and party together.

There’s gonna be some canoodling.Two workers canoodlingI mean, not all of us do it. I, for one, am married so I always stayed in the corners pretending to be some wise old soul for my weary peers to talk to when they took a break from their debauchery. Saying that, I also used to work with my wife, so I guess I’m guilty on a technicality.

But the fact is that we don’t really have a chance to interact with other people for a meaningful amount of time. Our workmates are the only relationships that stand any chance of development, and it quite often develops into something romantic.


Myth: hospo workers only work there because they’re uneducated

This is the wrongest (is that a word?) myth of them all.

Almost everyone I’ve worked with either had a degree or was studying for one.

I’ve worked behind the same bar with 2 guys who had law degrees. I’ve worked with qualified nurses and people studying in medical school to be doctors. I’ve had staff who were studying things like engineering and computer science. Even I have a writing degree, and I still worked in hospo because I loved it.

Hospo workers are some of the most diversely educated people on the planet, but there’s this stigma that we’re all dumb.

Even the people without a university education are smart. Managing a busy venue is hard and it’s a required skill at every level. 

How would the average person go about remembering every ingredient, and every recipe whilst taking orders, scanning the room for anybody who needs help, or ensuring the kitchen runs smoothly in sweltering heat? 

My guess is they’d be toast within the hour.

The work/life balance

Myth: working in a restaurant is a fun, rewarding job with almost no downsides

Yes and no.

There’s obviously downsides (I’ve written a bunch of them already in this blog), but the same is true in every walk of life.

And it can be fun, if your head is wired a certain way and, luckily for you, there are enough of us with this particular wiring who get kicks out of some truly horrendous things.

But I get where you’re coming from. Every time you see, for example, a baker in a movie, their lives seem goddamned idyllic! They’re working in the cutest little neighbourhood bakery you’ve ever seen, their customers all talk to them like they’re old friends, and even though they’ve baked an entire shop’s worth of treats, and they’re still the only ones behind the counter, they look a million bucks. And after their work is done for the day, they have the most active social life, involving dinners with friends, maybe a trip to casually peruse a local farmer’s market on a Saturday morning? You get the gist.

Damn, maybe I should open a bakery?

In reality, this baker would be almost dead by noon from having to start work at about 4am every morning. They would be sweaty from the commercial ovens they work around for hours and their hair would be, at best, a little ruffled. Their friends might see them on the odd afternoon and they would be working when most farmer’s markets are open.

And similar can be said of the rest of the industry. It’s a slog, most of the time, but that’s also, kind of, the best part.

So, is it worth it?

Are you kidding? Of course it is!

It’s Us vs Them, every shift, and when you get into a rhythm it’s a drug. I’m smiling now as I write this, and I never smile! That’s how good it can be.

It’s just not good for the reasons most people think. Those fictional businesses in the media would go under before they lodged their 1st BAS, their staff would be severely sleep-deprived and the love triangles amongst them would have evolved into love decgons at the very least.

The only myth out there that needs busting is the idea that hospo isn’t for everyone.

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