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Am I too old to be a waitress?


Kim Shook
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SBonner,

That is what I like to hear! I've worked as a manager in high-end retail for most of my adult life and I have interviewed a lot of potential staff in that field. I was always more interested in candidates who had a spark of passion for the industry than those with years of retail experience. Often, I would eagerly interview people who had worked in food service because I found the skills transfereable. There are a lot of parallels between retail customer service (specifically in an upscale boutique) and food service...but that could fill a different thread.

Any leads you have would be much appreciated.

Edited by JasmineL (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.

First: Congratulations on being able to go back to work.

Second: Condolences on having to go back to work.

What really struck me was that you don't want any part of sales. That's a big part of what servers do. Restaurants sell dining experiences.

If you're physically fit enough to wait tables, you might consider a job in one of the trades. They have apprenticeship programs and when you complete it, they tend to pay a hell of of a lot better than jobs that are in the service sector (or that are traditionally held by women). If you really want the food/bev world, you could become a chef.

Good luck!

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Kim, go for it.

As a career waiter I say don't listen to the "you need to be a hot chick" crap or you need the "physical capabilities".

All you really need is the desire to take a bit of the weight of the world off people's shoulders - to have the inherent desire to show them a little space, peace and sustenance in your company.

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First of all, let me say thank you ALL for your responses. They have all been so thoughtful and thorough and truly appreciated. I am processing all the info you've given me now and will have to decide what to do in the next few weeks. I am still recovering and haven't been released to lift anything yet, so I am still a ways off from having to decide which direction to go in. Thanks again!!

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Kim, I can understand where you're coming from, wanting to try a career in the food industry, and I can also understand rjwong's concern that it might be a "grass is greener" situation. I made a post some time ago at the point when I was probably most embittered about my career change.

I have since left the restaurant industry; too many frustrations and too much tendonitis. I was 25 at the time. In retrospect, I think it really wasn't for me. I was (and still am) too much of an idealist; I guess I expected to work in some magical place where everyone felt as passionate about food as I did. The conclusion I reached is that it's better for me to pursue food as a hobby, where I can have control over the quality of the product. If I had worked in different restaurants/bakeries, it may have been different. On one hand, I feel like a quitter and like maybe I should've stuck it out. On the other, I've sort of realized that I am more cut out for the academic career path I'm currently pursuing.

Unfortunately, as I'm sure you know, work is work, and as other folks have pointed out, there's always going to be at least one part of it that sucks. I am concerned because you said you don't want to sell things - a big part of being a server is selling to the customers.

All that said, if you feel it's something you really want to do, give it a try.

Jennie

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Age only matteres if it hinders your ability to perform the job. Aside from the trendy spots, where is more about looks than service, i've worked with older servers, and frequented places staffed with older service staff(at those places it was about the food , not the social xrays) One of the younger girls I worked with was asked by a insensitve patron what was she aspiring to be when she got older, her response was,"an older waitress". Good service is what its all about.

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The physical aspects all depend upon the kind of person you are. I'm 44 and chubby, but I can run with the kids day in and day out. In fact, I'm better then the 25 year olds cause I don't have the back and feet problems they do at half my age. I buy good shoes, lift smart, work smart, don't abuse myself with too little sleep and too many indulgances.

Although I'm used to standing, walking and running all day everyday my whole life. It doesn't bother me at all, but everyone around me complains that their soooo tired. So you have to know what your body can take. Although I can walk all day, I can't lift and balance trays all day.........just don't have the upper body strength and as I get tired my lifting becomes unsteady. You can't be a whimp, you can't rely on others. They won't support you.

You should consider working at a private club (golf or dinning). They'll appreciate your maturity aspects (able to be consistant) and intelligence. Being a "foodie" is a huge "in" at private clubs. Looks aren't as important there as they are in public places (that tip based on looks). Instead knowing the people and what they like and how to please them will get you the big tips. There are people that make a decent living in the front of the house at private clubs. I've seen some outragous examples of how members take care of their favorite servers. Including all kinds of gift and bonuses.

If you want to retire (stop running/being on your feet), become the locker room attendant. They make more then you'd dare to believe! Do the coat check in the winter and make more then the waitresses.

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  I am concerned because you said you don't want to sell things - a big part of being a server is selling to the customers.

