Dishin' That: If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right

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In one crucial week, the numerous front-of-house job postings on Craigslist have dwindled and most positions have been filled.

There’s still a place in Old Orchard Beach looking for an “Attractive Jello-shot girl. No experience necessary,” but unless a recent new hire is a complete dolt, the window is almost shut.

From what I’ve heard, several fresh-faced high school and college kids made it past the interview stage. To those of you who have never said, “Enjoy your meal,” to a stranger, here are a few suggestions for making the most (money, that is) of the opportunity.

1 — Be five minutes early to every shift, but don’t punch in until the moment you were scheduled. Make sure the boss sees you.

2 — Arrive in full regalia. That means hair up or hat on, apron in hand and cell phone on vibrate, safely tucked away in your back pocket.

3 — Say hello, or at least nod, to everyone in the kitchen. You will quickly learn these people can make or break the expediency of your service.

3.5 — Do not buy into the “us-versus-them” server-kitchen mentality. There will be some resentment when the newbies sweating behind the line realize you’re making triple their hourly rate. Show them appreciation, no matter how sarcastic and nasty they may be.

4 — Do extra side work that isn’t assigned to someone else. There’s no better way to go above and beyond than wiping down sticky booster seats without being asked. The tendency to slack off when it’s slow is powerful, but don’t go there.

5 — Help your co-workers, but don’t get dumped on. Being a team player is one thing; being taken advantage of is another. This is a tough one, but have boundaries and enforce them with tact.

6 — Don’t take part in any “Mean Girl” actions or gossip. Alliances develop quickly in restaurants. Be Switzerland.

7 — Ask for help if you get in the weeds. There’s no shame in passing on a table (greed is not your friend here) or asking your manager to help run food. You represent the restaurant, and an occasional request for assistance is seen as a strength. But be sure you are asking for customer-related assistance and not just busing or other less-desirable tasks.

8 — Put a little note near the posted schedule offering to pick up shifts. Then, whenever possible, work them when asked. Managers quickly learn who they can rely on.

9 — If you call in sick, make sure you’re either contagious or too injured to work. When a restaurant is forced to run short-handed, it hurts your coworkers, the house and the customers. Plus, everyone will hate you.

10 — Ask questions. Learn about wine, seasonings and flavors, anything that you can build upon for a next-level restaurant job. Insider knowledge will get you rehired next summer.

Lastly, there’s a fine line between sincerity and sucking up. Be sincere. You’ll make friends that will last a lifetime, learn people skills envied in every walk of life, and, if done with style, will no doubt make bank.

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Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @natalieladd.