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Am I too old to be a waitress?


Kim Shook
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Ok, I am almost recovered from my surgery and thinking about going out to look for a job :sad: . I am so very sick of offices, have no interest in 'selling' and keep looking at people waiting tables in good restaurants thinking that it looks like a cool job. Am I crazy? Thats the first question. The other question, more important, I think ('cause if I AM crazy and I hated it, I could always just quit) is this: am I too old - would anyone hire me? I am 46 years old, female and I look about that. I am a bit overweight still (5'5, 175 lb.). All of my work history has been business oriented. The only restaurant experience I've had was working at a Denny's 20 years ago out of desperation when my daughter was a baby. So, do you think anyone would hire me - NOT at Denny's or Waffle House - or even Applebee's - I mean at a independant, good restaurant - or am I 20 years too late? Thanks, all!

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I've only done it one night for a friend who was short of help at the time, but here's what I'd ask after my one experience, which was when I was about your age (I'm now 53):

How's your stamina? Good circulation? Can you take many hours on your feet/got comfy shoes? Got a great memory? Can you take criticism? Can you handle belligerent drunks/cranky chefs? (Yes, you get them in fine restaurants.)

I'm sure that others who have done this more than one night can offer much more insight, but based on my one night of waiting tables, those are the questions I think you need to think about.

Caveat: I did work in a cafeteria when I was 16. I wasn't waiting tables, but clearing them and then worked my way up to checking and cashiering. Lots of unpleasant stuff, but not terrible. Or maybe it was just that I handled it better when I was 16. :wink:

Edited by Maison Rustique (log)

Deb

Liberty, MO

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Go for it. If you love people, food, wine, the whole hospitality business, you'll love it and make good money. The best servers and bartenders I've ever worked with in the last 20 years were all over 40 years of age. If you have a good sense of humor and not too much ego, GMs will hire you. I know I would. Good luck.

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The industry is starved for good, responsible, mature professionals. Anyone with a solid work ethic (early for work, doesn't call off, doesn't mind working long hours on his/her feet, etc.) and a passion for food & wine, not only can be successful, but will be very marketable and in high demand. Go for it!

I've only done it one night for a friend who was short of help at the time, but here's what I'd ask after my one experience, which was when I was about your age (I'm now 53):

How's your stamina? Good circulation? Can you take many hours on your feet/got comfy shoes? Got a great memory? Can you take criticism? Can you handle belligerent drunks/cranky chefs? (Yes, you get them in fine restaurants.)

I'm sure that others who have done this more than one night can offer much more insight, but based on my one night of waiting tables, those are the questions I think you need to think about.

Caveat: I did work in a cafeteria when I was 16. I wasn't waiting tables, but clearing them and then worked my way up to checking and cashiering. Lots of unpleasant stuff, but not terrible. Or maybe it was just that I handled it better when I was 16.  :wink:

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You are certainly not too old! Don't even think that. At 46 you're in your prime. But, waiting is tough, hard, thankless work except maybe in the finest restaurants and they only hire professionals. What about bartending? You'll get just as much tips but not have to cover as much ground, carry and balance multiple plates, or deal with people's weird food fetishes /complaints. Whatever you decide, best of luck!

Lobster.

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Along with all the other good advice, I'd add that you need to be able to eat shit on a pretty regular basis. If you can embrace humanity, with its wildly diverse characters, desires, and moods, wearing a big smile, you'll get some good tips. If you cannot help but wear your emotions on your face (particularly when your knees, feet, and back are aching), then take a pass. But if you can, the world needs you waiting on tables!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Short Answer: NO, you're not too old, but as someone in your age range, I understand your asking that question. No 46 year old man would ask if he was too old to do anything! You've gotten some great advice here and "what they said." If you show a willingness to do the less-than-cool stuff while you're learning (like being a runner), you'll be sought after.

I hope you post about what happens, and where you're looking.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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No 46 year old man would ask if he was too old to do anything! 

Amen sister!

Kim -- you have nothing to lose by trying. If it works for you, great. If not, c'est la vie. 47 will be coming either way, right?

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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I think you may be too old to start .... ok, 20 years ago you worked at Denny's.

If you had experience and were into the groove of being a waitress age your age is not a problem.

Waitressing tends to look fun and cool and like a nice job to do but it really isn't for most people. You have to smile, be nice, run around for hours and hours, your feet hurt ......

