I work at a restaurant which flaunts its style as being greater than your average fast food restaurant, all the while actually serving up some great food for the health-conscious. The place to which I refer is called Panera Bread. Yes, everyone — it is a greater job to hold than fast food. This is actually my tenth month working for Panera. Because of its heightened atmosphere in regards to the wall art, the striking yet warm colors, plentiful lighting, booths and tables galore, and all-around balanced music on the radio, many people realize that their average fast food diet seems to be doing them a terrible favor and turning to the few alternatives; juice diets, gluten-free diets, and other fad diets which don’t last much longer than a few weeks (none of which I currently follow, if this is what I may have inadvertently indicated). Outside of the bread, obviously, Panera has some feel-good, guilt-free soups on the menu which will not lead to extra pounds on the scale over time. That being said, nothing seems to have ever made work more difficult in the fast food (or namely, in our example here, fast-casual) than actually being a successful chain for the foodie who wishes to eat sensibly, as well as appealing to a different class of citizens altogether.
Let’s start with what I do. Due in large part to my physical strength, my primary area of expertise is the dining room. This includes all of the following: stocking condiments; brewing four different coffees before their one-hour expiration for the duration of each shift; replacing the creamers (half-and-half and skim milk) as necessary; brewing tea as necessary or before their eight-hour expiration; stocking the quickly-depleted soda lids, straws, napkins in about five areas; replacing about eight sanitizing buckets before their three-hour expiration; resupply the line workers with bowls for half salads, bowls for full salads, soup cups, soup bowls, soup spoons (for our new broth bowl menu items), spoons, knives, forks, and grey trays; resupplying the cashiers with their yellow trays, coffee mugs, and silverware as necessary; cleaning spills, resupplying toilet paper and paper towels to the restrooms; keeping the hand soap filled properly; placing the cushions outside for the patio every morning that I work, wiping down tables in between all of this for patrons who have decided to leave their trays on the table during rush hour; and of course, keeping the supply of hot water for our variety of hot tea options updated every now and then. Not to mention, due to my height, are countless requests by the shorter workers to obtain items from 8 feet up without the use of a ladder. I also failed to note until now that, by far, the greatest demand in what I do lay in the fact that I have to wash every single dish which comes to the bus tubs (these are plastic bins which are designed to hold large amounts of stoneware dishes in the event of a rush hour. And these are utilized very, very frequently).
Sure, that seems to be a lot to remember, and mechanically, I am about as automatically wired to perform this job beyond the capacity for all others as I would be mechanically wired to auto-pilot anything. In the short ten months that I have worked at Panera, I have become an Associate Trainer for the dining room. By default, it seems that everyone has considered me to be capable of performing this job so much so that I exceed the skill of even those who have been here for many years. This is highly unfortunate for me because I also have to greet customers as they are asking me to wipe down tables; some of them like to chat about this-and-that. This takes away from me some capacity for perform my work accurately. But then again, I do it so often that I might even talk to a customer for upwards of 45 seconds before resuming what they call a “travel path” (the purpose of which is to resupply any depleting materials from the condiment stations, as well as busing tables before customers might leave a mess to clean for others who are intentionally waiting for a family to leave so they can get a booth despite all the empty tables to which they have easy access). And this I do five days a week, and have done for just about 7 months now.
In order to become an Associate Trainer, you must certify in three positions and have a level of expertise and knowledge sufficient to performing your job prior to being sent to a trainer class. I have held a certification for sandwiches and dining room (trust me, memorizing 13 or 14 different breads for specific meat combinations which are by default (unless requested otherwise by the customer) is a daunting task, in addition to having to summon these combinations in the blink of an eye, for those cashiers can fill a screen of orders quite rapidly). The tertiary of these which granted me Trainer status was obtaining my certification in salads. In actual despite of these three certifications, my primary area is dining room.
So what gives? Well, it seems that, although I may have certified in all three of the required stations, since I perform so well in the most difficult area of Panera I’m simply a great asset in terms of cleaning dishes and whatnot. Of course, I am not bragging about anything. I do forget from time to time that something runs out while I am busy with washing dishes. The straws run out frequently while I’m there. As do the mustard, olive oil mayonnaise (pretty delicious stuff, if you ask me), napkins, coffee, tea, lids, coffee sleeves — so I don’t perform perfectly. I’m far from it, but I’m so very much assigned my position that everything I need to know comes to me as quickly as simply typing out this post. This makes me the most efficient dining room worker in the eyes of the management whom are in charge of assigning the scheduling, noting my extraordinary height as being an advantage except for where I may actually have minimal use — in either the salad or sandwich station.
Both stations are designed such that each ingredient can be quickly accessed by the person working at that moment. But in my case, being very tall (I was last measured around 6’7” in the Navy, which is around two meters, give or take several thousand nanometers), when standing straight up I cannot see any of the ingredients in the back rows of these little refrigerators. I have to bend down to access them, and even when I can do so, there is a great amount of stress placed on my lower back, exacerbated by the fact that the leverage on the fulcrum which is my lower back is increased each time I extend my arm out to reach those ingredients. This makes me really badly suited for even doing such jobs. I get in the way and it makes me appear clumsy. How I earned my certification in these two stations without much injury is beyond me, but I do know that even though I can be called back to those two stations at any time, the reality is that I hold those positions so infrequently that it always seems to be a challenge to perform those two jobs correctly.
Working at Wendy’s and Sonic proved to have the same effect. I was too tall to reach the furthest sections of the fries without stooping considerably. I actually suffered spinal injuries in the Navy, and although I do get compensated for it, I am certain that these low-paying job are of even minute benefit for my back. Not only that, doing the same thing over and over while being tired of that particular position will lead me to a burnout, an action which I fear looms over the horizon in the future. When, I cannot discern. But when it does happen, I fear that I will have a very definitively difficult time recuperating and feeling motivated enough to look around for another physically-demanding job. Maybe I’ll look to attending college again after some time self-learning some mathematics.
Until the next time I arrive here, adieu.