server restaurant toronto

This is what it's like working as a server at a Toronto restaurant right now

Being a server in Toronto was already a high-stress, fast-paced job before a global pandemic hit, but now it's even more challenging and demanding.

Before, a server may have been worried about carrying too many plates, getting their table's orders right, or remembering to bring diet coke instead of regular.

Now, servers are worried about making sure their mask stays on properly — especially in 30 degree heat, hoping their customers are smart and responsible and not going around to other tables, and remembering to wipe down the bathroom after a customer uses it, on top of all of their other duties.

According to Nicole Byng, a server at Labora on King Street West, being a server and working on the patio during these times has posed a challenge.

"Masks provide their own set of frustrations at times, mainly because of the heat and the hindrance that it is towards communicating with guests," Byng told blogTO. "My words can be muffled at times. King Street West can be very busy and loud and the mask can make it difficult to hear me."

Although masks can add annoyance and frustration, Byng says she doesn’t find it too stressful serving with a mask on and that if it helps guests feel more confident, she's on board.

While not all guests have accepted this change so gracefully, Byng says Labora's patio guests have been excellent and responsive.

"They are happy to be out and enjoying Toronto again," says Byng. "And we are happy to be back serving them."

The Spanish restaurant specializing in tapas and paella, currently has a patio that was constructed during the pandemic.

According to Byng, their social distancing measures are in effect and they have limited seating space so she highly recommends making reservations.

"I love what I do," she says.

Monique Guffens, on the other hand, who works at Blackjack BBQ's Mississauga location and is the ex-owner of Real Mo-Mo's in Toronto, has found working during the pandemic very difficult.

Blackjack BBQ is located at Square One Shopping Centre in the lower part of the mall with no windows, no daylight, and no patio, according to Guffens.

"We are a fully licensed, full service restaurant normally but now with the current rules, we are only serving takeout and delivery," she says.

"It is very hard as people are not allowed to eat in the mall," Guffens told blogTO. "I also dislike the mask — I totally understand why we wear them, but breathing in them is not a pleasant feeling."

"They get kind of 'wet.' Guests can't hear me or I can't hear them," she added.

Guffens fears that during Stage 3, people may not respect the rules and will move tables, sit together, and not wear masks.

"The servers will take an extra risk as we touch cutlery, napkins, glasses, and food leftovers," she says.

"Also I don't believe all restaurants are going to be able to keep up the cleaning of counters, terminals, computers, printers, washrooms, etc. It is just not simply going to be cleaned properly every single time," Guffens said.

Nicola Rapko, who owns and operates The John 3 and also serves and bartends there, says she enjoys being back at work and is looking forward to Stage 3's arrival in Toronto.

"The precautions are practices that we already had in place, except for a few additions like spacing and masks," she told blogTO.

"We have a patio and our guests have been extremely understanding of the rules we have in place for everyone's safety," she says.

"Our guests must sign in, sanitize on entry and reentry and always have a mask on indoors."

"It is slightly uncomfortable having to wear the mask on days when the heat and humidity is high," Rapko tells blogTO. "But being back to work is great."

Although Rapko thinks many people aren't going to be comfortable enough to start indoor dining once Stage 3 comes, she feels that Stage 3 is when the restaurant industry will slightly start going back to normal.

"As a small business owner, Stage 3 is scary but our industry has been so damaged from COVID, that we need Stage 3 to come sooner rather than later."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim at Labora


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