There are a lot of reasons why I love working in restaurants. I always mention, if asked, that I love the way you get to know the real person very quickly. Under the pressure and stress of a busy shift I learn more about someone (and them about me) in a few hours than I would would working with them for years in another environment.
Another thing I love (I’ve blogged about this before) is the diversity of the employees, the different backgrounds, skill sets and personalities and how they all have to work together equally. But perhaps the thing I’m now most proud of in our industry, I hadn’t actually given that much thought to before.
I was talking to a friend the other day, discussing equal opportunity in the UK and to what extent it did and didn’t exist - probably prompted by an article or interview on the radio. Rightly or wrongly, we came to the conclusion that although equal opportunity is an incredible thing, in reality there are very few industries in which it exists. Although certain industries, and companies, may advertise themselves as open to all, in reality, education, background and appearance were key factors that seem open and close doors.
I’m not saying these industries don’t employ a wide range of people, but the entry points and career opportunities are very much limited by your education, background or appearance - even your sex in some cases.
Then it occurred to me; in the restaurant game there truly is a level playing field. I find it magical when I visit a restaurant and there may be a new KP or runner; the person is usually very shy, with little or no English. I introduce myself, and am usually greeted with a warm smile, and an apologetic attempt to say “hello, my name is…”I go back to the same site six months later and the KP has been promoted to a line chef. They’ve now a good grasp of English. They greet me with confidence and an assured “how are you, it’s been a while”. It’s almost like I’ve met two different people. The change in them over the space of a few months is astounding, for as their confidence grows so too does their personality.
But that person, who came into the business unable to even speak the language, can then go on to be a sous chef, head chef, area chef or executive chef. The opportunity, as long as they’re willing to put the work in, is endless. It’s the same front-of-house too; I know area managers who started as runners. To me that’s true equal opportunities, to be able to employ someone regardless of their previous path in life and then let them decide if they have the will and the work ethic to promote themselves through the company.
There are very few industries that can truly say they provide equal opportunities, but I genuinely believe ours is one and one we should be proud of.