Sometimes it goes both ways in the Hospitality Industry

It was a busy crowded event, something which now seems like a distant memory. It was several years ago, and I was at that event to make drinks and answer questions. Technically I wasn’t working – I wasn’t getting paid – but sometimes not working is the hardest work you will ever do. Everybody I interacted with wanted something from me. I’m not complaining, that is what I was there to do, I have made peace with that part of the equation a very long time ago, I am just saying that it was a one-way service street. Just another day in the life of a bartender. That day changed when a man I knew walked up to me. I looked at him and prepared myself to do my job/not job.

 “Can I get you a drink?” he said.

At first, I thought I had heard him wrong. Maybe he meant “Can you get me a drink?” I think I made a joke to that effect. He laughed and reiterated the question.

“You want to get me a drink?” I asked.

“You’ve been working very hard, I thought you might need one.” Of all the people in that room at that time he was the only one who took notice of that fact and asked me if I needed anything. I was surprised and profoundly grateful. Today is that man’s birthday. Happy Birthday to you Robert Goddard.

Maybe you know Robert? Or maybe you’ve heard of Robert? He’s the guy who gave the staff at a local restaurant a $2000 tip the night before all the restaurants in California were ordered to close. A fine and generous thing to do. It made the evening news and has been all over Facebook and other social media. But if you know Robert at all, you know this isn’t the first time he’s ever done something like that. It is just the first time he’s getting widespread credit for it.

In the service business, people sometimes overlook the people offering the service. I routinely lampoon such people in this very space. But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people who frequent bars and restaurants really do appreciate the people in the service industry. To these people we aren’t “servants”, we are “servers” and that difference is crucial. And quite often, we are friends as well.

I can’t count the amount of kind words, generosity of spirit, or support that Robert has offered to me or to the other staff at the restaurant where I work. He is the very definition of “good people.” He appreciates us and we appreciate him. And he is not alone, there are many more people just like him.

I have been writing this column for 15 years now. A long time by any standard. And I thought that in this moment of service respite I would extend a thank-you personally to many of the “good people” that often don’t get the public recognition that they should. Rest assured, public or not, you are appreciated. 

Thank you to the couples: Robert and Michelle, Greg and Rose, Jeff and Melissa, Mike and Holly, Jim and Diane, John and Maureen, Jay and Dana, Mick and Chantal, Dave and Julie, Bryan and Lisa, John and Rebecca, Bruce and Terry, Ron and Ann, Dave and Grace, Eddie and Betsy, Andrew and Allison, Mike and Heidi, Jeff and Sara, Russ and Chuck, Ivan and Amy, Jeff and Joyce, Meredith and Noah, Britt and Truth, Stacy and John, Terri and Michael.

Thank you to our regulars: Scott, Tom, Trish, Jim, Adam, Brian, Marc, Ged, Karen, Lisa, Jeff, Jill, Rhonda, Alessandra, Judith, Susan, Cynthia, Therese, Steve, Bob, Robert, Frank, Jim, Holly, Dave, Ted, Mary (and Mary), John, Bill, Braden, Mike, Jamie, Haig, Colie, Chris, Lou, Robin, Sean, Jerry, Clark, Robert, Renee, Ron, Matt, Michael, Greg, Peter, George, Craig, Jesse, Claudia, Joe and Matt.

I could go on and on, and I am sure I’ve missed a few, but rest assured, I and everyone in the service industry appreciate all of you very much. The hospitality industry might be shut down for a while, but the hospitality in that industry never closes. We will return and I look forward to seeing all of you very soon.

In the meanwhile, have a very happy birthday Mr. Goddard. The first chance I get I will definitely get you a drink. Not for your most recent generous gesture, but for an entire relationship of them.

 If you are looking to help your local restaurants in this difficult time, many of them are offering To-Go service, and many have set up funds for their employees. Be sure to check their websites, their Yelp pages and their Facebook profiles for more details.