Experience of customer service jobs


Waitressing in a conference centre/hotel

Username: beanie

As a student, waitressing is ideal as its fairly relaxed and you can choose your own hours. I'm classed as a casual member of staff, meaning I don't have set working hours or days. Some weeks I can work 5 days out of 7, and other days I might only work Saturday, or not at all. This is great as I can say "I can't work on the 22nd", and they say OK! My employer is great; I've had loads of time off for exams and they really supportive to the students who work there as they let us fit work in around our educational commitments, not the other way around. As far as I know most waitressing work is like this.

I started 2 years ago when I'd finished my GCSEs and I was earning £3.40 an hour, which rose at various times, and now I'm 18 I get £5.05 which is average in my area. The pay isn't great, but due to the casual nature of my job I'm willing to compromise on the pay! Unfortunately, loads of customers seem to look down on you because you're waitressing, and think that you are doing it as a proper job and aren't in sixth form/uni. But you learn to accept it.

I get to take home whatever food I want at the end of the night, which is great for parties as I can provide fancy deserts as we always have loads left over. Staff meals are all provided too, we always have whatever the conference are having, meaning its of a really good quality.

Bad points- You will most probably end up working unsociable hours. At my work we have 2 shifts, morning and afternoons. Mornings work 7.30am-3pm, and afternoons (which I do) is 2-9.30pm. I've worked most Friday and Saturday nights for the past 2 years, however if you put your mind to it you can still go out after you've finished work.

Angry customers can be difficult to deal with too, especially when you're new. Customers always take it out on the serving staff if the food isn't of a good standard, so you have to be able to take the stick when the kitchens haven't done their job properly. Similarly, people can be really inconsiderate and leave your tables covered in food and junk, so you have to be ok with getting covered in food! Its stressful on busy nights, and you can end up getting really snappy with people you work with, but as you're all in the same boat its accepted.

Good points- As I've already said, the hours are really flexible which I love, that’s the main thing. You appreciate service in restaurants so much more- now I always stack/clear my plates when I've been somewhere, and it makes you more able to deal with difficult/demanding people. The people I work with are great, we have a little work gang and its so much fun. Its not really that hard work, you just need an eye for detail and be OK with laying up tables, then seeing customers destroy your perfectly arranged room! You are also pretty much guaranteed work even though you're a casual member of staff. In the summer I do as many hours as possible as I need the money and it coincides with our busy period. I've worked in the kitchen, on the bar, in the bedrooms and in the admin office, so hotels and conference centres are really good places to work if you're open minded and don't mind what you do, as even when you're waitressing you have to do jobs like mopping floors, cleaning windows/furniture and Hoovering :o)


Glass Collecting in a Pub

Username: grammar_king

Contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly legal to work behind a bar at 16, and has been for some time. What's strange now is that under the Licensing Act you can even serve alcohol, provided that each sale is approved by a supervisor. In any case you're much likely to get work if you apply as a glass collector instead.

I first started when I was 16 in what was officially a social club, collecting glasses during functions in the back room, which was pretty huge, but more and more now pubs are looking for glass collectors for busy nights, because when you're busy behind the bar you don't often have time to go around getting glasses. If there's only one glass collector working there, that pretty much means you're gonna work every Friday and Saturday.

Benefits: It's usually casual work and noone's too bothered if you can't work, you just won't get paid. Starting as a glass collector is a good way to become a proper member of the bar staff, and once you've got experience, getting a bar job is a piece of cake. Anywhere where there are people, there are pubs, so you can get a job literally anywhere, when you go to uni, for example. Since starting there (3 years ago) I've worked in a sports club, a biker pub, a nightclub and a folk music pub, all very interesting. Furthermore I got paid at the same rate as everyone else, minimum wage for a 21 year old, £4.85 an hour, which 3 years ago was very good for a 16 year old. In my current bar job I'm on £6 an hour, which is great. If you're strapped for cash it's easy to get more hours KPing if there's a kitchen, or cleaning or anything really.

Drawbacks: Like I said, you're working most Fridays and Saturdays, and as the youngest one there you're everyone else's bitch basically, so you get all the crappy jobs. Customers can also be very difficult (I sometimes used to get groped by middle-aged women... eugh), but at the same time it's a good way of meeting people. Late nights can also be a bit of a drawback.

Waitressing/Cooking in a Chain Pub/Restaurant

Username: SpiritedAway

Agreeably, waitressing is a great choice for a student. The pay isn’t great, minimum wage, but it is natural for such a job. One thing I have found is that the majority of the people that work there are all students, so when you are sat in the staffroom during your break doing homework/coursework/revision then it isn’t seen as a strange thing. Plus, especially in the restaurant where I work, because the oldest person (who is not a manager) is 20 years old, it’s fairly easy to make friends and relate with your co-workers. Cooking is also a good choice; the place where I work every chef baring the head-chef is a student. The pay is also a little better than waitressing, although granted, some places still only pay minimum wage.

Usually in large restaurants there are two waitressing departments. There are the people who work out on the floor, and they are the people who clean away the plates, glass collect and wipe down the tables, and then there are the people who work in the kitchen. They serve the food to the customer. Sometimes they might also make the desserts.

A great thing about working for a chain restaurant is that if you decide to go away for college/uni then you don’t need to worry about a job because you are practically guaranteed a job in one of the sister sites, and be allowed to come back for the holidays.

