Graphic by Nate Barton
Tucked between the Eau Claire river and the county jail in northern Wisconsin, there lies a place where businessmen, teenagers, grandparents and more gather for a cup of coffee and breakfast. It’s the place that has taught me numerous skills and lessons, and it is the Grande Avenue Cafe.
Food service may not appear to be the most glamorous or advanced job, but the proficiency and skills that go into the industry are character-building. The industry teaches respect, multi-tasking and team work — crafts every individual should build.
I learned to put away my phone during meals. In an era when technology is rapidly growing, tech time is pouring into intimate coffee talks or family brunches. I have awkwardly stood by table waiting for someone to finish their text or Instagram scroll countless times. Serving requires being attentive to costumers; it’s disheartening to watch families or friends who barely speak during a time they are suppose to come together.
I realized that effort is everything, but sometimes there is nothing more you can do. I read articles on how to get bigger tips prior to serving, and on most occasions, the advice holds true. Costumers want to be welcomed, and it is the server’s job to create a friendly atmosphere. But, throughout life, I found people will ignore or be distasteful towards me, regardless of the effort I put in. I kept my head up and kept going.
I formed relationships with unexpected people. Within the cafe, my coworkers consisted of a single-mom musician, a philosophy junkie, and even a personal trainer. Working with those who understand the same stresses and conditions as oneself forms a bond, despite how different appearances seem. I have also been introduced to “the coffee guys,” a group of elderly, coffee-loving regulars whom I am excited to see with every visit home.
Whether it is for a summer, semester or school year, be open to the idea of working in food service. It is one thing to read about the practice and another to truly experience it.
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