Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Elite Skills Required by Restaurant Servers 

For a variety of social, cultural and intellectual reasons, many elites look down on occupations they deem to be menial or lacking in intellectual challenges.

The ability to make excellent, stand-up presentations before an audience is one talent US elites value highly.

I was recently blown away by the universally high level of presentations given by my students who work or have worked in restaurants as servers.

I teach MIS at the college level. Each student in my class must write a "real world" paper that analyzes a recently installed computer application. Each student must interview other employees, write the paper, and give a presentation to the rest of the class on the application, their findings, etc. The majority of my students are older - average age, 27. This semester, I had a significant number of students who work or worked as restaurant servers. What hit me was the overwhelming excellence of each server's individual presentation. In the past I had had students with similar backgrounds but there was no critical mass. Until this class, it did not register with me that there is a universal talent for making presentations that shows up for people successful in this field.


To be successful, servers must: make eye contact and verbally communicate with customers; succinctly provide information about daily specials; listen acutely; get orders right, the first time; know the importance of smiling and promptly fixing something that goes wrong. These traits, learned on the job, develop a presence and confidence many people simply don't have. I'd hire any of them in a minute.

These servers demonstrated a very high ability to perform the same function that many elites use to justify their own superior self-image.