For some, working in foodservice/retail is the start of a long, rewarding career, and for others, it’s a stepping stone along the path of their career journey. And for those whose time spent in the industry itself was brief, the experience provides many lasting, valuable life lessons that can continue to be applied in any occupation.
Many of our own Zenput employees have prior experience working in foodservice/retail roles, and continue to reflect on those experiences and lessons in their roles today. Led by a strong value-driven culture, our Zenput team is focused on helping our customers optimize operations to keep their business moving and growing.
Tapping into our previous experiences in foodservice/retail before working at Zenput not only allows us to show empathy, one of our core values, but also enables us to better understand the daily challenges our customers face every day. Simply put, we get it because we’ve been there.
What did we learn while working in foodservice/retail, and how do we continue to apply those lessons today? Here’s what our employees had to say about their experiences and lessons learned from the other side of operations execution:
Preparation is Key:
- “Organization is key whether you're helping in a service shop or the sales floor. You have a limited amount of time to work with a customer, and they have a limited amount of time to spend with you. Preparing for that interaction in every way, making sure you have the tools and knowledge that you need, maximizes your ability to help them and ensure they have a great experience. Anything less will send them somewhere else!”
- Peter Walters, Enterprise Business Development Representative
- “Having worked in 7 restaurants, 2 clothing stores, 1 toy store, make sure the handles on the tea urn are screwed on before you start brewing because when the rush comes in, you'll be thankful you set everything up beforehand.”
- Finlay Stockmeyer, MidMarket Account Executive
- "Don't pick up more than you can carry – whether plates of food or projects at work. If you pick up too much and you have to drop something, make sure it's french fries and not filet mignon -- something quick/easy to fix and not something expensive and time-consuming."
- Dana Farese, Content Marketing Manager
- “Capacity. The ability to serve well becomes a house of cards if you are extended beyond your maximum capacity. For full-service dining that is usually around 7-8 tables. This holds true for engineering as well, that capacity must be monitored and respected for quality to be maintained.”
- Haroun Serang, Principal Engineer
Hard Work Pays Off:
- "You're a direct reflection of the hard work and effort you put in. My work waiting tables through high school and college showed me the direct connection between hard work and payoff on the other side. The more positive energy and focus I brought to each shift would translate to bigger tips!"
- David Karel, Chief Marketing Officer
- “Individual Growth: every staff member deserves the opportunity to grow, regardless of their current role. Find ways to put them in a position where they can learn new skills and excel. It could be anything from learning how to make cocktails to learning how to use spreadsheets. You'll be amazed at what people can achieve when given the chance.”
- René Barranco, Senior Software Engineer
Make Customers Your Biggest Fans:
- "I worked for 6 months in a Chick-fil-A kitchen in college. A big part of the Chick-fil-A mindset is the idea of ‘creating raving fans’. That’s something I still (try to) use in my day-to-day.”
- Marcus Andren, Customer Success Manager
- “Service. The perspective, empathy, and efforts required to serve someone well. I feel engineering operates by the same principles that our efforts seek to "serve" our customers and peers.”
- Haroun Serang, Principal Engineer
Accountability & Trust:
- "Have pride in your work, no matter how small. Keep yourself accountable / hold yourself to a higher standard. Do things without being asked to, even those without noticeable impact."
- Jerry Wu, Director of Finance
- “Empower/Trust: You need to coordinate a lot of things happening at the same time, the secret is to be around passionate and empowered teammates; give them the tools to succeed; always trust in their capabilities, and remember we can all educate/create/improve our talents every day.”
- Xenia Patrón, Product Manager
- "People try because of the food, but they return because of the experience."
- Ben Burwell, Account Manager
- “Perception is reality. It doesn't matter how delicious the chef or owner thinks the food is, what matters is the guests' perception of the food, wine, ambiance, service, and experience. You can put all the energy and talent in the world into making a great restaurant, but if guests don't feel like it's a great experience, it isn't. This has held true through life as well, no matter your intentions what matters is how your actions/product/service is perceived by your guests or customers.”
- Nick Hokanson, Manager of Customer Success
- "Working in foodservice is the hardest job I've ever had....I've learned to be patient in bad service situations, and see where I can assist if I see something wrong. People don't show up to work to do a bad job (for the most part), so give grace where you can."
- Alex Lundy, Senior Product Manager
- “Take some time to understand what are the personal motivations, aspirations, also concerns of the people who work with you, give them room to share them with you; always keep in mind you are working with human beings with emotions/feelings.”
- Xenia Patrón, Product Manager
- “Listen to your customers and understand what they want, not just what they are asking for. Use your expertise to guide the customer to their best outcome, and you will establish a level of trust that will keep that customer coming back. This applies equally to selling books and building software.”
- Pete von Petrin, Senior Software Engineer
Pay it Forward:
- “I learned about the importance of mentorship and how small efforts can lead to life-changing moments for people. I had a mentor at 18 years old when I started in convenience retail. John, my store manager, took me under his wing at a time in my life when I was struggling with confidence and uncertain about my future. I've tried to do the same throughout my life because of John's example.”
- Tom Hart, Convenience Industry Lead
- “You never know what someone is going through, so don't take things personally and try to make them smile. It always makes a difference to them in the long run and makes them remember you down the line. This still applies especially when helping customers that are frustrated. Empathy goes a long way when everything seems to be going wrong.”
- Jenn Garcia, Customer Operations Specialist
As we continue to help our customers tackle goals and solve problems, we hope the value of our own experiences shared here demonstrates the lasting impact that foodservice/retail roles continue to have throughout any career journey. If you’re interested in using your own lessons and experience to help some of the world’s top brands elevate team execution at every store, visit www.zenput.com/careers to view our open roles and apply today.
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