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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why is Hobart over-run with teenage waitresses?

I have had a a few unfortunate experiences lately in the Hobart cafe scene, where I seem to be unable to attract the attention of a waiter of legal age.

Not that there is anything wrong with a 15-year-old waiting tables. I was a spring chicken waitress myself once. And they have to start somewhere. But entire cafes staffed entirely by inexperienced children is starting to irritate me beyond all belief.

It makes me wonder, is there a lack of experienced wait-staff in Hobart, or are the venues in question employing only young ones in an effort to save a few pennies?

My good friend, a hospitality veteran who may or may not remember far back enough to recall being a 15-year-old waiter himself, was telling me the other day about a staff training session he witnessed at Zum in Salamanca. The 16-year-old manager was instructing a
15 -year-old waitress on her first day of the job, and teaching her how to make coffee. Now, I don't know about you, but I have my doubts as to why a successful business like Zum would even contemplate putting someone with no experience what-so-ever behind a coffee machine.

I also had an unfortunate experience over my breakfast at Plum cafe (also in Salamanca) this weekend. The poor army of teenagers emplyed there were really struggling to keep it together, although they were obviously trying their best. At least their barista, Rowan, is an experienced and highly regarded professional.

Waitressing is not rocket science, but it still requires a little guidance and training. I remember when I was 16 (yes yes, all those many years ago) when I first started waiting tables. I was terrified. I was the only waitress at this particular venue under the age of 21, and I did what I was told every single time, although I had no idea why. I was not swanning around with a bunch of other teenagers, having a bit of a chat, forgetting peoples orders and making a great many service faux-pas, because I had supervision. Work was not "fun" (well, not all the time).

These irritating little munchkins are hopefully going to get a good talking to by their managers. But somehow, I have my doubts.


Anonymous said...

Where do I start with this one?? Yes there are a lot of young waitresses in Hobart. But you must give them some credit for getting a job and working hard. As someone who is just about to leave hospitality for good. After working for the past 3 years in yes a café in Salamanca and a well known restaurant in town, I have quite a lot of thoughts on this matter.
Before I started in hospitality I didn’t know how to make coffees, cocktails , carry 3 plates and answer the phone whilst putting a card through the eftpos machine. Also I am 25 but do look like I am 19 or 20 and looks can be deceiving . I learned on the job. Took pride in my work. Yes it was a stepping stone while I studied for the career that I wanted. But that didn’t mean I didn’t care about my job.
I do agree a little bit about Zum , if you don’t look like a model then you wont fit in.
I am so glad to be leaving the hospitality scene in Hobart. I have put up with snide comments from customers who think they are better just because I am a waitress. Dealt with chefs having little tantrums. Mothers letting there kids run wild whist they drink a bottle of wine and expect you to babysit. Oh and people who leave there snotty tissues on the table and expect you to pick it up………..
I think I will leave it at that :)

Lisa said...

I never worked in a restaurant or cafe; my only hospitality experience was three years out of high school (age 17-20) as a dietary aide in a nursing home where pretty much everyone was between 15 and 21. High schoolers were best because the hours were odd: 4-7:30, ideal for working right from school. I cannot imagine any of them ever working in a proper establishment because the job--whilst draining--was rather rote and didn't require the effort of taking orders, remembering specials, etc. It was pretty much a set menu, with only occasional requests for extra lamb or a few pats of butter, some lunch meat. Although it was twenty years ago, it taught me a great deal about how to treat people in the service industry (my dad would even tip blonde waitresses extra because they reminded him of me) whether the experience is good or bad. Although teenagers make me itch most days, I'd rather see them with proper jobs than just annoying the hell out of me by being bored and drag racing up and down my street or smoking weed outside the drugstore.

Still, though, if they're not properly trained...ugh, a nightmare. A true, true nightmare.

Maggie said...

Anon, I think you missed the point on this one. Your suggestion that I should give them some credit, perhaps you missed the paragraph (and I will quote myself) "Not that there is anything wrong with a 15-year-old waiting tables. I was a spring chicken waitress myself once. And they have to start somewhere."

I was asking WHY there were so many of them. When you were waitressing (and I think everyone should have a go at it at some time in their lives, like a hospitality national service would make us all better customers) were you working with a bunch of other teenagers, or was there a little adult supervision? You said yourself that when you started out you didn't know how to do anything. Did another 15 year old show you how? I hope my point is becoming clearer to you now.

And the point about Zum? I made no observations about the appearnace of the staff, but I am glad you agree with me about something, even if it is a point I didn't make.

Lisa, I agree, much better to see teenagers with jobs that paint bombing the neighbourhood and pushing over little old ladies. Went to the bakery the other day to order bread, and the 8 little rat-bags on staff still couldn't organise themselves out of a paper bag. Or bread into a paper bag. What ever happened to the idea of the trainee! You know, where they were trained?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Maggie, I should have clarified my statement to you. It was Zum in North Hobart. I'm sure (?) Zum Salamanca has an appropriate training policy for new staff.

Anonymous said...

It does not take anyone to be a 'rocket scientist' to understand why the industry is 'over run' with juniors, cafes employ young people because they are cheaper...also they are looking for part time work..few cafes take on a full time 'veteran', they like to be flexible with staff. The good mix is to have at least one staff memeber who has exp to guide and manage and make sure the service is delivered, as a vet of 25 years plus in the industry, it always amazes me that... People will stand in bank ques, wait in a Dr's office, wait for virtually anything they expect to have delays without comment with exception to their coffee or food..even when they can see its busy. Many young people leave hospitality after a few years burnt from the exp, which is sad as it could be a career if everyone looked at it as one. we are (Australia) lagging behind Europe in that respect because in some countires to be good at working in a restaurant, enjoy and celebrate good is a respected job. Many things need to change, its not just about training people well, its about honouring what they do.

Maggie said...

Anon, I totally agree. Hospitality is a valid career choice, one I enjoyed (and at times hated) for over ten years.

Mary said...

Zum in North Hobart has the oddest staffing arrangements. You're not exaggerating about the 8 year old!

Lisa said...

Hey, Maggie, thanks for following!

Lucy said...

Why is Hobart overrun with teenage waiters? Because they deport all the experienced foreign waiters. If the aust govt actually acknowledged hospitality as a skilled profession, maybe we wouldn't have such a problem...

Lucy said...

Oh, and I agree Mary, what's with that 10 year old that makes coffee at Zum in North Hobart?

Sapuche said...

I wonder what compels the owners of these cafes to hire such young, inexperienced staff? To save a penny or two in this way doesn’t seem worth the risk. It’s all about quality of service, even if it’s “only” a matter of preparing and ringing up coffee and snacks. I can’t fathom that the manager at the staff training session was only 16! I wasn’t even allowed to drive at 16 (I was at 17), much less work (17, again), much less manage employees. I see nothing wrong with starting young, but there definitely needs to be ample supervision -- which is true for any career one is starting in. Hopefully you have other options than just Plum!

Desmone007 said...

All your comments are interesting. There is nothing worst than bad service and too many inexperienced team members spells trouble. I mean I agree with young people getting exposed to the world of work but they should be paired with more mature staff so that it doesn't turn into "hang out time" rather WORK. Maybe they were looking for cheaper labor or trying to do a good deed, but balance is key...don't want to ruin your business reputation with bad service.

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