Good point! But remember if you work somewhere where you love their food it's easy as hell to sell their food and drink. Our chubbier waitresses out sell the skinny ones everyday!!! Why? They love the product and have a passion about it, they aren't false sales people. Where as some of our skinny young things don't care about the food or the experience so it's hard for them to "sell" the product. If your just there for the pay check you won't do well.

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Good call on the "private club" suggestion Wendy - there are so many options of where you might end up working - myself, I worked in restaurants and hotels earlier in my career but have now moved on to more...you might say relaxed environments - in the summers I work at a small luxury resort (40 guests max) - it's long hours but not as intense as working in my previous jobs - through this resort I made contacts and work as a butler for a private family over the winter - there are so many possibilities if your interested in fiding them.

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I have thought about this question a lot over the past 24 hours, and this is the best response that I can think of for you:

I don't know for certain if 46 is too old to start a waitressing career, because I don't know how old 46 is for your particular body, your mind, or your personality, but I can give you some advice.

First, do a little research. Watch the movie Waiting, visit websites like bitterwaitress.com and others, listen to people in the industry, hear what their biggest gripes are, and decide if these are job problems with which you can live, comfortably. Get to know people who are doing this type of work, so that you can ask them which places are the best for earning money and being treated well as an employee. If it's at all possible, get your first job at a place where you do not want to stay, so that you can learn everything you need to know, make all of the mistakes you are going to make, and then move on without any real consequences.

In order to get the sweet money job, the one where you don't have to do a lot of crap work, but you still take home a nice income every day, it's a good idea to come up with a story. Everyone is going to want to know why you are changing careers at your age, so your story should go something like this: I had a life-changing event [a car accident, a surgery, a death in the family, a divorce, insert your highly emotional story here, without tear-jerking details] and I suddenly realized that life was too short to waste on pushing papers in a cubicle. I realized that what I really wanted to do was to make people happy by serving them good food, telling them all about the fine ingredients that went into their favorite dishes, and giving them a pleasant experience. Actually, this advice translates well to anyone switching professions in mid-life. Give them your best smile and a good story, and be enthusiastic, and someone will give you a chance. Don't give up if it doesn't work the first time, because you haven't burned any bridges yet.

And I may be entering controversial territory when I say this, but it doesn't hurt to inflate your past experience a bit. You sound quite intelligent, from your posts, so getting the entry-level job at a restaurant is going to be demoralizing and brutal - you don't want to be a busser at the finest restaurant in town, believe me, so it would be better to start as a front or back server at one of the lesser establishments - and if you have a good friend in another city who will commit to answering a phone with a "Thank you for calling [whichever] restaurant! How can I help you?" and then give you a (fake) reference, you will have a leg up. I'm sorry. I know lying is wrong and all, but the restaurant "fraternity" is quite hard to break into, and earning respect from your co-workers as a starting employee is going to be really difficult, unless you pretend that you've been doing it for a little while. The customers can be really difficult, but your co-workers are more likely to break you, unless you have a strategy.

I'm sorry this is so long, and I could even go on further, but instead I'll just wish you good luck. :smile:

Edited to add that, if you want a good job at a nice restaurant, a suit and a printed resume are always a nice plus that states clearly that you take this sort of opportunity seriously. I always do those two things, and it always puts me at the top of the list when managers are considering a new hire. Don't forget to bring a pen for filling out the application, since servers are expected to carry 3-5 pens to work every day, so not bringing one will likely mean that you won't even be interviewed.

Edited by TheFoodTutor (log)
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If it's at all possible, get your first job at a place where you do not want to stay, so that you can learn everything you need to know, make all of the mistakes you are going to make, and then move on without any real consequences.

In order to get the sweet money job, the one where you don't have to do a lot of crap work, but you still take home a nice income every day, it's a good idea to come up with a story. Everyone is going to want to know why you are changing careers at your age, so your story should go something like this: I had a life-changing event [a car accident, a surgery, a death in the family, a divorce, insert your highly emotional story here, without tear-jerking details] and I suddenly realized that life was too short to waste on pushing papers in a cubicle. I realized that what I really wanted to do was to make people happy by serving them good food, telling them all about the fine ingredients that went into their favorite dishes, and giving them a pleasant experience. Actually, this advice translates well to anyone switching professions in mid-life. Give them your best smile and a good story, and be enthusiastic, and someone will give you a chance. Don't give up if it doesn't work the first time, because you haven't burned any bridges yet.

