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Do You Know Who the Most Important Restaurant Employee Is?

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At first thought, it might be easy to assume that the most paramount of employees in a restaurant are the servers. They are the face of the industry and sometimes customers will excuse sub-par food if the service more than makes up for it, but the server is not the most important person working in a restaurant. So it must be the chef or the cooks, right? Without them, there would be no food to serve and no restaurant to go to, so are we then to conclude that they are the most vital restaurant employees? Surprisingly, no. It’s not the host, or the bartender, or the food runner or even the manager. It’s someone who is there well before the restaurant opens and usually stays later than anyone else. They never get a break and the entirety of the operation relies on them to do their job efficiently. It’s the dishwasher.

This is the employee that everyone who works in the restaurant depends on. Without them, there are no plates for the chef to perfectly position food upon that the servers will deliver. Without dishwashers, there are no glasses for the bartender to fill with a dazzling array of craft cocktails. If the dishwasher slacks in their job performance, then the restaurant can grind to a halt making everyone else’s job obsolete. Yet somehow, no one ever thinks about that one person toiling away in the back. Very often, these are the workers who mop the kitchen at the end of a long shift and then mop the dining room at the beginning of the next one. They drag the garbage out to the dumpster after the last plate has been scraped and they wipe down the walk-in cooler the next morning before some careless server spills dressing all over the tiled floor. There is no harder job in the restaurant industry than that of the under appreciated dishwasher.

Very often, this role is filled by someone who barely speaks English and maybe doesn’t even have the legal right to work in this country, but they take the job because they’re grateful for the income. Just like so many undocumented migrant workers of Southern California who work long, hard hours in the heat of the blazing sun, many restaurant dishwashers work in the stifling heat of a kitchen because it’s a job that no one else will take. The toilet is overflowing? Tell the dishwasher. There’s a mouse on a glue trap? Tell the dishwasher. They do so many of the things no one else wants to do and they deserve to be recognized.

The average dining customer probably won’t ever have a chance to thank the dishwasher for all they do, but dishwashers are used to not hearing those words. Plenty of the people who work in restaurants even take them for granted, so if anyone reading this does work in a restaurant, please take a moment the next time you’re at work, to show your appreciation to these hard workers. Ask them if they need anything. Make sure you know their name. Talk to them when you don’t need something from them. Tell them thank you. So often, we tend to overlook the individuals who do the most menial of tasks for us, forgetting that we are only able to do what we do because of them. If the lone dishwasher of a restaurant calls in sick one day, their absence can create havoc for everyone else. The chaos won’t trickle down, because dishwashers are already at the bottom, but it will ripple through the restaurant, reminding everyone that they are the single most important employee there.

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Bitchy Waiter

Bitchy Waiter

Darron Cardosa is a writer, actor, singer, and waiter. He lives and and works in New York City and enjoys "The Brady Bunch," "The Facts of Life" and cocktails almost as much as he hates your baby.

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