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Why Working in a Restaurant is like Working in an Agency

Imagine this: You’ve been at work – on your feet – for 5 or 6 hours now. You’re physically exhausted and mentally drained because all shift you’ve had to remember things like table 94 needs a side of ranch and a refill while table 92 needs napkins, 93 wants to pay, 91 wants to have a conversation, you just had doubles sat at 95 and 96, and you have to run food and stock ice all at the same time.

The reality is that we don’t have to imagine this scenario because we live a similar reality every day. Swap out table numbers for different clients and grabbing napkins and refills for any array of client deliverables, and you’ve got a very similar situation. Working in a restaurant is just like working in an agency.

Admittedly, I didn’t always believe this to be true. How could these two environments be anything alike when they appear to be polar opposites on the surface? After having conversations with fellow colleagues within Text100 and at Red Robin, I’ve come to realize that these two industries really aren’t all that different at the core. And if you think I’m the only one who believes this, just check out this post: Why All PR Pros Should Work as Wait Staff.

Allow me to scale agency life down a bit and put a restaurant guise on it:

  • The pace: It’s fast, and there is no slowing down. You need to keep up, be organized and learn how to prioritize what you need to accomplish. While all steps of service are important and feed into the customer experience, sometimes you have to decide whether or not getting a drink refill for one table is more important than greeting another on time. A PR pro’s life is a running to-do list, and organizational skills are a true asset to this career.  Often times, we have to prioritize which tasks to complete first – without letting anything fall off our radar or upsetting a client.
  • The menu: This is everything we offer laid out for you, but if there is something missing from the menu, we are happy to customize your order. Agencies also have a set list of offerings we bring to the table, but often times clients ask us to do something that is outside our knowledge or skill realm. Despite that, we try our best to deliver them what they are asking for; therefore, we are customizing their experience with our firm.
  • Your section: A typical restaurant section has between three to five tables that a server is responsible to take care of. This is just like being on three to five different accounts in an agency – you apply the same basic skills to each client, and have different requests coming from all of them simultaneously. Whether you call them customers or clients, they are essentially the same – they are people we are serving in some capacity (and they help pay our bills!) That being said, it is important to make connections with your guests or clients because it ensures satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Working as a team: Not only do you have your section to tend to, but there are general side-work items that need to be completed as well like stocking straws, cleaning up debris or brewing coffee. One person can’t do it all, so it is essential to instill an idea of “Total Team.” This idea gives a backbone to the restaurant, and it let’s all team members know they can rely on one another. The same is true in an agency. A team of people work together to provide the support clients need, all while supporting each other. So if one person is bogged down with writing a byline and can’t get to the next item on their list, another person will jump in and help finish that end of day coverage report so a deadline isn’t missed.

The comparisons could go on, but the point is that as either a server or a PR pro, you are catering to someone else’s needs – and the skills developed in the restaurant industry directly correlate with the skills needed to grow in public relations.

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