Horror stories from the food industry

(Photo credit: Waldemar Brandt)

As Halloween rolls around, if you’re looking for a scare then applying for a service industry job may be perfect for you.


Working in the hospitality industry is common among students looking for a steady income as they earn their degrees. As of 2020, the food and beverage industry has accounted for 10% of the U.S. workforce, according to the Committee of Economic Development


Although a job that gives flexible hours or the opportunity to earn tips can be reliable for those unable to work a full-time job, it isn’t always pretty. Long shifts, disgruntled customers and unpleasant comments are just a few examples of what a working student may face during any given shift. 


Complaints vary depending on the workplace, sometimes over legitimate reasons and other times it’s dilemmas that shouldn’t ruin a person’s day. 


Saddleback student Dylan Luden was able to give his personal experience with an angry customer as a barista at Starbucks. 


“One time, a customer was upset at me because we didn’t have any ‘nicer gift cards’ as she put it, even though all of our gift cards are nice,” Luden said. “She was looking for a birthday gift card, but we didn’t have any specific cards catered for birthdays.” 


Waiting for a table is another area where customers tend to lash out if not seated in time. As a restaurant gets busy, the wait increases and without a reservation, being seated could take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour. 


Will Terrel is a student that has to deal with these issues as a host at California Pizza Kitchen. 


“I’ve had customers yell at me because of long wait times for tables,” Terrel said. “I normally tell them to stay calm and if their anger rises I will get a manager to come handle the situation.” 


The food industry has no shortage of short-fused customers. Cameron Osburn has been working in the food industry for almost four years now. As a working student, he has seen it all. 


“One experience that stands out to me is the lady who was upset that I made her ice cream cone too small,” Osburn said. “She proceeded to drive back through the drive-thru and after I refused to make her a new one she slammed it on the counter.” 


Exchanging words with customers can have a long-lasting effect on the mental health of employees in any job setting. Depending on the circumstances, hearing complaints from customers can increase stress levels at busy times. 


“Sometimes it does have a lasting effect on my mental health. Other times I just laugh off the experiences. I think what makes one experience worse than another is what type of environment this event took place in,” Luden said. “In my opinion, if a customer is extremely unhappy and voices their opinion with me in a busy or crowded situation, it’ll have a lasting effect on me. I will become panicked and I don’t want to work anymore that day because of that customer’s words towards me.” 


At the end of the day, leaving problems at the job is a crucial skill employees must learn while working in the service industry.