Professional options may sometimes be limited for travel program participants who are visiting the United States. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you may want to consider working in a restaurant as a way to easily gain a flexible employment option. Restaurants employ over 14 million employees in the United States and may not share some of the same concerns other employers have about hiring international visitors.
Why might it be challenging to find an employment opportunity? Some employers may hesitate to hire someone they think may not be in the country for a long period of time. Others may worry about a lack of work experience in the United States. And still others could be concerned about factors like language barriers.
Fortunately, restaurants often look past these sorts of concerns when hiring employees. Turnover at restaurants is often high. In fact, research has shown the turnover rates in restaurants reached a high of 72% in 2015. So the fact that an international visitor may only be in the United States for a shorter period of time might not be concerning to a restaurant as they are accustomed to most employees having a short tenure with them. In fact, because there is some seasonality in the restaurant business, meaning that certain restaurants are busier in certain times of the year than others, it may be beneficial to have short term help for a specific season. In this case a temporary visitor to the U.S would probably be welcomed.
In terms of work experience in the U.S., this will often be less important to a restaurant than other types of businesses. While restaurant work is no doubt challenging, it is in many ways easier to pick up and learn than other positions which may have more stringent experience requirements.
The language barrier may not be as much of a concern for a restaurant as it is for other types of businesses either. There are many restaurant jobs that take place away from customers, so you do not need to be able to communicate perfectly.
Another reason to consider restaurant work is that restaurant jobs are often very plentiful. With over 624,000 restaurants in the United States, there’s sure to be several near the part of the country you are staying in. And because restaurants hire for many different types of roles, and the aforementioned turnover rate is so high, there’s usually at least a few positions open at each location.
Now that you understand working at a restaurant may be a great option for someone on an international travel program, you may be wondering what to expect. The experience will vary somewhat from restaurant to restaurant, but for the most part there are some common threads:
- Hours – While some restaurants are only open for 1-2 meals per day, others are open all day. But the peak hours for most restaurants tend to be early in the morning, catering to the breakfast crowd, or in the evening or night for dinner. Since those times of day are the busiest, they are also generally the best for earning money, so be prepared to work those types of hours if you are seeking a job at a restaurant.
- Difficulty of Work – Although restaurant work may not be as mentally demanding as some other types of work, there is no doubt that it is difficult in its own way. It’s fast-paced work, with customers constantly coming in and a real sense of urgency to getting their food to them on time. You may be multi-tasking and managing several different responsibilities at once, and the physical nature of the job can make it tiring.
- Physical Exertion – Most restaurant workers spend their entire shift on their feet. Whether you are a server or busser running back and forth between tables and the kitchen, or a cook or dishwasher stationed in the kitchen itself, you’re going to be expected to spend your day or evening standing or walking. There may also be requirements to lift anything from trays of food to bus tubs to packages of food.
- Pay – Pay will vary based on the type of role you have within the restaurant. Servers will typically make a very small hourly rate that is then supplemented by earning tips. So putting your best foot forward with each and every customer is imperative! Glassdoor.com suggests the average salary for a server is $18,800 per year. Cooks and dishwashers will tend to earn more in the way of an hourly rate, but don’t get the benefits of tips to augment their earnings. Keep in mind that unless you are a manager, you’ll be paid hourly at a restaurant, so the more hours you are willing to work the more money you will be able to make.
- Environment – At a restaurant, you’ll be working with a lot of other people, as there’s a lot that goes into making everything work as it should. So if you enjoy social interaction, this could be a great option for you. Kitchens tend to be noisy, and a bit messy, so if a quiet desk job is what you have in mind, look elsewhere.
As a travel program participant, you may find your work options somewhat limited. However, restaurants can offer a variety of different types of jobs, steady income, flexible hours, and less barriers to entry than other employers, making them worth your consideration.