As a college student living on campus during the summer it doesn’t hurt to get more money for food or other necessities. So I decided to apply for a part time job at Cracker Barrel alongside my summer research on campus. I applied to plenty of other places in Meadville, from Family Dollar to the Movies at Meadville, but Cracker Barrel was the only one that provided an interview and contacted me the quickest. I love this restaurant and every time my family comes and visits me we always eat here. Especially since my family has many food allergies, Cracker Barrel is very accommodating. My two interviews went well and I had the option of applying for a cashier, hostess or waitress, but I had no preference. The manager that interviewed me recommended that I be a waitress because of my social skills and positive personality. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to start orientation and be a part of the Cracker Barrel family.
Of course, there was a lot of information to take in during the first day of orientation, but I tried not to overwhelm myself. Since it will be my first time waitressing everyone has been telling me that coming in fresh with no bad habits was very beneficial for me. I can start blank and learn their ways to become a better server. I also had to memorize the meals on the menu, which was hard until I was put on the floor to shadow. I learned more about the food and which sides go with what meal when I handled it myself alongside my supervisor. I then took a plate class after that to test what I had learned about the food and drinks or ask any questions that I had at the moment. Again, it was a lot to take in, but it was only the first day.
It was a lot of preparation to become a waitress, especially with the clothing. Every Cracker Barrel has the same outfits and food so it has the same country feel no matter what restaurant you go to when traveling throughout the United States. At first, I purchased the wrong button-down shirts and pants. The shirts had to be Oxford shirts, which have buttons on the collars to look more crisp and professional. There were no shirts of that sort for women anywhere so I looked in the little boys section in Walmart and found some! I am now an XL in little boys Oxford shirts, so that was a new experience. The pants are also not allowed to have sewn pockets, so I had to go on Amazon and purchase slit pocket black and khaki pants. When they came in the mail I was so excited, because my outfit was finally coming together, but when I tried them on they were extremely long. I then had to find a place for hemming, which was located in the downtown mall in Meadville so I was very thankful to find something last minute. They finished hemming my two pairs of pants within the same day I dropped them off. I never knew the wardrobe of a restaurant was such a hassle, but it definitely taught me patience and a rewarded feeling when everything came together.
My first day of shadowing on the floor was yesterday night during dinner time. I worked from 4-8 pm just learning the ropes about taking orders, cleaning tables, and preparing food. It was a busy night because we were short on staff, but it taught me a lot. They also let me be on my own sometimes, which I was very thankful for as a new waitress. It showed they had trust in me even as a trainee. Of course, I had my mess ups and bad moments (which they told me were normal on the first day), but I was able to quickly overcome them by moving on and not letting it stop me from improving. My first time pouring a drink from a pitcher, I spilled a little on the table because the ice overflowed. Luckily I cleaned up the mess quickly and the older couple just giggled and told me it was alright and to keep improving. The next time I delivered drinks I mixed up the sweetened and unsweetened tea for a young couple, but they laughed it off and told me it was alright and they would make do. I was very thankful for the nice guests and them allowing me to make small mistakes without bringing me down or giving me a hard time, which I know some people would have done. But I know the atmosphere in Cracker Barrel is very calming and relaxed so everyone was very nice and willing to cooperate with me. I just kept smiling and did my best to attend to their needs and wants throughout the night without getting flustered because everyone makes mistakes their first day. You just have to learn from them so next time will be even better than the last. Even the women who have been working there for years broke glasses or spilled drinks that night. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. I also burnt my arm on a tray so I already have a souvenir from my first time waitressing! Although, I know for a fact that my arms will look very buff after waitressing for a while. Especially carrying all those heavy food trays for larger parties.
Overall, my feet hurt, I was sweating, my apron was dirty, and my hands were sticky, but it was a successful first night. My manager was also checking on my every hour to see if I needed a break or anything to make me feel more comfortable. The reassurance helped and kept me going with a smile. I still have so much to learn through shadowing and taking orders, but I know I will get the hang of it eventually. I am very happy I decided to apply for this job. It is teaching me patience and managing my money by working harder than I ever have before. It is definitely different than an internship that is for sure. Hopefully, I will have more stories to tell the longer I work and I will keep you updated on my progress! And if you are ever in the neighborhood, don’t be afraid to pop by and say hello while also enjoying a Cracker Barrel meal.