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I'll give a different perspective. I opened my personal chef business when I was 51. It's incredibly hard work, physically, but no more so than waiting tables, I imagine. I worked hard, and worked out a lot too, in order to be strong enough. Now, at 55, I have severe tendonitis in my wrists and have had to give up my business. I'm hoping to get better without surgery, but it's not a sure thing. Had I known this might happen, would I have done the personal cheffing anyway? I'm not sure. Right now I can't cook, garden, knit, or carry anything heavy without pain. I sleep in wrist braces every night.

So, my advice is to check in with your body. You only get one. I used to be a lot more macho about that than I am today.

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Oh, this topic is interesting to me! I'm only in my late 20's but I have very little serving experience. It would be interesting to know what a "first timer" could do to win a waitressing job. I'm willing to work chain restuarants first...or start as a hostess.

Kim Shook...I hope this isn't a hijack of your thread.

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While I think that at 47, probably the only thing you're too old for is the Miss America pageant :biggrin: I have one reservation about taking on a waitressing job.

Abra's reply says it all. I'm about halfway between you and Abra, so I feel qualified to raise concerns. How long will you be able to waitress? I think that there's a good chance that the answer is "only a few years", and then you'll have those years invested in getting experience in a job you can no longer do. Will you then find yourself at 55, needing at least 10 years' more work, and not qualified to do anything else? Without knowing your background, it's hard to say. Maybe you have enough other experience that you could go back to something else at that point. But if what you're going back to is office work, your skills will be X years out of date. Software will have changed by then, along with several other things. That could be a problem. And once you hit 50, the more difficult it is to be hired. Obviously, that's illegal, but it's also true.

I also think you should take into consideration the retirement funds you already do or do not have. If building up additional funds for retirement is not an issue for you at this time, that's a different situation than if you need to get serious about socking away some bucks. If your situation is the latter, then unequivocally, my answer is to look for a job with a company that has a good retirement plan, doing whatever you can be hired to do.

Think about this carefully. Maybe try it part-time for awhile, along with a part-time office job. I do understand that you're sick of office work. Before I got my present position, I looked at all kinds of things because I was really, really burned out. But I found a job in a much smaller office than I've ever worked in before, and it's turned out well. Consider doing what you know how to do already, but in a different environment than you've been in before.

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Keep in mind that witressing, done well, is a profession, and you are not likely to start at the top. Even if you get hired by a good restaurant, you'll get the poor shifts and sections. Good servers make it look easy -- so do bad servers, in a different way -- but there are skills and a learning curve, and most of the people going for jobs at the best restaurants are just as devoted to food, wine and service as you are, and have a lot more experience.

To the abra/jgm point, it might be useful to look at serving as an entree into management. In a lot of places it's a lot less lucrative, but it's also a lot less hard on the feet.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Please, dear readers, frankness is solicited, but honesty does not have to be brutal.

While in my early twenties, I moon-lighted a total of thirteen days as a waitress at a place called the Spaghetti Garden. It was a cheap and lousy pseudo-Italian place run by middle-aged guys who tried to date the young waitresses (one succeeded) and hired the kind of kitchen help that ran out to the inner courtyard in the middle of a busy shift to fight with chains. It was not the first time I subjected myself to that kind of experience; I also did the family restaurant thing as a summer job after my first year of college. However, I quit as soon as I raised the extra money I needed to move.

It is taxing, physically, especially when you have to carry heavy trays and not spill pitchers or bottles dashing up stairs to the rooftop terrace. Being busy will distract you from exhaustion and pain, though it won't wipe that expression of worry or annoyance off your face as others have mentioned. At the same time, though, waiting also demands a good deal of mental agility. You have to keep a lot of information in your head, even if you're using a pad to write down orders. You have to develop strategies to balance differing demands of customers at various stages of their meals. You can't leave anyone with a menu for 45 minutes as I once did when I completely forgot that my station had just gotten bigger that night. When you leave the place at 1:30 in the morning, you need figure out what to do about that man who is clearly following you and respond quickly.

A few years ago in Washington, D.C., a middle-aged waiter was killed during a hold-up that went bad. The response in the neighborhood was overwhelming, in part because he was well-known, respected and greatly appreciated for his warmth and professionalism.

Hmmm. Here I go chiding folk for being too blunt and I've turned my own post into something rather grim. What I meant to say is that waiters and waitresses have made their jobs careers and many are respected for how hard they work and how skilled they become, and what they contribute to the lives of others in their community.

