Comment: Restaurant workers need empathy
My favorite question asked during a two hour wait at a local Ithaca restaurant is, “Well, why do I see so many empty tables?” The answer is the same as most restaurants across the country that are employment down 12% pre-COVID times.
Although this question annoys me, I have experienced much more cruel interactions while working in a restaurant. As a hostess, we are the first faces you see upon entering. We are also responsible for making our best estimate of wait times and advising the customer accordingly. And yes, it can take well over two hours for a table. Due to the impatience that followed, my coworkers and I were spat on, cursed at, and constantly disturbed by hundreds of guests throughout the summer and fall.
We need more kindness during one of the most difficult times in our lives – more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
American Medical Association Says Four in 10 Americans Say COVID-19 Pandemic Has Negatively Impacted Their Mental Health. This can lead to a feeling of “pandemic anger,“Or” angry,”From a variety of factors during these difficult times. These feelings of anger and anxiety are still valid, but should not be reflected on community workers, especially when these results are beyond anyone’s control.
Being nice to people can also be rewarding. Studies reported by the BBC show that “volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of premature death”. Participants were also asked to perform random acts of kindness. This decrease in gene activity is linked to inflammation in the body. While volunteering or random acts of kindness can be more difficult during the pandemic, there are still ways you can go out of your way to be kind. Focusing on spending money and caring for others also results in better hearing, better sleep, and lower blood pressure, according to the BBC.
Humans are social beings by nature and creating these bonds with one another benefits all parties involved. Apt Cape Cod Restaurant in Massachusetts, as reported by WGBH, closed the restaurant for a day to draw attention to the increase in aggressive customers. He received tons of support, as many others agreed that this is a problem, both in the restaurant industry and others. He has also received positive feedback in the form of letters from people all over the country and around the world.
As I hesitate to inform people of our current restaurant wait time for fear of their automatic anger reaction, I try to remember the root causes of this emotion. We have been in an isolating and frustrating pandemic for over a year. However, our understaffing which results in insane wait times and disorganization is not something we can control. We have less than half of our regular staff, but still around 100 tables in the restaurant. We are doing our best to work with the current circumstances. Many restaurants in Ithaca have this same problem. The catering infrastructure can accommodate more people, but the lack of staff limits capacity.
The next time you walk into a restaurant in Ithaca or elsewhere, I ask you to be patient with the surrounding staff. As my manager likes to say: “It’s dinner. It’s not that deep.