When you think of a waitress, the first image which likely comes to your head is of a reasonably young person who, despite her best attempts at looking happy and smiley, is dying on the inside because she has been working an uber-long shift and has not sat down in nearly eight hours.
Whilst this is true for some waitresses (working at the kind of places you should be avoiding), it is not true for us all. Some waitressing jobs don’t mean that you have to work long shifts and there are plenty of waitressing jobs out there where you will only spend a little bit of time working on your feet.
#1: You Will Work Some Long Shifts
Every waitress at one time or another will have to work a long shift, it is inevitable. Thanks to the nature of the restaurant and hospitality industry, everything is unpredictable. On a day where you are expecting very few customers, you could have half of the city all descend on you at once.
This is the first thing you need to understand when it comes to waitressing: you will have a long shift or two at some point. Working long shifts is a rite of passage for any waitress and many of us see long shifts as a badge of honour; being able to survive for ten to twelve hours in a restaurant environment is an achievement in itself.
However, if working long shifts is simple out of the question for you (maybe you have University, or family obligations), it is possible to find a waitressing job where you can work only relatively short shifts. Many waitressing jobs in London for example, are now being found through temp agencies, who often let you pick your own working hours, and only pick up shifts when you need them. The only issue with this is that there is a little less consistency, meaning you may have to apply for a few long shifts if that’s all that’s currently available.
#2: Shift Patterns Vary
No matter which restaurant you work at, there is one thing they all have in common: a variance in shift patterns. One week, you may be working six-to-eight-hour shifts whereas during the next week you may not get a day where you are working for more than four hours.
This is exactly why working a waitressing job does not automatically equal eight hours. During my time working in the restaurant and hospitality industry, I have had shifts which have only been a few hours long to help alleviate some of the pressure during peak times. During the lunch hour, it is common for waitresses to come in to work for the lunch hour only and then the clean up afterwards.
On the other hand, there are some days where the entire team will be pulling ten-hour shifts, such as during the Christmas period or school holidays.
#3: You May Fill Other Job Roles
Being a waitress does not just mean being a waitress. More often than not, you are a restaurant-based hybrid employee who, with experience, gets more and more different roles. One day you may be acting as a supervisor for the entire team whereas on another day you may be in the kitchen helping prepare food. If you work for a particularly smaller restaurant or non-chain restaurant, you may also play a role in general management duties rather than being in the restaurant dealing with customers.
It is not unheard of for waitresses to be cross-trained in a variety of different job roles and this is another reason why waitressing does not mean that you have to work long shifts. If you are able to perform management duties, you may only need to come in for an hour one day to oversee the delivery and sign it off, for example.
People regularly associate being a waitress with spending ungodly amounts of time on your feet in the middle of a restaurant. Until you have actually been there and done the job, you cannot fully appreciate that being a waitress is a lot more than working long shifts and dealing with customers.