My Experience with COVID-19 in the Service Industry

I have worked in restaurants since I was old enough to have a job. I love the fast paced environment, making conversation with customers, the free food, and all the friends I have made in the service industry. I have worked almost every possible restaurant position from bussing tables, to hosting, to serving and bartending, to managing. I’ve pretty much done it all! In my opinion, there’s no better feeling than making someone’s dining experience one to remember!


I’ve worked in several different kinds of restaurants as well. I’ve worked with Asian cuisine, I’ve worked at a steakhouse, and a fine dining and cocktail bar. Although each has very different atmospheres, the standards and procedures are all pretty much the same and I was able to transition pretty seamlessly from one to the next. 


Everything I knew and was used to all changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At the time, I was serving at Rumour, and that is still where I am employed today. It started with a lot of uncertainty. Nobody really knew what was going on. Lots of other restaurants in the area were closing temporarily, but we had not gotten official word that closing was a requirement. Our staff was still coming to work, but it wasn’t worth going in because people stopped going out to eat. The restaurant was weird being so empty and we started getting nervous that we shouldn’t be coming in to work if others were scared to leave their homes. Rumour provides the option for our customers to use Uber Eats and Chow Now to order delivery from home. During this time these services were offering free delivery, which was an incentive for us to stay open. We stayed open as long as we possibly could, until March 17th, it was required to move down to limited service. This meant that people could not dine in our restaurant. Only kitchen workers and a couple of servers were required to make the food and get it ready for take-out, so most of the staff, including me, was out of a job. With no work and classes being switched to online I moved back home to be with family. So did most everyone else. We were all advised by management to file for unemployment. I had never done this before, and it was a weird feeling to be at home not being able to go to work still collecting money, but I had to do it because I still had bills to pay. Rumour also made a gofundme for its employees. It was called Rumour Employee Relief Fund. It was cool to see how many people were willing to help.


I loved being at home with my family, but I was so ready to get back into my normal routine. The worst part was not knowing when I would be able to work and go to classes again. It wasn’t until over a month later, around May 1st that I was able to move back home and start working again. I hadn’t anticipated how different everything would be. On top of what we already had to do for cleaning surfaces, we had to spray everything with a COVID-19 specific spray. We had to make sure that all of the tables were at least six feet apart. We couldn’t have parties larger than six people to begin with. My least favorite of all, everyone had to wear a mask. Patrons had to wear a mask to their tables and all of the employees had to wear their masks at all times. This completely changed interactions with customers. One of the major things I struggled with is hearing and being heard. It is a lot harder for a table to hear me through my mask and they would often ask me to repeat myself. On top of that, it makes the interaction a lot less personable. Being able to share smiles is a huge deal when trying to give someone a good dining experience. If a table cannot tell what mood I am in because half of my face is covered during our interaction, it is probably just as frustrating for them as it is for me. 


I have gotten a lot of comments from customers saying that it is dumb that they are required to wear masks in the restaurant or tell me just to take off mine, that they don’t care. As much as I would love that, it is not up to me. I want everything to go back to normal as much as everyone else. The most frustrating part about all of this is that I have no idea when it will. I cannot wait for the day that I can smile at people sitting at my tables without wearing a mask and tables can be close together again. I cannot wait for the day people are not worried that going and being served will make them sick and servers are not worried about getting sick at work.