It is that time of year. Love or at least heavy lust is in the air. That means just one thing in the restaurant business. It is too hot to sit on the patio. Well that and co-workers are starting the annual mating ritual. At the most recent count, there are six confirmed couples at my restaurant. I was discussing this with some co-workers when someone said, “hey, you should write a blog about that.” I had pondered it before, but never thought there was much to cover. My opinion is simple and based on a great deal of experience. Dating co-workers is a horrible idea. My friend disagreed and offered to write the counter-point. So today we kick off a two part series on dating co-workers.
I am a child of the 80s and was raised on John Hughes movies. The hopeless romantic streak runs strong in me. I have been in this business for 15 years and of course I have dated co-workers. I have seen 15 years worth of work couples and even been in a few of their weddings. I have seen co-workers have babies. I have seen co-workers divorce. My opinion is still clear though, don’t date your co-workers.
To make my case I have laid out 10 problems you will face in chronological order. From beginning to end there will be issues you have not considered. I know it is terribly unromantic to write such a list about such a beautiful thing as two people finding love. As your heart is going pitter-patter staring across a table of empties at last call and into the slightly out of focus eyes of the co-worker you never knew you thought was so cute, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1) It will not remain a secret. You want to avoid drama and not be part of the gossip? Probably should have thought about that ahead of time. On average it takes approximately 18 hours and 43 minutes for word to spread throughout the restaurant. 18 of those hours are you not telling anyone. The 43 minutes is that first person you tell telling someone else and it spreading throughout the staff. Maybe you both want to try extra hard to keep it a secret. That generally means that one of you has someone in particular they are trying hard to keep it from. If it is not you, guess who it is. Which brings me to my next point.
2) You will find out about the exes and the hopefuls. You both have a history. If the other person’s history includes anyone at the restaurant, you have a new enemy. One person has generally been working there longer. If it is them, now you will hear the stories. You can also expect grief from everyone who has ever tried to flirt with, been too scared to flirt with, or been rejected by your new partner.
3) You will also now unknowingly inherit any of their enemies. Anyone who does not like them now has a reason to not like you. Their friends will not necessarily embrace you as they wait to see how you treat them. This is only the purgatory stage.
4) Get ready for the stories. People looking out for your best interest (see 2 and 3) will tell you exaggerated stories about their past. Any comment you make to a guest or co-worker that can be perceived as flirting will be forwarded to your partner immediately. They will usually leave out that the guest you were flirting with was 76 years old. Every hangover is morning sickness and every comment will make it through the rumor mill.
5) Welcome to the never-ending date. Most couples start out with a two or three dates a week. Restaurant couples do too, but then they work together 20-40 hours a week on top of it. When they get on your nerves, you get to work a double with them. When they are not there, expect to answer questions about how they are doing at least a dozen times every shift. This is not even including them waking up and asking you to work their shift which is its own slippery slope.
6) You will find your inner jealousy. I do not care how secure you are; you will find that you are more jealous than you thought. Guests will flirt and you will notice. Even if jealousy never becomes an issue, guests will create problems. It is one thing to have your partner come home after work and tell you about a mean guest. It is another to hear the story as the guest is sitting at the table. This creates a myriad of problems and expectations you do not want to deal with.
7) You will break up. Relationships end. You are pretty much going to have to settle for one relationship in your whole life that does not end. That is the person who you live happily ever after with. Everyone else becomes an ex. Only now you still have to see them everyday. Thought it was a good idea to date a hostess? Welcome to the sight of tumbleweed in your station. Decide to take a chance on the bartender? The beer taps sure are pouring slow today.
8) You have to divide the mutual friends. Most relationships develop mutual friends, but you generally get to leave with the ones you brought into the relationship. In restaurants, you had many of the same friends to begin with. They will all decide on their own who the jerk is. Expect your social calendar to clear up because you won’t be going on dates with them, but also won’t be invited to where they will be.
9) You get to hear all about their new partner. Inevitably they will start dating. When they come in happy and telling all their friends about them, word will make it to you too. This is its own special form of torture if you are still getting over the breakup.
10) You blew your chances with everyone else. No one wants to settle for being your second choice. You picked who you picked and ruled out all other co-workers. Unless you manage to make it out of the relationship without them ever saying a negative word about you, your reputation is ruined. Of course you can wait until someone new is hired and return to step two to restart the process.
I know it is tempting. You spend so much time around your co-workers that they form a huge part of your social circle. It seems ridiculous to rule them out just because you work together. I also know that this post will probably not override the pitter-patter of your heart when you see them. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My advice is to date in the industry, but outside your restaurant. The cute waitress at the trendy pizza place down the block is a much better alternative. That is what I did. It seems to be working out pretty darn well. I should probably wrap this up (especially after the mentions of first hand experience with this topic) with a shout out to her and some other Coloradoans I am looking forward to meeting.
Stay tuned for the counter-point tomorrow.