A FOH Position Can Be a Great Way for an Introvert to Gain Important Social Skills
In a lot of ways, I’m a quintessential introvert: I need alone time, I find it difficult to be witty in conversation with strangers and I’m amazed by people who can have 15 best friends at once (just thinking about keeping up with that many people stresses me out). But, I’m not shy either. I have no problem being the first on a dance floor and I’ve been known to rock a karaoke bar or two. I’ve also worked as a server for over 10 years and loved it! Granted, I need hermit time on my days off to recover from socially draining activities.
Introversion and extroversion are just two points on a spectrum, and while we can’t change what we are at the core (how we get our energy and recharge), things aren’t always so black and white. We can adopt skills typically associated with the opposite personality type through experience. Working FOH can be a great job for introverts looking to develop some beneficial social skills and here are just a few that introverts might pick up.
Captivating a group of people as you recite daily specials can take about a minute, but feel like thirty when you’re introverted. Not only do you have to explain each special, you have to do it with a certain level of pizzazz in order to sell them — sometimes to groups of 10 or more people all while your inner being is telling you to run for the hills.
At first, I made mistakes speaking in front of big groups. I’d stumble over my words (my slight lisp didn’t help, but that’s another topic), but as I gained more experience in front of a big group I learned to just laugh off mistakes, apologize and carry on. A FOH job provides opportunity after opportunity to get comfortable in finding your own voice in front of a hungry group of strangers — and once you’ve experienced that crowd, you can speak in front of almost anyone.
When tackling a job, my introverted self’s first instinct is to just do it alone without asking for help or confronting anyone who isn’t doing their part. I quickly learned that’s a disastrous tactic in a restaurant position. Restaurant work is nothing without teamwork. So as an introvert, working a FOH position can teach you when to ask for help and that it’s okay. In fact, sometimes it’s someone’s job to help (shout out to all the bussers keeping the customer service game strong — we couldn’t do it without ya!).
It can also teach you when and how to confront someone. Unfortunately, not everyone you work with will understand the notion of teamwork and you might have to step up when you notice someone slacking or taking advantage of a situation. But, working FOH and dealing with coworkers and customers on a daily basis can coach you to address issues professionally and avoid hard feelings.
If there’s any theme to this article it’s that communication is extremely important in restaurants, but it’s also an important life skill. So for introverts looking to develop better communication skills, restaurants are a great place to start.
I definitely experienced a learning curve when I began working at a restaurant, but with trial and error and a lot of practice I learned to speak confidently and concisely to customers so that when I left a table, the customers had all the information they needed. I learned to speak more directly to coworkers rather than passively, so that they knew exactly what I was asking for. As FOH staff, you are the liaison between the customers and the kitchen, or bar, or management — so being clear and to the point is essential. Having some basic communication skills right off the bat is needed, but over time you can expand those basic skills and learn to be more effective when communicating with others.
As mentioned, introversion and extroversion are just two points on a spectrum and some of us are more introverted than others. So it’s possible for one introvert to take away more from a FOH position than another introvert. It all depends on your willingness to take a chance and desire to learn new skills. Regardless of what personality type you have, restaurants are a great place to develop important social skills and have some fun while you’re at it.