I think these are both good suggestions. I would not have thought of the first one, but I think it's brilliant.

And I may be entering controversial territory when I say this, but it doesn't hurt to inflate your past experience a bit. You sound quite intelligent, from your posts, so getting the entry-level job at a restaurant is going to be demoralizing and brutal - you don't want to be a busser at the finest restaurant in town, believe me, so it would be better to start as a front or back server at one of the lesser establishments - and if you have a good friend in another city who will commit to answering a phone with a "Thank you for calling [whichever] restaurant! How can I help you?" and then give you a (fake) reference, you will have a leg up. I'm sorry. I know lying is wrong and all, but the restaurant "fraternity" is quite hard to break into, and earning respect from your co-workers as a starting employee is going to be really difficult, unless you pretend that you've been doing it for a little while. The customers can be really difficult, but your co-workers are more likely to break you, unless you have a strategy. 

Controversial territory for sure. Two problems here:

1. If you don't have any experience, but are willing to fake it, what are you going to do when they figure it out? If you're really good at observing, and faking from that, you might be able to get away with it. But you'd better be really, really good. Murphy's law predicts that one of your new co-workers will have grown up in the city where your fake reference is from.

2. If you can't pull it off, and they find out, you're not only fired, but your lie will follow you and will make it even more difficult to break in to the new field. If your prospective new boss finds out you lied to get your last job, he/she is going to wonder what other kinds of dishonesty you're capable of.

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And I may be entering controversial territory when I say this, but it doesn't hurt to inflate your past experience a bit. You sound quite intelligent, from your posts, so getting the entry-level job at a restaurant is going to be demoralizing and brutal - you don't want to be a busser at the finest restaurant in town, believe me, so it would be better to start as a front or back server at one of the lesser establishments - and if you have a good friend in another city who will commit to answering a phone with a "Thank you for calling [whichever] restaurant! How can I help you?" and then give you a (fake) reference, you will have a leg up. I'm sorry. I know lying is wrong and all, but the restaurant "fraternity" is quite hard to break into, and earning respect from your co-workers as a starting employee is going to be really difficult, unless you pretend that you've been doing it for a little while. The customers can be really difficult, but your co-workers are more likely to break you, unless you have a strategy.

Just make sure you don't say you worked for Vandelay Industries! :biggrin:

I agree with the food tutor on this one. You worked for a few months 20 years ago, huh? No.... make that you worked at several places over the course of several years 20 years ago. So you're still out of practice, but now you have way more experience, see? Be smart about it and make it very old jobs that weren't high profile. As for references....references should be from recent jobs anyways, not 20 year old jobs. "Sorry, I can't remember who my manager was way back then...." Do you think a restaurant manager is going to track down that restaurant you say you worked at 20 years ago? Of course not....they have a busy restaurant to run and they know the other manager does too. Besides.... they won't be keeping records of who worked there 20 years ago anyways.

I'm not talking about lying for jobs where you need certain certificates or other credentials or education, for that matter...this is waitressing. And as with all "schmoe jobs".... If you're smart enough and clever enough to fabricate and pull of a white lie, you're smart enough to be a waitress.

2.  If you can't pull it off, and they find out, you're not only fired, but your lie will follow you and will make it even more difficult to break in to the new field.  If your prospective new boss finds out you lied to get your last job, he/she is going to wonder what other kinds of dishonesty you're capable of.

If you can't pull it off you didn't get the job, period. The only way to "continue" pulling it off is to remember what you said on your resume in case it ever comes up in casual conversation. Otherwise, how would anybody ever figure it out after she's hired?

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Kim:

Don't watch "Waiting" - I watched it for you and hopefully I will be the last person ever to have that honor - it is cheesy and completely ridiculous - and for the people that thought it was a blast, ask them first if they smoked considerable weed beforehand.

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Just make sure you don't say you worked for Vandelay Industries!  :biggrin:

That's hilarious!

I agree with the food tutor on this one. You worked for a few months 20 years ago, huh? No.... make that you worked at several places over the course of several years 20 years ago. So you're still out of practice, but now you have way more experience, see? Be smart about it and make it very old jobs that weren't high profile. As for references....references should be from recent jobs anyways, not 20 year old jobs. "Sorry, I can't remember who my manager was way back then...." Do you think a restaurant manager is going to track down that restaurant you say you worked at 20 years ago? Of course not....they have a busy restaurant to run and they know the other manager does too. Besides.... they won't be keeping records of who worked there 20 years ago anyways.