The hours are great; some people prefer to work weekdays, some only weekends, some evenings, some opening hours, so it allows you to choose which fits best around your studies. I decided that it would be best for my studies if I worked on weekends, and told my boss that I was unable to work weekdays (which was totally understood). Yet I am still allowed to work full-time during the holidays to gain some extra money. On Sundays I ALWAYS work 1-FINISH (which means when everyone has gone home and I have cleared up after them). On saturdays my hours change. Some weeks I may do a 12-5, sometimes a 5-FINISH, and then there are the random times like 3-8.

Benefits: for pub-restaurants you shift might not start till 12pm or even late-evening, allowing you a lie-in. Long breaks because we are on our feet all day, very sociable job, the tips can be amazing, the hours are pretty flexible Cons: long hours, my Sunday shift can be 9 hours long, chefs maybe required to come in early to prep, late finishes, sometimes it can be as late as 11pm for me, sometimes the customers can be very messy and awkward. The breaks aren’t paid, and aren’t (although it probably differs between places) given any free food. You may also be expected to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. The weekly rota can change so you can’t really make any decisions in advance, expected that you work on their busiest day (usually a Sunday).


Garden Centre Café Assistant

Username: Longorefisher

I started as a Garden centre Café Assistant a few months before I turned 16 (so whilst I was in Year 10) and continued until the GCSE exam period.

The pay rate was ok when I was 15 (£4 hourly) and whilst I was 16 and under the compulsory school leaving age but I wouldn't reccomend it if you are over the age as you can find higher paid jobs much more readily. I worked a Sunday shift and the work was very intensive - sometimes sapping me out in four hours even though I had six to work. However, you take a LOT less stick in this role than you would in a larger restaurant or chain from the customers. Often, I found they were very talkative and made the intensiveness of job not seem as bad. Overtime opportunites were good as we were a small team but this may not be the case in a larger garden centre, especially if the catering is out-sourced (ours wasn't so a bigger team was out of the question). In addition, being a small team was good for cohesion but it meant that one stressed person (often the team leader) could grate on the others, leading to increased tension. I would recommend this type of job as a stop over if nothing else is really available or if you are under the compulsory age and nowhere else will take you. It's very bearable in the short term and pays very reasonably (especially with overtime as these jobs aren't always that popular) but any more than short term and I would look for something else.

Kitchen Porting at a Football Stadium

Username: Atrixa

I started at SAFC Conference and Banqueting when I was 17. It's a very basic job, and I was paid £4.70 ph, £5.05 at age 18. Work involves washing up, either by hand or with machines, and cleaning down kitchens. It's pretty simple, as long as you don't mind emptying bins and carrying heavy/hot things. There were several different kitchens, all different which was hard to get used to at first. Shift times can vary- maybe 12-8pm on a match day, 5pm-11pm for a function etc.

Pros: match day work means that you aren't in very often- a plus around exams. High turnover of staff means that you can become one of the more respected staff in a matter of months. You can get loads of shifts at christmas because of the parties, which is great for spending money for January sales. It's also pretty easy to switch kitchens if you'd prefer a different pace/amount of staff.

Cons: Chefs can be annoying to work with, as are under-trained waitresses. The unrealiable rota can mean that you're never sure when you're going to be called on for a shift. If you're in a busy kitchen with a broken down potwash machine it can be the definition of misery. A huge staff count and irregular hours can mean that it takes longer to make friends.

Coffee shop worker

Username: watchingtherain

I've worked in Centurion Bar and Deli for about a year collectively (I left for about three months then went back), paid at £5.50 per hour. I work 12-6 on a Wednesday and 10-4 or 6 on a Saturday depending on how busy we get. It's a coffee shop connected to the back of a pub in a busy Railway station, so we do get pretty busy, especially in the mornings, lunchtimes and on match days when the bar fills up with supporters. I got the job because it's owned by friends of the family that my grandad and uncle both used to work for, they've known me forever and rang me up when I turned 16 to offer me a place.

The job itself is fairly simple, I serve customers coffee and other drinks, heat up paninis and simple food like scones and quiche and keep everything clean. Occasionally i'll go to help out in the kitchen, either clearing up or helping make the food. Very occasionally i'll get dragged into the bar to glass collect, which I detest because when it's busy enough for them to need me, you literally can't walk through the bar without touching everyone around you. I'm always on with at least one other person, so it never gets lonely at least, although since it's quite a small place, it does get a bit crowded behind the counter at busy times. Hours are fairly flexible, i'm lucky enough to have a decent supervisor so if I need to switch shifts because of college commitments, they always understand that it has to come first.

Good stuff: Free food, which is always good of course. Reasonably flexible hours, decent co-workers, NO UNIFORM which is brilliant - just needs to be reasonably smart, small company so you get to know pretty much everyone, always somebody there to talk to or complain about an annoying customer with, nice customers who come in every week and remember your name, taxi drivers - the black cab drivers from outside the station always come in for a chat when it's quiet, steady workload.

Bad stuff: The place is pretty old so things like the dishwasher often break, which management refuses to see as a serious problem. You do get really rude customers (and plain stupid ones) usually people on their way to work in the mornings who treat you like you're dirt. If you don't get on with a co-worker theres no escaping them since it's a really small place. Also, about six months ago a new supervisor came in who took a dislike to me, firing me after two weeks for 'not being up to scratch'. She lasted two months, and as soon as she was replaced the new supervisor hired me back. Silly people.