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Why Every Singaporean Should Be A Waiter At Least Once In Their Lives

The great thing is that where there are challenges to be faced, there are lessons to be learnt. And F&B is chock full of them. 

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This story is a collaboration between Burpple and Rice as part of Rice’s new food column.

“WAITER! What is this fly doing in my soup?!” bellowed the disgruntled diner.

“It appears to be the backstroke, Sir,” came the cold, flat reply.

10-year-old me found that joke hilarious for a couple of reasons. One, I was young and stupid, and literally pictured a dumb waiter and a fly swimming in soup. And two, the mental image of a fly doing the backstroke? I mean, come on.

Fast-forward 7 years and I still love that joke, though for a different reason.

Fresh out of secondary school with time to kill, I joined the workforce as a banquet waiter in a hotel. And I finally understood why the waiter said what he did; I understood how close he must’ve been to breaking said diner’s face.

Put bluntly: working in the service industry is rough. But this story is not about entitled Singaporean diners.

Instead, it’s about how a job or even a career in F&B has value in ways that many Singaporeans still fail to understand.

It’s tough, it’s also deeply humbling. And it can teach you things about life even people at the peak of their corporate jobs don’t get. This includes (but isn’t limited to) how to make small talk, effective conflict management, and accepting that sometimes, you just have to knuckle down and do the dirty work.

But is this true for everyone who has worked in and continues to work in F&B?


(Image: Medium)

When he first started his career in banking, now 28-year-old Jacob found himself on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder. But instead of feeling demoralised and jealous of his superiors, he knew it was exactly where he needed to be.

“Everyone has to start somewhere right?” he says, before sharing that working as a waiter taught him humility, and to just “suck it up”. Jacob knew: when you start from the bottom, it’s simply because the company needs more hands on deck, nothing more.

Everyone is expendable to some degree, and for Jacob, it was a lesson taught and reinforced during his stint in F&B.

“My manager was a great guy. Tough but fair. If we had a good shift, he’d praise us and buy us a drink; if we messed up, yes, he’d yell but it’s what he said after he cooled down that has stuck with me since: he would remind us that we [all the waiters] were essentially just another pair of hands, and to diners, it didn’t matter whose hands they belonged to.”

It was in this way that Jacob learnt how there will always be someone more talented who might come along, or someone who’s willing to work for lower pay/benefits—whether as a waiter or in any other profession. If he wanted to keep his place, he had to get things done, instead of complaining about how unfair life was—something his fellow colleagues regularly did.

Today, Jacob is a successful banker. And the memory of being at the bottom of the food-chain keeps his ego in check.

Read on to find out more.

This story is a collaboration between Burpple and Rice as part of Rice's new food column