Perhaps once you've fully recovered and have begun a job search in earnest you might see if you can do what aspiring chefs are advised to do. Volunteer your services at an establishment that is willing to put in the time to show you what such a position demands. See how it feels.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Sorry to say, but everyone that is saying go for it is lying. Unless you want to go work at a little dive diner and serve eggs all day long you are to old.

I'm not quite sure what kind of responses you're trying to illicit here, and my intentions are all friendly, but I will give you my take on this situation:

Age should never be an issue as long as you are physically and mentally able to handle the duties, stress, etc. There are always exceptions to this rule of course, depending on vocation. I give anyone willing to try something new kudos for the nerve to even admit it. :biggrin:

From personal experience (former bartender), I would rather work with a more mature person with an established work ethic, than with some of the younger individuals there just looking for big tips and when they didn't get them, the whining started. Then came the excuses for wanting to be let off early. I always let them go home and told them they could come back when they were ready to behave and work like an adult.

Kim, I say go for it if you feel you are ready. If you find out it doesn't work for you, at least you can say you tried and had the experience!

Someday the power of human stupidity will be harnessed and the energy crisis will be over.
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Short Answer:  NO, you're not too old, but as someone in your age range, I understand your asking that question.  No 46 year old man would ask if he was too old to do anything!  You've gotten some great advice here and "what they said."  If you show a willingness to do the less-than-cool stuff while you're learning (like being a runner), you'll be sought after.

I hope you post about what happens, and where you're looking.

Please don't attempt to speak for men. I have on any number of occasions questioned the relativity of my age and it's impact on my choices, for myself, and my family. I promise I won't speak for women, but would offer up the male perspective.

Raoul

"I may be old, but I ain't dead"

"I drink to make other people interesting".

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Sorry to say, but everyone that is saying go for it is lying. Unless you want to go work at a little dive diner and serve eggs all day long you are to old.

I'm not quite sure what kind of responses you're trying to illicit here, and my intentions are all friendly, but I will give you my take on this situation:

Age should never be an issue as long as you are physically and mentally able to handle the duties, stress, etc. There are always exceptions to this rule of course, depending on vocation. I give anyone willing to try something new kudos for the nerve to even admit it. :biggrin:

That's the point, though, innit? I'm 47, in reasonable shape, but I know for a fact that the knees and feet are not what they were at 30. I can still go skiiing or backpacking, but that's fun and not something I do five days a week. Age is clearly an issue for any job that offers the physical grind that serving does. Not one that can't be overcome, but one that should be considered.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Never mind the physical aspect, which doubtless would be far too brutal for me personally, but what about the strain of being nice all day? Gawd...I turned 40 and suddenly I want to choke the living crap out of half the people I meet on a day to day basis just because they are rude, stupid or just plain annoying - I can only imagine what would happen if I had to serve them food. There would be bloodshed for sure. Or a fork stabbing incident at the very least.

Having said that - if you are going to go for it, how about working for a nice catering company - cater waiter or whatever they call themselves. That would probably be okay...much preferable (to me, anyway) to working front of house at a restaurant. You'd probably also get to help in the kitchen if you were any good, which would be fun and something you wouldn't get to do in a restaurant.

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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I'm 43, and I'm could not do it. Perhaps not too old, but too set in my ways, too used to paid vacations, too intolerant of 22 year old managers, andd with three teens/twenties kids, too tired of indulge in their whims.

However, its personal. I'm an old 43, you might be a young 47. Anyone who has teenagers is so over the nurture stage IMO.

Edited by Kim WB (log)
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Ok, I am almost recovered from my surgery and thinking about going out to look for a job  :sad: .  I am so very sick of offices, have no interest in 'selling' and keep looking at people waiting tables in good restaurants thinking that it looks like a cool job.  Am I crazy?  Thats the first question.  The other question, more important, I think ('cause if I AM crazy and I hated it, I could always just quit) is this:  am I too old - would anyone hire me?

Kim, to answer your first question, I would say you might be a bit naive. What I mean by that is that you may be looking at waiting on restaurant tables from "the grass is greener on the other side" point of view. Whether it's in the office or in the restaurant, each place has its own set of problems. Each place, unfortunately, has its politics.

Speaking as a 46-year-old man, I know I couldn't handle the physical duties of the job. Let's face it: we're no longer twentysomething any more. But those other servers are ... Do you have the patience dealing with younger co-workers who may be lacking sense? Can you handle thirtysomething GMs who might see you as a threat to their career advancement? Is this reminding you of office work, Kim? Nothing's new under the sun: politics is the same everywhere. It just shows itself in different ways ...

