• Laura Diment

In my most humble opinion, working in whatever shape or form in a bar or restaurant has been most people’s first job or one of their jobs in the earlier stages of their lives. As this is true for myself, my brother, my mother, but not my father (who therefore knows nothing about what I should be doing behind my bar and should stop criticizing my performance when he does come and sit at it) I could probably say that this is true for about 75 per cent of our population over a broad age spectrum.

So I thought it would be interesting to apply this concept (which I do understand is a broad generalization) to an ongoing spat between my generation, the Millenials, and the Baby Boomers & Co. who hire us and sign off on our salaries. Are Millennials actually that bad in the work place? Rather grudgingly I admit that in the past I have acted like a spoiled child in previous jobs where I didn’t get the position I wanted. At points I have even played mummy and daddy with my managers when I was told to do something I didn’t like. However, as I like to think of myself as a mature, driven, and ambitious woman (which I think I am accomplishing as people often peg me about five years older than my mere 21 years) the tantrums of my late teens are behind me. But I’ve noticed they’ve only just begun for some of the people I know.

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I sat down with an extremely accomplished restaurant and bar owner I know who operates in Calgary to get to the bottom of the question from the ultimate source: an employer who has been the first boss for not just new Millenials, but older workers too. Due to the fact many of his/her employees are those I’m questioning, they’ve elected to remain anonymous, so as not to befall an unfortunate accident at work upon the publishing of this interview from irate workers. Anonymity aside, hopefully this inside look will help professionals of all ages understand whether a few rotten apples are causing the whole bunch to be discarded, or if my fellow young adults genuinely want to succeed in the world.

Hi Anon, are you ready.

No. But let’s do this thing.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I’d like to take a second to chat about your experience in the hospitality industry.

I started when I was 16 years old and have been in this industry for 20 years. I started out serving banquets. I’ve served, bartended and travelled abroad doing these same things. Coming to run my own restaurant seemed like the natural progression.

Within the past five years how many Millennials have you hired and for how many have you been their first employer?

I’d say over 200 and about 20 per cent of those I was, and for some I still am, their first employer.

Compared to older employees in your workforce, do you notice any major differences in ethic and attitude from young adults when it comes to work and being in the workplace?

I honestly don’t know if I see a major difference, but I do see some people come in who want to automatically be a server in two weeks. Then there just isn’t necessarily a respect for the process and the experience that is required to actually be efficient. In my opinion it takes years to hone those skills to a point where you’re actually really good.

Why do you think that is, generational differences maybe?

No, I’ve seen that kind of attitude in various age groups. But you do see people who are seasoned and treating this as a profession come in with a deeper appreciation for the skills, the gig. Yes, we can train someone to go through the steps of service, take orders, and provide guests with food and beverage; but that’s just one step above a vending machine really. Really, its like input output, there’s no finesse to that. This game is all about finesse.

So as a comparison what was your first position in a restaurant and how long did it take you to progress?

Well I served banquets during high school for two years which was pretty menial work. Then I got a job at Vicious Circle as a bartender’s assistant. Where I spent about the better part of a year in that position before I became a bartender. And that’s still with the shittier shifts and I still had to prove myself to earn my position. On and off I spent probably about eight years at that restaurant, I did the bungalow as well, amidst the travelling abroad working on such and such.

On a slightly different note, it sounds like people are making the mistake of coming in and automatically expecting promotions for not doing much work. Other than that are there other errors that Millennials and first time employees tend to commit repeatedly?

We know that Millennials are the instant gratification generation. But I still do see some Millennials and people in my generation – which can’t be millennial anymore I don’t think – across a broad age spectrum repeat that issue. Certainly I’ve seen my fair share of entitled youngsters coming in expecting promotions for doing shit all. However I appreciate the good ones. There still are some young people who have some respect for putting in some work and some time. Those are the ones who get promoted.

Well that leads nicely into my last question. When you have young people come in who genuinely want to work what advice do you have on how to get ahead.

I would like them to engage. If this is a program or a project they want to be a part of they need to put some of their own energy in. I’m not going to push you to come and kick ass. Whatever you want to be. Server. Bartender. You gotta bring some energy. Engage, I think is the word.

Well that covers what I wanted to ask. Are there any last comments you’d like to add?

There’s probably lots. So I lived in Japan for a year and I definitely took some lessons in service from that culture. And just lessons in life. Taking pride in what you’re doing whatever it is. If you’re Japanese and you’re in what whatever job you’re in, there’s always another level you can take it to if you focus on the perfect execution. You see that with the beauty of Japanese cuisine for example. One of the most amazing salads I’ve had was basically one tomato. But it was sliced so many times and so perfectly and then intricately arranged like it was a flower, with just a beautiful simple vinaigrette put on. Like this was it. This was a fifteen-minute salad for this chef to make but he was dedicated to the beauty of this thing. You got to respect that kind of focus and dedication.

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I have only been in the workforce for just under four years. Due to this lack of experience compared to most others I can appreciate I have a lot to learn. What little I do know is that it takes time to achieve a respectable level of professionalism at work. While there will always be the just plain bad workers at any age, it is not fair to judge my generation’s work ethic at par with those who have had decades to hone theirs. From the sounds of it, regardless of generation, some people struggle adjusting to the realities of the working world. Time and life experience will get us where we want to go professionally. So hate on Millennials as much as you can now, because we’re going places, and in 20 years everyone can hate on our kids instead.

  • Laura Diment

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