FoCo Now
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FoCo Now

What’s it Like Being A Server During the Pandemic

“Things are just different.”

Photo by: Jasmine Padilla

Katerina Lopez is a local server and bartender at Rodizio Grill located in Fort Collins. She attends school while maintaining a full-time job. In her time at Rodizio Grill, Katerina has been a regular presence behind the bar and on the floor: pouring drinks, running food, talking to guests, and attending to all guests needs while also making sure they are having a good time. But things have been very weird compared to what she is used to. Katerina sat down in person with us to tell the world how different things really are due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interviewer: How long have you worked at Rodizio Grill?

Katerina Lopez: I’ve been working for the company for 2 years.

Q: Did your job shut down for a period of time due to the COVID-19 lockdown?

A: Yes, it shut down during the lockdown but reopened in phases, starting with takeout orders only.

Q: What was that like doing takeout only?

A: I was eager to come back to work, just to get out of the house, just to do something. Work was always fun but coming back after the lockdown was uh.. kinda scary. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew how extremely different my job was going to be.

Q: What kind of protocols did you guys have to follow to ensure the safety of the customers and yourself?

A: We had to fill out a symptom checklist before clocking in everyday. Our temperatures were taken and recorded. We also had to do this with any guest that stepped foot into the restaurant. Along with masks and gloves of course, we had to sanitize EVERYTHING and when I say everything I literally mean from the door knobs, to the pens people used to sign the checks, to the clipboards that held the receipts, to the walls. Stuff you never even thought about before.

Q: Wow. What about when dining-in became an option?

A: We had to mark tables six feet apart, the walkway up to the restaurant with tape of six feet apart measurements, must have a mask on signs everywhere, “the rules” for dining in printed out on the table, digitalizing everything, clean the bathroom every thirty minutes and a lot more.

Q: Were customers cooperating?

A: Mostly, yes. But there were several times when a customer did not cooperate. In order to pick up your togo food you still had to have a mask on even if it was a quick interaction. But there were numerous times when customers got upset saying they did not have a mask on them or we couldn’t force them to wear a mask if they didn’t want to. Stuff like that just made things more difficult. If you dined in we had to take a name and phone number down for contact tracing, in case someone contracted the virus. One time, this customer got extremely offended and said she would never come to our restaurant again since we were asking for such personal information. Even after explaining to her why we were doing it, the customer stormed off with her kids. She honestly could have just made up a false number, but instead chose to react in such way.

Q: We know that this pandemic has impacted many people financially. If you don’t mind me asking, how has it affected you personally as a restaurant employee?

A: I like this question because I think everyone needs to understand how deeply our industry has really been affected. We work on tips, but due to this pandemic we are now splitting anything and everything among employees because certain positions have been eliminated, hours have been cut and sales are definitely impacted. Even if you are getting a takeout order, it is important to tip. Especially because every employee is risking their own health to ensure the safety of the food and the customer. We are working a lot harder for less money. My income has been cut in half, especially due to not being able to have my section at full capacity.

Q: Do you think think the restaurant industry will ever return back to normal?

A: I really hope it does. But I think this pandemic has made others, including myself, learn a lot. We need to be patient, care for others, and have an overall understanding that everyone is different, but we are all in this together. Things may never return back to normal but I believe we as a society can adjust to a “new normal.”

Katerina Lopez’s answers gives us some inside of what it is like to be a server during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything has changed and servers are working harder than ever so you as a customer can have a sense of normalcy by going into a restaurant, just like old times. Remember to have some patience, ask questions respectfully if anything is not clear, and tip your server accordingly!

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