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Labor Day: Life in the Restaurant Industry

Door County relies on tourism summer in and summer out. A vital part of this is the restaurant industry: an untamable yet exciting beast. From the people who grow vegetables and distill liquors to the people who serve plates and sling drinks, the workforce of the restaurant industry rides the waves of the seasons to keep us fed, quenched and entertained.

This Labor Day, as so many of us relax through a weekend of vacation fun, these servers, cooks and bartenders will work double time in restaurants that just lost their summer workforce. We asked these hard-working restaurant workers to offer suggestions for being a better diner and a better bar patron. The responses we received were informative, funny and sometimes cringe-inducing. What follows are some of the best, edited for length, style and clarity. 

Enjoy, and tip well this holiday weekend!

Being a Good Patron: 12 Tips to Make a Server’s Day Better

1. When you’re greeted at the door, greet your host in return.
2. If you plan to split your check, let your server know right away instead of at the end of the meal. If everyone in your group plans to pay with cash, don’t ask for split checks. 
3. Say something immediately if you don’t like your food. Most restaurants will happily fix whatever is wrong.
4. Religious pamphlets left as tips don’t pay the bills. Servers rely on tips to pay for rent, electricity and food. Try paying for those with spiritual advice sometime. 
5. Don’t let your children run wild in a restaurant. It’s rude to fellow diners and dangerous to servers. 
6. Don’t whistle or snap your fingers to get a server’s attention. 
7. If you say you’re ready to order, be ready to order. If you’re not ready, just say so. 
8. Speak up and speak clearly when ordering. If you’re asked to repeat something, don’t be offended – you want your order taken correctly, after all.
9. Don’t make rude comments or jokes about your server’s accent, and keep your inappropriate questions in your head. The restaurants of Door County couldn’t keep their doors open without summer help from around the globe.
10. Got messy kids? It’s a huge help if you clean up the food they’ve dropped under and around the table. 
11. Restaurants run out of things. Getting upset when a restaurant is out of a menu item won’t bring that item back.
12. If you don’t have it in you to share your feedback in person, don’t be a coward and complain anonymously online. Talk to the server or manager first so the establishment has a chance to make it right. 

10 Reasons to Love Working in Restaurants

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, some customers can be awful and some co-workers, well, unreliable. But there are lessons to be learned and fun to be had in the restaurant world that you can’t find anywhere else. Here are a few things workers said they love about their job.

1. I love talking to my customers. I love hearing their stories and maybe even keeping in touch.
2. The skills and personality traits you gain are invaluable.
3. The relationships built with coworkers when put into similar stressful situations are high-quality and can last a lifetime.
4. If you work at the right place, you can get some great meals for cheap or free.
5. You meet all kinds of interesting people from all over the world – and subsequently become a better human.
6. Commiserating with coworkers is a free therapy session.
7. Working in the service industry is a great starting point for figuring out what you want out of life.
8. It’s a great opportunity to learn about different foods and drinks. I particularly like learning about beers and breweries.
9. There’s nothing quite like a nice, cold beer right after a serving shift.
10. The camaraderie you gain with other industry workers – and not even just at the business where you work. Whenever I meet other people who work in the service industry, there seems to be a shared understanding. We know the ups and downs, and we see and acknowledge the hard work of others.

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BY THE NUMBERS

The Restaurant Workforce 

1
Rank of food service among the top employment sectors in Door County (behind Manufacturing, Accommodations and Government) 

1,820
Number of people employed in the food-service industry in Door County in 2018

$18,160
Median annual wage of servers in Door County in 2018

$19,190
Median annual wage of bartenders in Door County in 2018

$20,850
Median annual wage of food-service employees in Door County in 2018

Source: Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development