Perspectives is a short-form Q&A with culinary and hospitality professionals navigating the new landscape. Each week we’ll hear from different members of various communities about their experiences in the COVID era and how they are helping their business, guests and community move forward. If you work in hospitality and would like to be featured in Perspectives, please email email@example.com.
The phrase “essential worker” has been cast with a very wide net over the last few months. Naturally, this title applies to doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who are fighting the global pandemic. And rightfully so.
But as hospitality continues to claw its way back into “normal,” servers are very much on the front lines of the pandemic since they closely interact with so many people.
For this week’s Perspectives, we spoke with Mykayla Goetz (who turned 26 today, happy birthday), who is a server, shift lead and barista at Nutmeg Bakery & Café in San Diego.
Chef Works: When you hear essential worker, you think of doctors, nurses, healthcare etc. But servers are in contact with more people than probably anyone else in the hospitality industry. What’s the responsibility level that comes with that?
Mykayla Goetz: That’s a huge responsibility. For me, I see my family every day. I have older people in my family. We’re constantly interacting with people. Even when we were doing just takeout, people would come up with no masks. It puts an added responsibility on you to be safe for yourself because people aren’t always going to be thinking about you. That’s not a negative or they are doing it intentionally – you just have to be more aware of protecting yourself along with everyone else in your life you are worried about.
CW: What were those first few weeks like?
MG: I think we were all a little shaky and anxious those first weeks. There was a lot that we still didn’t know and it was easy for those nerves to get the better of you. We had this hand-held credit card machine and we’d be really close to people and they weren’t wearing masks because we didn’t know yet that they were so useful. We didn’t know much about how it spread. What could we touch? What couldn’t we touch?
We had our rules in place to try to protect us. But we couldn’t really enforce them yet on customers. The biggest challenges were the day-to-day changes. Being an essential worker means you have to be on your toes, be open to change and be flexible.
CW: Speaking of which, how have the customers been?
MG: For the most part, really good. There are still a few who might forget to put on a mask if they have a question. Mostly it’s frustration with policies that we can’t control because they come from the state. But those are rare. I think our customers have been loyal and friendly and want to see us do well. So many have been really supportive.
When we stayed open, we were providing meals to healthcare workers and I think our community appreciated that. Food provides a comfort. A good pastry, a good cup of coffee, a good sandwich can be really comforting.
CW: What’s something that has made you smile in the last few months?
MG: I think when we opened up again to outdoor seating, just seeing the way people interact with each other was really sweet. Complete strangers will be sitting two tables away and have these long conversations. It just reminds me that we are social people and we crave that interaction and it’s so nice to finally see us getting back to that.
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