Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to work in the hospitality industry, more specifically, hotels. Every time my family traveled, with every hotel or resort I would automatically start inspecting; comparing this one to the last, from the ambiance to the service. I started imagining myself working in a hotel and when I picked a major for college, hospitality was an easy choice.
To this day, I’ve had a solid two days of experience at a hotel. What can I say? Plans change! Did I ever imagine or expect at 20, I would instead be a shift lead at a restaurant? No. It’s just where opportunity led.
I was at Sports Grill a total of 8 months. Having to gain more industry experience to complete the hospitality program at FIU, the General Manager at the time, Morgan, had offered me a position to learn the ropes at her restaurant.
I started in September of 2016. I had previous cafe experience, but it in no way compared to my new role. I immediately starting memorizing the menu, how to plate certain dishes, and learning what we have on tap.
Morgan was the first person in the industry to take a chance on me. I was unfamiliar with restaurant operations, yet she took me under her wing and allowed me to observe everything and anything I could. I began serving, and then the following February, she asked me how I felt about taking on a little more responsibility. And so I did.
In my first legitimate role as a manager, it was hard not to feel so much pressure. It’s important to not sweat the small stuff. So, here are my tips for anyone that is starting a new role, a leadership position, or even just in general:
Show up. Employers don’t just go around handing out management positions, you know. You have to put in the work; you have to show up. Not just physically, but in all essence of the phrase. Don’t do the bare minimum and actually be present during your shift. The management team at Sports Grill recognized my ambition, drive, and dedication and it was worth giving me a chance.
Be confident. It’s no lie when they say confidence is key. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, or if you’re even doing it right, just be confident. Trust your instinct, and if it was wrong, it’s a learning mistake. Whoever gave you this position trusted you enough to be able to figure it out. There’s not a handbook for everything you’ll encounter on the job. If there is, I mean, good for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Basic I know. But it helps. Sometimes I didn’t want to because I felt like I asked the same question way too many times (“Rusty, how do I make this drink again)? But it is so much better to just be upfront and say, “I really want to get it right,” than to say “I forgot.” It shows you care more and are willing to spend a little extra time acquiring the information you need.
I was also so incredibly lucky to have a team that supported me and knew that I was learning. And I wanted to make them proud as well as myself. Because at the end of the day, I am one of the ones they trusted enough with this responsibility. The very least I could do was be thorough and ask questions.
You can’t be everyone’s friend. Sad, but true. I’m a genuinely nice person and at times it was hard to be taken seriously. But I couldn’t go around wasting time trying to get people to like me. That’s the way of life. Not everyone will be on board 100% of the time. Yeah, everyone was my friend when they wanted to leave early, or when they wanted the good section, but I learned to not dwell on that so much. An important tip is to give and take and try to understand everyone’s role and the best way for everyone to work together.
Reward yourself. You’re going to have your strengths on the job, and you’re going to have your lesser strengths, aka weaknesses. No matter if you’re 20, or if you’re 50, every day you either learn something or get better at it. I would be so excited when there were one too many tickets in the window, and I managed to come away clean. Zero mess ups… like high-five, Aziza.
I just want you all to remember this: before anyone is an expert in anything, they’ve all had to do it for the first time. My management experience at Sports Grill is the first thing that recruiters ask me about with every interview. I love talking about it because it provided me with insight into how I performed as a manager. When I reflect back on my time there, I realize things I did that were great, and others I would do a hell of a lot differently.
Anyway, thank you for reading! I wish you the best in your future roles. I want to hear about your experiences!
Obviously a huge thank you for the support I received while employed at Sports Grill Pembroke Pines: Morgan, Rusty, Beth, Steve, Christine, Tiffany, Jennifer, Lexi, and everyone else that I had the pleasure to work with.