Where You're At: Returning To Restaurant Work | KBIA

Where You're At: Returning To Restaurant Work

May 14, 2020

We at KBIA have found strength in our community during the COVID-19 crisis. In our series “Where You’re At,” we’re calling our neighbors to see how they’re coping during the pandemic.

If you want to share your story, email KBIA at news@kbia.org.

Here is DC Benincasa’s call with Will Nulty, a college student and server at a national chain restaurant in Columbia:

So Will, how are you doing?

I’m actually doing well. I went back to work yesterday, which is exciting and scary at the same time. It’s exciting that I can finally get some money back and scary cause the virus hasn’t exactly gone away. Really, this next week is more of a feeling out process and seeing what it’s going to be like.

And what would you say is your favorite part of being a server? What’s your favorite part of your job?

Definitely interactions – interactions with customers. The restaurant I work at is right next to three hotels, so we get people from all over, not just from Columbia, not just our regulars who are living in the Columbia area. But really we get people from all over the country, as Columbia is kind of in the middle of the country. So, people who are driving across America stop there over night if they are staying in one of the hotels. It’s really cool to meet people and hear their stories from pretty much all over. 

Got it, and with you going back today, how do you think it will be different?

So, we’ve had a training period yesterday and this morning about really how we are serving differently. And it’s really all about gaining people’s trust as well as keeping everybody, including ourselves, safe. The obvious ways: always wearing a mask, always wearing gloves. But, simple things like asking the customer on first acknowledgment how close you can get to the table. If they prefer you stay at an arms reach from you, that’s okay. But some people at the same time are more welcoming, like, ‘Yeah, no you’re fine. Get as close as you want to the table.’ So that’s definitely a change. Right now, we also have designated physical distancing tables; so tables that are not already occupied, more just to keep space in between guest tables. That has definitely reduced capacity as well. Obviously, a lot of cleaning stuff, we are much more diligent about cleaning all our tables and cleaning all of our single use objects, like the ketchup bottles that you normally see on tables. Those are really only available upon request, and we will clean them after every single use. So, yeah pretty much, there’s a lot of changes in keeping everybody safe.

So, in the midst of all these social distancing guidelines you kind of went over as a server, is there something that you feel most pressured about or most worried about being a server through all these guidelines?

Yeah, maybe if I’m most worried about anything, it’s that, I mean, I don’t know exactly. I mean my first shift is tonight. I don’t know exactly how many people will show up. I can’t imagine it would be too many. But the people who are itching to go out, to go back out to restaurants and have a night out with their family, the ones that are going to be eating out this week are ones who maybe have taken the virus and pandemic a little more leniently than others if that makes sense. There’s definitely a group of people who at the same time are not going out and won’t be going back out to restaurants for a few months, as well as people who are still trying to feel it out and hear maybe from the first group of people who are going out. So if that first group of people who are really itching to go out and have a night out at a restaurant really have been taking the virus leniently, maybe that is cause for worry. Huh. It’s like I’m kind of on the front lines now all of a sudden and in contact with a lot of people.

Got it, and Will, is there something you’ve missed being stuck at home throughout the pandemic?

I definitely miss seeing people I work with, people who I’m friends with on a daily basis or a weekly basis in some cases and just having that interaction with people. Everyone really on Earth is really social and humans are social creatures. And everyone is kind of going about this alone. And while we do have social media and texting and FaceTime and phone calls, it’s not always exactly the same as saying hey to your friends all the time. 

Thank you so much for your time, Will.

Yeah, of course.