reflections

Summer ’16: Meemom’s

I thought this summer would be full of adventure. Spontaneous trips to NYC, late night excursions with friends from home and school, numerous beach days – too many to count. Instead, my summer consisted of (speed) walking between a kitchen and tables, surrounded by grey blue walls and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

Meemom’s, named after the owner’s grandma, is the french toast restaurant I spent most of summer ‘16 at. I began as a hostess on May 17, welcoming new customers and seating them, as well as answering the phone and recording take-out orders at the front of the restaurant. The hostess who trained me would buss (clean) tables in her free time, so I quickly learned to buss and host simultaneously, and ended up being promoted to barista by the end of my first week.

meemoms9crazygrandpas
Iced Crazy Grandpas I whipped up behind the bar :)) – a mix of chocolate, caramel, french vanilla & espresso (aka pure deliciousness)

After mastering the espresso machine, I moved to the floor and was taught to serve. I memorized the proper greeting to use when first approaching a table, and learned how to multitask by giving equal attention to every table in my section – nearly simultaneously. Rather than taking an order and rushing to input it through the computer in the back, I realized I had to check on my other tables first, making a mental list of items asked for so that I could deliver everything on my next trip back to the floor.

At first, I sucked. I forgot orders, inputted them wrong, attempted to serve incomplete dishes, and otherwise created countless small disasters. I had a tough time focusing on one task long enough to complete it when there were five others calling my name. Just when I started to get the hang of serving, the manager asked to speak with me. It was June 27.

After a long day, he sat me down and told me that the restaurant was considering moving me back to being a barista, hostess, and busser. My heart sank. As a server I could expect to make $100+ in tips on an average day. As a hostess, I didn’t get tipped out at all, only receiving hourly wage, and as a busser or barista, I knew I would make much less than waitressing.

I ended up penning a long letter to the manager when I got home, essentially asking to be retrained as a server. He knew I was a hard worker, since my hustle and willingness to do anything for anyone were what got me promoted in the first place. He agreed to retrain me.

After a long two weeks of trailing other servers, meticulously inputting orders into the computer system, and memorizing flash cards of menu items, I was ready to enter the floor on my own again. The most frustrating part of training was that I didn’t receive tips at all. I was paid a flat rate for the entire training period, but the amount equaled what I could’ve made in two days of serving. However, I knew I was blessed to receive another chance to serve and didn’t squander it.

meemoms13waffles
Prepping chocolate strawberry pancakes and banana split waffles on the expo line. We added the chocolate drizzle, maple syrup, and butter before serving these dishes.

Now, it’s August 18, ten days before I go back to school, and I’m melancholy. I was extremely motivated to work this summer because I never wanted to experience being broke again. Last semester, my final sorority bill of $56 arrived at a point when I only had $0.46 in my bank account. I went into financial probation. While I’ve made over $3,000 this summer, I’m also constantly exhausted. When I get home from a long day of waitressing, I don’t have the energy to talk to anyone. Meemom’s is open from 7:00am-3:00pm every day, which means we work from 6:30am-4:00pm with opening and closing duties. After nine hours of being on my feet in a customer service position, I’m usually drained – physically and emotionally. The joy I used to receive from looking at my overflowing bank account has diminished and now I ask, was it worth it? Was it worth devoting my summer to making money, when I could’ve been developing relationships, traveling, and relaxing before school begins again?

After reflecting on it, I realized that any stirrings of regret are overpowered by gratefulness for my experiences this summer. I learned invaluable lessons in humility, hard work, communication, and multitasking. I know how to waitress now, and how to do it well. I also met wonderful people this summer, people I wouldn’t trade for the world. They mentored me, teased me, laughed with me, sang for me, made me chicken fingers when I forgot to bring in granola bars, and stood up for me when no one else would. Along the way, I also learned discipline, sleeping before midnight (which, if you know me, realize this is no small miracle) and waking up at 6:00am every morning.

I’m happy that I accomplished my goal of making enough money to cover my sorority dues, Saturday brunches, and city trips. Although I may not have spent as many days lounging on the beach, exploring beautiful new places, or going on late night adventures, I appreciate all the lessons I’ve learned. This may have been my most challenging summer yet, but it has also been the most rewarding. Meemoms, I’ll see you in December.

meemoms11vanessa
I first visited Meemoms in March and Vanessa was the one who served me and my dad. Her bright smile, spunk, and sparkling personality made the restaurant seem like an exciting atmosphere to work in and convinced me to apply for a job. Upon getting hired in May, she was the one who trained me as a barista and then server, and constantly guided me throughout the summer. Thanks for always encouraging and believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Much love Vaness.

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