86’D… Transitioning Out of the Restaurant Business

As I sit here and compose this blog post, I’m listening to yet ANOTHER news report on how the restaurant industry is getting hit HARD right now during this Covid-19 pandemic. 

As a former restaurant employee in another life, I recognize how hard it is for restaurant employees to lose a job, or to even get out of the restaurant business in the first place.  Restaurant employees are an intelligent, hard-working, industrious brand of people.  They also live life to the fullest, enjoy themselves at work (most of the time), and have a reputation for being a ton of FUN. With those attributes, its hard not to LOVE restaurant employees. 

However, those attributes also lend themselves to late nights, bad habits, and a real lack of savings. Many restaurant employees live hand to mouth.  Not just month-to-month, but week-to-week.  Shift-to-shift.  Rent check to rent check.   

The restaurant business can be very lucrative if you are in the right position.  I for example, was a bartender for several years.  I started tending bar in college when I was nineteen or twenty, and was out-earning most of my friends well after they graduated from college, and got their first or even second jobs.  I was fully self-sufficient and reliant upon no-one to meet my financial needs.  I had my own little apartment with my pets, an active social life, and was living a pretty good life… for a while.

With that being said, I was totally fooling myself a bit as well.  I had “maxed-out” my earning potential in the restaurant industry.  I had gone as far as I wanted to go.  I reached a point where I was no longer enjoying what I was doing, and I was not moving forward in my career.  My college friend’s lives were taking off, and mine had stalled. 

I had gone to college to get a degree and begin a career, not to tend bar, and I got a little stuck for a while.  My student loans were due.  I had zero savings.  I had medical bills piling up, and my monthly insurance premium was pretty high because I was self-insured.  Long story short, my grown-up life was not shaping up to be what I thought it should be.  I knew I had to make a change and make it fast, or I was going to become a “lifer” in the restaurant industry, which was not my goal.  

So, I took some drastic steps.  I moved in with other people so that I could withstand a pay-cut.  I got a 9-5 job at a small healthcare company making a fraction of what I was earning in the restaurant industry just to gain “experience.”  I later took some really hard and undesirable sales jobs to gain more experience so that I could later transition into medical sales.  I faked it, til I “maked” it until I was truly someone different. 

All of these steps eventually paid off.  Over the course of a few years, I paid off all my debt, built a legit medical sales career, started a family, saved money, and now I’m RUNNING my own company.  All the hard work and the steps I took years ago FINALLY paid off.  Ten-fold.  I’m right where I planned to be.  It sucked getting here, but I’m here nevertheless.  

I believe you or a restaurant worker you love can do it too.  I’m here to tell you that a job-loss in the restaurant business right now could be the BEST thing that ever happened to you or your loved one.  If you can get out of your own head, stop listening to BAD advice (those of your co-workers), and actively work towards transitioning OUT of the restaurant industry entirely, it can be done.  

Ok, so now what?  Read-on for a few of my transitional tips for restaurant workers who want to PERMANENTLY and EFFECTIVELY get out of the restaurant industry for GOOD.  Believe me.  You will be SO glad you made the leap!

1.  Evaluate your TRANSFERABLE skills, education level, and anything you know you can do.  Computer skills, college degree status, written communication skills, construction experience, etc.

2. Get a REAL resume together. 

Many restaurant workers have NEVER done this, but it is an absolute MUST.  You cannot get a “real” job without a real resume. 

3.  Take a look at ALL of your bills and finances. 

How much money goes out.  How much is coming in?  How much savings do you have?  Can you pay your bills?  You may have to reduce your spending significantly in the short-term while you transition to a different industry.  This could mean getting a roommate, moving in with family, selling your car, getting a “beater” to drive, deferring your student-debt, etc. 

This is an ESSENTIAL step, and you have to do it.  I recommend reading Dave Ramsey’s, Total Money Makeover.  I listened to him daily while getting out of debt and building my career. You have to think about your financial health, and his methods are broken down really well.

4.  Start exercising, showing up ON-TIME for EVERYTHING, and reducing your bad habits. 

Believe me, there are a lot of them that can be picked up in the restaurant industry, and a traditional job will not absorb you as easily if you bring them with you.  

5. Evaluate the WHAT, the WHERE, and the WHY of your transition. 

-What do you want to do?

-Where do you want to be in five or ten years?

-Why do you want to transition out?

If you can identify these things, and mean it, you will NEVER look back. 

6.  Start looking for a job.  

Now the “S” is hitting the fan.  You need to be utilizing ALL of your contacts during this transition.  Remember those regulars with great jobs that like you so much?  Talk to them.  Post on your social media accounts that you are actively  transitioning OUT of the restaurant industry and that you are available for a new position.  Now is the time to think outside of the box. Also, there are some awesome remote work websites that could potentially get you started.  

There is a misconception that you must have a college degree to get a decent job.  That’s simply not true.  Think of companies like UPS, FedEx, Amazon, your local hospital registrar office, small private doctors offices, and healthcare companies. 

Also, think of industries and trades like welding, plumbing, the auto-diesel industry, construction, roofing, etc.  There may be PAID apprenticeship opportunities out there you are perfectly suited for if you do not have a college degree and would like to learn a trade.  In addition, I think its important to be forward thinking with the industry you choose.  Try not to leave one low-demand job for another.  

Keep in mind that the first job only has to meet two requirements.  It has to be OUT of the restaurant industry, and it has to PAY you.  Big bonus points if its also  in the industry you desire to work within long-term.  After you get your first job, and after your income has somewhat been stabilized, we can start transitioning into other roles.  First, you need to eat, pay your bills, and break away from the restaurant world.

7.  Stay the course.

A transition at any point in your life is not easy.  Especially, one of this scale.  You have to begin with the end in mind, and you must mentally prepare to play the long game.  In encourage you to recognize that the road may be a little curvy at certain points, but if you stay the course you WILL get to where you need to go.

8.  Let go of your party friends and the restaurant people that were dragging you down

Its critically important that you walk away from the people, the lifestyle, and the bad habits that were not positively impacting your life or your health.  Keep the good ones, but let the others fade into the background.  In fact, most of contacts  you had in the restaurant world will fade away on their own.  You don’t have to tell them.  Just do you, and the best friendships will emerge in the end.  I can pretty much guarantee that throughout this process you will forge new friendships through this period of growth in your life.

9.  Grow at every opportunity.

Read, read, read!  Listen to career and financial health podcasts, and try to become a better person daily.  Your mind-set and mental toughness are what will get you through this transition.  You will most likely lose a few friends along the way.  You’ll also most likely be starting at the bottom of whatever industry you find yourself in, and that can be very humbling.  Continue to push forward.

Final thoughts…

I realize all of this advice may be little overwhelming.  Perhaps you have been contemplating how to get out of the restaurant industry for a while now, but have not yet taken the leap.  Well, now is the chance to change directions and get out for good! 

I speak from experience when I say that IT CAN BE DONE!  I did it, and I have full faith that if I can do it and become successful, anyone else can as well.  Stay safe out there, and let me know if I can be of any assistance to you or a restaurant worker you love!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: