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Chips in the Waiters’ Station

Brews, Blooms & Babes

Author: Emily Bain
Photo: Brook James

Emily Bain is a barista and florist living in Melbourne. She is also the founder of Hip Hop & Bloom floristry pop up and writes her own hospitality blog, Chips in the Waiters' Station.

Considering I’m writing this from my bedroom floor, wearing socks with holes in both heels and a jumper I found in a bar (definitely a male’s large), I’m not really sure what gives me the right to offer up my wisdom on motivation. I’m certainly not a success story of getting up at sunrise for a chia pot, a workout and an intellectual commute in a freshly ironed shirt. I literally cannot remember the last time I used an iron and have never in my life achieved anything before work other than the odd day when I somehow manage flawless eyeliner or great French braids. But 8 years, 4 countries, too many pairs of boots, a few workplace romances and the odd glass of wine later, I’ve realised (mostly through trial and error – and ‘fake it ‘til you make it’) that, in the hospitality industry, we all have our own tricks and methods to make it through a relentless day.

It’s no secret that we have to endure hours of listening to the kitchen porters compare history’s best football goals, embrace eating breakfast at 3pm, and suffer through steam-wand burns and creme fraiche smears down our aprons – all contributing factors to the daily battle to stay positive and motivated. So, as a slightly too sarcastic, more-concerned-with-the-current-playlist-than-coffee-I’m-pouring millennial in hospitality, with a firm belief that my opinion is worth broadcasting, I’ve come up with a cure.

A list which I have curated over years of tears in the dry store and chips in the waiters’ station, this guide will get you through the sweatiest of shifts and the general daily grind.

There is definitely a recurring theme of alcoholism, releasing the anger in the walk in fridge and gossip at the waiters’ station, but I have also realised that keeping positive is (although almost impossible at times) a vital part of motivation in hospitality. This inspo isn’t revolutionary nor Instagram worthy #alreadylostinterest but it’s honest – which is sometimes exactly what is needed.  Also, in order to get the most from this advice, you’ll need to start the day with a dirty apron and glimpse of last night’s glitter party in your hair or else it’s not true to hospitality form.

1. Embrace your relationships with the regs. It pays to get to know these guys as they soon become polite and patient (and actually acknowledge when you’re getting slammed) and before you know it they’re giving you the keys to their summer house and bringing you chocolate and whiskey at Christmas time.

2. #squadgoals. Your squad is crucial to your success in hospitality. These guys and girls literally have your back all day every day – be it in the form of a secret Bloody Mary behind the bar or giving you the answers to the surprise test at the staff meeting. They take the table out of your section to avoid you having to deal with ‘old-mate’ who awkwardly asked you on a date, and tell you when your resting bitch face is too much.

3. If you weren’t an alcoholic before you started in Hospo, you are now. The idea of a cold bevvy waiting for you in the staff fridge is more often than not, all the inspo you need. It will be the beacon of light at the end of the day and, (I shouldn’t be admitting this) beer will become your go to meal of choice on a regular basis.

4. Learn to love carbs. Croissants and dry toast become your best friends, and learning how to eat half an eggs benedict crouched down in the bar in 20 seconds is not only a vital survival skill for hospitality, it’s just a great life skill. BONUS: The endless amounts of free pastries to take home for your flat-mates means you’ll never a clean a toilet (at home) again.

5. Hipsters. Love em or hate em, they keep us real and motivated to ensure that the almond milk is free range and the vodka ethically sourced. Always able to count on them to tell you when the aircon is too high and volume too low, the local hipsters constantly remind us that, despite what we think, we aren’t the coolest kids on the block. #lifegoals to aspire to – they are always one step ahead (probably in the latest Yeezy Nikes).

 

6. Become a hero and adopt a martyrish attitude. This belief, that the restaurant will stop without us, spurs us on and means we ‘happily’ commit to a 60 hour week (mostly because everyone else is doing it and you don’t want to be ‘that guy’). No one needs to know that you haven’t had a day off in 3 weeks or a vegetable in 4.

7. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. Because the minute you stop, there will be an online review about it and you will be unintentionally photobombing a brunching ladies’ selfie. And you never know, that photo may come up on your ex’s feed and if that’s not motivation to make sure you’re looking fabulous at all times, I can’t help you any further.

8. Working with a hangover can strangely, be the best form of motivation. You force yourself to work harder and go beyond the norm in an attempt to compensate for the fact that you can’t remember getting to work, let alone the new barista’s name. Also, life hack alert, hangovers actually kick start our thoughts into considering a gym membership. No one is ever more enthused and inspired than when rocking a hangover because all we ever think is ‘I swear, if I ever feel normal again, I’ll give up drinking and become a good person’.

9. Stop working for tips and work for the convo. Coeliacs and vegans aren’t as bad as you think. If you can suffer through the frustrating customer conversations, you may well be rewarded with a great story to tell or hilarious subject matter for your blog. Better yet, you might even get a shoutout on their Instagram (and a few new followers) and let’s face it, we all measure our success on the number of likes we get…

10. And if none of the above works, just remember that McHotty waiting in the bar is watching (and surely it’s no coincidence he is here for the third day in a row), so you better turn on that charm and show ‘em just how positive, happy and friendly you really are.

 

The reality is, we take what we can get in this industry.

Whether it’s picking up an extra shift to pay for last night’s dinner, or a donut for breakfast, we make up for the lack of income, daylight hours and patience in our own ways. So, whether the rap in ‘Shake it off’ is the motivation you need to boost your sass during a shift or maybe you’re more of a therapeutical, polish the La Marzocco spotless kinda guy, embrace it. And if all else fails, Google ‘baby laughing at ripping paper’, it’s all the inspo you need.