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  • Kate Berry

Service With a Smile: 12 Principles of the Service Industry That Apply to Your Relationship

I often joke that the 10 years I spent working as a waitress taught me more than all of the years I spent in college. It also didn’t put me thousands of dollars in debt, but that’s a story for another day...

But the more that I think about it, it only becomes funny in a way that things are when they are unequivocally true and real: Everything I need to know about life, I learned as a waitress.

Now, before I go any further, I want to give a shout out to my front-of-the-house service industry people - all those kind, funny, hard-working servers, bussers, bartenders, and front desk-folk who make the world of hospitality go ‘round. Thank you for all you do. Here in the tourism-centric town of Whitefish, Montana, we are in the thick of “Angry August,” where patience tends to run low and alcohol consumption tends to run high.

It’s kind of like a rough patch in a relationship, right?

Yes, I just compared being in a relationship to working front-of-the-house in the service industry. And no, it’s not because I think there is a comparison between “serving” your partner and all of the weird power-dynamics that come along with that.

I actually believe that some of the things that made me a good waitress have also make me a good romantic partner. I say “good” because I firmly believe that being “good enough” is good enough. You don’t have to be the best at your job to make it worthwhile, just like you don’t have to always be great at your relationship to make it still worthwhile. Trust me, if our partners could give up Yelp! Reviews, I’m sure that mine would give me only 3 stars on occasion (much like one Yelp! Reviewer who once was displeased about the proximity of my tattoos and my armpits to his or her face as I reached over to fill their inconveniently-placed water glass for the umteenth time).

Anyway, I digress.

Being a server taught me so much about what it means to be attentive, to prioritize, and to work with (rather than against) people. Honing these skills led to better tips and building up an amazing clientele of regulars who kept me afloat in the off-season.

Imagine for a moment that that energetic exchange was applied to your relationship. What if your ability to be attentive, to prioritize your partner, and work with (rather than against) them had carried the benefits of increased connection and “compensation” in the form of taking good care of each other? What if you applied the same skills that help keep you financially afloat to your relationship to keep you emotionally afloat?

Spoiler alert! You can dramatically improve your relationship, increase your levels of satisfaction, and get more out of your partnership.

Even if you never worked in the service industry, chances are you’ll still totally get some of these, and you’ll definitely be able to apply them.

So, in the spirit of my brothers and sisters on the front-line of the hospitality industry, here are 12 things I learned over the course of a decade as a server that totally apply to creating a successful relationship:

1. The customer is not always right, but it can be helpful to make them think they are by finding common ground.

2. Being a good listener is a MUST

3. It’s the little things that make the biggest impact

4. Make sure you’re fed, hydrated, and comfortable

5. Don’t ignore your people

6. Stay calm, no matter how busy you are.

7. A smile goes a long way

8. Ask for help when you get in the weeds

9. Don’t forget to do your side work (aka the stuff that sets you up for success)

10. Be yourself

11. Don’t forget to have a little fun

12. Always do the best you can

Want to know how to intentionally invite some of these principles (and more) into your relationship? I'm holding space to begin working with two couples who want to create a soul-filled, satisfying relationship. Curious? Contact me for more details.