We asked Abbe Diaz, service industry veteran and author of the infamous blawg/forum PX This, how the former media elite can get jobs working in her world.
ASSME: What advice would you give former journalists and magazine people who are hoping for a new career in restaurants?
Abbe: WORK IT.
Like for example, I know this one prominent restaurateur who was so impressed by this guy’s resum? (former Conde Nast assistant something or other type), he hired him as a “host” to greet patrons at the door (he told me it was refreshing to have somebody “intelligent” for a change).
The resta’teur fell madly in love with him (platonically I mean) and the Host quickly moved into the Executive Managerial Assistant position for the entire company (within months).
Also, rest’eurs are businesspeople and have to slash jobs too. And publicists are expensive. If you were really smart and not a total jerk, you could probably slick your way into an “in-house PR” position in no time.
Or whatever. Just do it for the cash (server, bartender, etc). It’s not brain surgery. All you really have to do is BE NICE.
ASSME: Okay, so def. don’t go into the restaurant biz with your snotty media ‘I’ve rubbed elbows with Frank Bruni, give me a job’ attitude. Having worked both sides of the field, would you say there is a huge difference in the backstabbing that goes on in the blogging world, and the service scene?
Abbe: Yes and no, I think. There seem to be big, famous creeps in both fields, and the clique-ish stuff is very much the same. And they seem to cross over a lot, too. Like– the hotspots need the media and the media needs the hotspots…
On the other hand, I feel like since the restaurant world is a lot more “blue collar,” there’s maybe a different, significant type of pervasive respect that exists within the F&B. The real true “cream” of the F&B are the ones that have always been unafraid to get their hands dirty.
It seems to me the “cream” of the media are those that have never dirtied a pinkie their entire lives. Or at least, the fluffy media I’m most familiar with (I’m embarrassed to admit the war and crimes stuff scares me to death).[And please don’t point out the dangling conjunction or whatever. Oh see, there’s another difference – that kind of thing could never be a “weapon” in F&B. Hahaa.]
ASSME: [ I don’t even know the difference between a conjecture/conjunction is.]
So, faux-pas or not faux-pas for former media folks new to the industry: Copy-editing the menu in big red marker.
Abbe: Hahahahaa. Depends on the menu. If it’s cheap Xerox copy, go for it. If it’s leather-bound hand-printed goldleaf, maybe not so much.
And only take it directly to the owner if you really hate the GM.
ASSME😕 If you happen to be waiting on David Remnick, is it okay to say hi and offer up a quick tot pitch? I mean, this isn’t L.A….
Abbe: Only if you think David Remnick would enjoy the ego-stroking. This is why famous fancypants go to “hot” restaurants to begin with, no?
But be quick (and charming and funny!) about it. His pasta is getting cold in the window, and that would totally piss him off more, probably. Also, don’t get upset if he doesn’t respond enthusiastically. You made him look baller in front of his peeps; he loves it, even if he acts otherwise.
And the only reason you need worry about getting fired over such a thing is if you already really sucked as a waiter anyway.
ASSME: Is there a pecking order at high-end places like Waverly or ____ ? Like, would the coat-check girl have to trip the barback in order to get her job, ala Showgirls?
Abbe: Does having to sleep with the owner count? Ha haah I’m KIDDING. (Sort of.)
The only “pecking order” exists within their own groups. I mean– the coatgirl wouldn’t affect the busboy but the more experienced busboy will totally mess with the newjack. And the status of said experience really counts too. Like, if you’ve worked every hotspot that’s opened in the last 5 years, then you get to tromp all over the 10 year veteran from T.G.I.F.
ASSME: Speaking of: How much (on average) do coat-check girls make a night in relation to say, a hostess?
Abbe: – A hostess works hourly, about $10 to $16 per hour. (Plus tips, if it’s the type of place where palms get greased for a bump on the waiting list.)
– Even though it’s illegal [in F&B ?! G E T O U T — I know], a lot of places still hire girls that offer to work for just tips and no salary. And these girls usually won’t offer their services unless they’ve seen the crowds with their own eyes (and reasonably anticipate $1 per item for approximately 300 to 500 coats a night). Otherwise, they get paid hourly too, but are discouraged from accepting tips from customers.
These days, in a lot of places the hostess IS the coatgirl. Then obviously she gets her salary and the coat tips too.
ASSME: If you’ve never had any experience bartending except to mix your snarky cocktails for your blog, what’s the best way to get a gig? Take a class?
ABBE: I get asked this question all the time. And although I have nothing against the educational system, my opinion is an emphatic: NO. I have been in management several times in several different venues, and I have never knowingly hired a Bartenders’ School graduate, nor do I know of anyone currently in management who would, based merely on attendance. But perhaps T.G.I.F has a different policy, I have no idea.
The best way to get a good gig is to find someone with the job you want and have that person advise you on how he/she got it. And what can I say? Offer to pay for the advice if you must (sometimes it only costs dinner!). I would explain more, but then that would be an insult to the people who’ve already paid for the information.