The busy life of serving in college

Going through the struggles of being a server and a full-time student

Story by Lauren French and Lauren Kritter

Life as a broke college student is rough. We college students hear this phrase so often it doesn’t even phase us anymore because we have accepted and adapted to the lifestyle it brings.

We go to school full time, putting in the effort to get the grades we pre-set for ourselves at the beginning of each semester. Then we try to maintain a job so we can try and sustain somewhat of a comfortable life, where we can afford to buy groceries that aren’t just cheap processed foods and maybe have some spending money to have a social life on the weekends.

I don’t know about you, but this sums up my college life.

I knew I needed money to pay for rent and groceries, but most importantly for tuition every semester.

I decided getting a serving job was the way to go. I’m personable and quick on my feet. Making some nice tips was exactly what I needed.

That was the extent of my knowledge as to what you needed to be a server. I quickly learned my preexisting notions were a bit inaccurate.

Lauren Kritter and Lauren French have both spent time serving in Eau Claire.
Lauren Kritter and Lauren French have both spent time serving in Eau Claire. Photo by Austin Mai

A day in the life

Every day at work is a toss-up. You can either walk away from a night with a good chunk of change, or next to nothing. Customers can be in a patient understanding mood, or demand you that they want what they want, no questions ask. You might leave with a smile on your face one night and no hope for humanity the next.  It’s difficult to read what type of night you’re going to have but that mystery is all part of the fun of being a server.

Serving is different from any other previous job I have had. I spend so much time at work. My weekends consist of three shifts because that’s when the most money is made. While retail workers struggle to get even ten hours a week outside of the three months of busy holiday rush, servers struggle to find someone to take their shift so they can have a Saturday off for the first time in months.

My co-workers have seen me at my best and my worst. This includes when stress takes over and I force back tears in order to keep smiling for the customers and get through the rest of the night.

Those are the nights I remember most, not only for the bad memories, but because the rough nights were when l started making some of my closest friends at work.

You become a team who helps each other out because you know what it feels like to “be in the weeds.” Through the shared meals on breaks, funny stories exchanged about the strange couple at table 12, and the holidays spent together — because god forbid you close the restaurant on a good money making day — we became a family.

And in the end, those are the people that matter. The ones who started out as your unfamiliar co-workers but by the end became some of your favorite people. They are the ones who make it all worthwhile to go to work, not the customers that “forgot” to tip you because really, who needs them anyways?

— Lauren Kritter, Staff Writer


Keeping perspective

I remember the first and only time a managing figure made me cry.

I was a server at a restaurant here in Eau Claire, and my manager pulled me aside on a particularly busy night to tell me the way I presented a wine bottle to my previous table was incorrect. I’m a fan of constructive criticism because I know it stimulates growth, but this particular situation went beyond a suggestion for improvement.

His words were unnecessarily harsh and demeaning, and left me feeling like I didn’t bring any worth to the job. This was the same manager who scolded me for stealing a bite of an apple from my purse after six hours of a 10-hour shift.

That night, I decided every person should work a serving job at least once. I had a mixture of positive and negative experiences as a server, but the most important thing I learned was how to treat others, and how I expect to be treated.

I’ve encountered some rude customers, and as a result, I’m much nicer to those working in the food industry. And from working with less than ideal managers, I now know which leadership qualities I appreciate, and which qualities I can be skeptical of.

— Lauren French, Copy Editor