We're on the same page, definitely. When you discuss doing restaurant work 20 years ago, mention the fact that you wrote hand-written tickets and hung them, and that you know everything is done electronically with computers now - I'm saying this because I have that exact experience, with having worked in restaurants about that long ago, and then having a gap where I did many other things, and then going back to restaurant work.

The key is not so much to "lie" about your past experience, but to build up what you have done that is relevant to the job. Any employer who has seen you show your talent at "multi-tasking" in the past 4 years is an excellent reference, or any friend who knows you well can also help. Restaurant managers do not have a lot of time to check references, anyway, and I haven't had a single one check any of mine for any job that I've ever gotten, anyway, but I know people who have, and it always helps to know people who can say good things about you.

As far as lying to get a job, and then losing the job because you lied, this can happen, but it is fairly rare. I know of one person who lied to get a sous chef job, and he did get fired, but he was not black-balled at other restaurants in the city, as far as I can tell. And I knew a waitress who got an extremely nice front server job at a prestigious opening of a very expensive restaurant by saying that she worked at Maxim's in Paris, knowing that no one would ever check that reference. Incidentally, she was 43. I told managers that I knew that she was lying, and they told me that they simply didn't fire people, except for extreme situations, and I pointed out that they wouldn't even need to, since I was certain she would quit soon, anyway. And that she would do so by simply not showing up for her shift, leaving them high and dry.

And of course, I was right.

Just don't completely fabricate things that you'd be ashamed to tell your mother you said, and you'll do fine. :smile:

Edited by TheFoodTutor (log)
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Don't fabricate anything. There's tons of people in the world that have alot of knowledge on being a good waiter who'd love to mentor you. It's o.k. to seek someone out on the first couple jobs you work. Who cares what anyone else says or thinks on that topic..........just find a way to gain the knowledge, take it and move on.

I agree with the thoughts of not beginning at your goal job. Give yourself time to learn at places you don't want to stay at.

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I'm suprised more owners didn't respond, as a 46 year old restaurant owner I don't think age has anything to do with it. I have a waiter in his early 50's and he does a great job (we just hired him, but he has over 25 years in the buisness) the key is experience.

Most Fine Dining restaurants will only hire people with good experience (no chain restaurants) and usually there is a night when you "trail" before you get hired, that way they get to see your level of skill and how you carry yourself. It's hard to fake because they test you in different ways. In the case you get hired with limited experience it's most likely to be in a position of limited responsibility "runner" for example. Also waiters in my area make $2.13 an hour, if you work in a good place, that won't cover your taxes, so you need to take care of them yourself either quarterly or a nice big chunk at tax time. Also I'm curious what you think is "good money" , I know waiters in cities like new york that make $80,000 per year and up but the average nationwide is more like $18,000 to $24,000 and most of those "small independant - good places" don't offer health insurance. That comes out of your own pocket, or if you have a spouse, they might have it. Alot of small Fine Dining restaurants are reluctant to hire people with no experience going through a mid life career change because of the time and expense of training a new employee, just to have them decide as you said yourself "if I don't like it I can quit". What they look for is someone who's in it for the "long haul" so to speak, the last thing they want is someone who's trying to figure out what they want to do, be they 26 or 46.

I'm not telling you not to do this, but if you think it would be a "cool" job, it's probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you think this would be a rewarding career.... give it a try, but expect a hard go of it the first few years, yes "years" not months.

To the person that suggested getting into Wine instead, most wine people I know started out as waiters or came from the kitchen end of the buisness. It took years and alot of cash, good wine ain't cheap, neither are the books, and they can only teach you so much. You spend alot of your own money tasting and tasting to develope your palate and then you do it some more with each vintage, and each wine growing region.

Above all be realistic about what you expect from a job and what they should expect from you.

M. Schmidt

Cafe909.com

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I get a kick out of the "patrons look for young hotties" attitude. Maybe in strip clubs!

I also hope you don't lie your way into anything. Fabricate, embellish, pump up ... it's lying, and it's wrong. I hope you respect yourself, and anyone who hires you, enough to be completely honest.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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