3 Things That I Learned About Restaurants by Working in Film

Everyone always assumes that working in the film industry is incredibly glamourous. They see the red carpets, the big paydays, and the award ceremonies, and people are absolutely captivated by the whole act. I was one of those people that ended up having stars in their eyes at a very young age. 

That’s the same way people view restaurant ownership. They see the restaurant, how happy you are making everyone that comes to visit, and then they’ll get the stars in their eyes. 

Some associates or friends will also introduce themselves as your friend in the hopes to get a free meal or a large discount. This happens more often than we’d like and the servers are the people that have to deal with it. 

But restaurant ownership is anything but glamourous. The same thing with the film industry. It’s a high-stress and labor-intensive industry. 

When I was looking for high-level positions in the industry, restaurant owners would get excited when I told them I used to work in the film industry. “What was it like?” is a common question that I was asked. 

My answer was always the same – it’s basically like working in the restaurant industry. On good days, it’s a beautifully orchestrated masterpiece and on not-so-good days, it’s absolutely grueling. 

In all honesty, I loved working in the film industry. I simply came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me for a long-term career. But what I learned while working in film about the restaurant industry has been absolutely beneficial.

1. It Takes a Village – a LARGE Village

I remember rolling up onto my first day of set with my backpack and ready to conquer whatever was going to be thrown my way. I came prepared with gloves, water, granola bars, fruit snacks, rope, first aid kit, bug spray, etc. You name it – I had it. 

The feeling that I had when I first stepped out of my car and saw a village of production trailers was something I’ll never forget. My heart was racing, I had a smile a mile long, and I felt tears well up in my eyes. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of intense happiness and wonder. I can’t believe I had finally made it. 

I got my walkie-talkie and was given instructions to head into set so I can help set-up and figure out what was going on that day. 

When I stepped on set, there seemed to be a million people in there. Camera people, lighting people, people building sets and making props. There was also make-up and wardrobe talking to the actors ( some actors that I have watched on the silver screen just the other day) were in front of me. I was in total awe of the whole experience. 

That’s exactly how I felt when I stepped inside of my first restaurant job at the age of 13. The crew in the restaurant wasn’t the size of a film crew but it takes everyone doing their part to make sure the day goes off without a hitch.

The greatest piece of advice that my acting coach gave me was that there aren’t any small roles – it’s just your perception. Whether you are the main character or have one line, make sure to show up and blow everyone out of the water. 

That’s the biggest issue in the restaurant industry. The divide of FOH, BOH, and management. First of all, get rid of all labels. You aren’t part of the back of house nor the front of house. You are an integral part of the restaurant’s mission and to make sure the customers have an exceptional experience. Period. 

You aren’t lesser because you are only a dishwasher. You superior because you are a veteran employee who has been there for 5+ years. Every single day, you need to make sure your team steps into those doors ready to be there for each other and work together – willing to put all egos aside for the mission. 

2. Start Small & Grow

Everyone wants to create a well-received blockbuster movie that brings in millions and millions of dollars. But there are major risks associated with spending millions of dollars on a film. 

You’ve heard about films that cost anywhere from 50-500 million that don’t even make up 10% of that. They thought the special effects and major Hollywood stars would draw people in to see a mediocre film but most of the time, they fall short. 

This is the same mindset that’s happening in the restaurant industry. They want to spend millions on the perfect restaurant – décor, location, over 100 seats, and some have never even run a restaurant before. This is an absolute disaster waiting to happen. 

Start small and make sure that you leave enough in the budget for unexpected delays, construction costs, and last minute bills. Start with a small 40 seat restaurant and build your community. Be heavily involved in your community and provide exceptional service – then grow steadily. 

When you sprint right out of the gate but still have a marathon to run, you’re going to get tired. You won’t make it to the finish line. You won’t even make it very far before your body starts failing and exhaustion sets in. 

Grow steadily so by the time you open additional restaurants, you can integrate what you’ve learned and the systems that you have created or used to duplicate your success. 

3. Pave Your Own Path

This one goes out to the employees of restaurants. When I started in the film industry, there were so many different positions on set that it became overwhelming. Did I want to remain an assistant and grow into the director role or did I want to move into the camera department? 

The same thing happens when you start working in restaurants. You might start as a dishwasher, line cook, barback, server, or even a food runner. But then you can grow into the culinary path, management path, or even running the training program. 

It’s up to you to pave your own path in this industry. You must remain vocal of what your needs are to the people you work for. This is what has allowed me to grow quickly and to create the career that I have. 

But it’s not just being vocal about what you want. You need to prove to your superiors that you are deserving of the growth opportunities. Invest in your own education. This doesn’t have to mean formal education. I couldn’t afford formal education to get a degree but I did find mentors, go to seminars, invested in online training programs, books, and worked for free.

I did everything that I could to develop myself in the career that I wanted and continue to do so daily. If I’m not reading a book, I’m listening to a new leadership seminar. If I’m off for the day, I’m talking to a mentor about how to grow to help the restaurant I’m working with. 

I never stop learning, growing, or developing myself. Why? Because I know that it will help the restaurant industry become better. The bigger impact that I have on myself, I know the bigger impact that I can have on my employer and the bigger impact we can on the community. 

You have the opportunity to write your own ticket in this industry. Don’t let that go to waste. Create the life and career you desire. Like the famed spokesperson Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar once said, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough people get what they want.”

Make sure you’re that person that your employer, community, and industry can rely on.