My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member


College students usually find jobs in retails as they complete their studies as the these jobs tend to be not as physically strenuous and are easy to get the hang of. However another area where college students tend to find jobs in is at restaurants, whether it be as servers, bussers, cooks or dishwashers. For the purpose of this take, I will mostly be discussing my experience as a dishwasher and a line cook. Note that each restaurant is different depending on how popular and how many people usually visit the restaurant on a daily basis. Also, I’m not going to say the name of the restaurant as I want to keep it as confidential as possible.

My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member

1.)What you do: As a dishwasher you’ll be cleaning ceramics, pots, pans, utensils, silverware and misc kitchen equipment. You also occasionally help the prep cooks, take out the trash, sweep the floors and stock kitchen sinks

  • You will sweat
  • you will get dirty
  • you will smell
  • you will get a work out
  • You will get exhausted
  • You will constantly dream of your job
  • You will feel sore

2.) Free meals: Perhaps the best thing about being a dishwasher is that you get a free meal per shift. You can pick almost whatever you want from the menu with the exception of the more expensive foods(steaks etc). However if you are a good worker, the managers will occasionally give you free steaks.

3.) Short breaks: Each restaurant is different but I’m assuming that most restaurants don’t give employees long breaks. At most you’ll get 30-45 minutes per shift. If you are a dishwasher this is nothing as those minutes go by real fast. If you plan on eating a free meal, you’ll want to put in your order first and then get back to work until your meal is ready. Then you can clock out for break.

4.) Scheduling: This is what makes many people quit. Either management doesn’t give you enough work days or it gives you too many work days that you can’t get any personal things done outside of work. You could be working anywhere from 3-7 days. And it’s usually random, you won’t be working the same day and same time every week. If you want a fixed schedule you’ll have to give management a good reason why you need a fixed schedule, like college or some other responsibility out of work.

5.) On call: If you don’t have a fixed schedule, you’ll want to have your cell phone on more than usual as even on your days off your managers will try to call you in. The reason being that one or more of your co workers either called out or no showed. Further more, your managers can also call you in to come in earlier than what is on your schedule. And on rare occasions you’ll find yourself going back to work less than 12 hours after your last shift ended because one of the managers asked you to come in.

6.) You have a car, prepare to be a chauffeur: Many of your co workers are college students which means that some of them won’t have cars. If you are part of the closing shift, chances are one or two of your co workers will ask you to drive them home. It’s up to you if you want to drive them home.

7.) The stations: In the dishwashing area there are usually 4 main stations/responsibilities

  • Dish pit/machine: All ceramics, silverware, trays, utensils and containers are sprayed and put through a machine.
  • Catcher: The person that catches simply grabs all the clean dishes that come out of the machine and stacks them up on a nearby shelf
  • Runner: Perhaps the most physically demanding but also funnest responsibility, all this person has to do is take all the clean dishes, containers and trays from the shelf to the area they belong in.
  • Three compartment sink: Considered to be the dirtiest and most overwhelming responsibility. This person must use soap, scrub and rinse all the pots, pans and anything that has condiments that are too sticky to come off. Most people can’t seem to do this, I usually have to take over this station because I’m the only one who can do this station and once you get used to it, you are pretty much in your own world. Nobody bothers you at the three sink.

8.) Your attire: Compared to the other positions, you will be the most plainly dressed worker. While all the servers are wearing nice button ups and fitted pants, you’ll be wearing a simple t-shirt, some work pants, a cap and slip resistant shoes. It is humbling but just know that you have the most important job in the restaurant, without dishwashers, the restaurant can’t function.

9.)You don’t know how good you actually have it compared to the other positions: Despite it being physically demanding and dirty, you actually have it better than most of the other positions. You don’t have to deal with rude customers, You don’t have to deal the impatient servers, you don’t have to worry about missing an ingredient or not properly cooking a meal etc.

Line cook(appetizer)

I recently got promoted to line cook and this position is way more mental than it is physical as in you’ll feel the mental pressure but you won’t have to exert as much physical energy as you do as a dishwasher.

10.) Get ready to be yelled at by servers: This all depends on the type of co workers you have. Fortunately most of the servers are friendly and understanding where I work, so for the most part they won’t yell unless there’s a lot of noise but not to give attitude.

11.) Fridays and Saturdays: Trust me these two days are the busiest days at a restaurant. There can be anywhere between 2-3 times where you will get overwhelmed by the number of orders that come in that one of the kitchen managers has to help you and your team out. Especially if you are paired with slower workers. I technically am the fastest person at my station but most of the time I’m paired with workers who slow me down cause they just aren’t fast enough.

12.) Slow system: If your restaurant has a slow system then you won’t receive orders until 7 minutes after they’ve been put in. This is where you’ll get 5-9 orders all at once which can be very irritating.

13.) Final hour before closing: At this point you and your fellow line cooks are at the point where you just want to get out of there. You’ll start a process known as “pre cleaning” where you clean you station to the best of your ability before the restaurant closes, that way you can get out as fast as possible after closing. But be warned that you’ll still get about 1 through 3 orders in that last hour so don’t get too distracted.

14.) Make your own food: The best part about being a line cook is that you can make your own food. It’s so satisfying once you eat food that you made from scratch.

15.) It will take a toll on your body: Despite the line cook job not being as physical as the dishwasher position, it will still take a toll on your body. The extreme mental stress can lead to brain fog, you also risk getting sick by constantly walking into the “walk in” fridge and freezer to restock your station. I’ve already gotten sick twice in a less than a year. I’ve gotten bronchitis and the cold. So I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to work here.

16.) Who you work with makes a difference: How smooth the shift goes mostly depends on who you are working with. It can be a really busy day but if you and your two other team members are doing their part then you won’t feel the pressure. It helps if there’s three workers working per station. If there’s only two then good luck on Fridays and Saturdays.

17.) Holidays are hit or miss: Some holidays are very slow but other Holidays can be very busy. If there is some big sporting event then the restaurant may or may not get packed. As someone who absolutely hates rushes, it’s such a relief when the restaurant is slow on holidays or game nights.

18.) Rush hours: The worst rushes happen during the weekends and they usually happen during the following times.

  • 5-6pm(Average rush)
  • 7-9pm(worst rush)
  • 10pm(Mini rush)

19.) To quit or not to quit: A part of me does want to quit due to health concerns and because I can’t get much done outside of work. However due to the great management, I stick around and endure all the stress that comes with being a line cook and occasional dishwasher. If it weren’t for good management, I would have quit months ago.

My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member
My experience working in a restaurant as a kitchen staff member
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