As some of you may know, I worked in restaurants and bars for years. My very first research article was about doing conventional gender as a tool of resistance in corporate restaurant settings. In fact, one could say I paid for my PhD with pizza, beer, and miles (and miles and miles) walked.
It’s because of my fun history that I always over-tip and am so very sensitive to tales of restaurant woe, especially those experienced by friends I have currently working in that industry. Here’s one such tale…
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Jordan was looking to make change.
Highly smart, highly personable, and highly educated, a series of career experiments had let her know that a conventional office job was not for her. Waiting tables and working in the service industry had thus sustained her through several schools, several states, and several stages of her life course. But creeping up on her mid-30s was letting her know that on-the-floor server work wasn’t something she wanted to do forever, either.
As such, Jordan recently moved halfway across the country, from a freezing cold city to a super pleasant one, for a job as an assistant event coordinator with a large chain restaurant. She was looking to get into targeted, independent event planning. She already had some experience in this arena, and her new “corporate” job would help her develop another significant dimension.
It was a strategic choice. She relocated and began her new job in August, 2014.
Jordan’s new employer – a highly visible chain restaurant – serves over-processed Italian food to the masses. They are 90+ stores strong, with free-standing and mall outlets located across the US. Jordan’s job, which was at a mall store and required a month-long hiring process, was to go out into a very suburban community and convince groups, organizations, and businesses to have said chain restaurant cater their events. She made a small hourly wage that was to be supplemented with commission.
As anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows, a new store (even a chain one) always has huge operational bugs right when it first opens. Nothing goes according to plan. Needless to say, Jordan’s job was a cluster fkkk from the very beginning.
Jordan rapidly devolved from calm and even-keeled to stressed out and freaked out. Over-working during the week, but with little success, she was always popping into the restaurant for a few extra hours on Saturdays and Sundays. She received hideous sales emails from corporate stating: “Such-and-such location [always the most established and profitable] hit this sales number this month – so should you!”
It seemed unreasonable, but Jordan was working herself into a fervor pitch trying to get it together. She was balancing an increasingly pressure-driven situation to make dollars, but with little autonomy within the pre-programmed sales pitch strategy prescribed by the restaurant powers that be. Sadly, this was leaving her little time for anything else in life, be it career or social. And, to add insult to stress-induced injury, the restaurant was constantly misreporting the sales and bonuses she did manage to accrue.
Then, on December 29, 2014, Jordan arrived to work and found her login info on all her work materials mysteriously non-operational. She made all the necessary calls and queries but was shuttled around for a few hours… Eventually, she went into her office, which was just a curtained off area behind the reception podium at the front of the store, and sat.
Right around noon she was called into her boss’ office. She was told to have a seat and listen as a person from some more senior area of the restaurant chain read her termination letter over speakerphone. It wasn’t her, it was them. They were eliminating her position in every mall store company wide, about 25 jobs in all.
Happy New Year.
No cranberry muffins were served in the restaurant in question.
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