I’ve been in the restaurant industry for five years now and ever since my first day starting out as a busser, I knew that I wanted to work my way up to becoming a bartender. For one main reason, money honey. Starting from the bottom meant I had to clean all the disgusting, dirty, crummy tables that no one wanted to clean which really sucks. The positive thing about starting from the bottom is clocking off at the end of the shift with a pocket stuffed full of cash, but not as fat of a pocket as a bartender. My very first shift as a busser I was in training and during training we are not allowed to collect tips at the end of the shift, the trainer gets to keep all the tips. I knew this and was a little peeved, but it was a part of training, so I accepted it. I had just worked a full eight-hour shift on a busy Saturday night. As I was clocking out from my shift looking at my dried noodle, spaghetti stained clothes I notice the bartender dumping out a red bucket full of cash. This bucket wasn’t just filled with one-dollar bills but with ten’s, twenty’s, and a couple of fifties’ and a hundred. I ask the bartender how much she made that night and she replied with “only two-hundred”. Did she just say “ONLY” I shockingly thought to myself? I then asked my trainer how much he made that night and he told me eighty bucks. Eighty bucks is still pretty good on top of hourly pay, but not nearly as good as two hundred. From that night on I knew I had a lot more of filthy tables to clean in order to work my way up to becoming a bartender. Money was the driving force from the beginning, but it turned into much more as the years and the disgusting, smelly, crummy clothes went on.
For sixth months my job was to clean and reset tables as well as run sixty plus pound bus tubs full of dirty dishes back to the kitchen. I happened to be the only female busser there, and when I was hired all my new coworkers warned me how filthy and hard my job would be. Most, if not all of them thought it was too hard for me and believed I would quit, but I made them believe a different truth. One month into my job I showed up to work already tired from the night before and my manager asked to speak to me after I clocked in. My first thought was “oh fuck, I’m getting fired”. Nervously walking up to him I say, “What’s up boss man?” He then replies “I just wanted to tell you that you are doing an awesome job running circles around the boys, putting them to shame. That’s all have a good shift!” I didn’t have time to say anything before he walked away, but I’m sure my surprised face spoke all the words for me. It only took me one month to prove myself and I kept doing it day in and day out for sixth months until I was promoted to a server position.
Being a server meant that I had a whole new task to learn and accomplish. Now that I was a server, I had to deal with customers much more. Not only was I dealing with customers I was handling my own tables and managing my own time. Learning to serve was easy, so I thought. How hard could it be? I take the orders, put them in the computer, get the drinks, guests get their food and I cash them out. Well it turned out to be not as easy as I thought. My first day of training was with my coworker who I knew and loved, Prita. Prita was a very nice older lady with a thick Cambodian accent, she came into work everyday with the most positive attitude. I had to follow her every step and shadow her for my first day. At the beginning of the shift we had only a couple tables, then an hour into the shift we already had six tables. Every table was at a different stage of their dining time. The first table was getting dessert, the second table had just received their food, the third table was waiting on their food, the fourth table was waiting to order, the fifth had just sat down and the sixth was waiting for their check. As we stop for a second Prita turns to me and says “So what should we do next?” Looking like a dear in the headlights I unconfidently say, “Help the guests.” Prita laughs in the sweetest way and says “Of course, but we need to prioritize our tasks and move from there.” She then had me tell her the most important tasks to take care of from first to last and we did just that. By the end of the shift I was beat, not only physically like normal but also mentally. I had to kept up with the guests and all their different demands all shift, every new table meant a new need for something different. Every new table also meant a new tip in my pocket at the end of the night. My tips from being a busser to server doubled and that made me extremely happy, one step closer to becoming a bartender.
It had been three years since my first day in the restaurant industry and I was still a server but had moved to a couple different restaurants. I was working at Red Lobster at the time and was making decent money but still not as much as a bartender. When I was hired, I had expressed my interest in bartending, and they had told me they would keep me in mind if a position opened. Well eventually a position did open, and it was my time to shine. I had mastered being busser and a server as while as gaining experience in the restaurant industry for three years, I felt well equip for the job. Another first day of training had come and my trainer who I also loved was excited to be training me because she knew I was good at my job and was excited to get some new hands behind the bar. It was me and Laura on an early Monday morning opening the bar. The very first thing she says to me as we begin our shift is “Everything you know about being a server doesn’t apply to the bar so you might as well forget it all!” I giggle and reply, “Your hilarious Laura, but I am excited to master the bar.” She then looks at me with a stone-cold face and says, “I’m not kidding kiddo.” Turns out she was horribly right. Our shift was slow, but it gave me time to learn the drinks. I stood in one spot all morning in front of a printer machine that printed receipts of what drinks to make. It was a Monday morning, so I didn’t have much to learn. The printer would print maybe five times in thirty minutes. I learned margaritas, pinacolatos, and a few mixed drinks. Even though I learned those drinks, I made the same drinks all shift. By the end of the shift I already knew how to make all the drinks I learned. This went on for five consecutive days. I trained every morning with Laura and stood in the same boring spot anxiously waiting for new drinks to learn.
My five days of training came to an end and I felt I had learned nothing but a handful of drinks to make. I was already on the schedule for five bar shifts, but they were all night shifts. Nights shifts are extremely different from day shifts because they are ten times busier. That night I was working with two other well-seasoned bartenders who worked fast and knew their shit. They told me I would be working the “well” which is the spot in front of the printer where I pains takingly spent the last five days. As I start my shift, I already have eight plus to drinks for guests already waiting for them. So, I prioritize what drinks to make first. First ticket, tall Bud Light, okay that’s easy pour it from the tap. Second ticket Patron Margarita, okay that’s easy four ingredients, shake and pour. Third ticket chocolate martini, oh shit how do I make that. Fourth ticket, four blended strawberry margaritas and a long beach iced tea. Four tickets in and I’m ready to quit. I had to ask for help from the other bartenders, but they were happy to do so. The night continued like that until closing. At one moment I remember both bartenders had left to grab something from the kitchen, and I was behind the bar all by myself. A guest sat at the bar and I had asked what he wanted to drink. “Can I have an LA Water?” As confident as my well-seasoned coworkers would respond I did the same, “Sure coming right up!” I had no idea what that drink was made of or what it was supposed to taste like. I then pulled out my phone, googled the ingredients, and whipped together the drink. I unconfidently set the drink down in front of him and walk away. “Excuse me, miss?” he shouts. I turn around with a smile and he says, “What’s your name?” I reply, “Lacey sir” He then says, “This is a pretty good drink tastes perfect!” I was so relieved the drink wasn’t disgusting and he ended up finishing it and ordering another. Looking back that moment gave me the confidence to keep the job. From that night on I had to learn how to make drinks and maintain a bar on my own with the help of my smart phone, and some amazing coworkers along the way.
I had been wanting to be a bartender from the very beginning and as soon as I started, I was ready to give up. I was ready to give up making more money for easier work. I had to trust and believe in myself that I could do it. I had excelled in my past two positions because it was hard but easy to learn. Bartending was hard and hard to learn, especially with little training. I ended up keeping and loving the job not because of the money but because of the hard work it took to get there. I learned not only how to bus dirty tables, serve rude guests, make complicated cocktails but that hard work and perseverance brings out the best opportunities.