If hospitality was my lover, I would have to admit a world of sin. I have strayed many times, denounced and abandoned. Looked for answers in new courses, degrees, industries and identities. And yet, whenever I show up again on hospitality’s door, she takes me back without question, no judgement and not a single apology ever offered on my part.
The other day I heard that a certain “apocalyptic je ne sais quoi” has provoked people all over the world to get in touch with their exes. That makes perfect sense to me and in a similar way, having lost my job in hospitality has made my heart grow exponentially fonder of not just my own job but the industry as a whole.
I never chose hospitality and yet somehow amassed over 15 years experience in restaurants, cafes, bakeries, tour guiding, weddings, events and even golf clubs. I have complained ad nauseam about the hours, the shitty pay, the neediness of guests, the incompetence of anyone in the vicinity, the general lack of respect the industry as a whole is afforded.
In Europe, being in hospitality is an actual career, I say. In Australia, hospitality workers themselves force themselves into extra study or entertain various other career paths as though being a hospitality professional is not good enough (guilty as charged). If you don’t have an exit strategy or a side hustle there is a disdainful side eye reserved for you.
And I don’t blame us. It’s no easy job. People can be really really bloody difficult. Behind each and every hospitality smile is a little heart of misanthropy reserved for that particularly painful customer.
And those little angry hearts are what makes hospitality workers a little family. We are bound by our love/hate. Make no mistake, we are not necessarily a functional family but by virtue of time and space, we share a kind of expedited intimacy. Personal revelations are offered with ease, discussions otherwise deemed inappropriate become acceptable for no explicable reason and the normal rules of life are just a little looser.
The hospo industry is home to the inappropriate joke, shared hysterical laughter, stolen soggy potato chips stashed in elaborate hiding spots, an inside glance as you walk past a colleague, enjoying a little moment together amidst the chaos of a Saturday night service. Hospitality is a kind of performative art, it can be complex and creative but also plain tiring, dull and monotonous.
- the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
As the severity of COVID-19 became increasingly understood, it became increasingly clear that no amount of sanitiser and social distancing would prevent the inevitable and necessary closing of food service venues.
In less than a week, my workplace went from over 80 staff to the 2 remaining full time front of house employees. I worked my last shift yesterday in what was once a buzzing restaurant and bar in a resort, requiring between 15–20 front of house staff on an evening shift to operate in busy periods.
It’s been a really sad time and a truly heartbreaking time for many small businesses and suppliers whose income disappeared overnight. A restaurant without guests and staff, whether we love or hate them, is a very sorry state of affairs.
As usual, there are many instances of the industry coming together and supporting each other, for any hospo crew that are not part of the COVID-19 Hospitality Workers facebook group group drop me a line and I will add you. It is the humanity of hospitality that moves me.
The irony is not lost on me, that for the first time we all have Friday and Saturday nights off together and we cannot use them to spend time together.
I’ll be fine for now, I’ve had the privilege of unemployment by choice a few times and I guess the only difference this time is it wasn’t a choice and I’m not on the road for a little adventure. I guess no one expected this to play out like this and realising we are not in control is a whole other kettle of fish.
Meanwhile, I’m planning on spending a bunch more time tapping on these keys. I’m throwing together a list of some free online wine and hospo stuff that might keep us entertained, if you have any good suggestions let me know. Let’s keep in touch(but no touching for now), miss you already x