Everybody knows that internships in communication and marketing can be hard to land – it seems you need experience to get experience. So if you haven’t got your foot in that door yet, you need to start looking at what you already know and trying to apply it to the position you’re looking for.
I’ve been working in and around hospitality since I was 16, and while I’m finished with waitressing now, it’s dawned on me that I’d been taught a lot of things about PR without even noticing. Not even counting the usual resume fillers: “time management, teamwork, work under pressure.”
So whether you’re Front of House for an entire brand or just a restaurant, here’s why waiting tables is just like PR:
Know who you’re pitching to
Some restaurants have a service manual – a written set of instructions which tell you exactly how to carry out every step of serving a table, so that you serve every customer in the exact same way. In my opinion, this is like sending out identical, non-tailored press releases to every outlet you can think of.
Not everyone is the same. People are going to appreciate you more if you give them what they want. Constantly trying to sell them things that they don’t will just annoy them. In PR,e veryone knows you should research the publications and the writers, and don’t try to pitch sparkly fluff stories to ABC news. It’s just not relevant.
Patrons are the same. If a couple come in laden with expensive jewellery and order a bottle of Moet on the spot, they’ll probably appreciate you telling them about the perfectly sized live lobsters that were delivered this morning. Try the same recommendation on a young couple who clearly just came in for the half price lunch special, and they’ll either get embarrassed, or think you’re pretentious.
Don’t start handing out dessert menus when the wallets are obviously coming out, and don’t send a media release that you know they probably won’t be interested in – you’re just cluttering the table/inbox.
Coffee? Red Bull? Pick your poison, you’ll need it for either job.
(I prefer orange V for waitressing and lattes for the office)
Relationships Reap Rewards
It’s a no brainer really – friends are better than strangers, so you need to know the people you’re dealing with. A journo who likes you is more likely to run your stories. A regular customer who likes you is more likely to give you nice tips.
Front of House
You want to get all the communication across yourself. If you don’t do the job right and someone goes over your head to interrogate someone higher up, you’ll have a problem. In my first waitressing job, I worked for a chef who was a nice person outside of the kitchen, but if you annoyed him while he was cooking, bad stuff was gonna happen. When it came to functions, I was the face of the venue on the night – the MC/organiser spoke to me, and I would relay the info to him. Once a miscommunication over table arrangements sent an organiser storming past me and into the kitchen. My boss was already stressed, and a person coming into his space and yelling at him didn’t help – he lost the plot at the patron. And then at me. In PR, if you mess up and a journo goes straight to your client, they could end up like a startled deer in the headlights and not have a clue what to say – that was supposed to be YOUR job. They didn’t hire you to answer questions themselves.
And finally, I hate to promote the stereotype, nor am I suggesting it’s the only way, but it’s a fact that in both industries the ability to schmooze can get you a lot of places. Being a little bit fabulous and flamboyant in the right situation never hurt anyone.