Would anyone hire you? Kim, it depends on the restaurant, the management, its operational procedures, its philosophy. More importantly, would YOU accept them as an employer? Remember, it's a two-way street.

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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I think the straight dope here is that looks matter for foh folks, women especially. People want pretty waitresses. And if you're the best server on the floor, but a big spender businessman comes in, I guarantee you that your manager will pass you over every time. You'll be fighting ageism, weightism, and sexism every minute of every day. That being said, I think that the best approach would be to really seriously dedicate yourself to the study of wine. Make up for what you lack in sex appeal (no offense, but no matter who you are there's always someone younger and prettier) with expertise. Besides, who would you rather buy a $300 bottle of wine from, a mature and confident woman with a lot of knowledge and experience, or some bimbette who's picking up a few shifts while she looks for acting gigs (guys, it's a rhetorical question)? I guess what I'm saying is, don't pick a fight you can't win. Also, I think that while in most restaurants sommelier is a job with a ton of responsibility, usually the physical stress is a bit less. Caveats: It's a boy's club. And, you'll need to bust your ass like you mean it for at least 3 years before anybody's going to give you the time of day. But if you're a great sommelier, that's a career that you can have for the next 10-15 years.....and then there's consulting!

don't get me wet

or else the bandages will all come off

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I'm 43, and I'm could not do it. Perhaps not too old, but too set in my ways, too used to paid vacations, too intolerant of 22 year old managers, andd with three teens/twenties kids, too tired of indulge in their whims.

However, its personal.  I'm an old 43, you might be a young 47.  Anyone who has teenagers is so over the nurture stage IMO.

Hah. One thing I was thinking -- and this comes in part from nurturing (how inexact that word is in describing my relationship with my kids) teenagers, and part from just living through a few decades, I'm actually much more zen with assholes than I was when I was a waiter. I was thinking a propos this thread, at least I wouldn't go batshit with every moron customer if I went back to the business now.

The secret to being a good waiter is to remember that -- contrary to what the customer thinks -- you're running the table, not them. It's so much easier to do that after 20 more years of real life.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I looked into being a waitress pretty seriously last year, actually. I work in financial customer service, so I already know how to "eat shit" as Chris put it. I also have a semi-busy cake and pastry business on the side, but I was looking to supplement my income with a well paying serving job on weekends during the off season for cakes, and would keep the regular job.

I'm all right looking; not a hottie but not a troll either, I'm 33 and I clean up ok when I want to, and I'm in pretty good shape. Previous serving experience is just 4 months when I was 20 in a little upscale lunch spot. However, I know quite a bit about food, and a fair bit about wine.

Guess what? NOBODY at the good places would hire me. No real experience, they said. Apparently you really have to put your time in at chain restaurants before upscale trendy places will consider you. At least, that's what I discovered. And there was no point for me going to work at a place like that because the money wouldn't be worth it, in my case.

I have other plans for my life, but if I was in your shoes looking for a new career, serving wouldn't be it, simply because, what are you going to do when you're 50? 55? 60? What if you don't have the energy to keep up with the job until you're ready to retire, then what?

If you really like the idea of serving, I'd still recommend you go for it, just don't quit your day job. Maybe you will land the crappy shifts in an upscale place, but there's still more money to be made there on a Tuesday than at a hectic chain restaurant on its busiest night, I think.

....And I really like skye's suggestion to consider training for a position with wine... it may take a long time to get there but there's definitely great money in it, and respect as well.

I most certainly agree that office jobs suck.... I cannot wait til the day I can quit for good. Best of luck with whatever you decide to do. :smile:

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Oh, this topic is interesting to me! I'm only in my late 20's but I have very little serving experience. It would be interesting to know what a "first timer" could do to win a waitressing job. I'm willing to work chain restuarants first...or start as a hostess.

Kim Shook...I hope this isn't a hijack of your thread.

Jasmine....

The industry in Vancouver is starved of servers wth a passion for food and wine (you're on e-gullet so we know you like food and drink :smile: ) and alot of restaurant managers/chefs/ and owners read these pages. You may be suprised and one day get a pm for an interview :wink: If you want; I can put the word out for you. Passion, a good sense or humour, and food/drink knowledge will open doors. Learning the basics is not too hard. It's a people job. Learning the menu and the pos system are probably the hardest tasks. Dealing with customers...well that's another issue :shock:

Cheers,

Stephen

Vancouver

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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