Getting a server job in Los Angeles
August 13, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

New to Los Angeles -- help me get a server job.

I'm new to LA, and need a job as soon as possible. I want to get a restaurant job, preferably front of the house -- though I've only worked fast food and fast casual, both in the Midwest. I did those throughout the past year; before that I had very little meaningful work experience whatsoever (just a work study job for a few years), because I was getting my bachelor's.

Will I be able to get a server job without any serving experience? (Should I even lie and say the fast-casual job included serving? I'm very hesitant to do this, but... I really don't know.)

So I figure the way to get a job is to print out a bunch of resumes and drop them off between 2 and 4 or 5 pm at restaurant after restaurant. (I'll try craigslist as well.) Where are the districts in LA where there are a bunch of restaurants close by (so that I could do this efficiently)?

Any other advice? (I'm currently in Hollywood, though that may change. I have a car. I'm not about to become homeless, as I have some savings -- but I would like to get a job as soon as possible.)
posted by lewedswiver to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Will I be able to get a server job without any serving experience?

Hate this answer, but it's likely to be a function of how beautiful you are. You may also have to work your way up through barback/bussing/valet.

Where are the districts in LA where there are a bunch of restaurants close by (so that I could do this efficiently)?

This is for Hollywood:
Franklin between Gower & Western
Both Hillhurst & Vermont between Los Feliz and Hollywood
Then I'd zig-zag between Sunset & Hollywood between Vine and, say, Highland

Going a little further afoot:
3rd St between Fairfax and La Cienaga
Santa Monica Blvd between about the same, maybe a little further towards Robertson
Ventura Blvd between Lankershim and, basically, the 405.

Depends on the place, but I'd recommend not just dropping off your resume. If you can, sit for a drink and try to engage either the bartender, your server, or the FoH manager. Mention every time that your hours of availability are currently 24/day.
posted by carsonb at 1:30 PM on August 13, 2011

Melrose between La Brea and Fairfax / La Cienega has a fair amount of restaurants too.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:33 PM on August 13, 2011

Carsonb has some great Hollywood-adjacent answers, I would add Silverlake as well: Sunset between, say, Myra-Edgecliffe (and beyond, into the Echo Park area) has tons of restaurants and is an easy commute depending on where you are in Hollywood.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 1:36 PM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: Hate this answer, but it's likely to be a function of how beautiful you are.

I'm male. And gay. And not unattractive, though no Adonis.
posted by lewedswiver at 1:37 PM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: God, it sounds sleazy to consider those elements, but I guess that's how the world works.
posted by lewedswiver at 1:38 PM on August 13, 2011

Male, gay, and attractive is a good combo. ;)
posted by carsonb at 1:39 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, it's going to be tough because of your lack of experience. Especially in the area that people are suggesting since that's where everyone goes first when looking for a server position.

My advice to you is to try the Valley and apply to some of the chain restaurants like Outback, Olive Garden, Islands, etc. There's a lot of 'em clustered together by the Ikea (if you just moved here you probably know where that is).

Plenty of places along Ventura Blvd too.

Don't forget about hotels, either.

And do everyone a favor and wear something nice. Not too nice. But don't come in to drop off an application wearing flip flops and shorts. Look presentable. I'm sure you were already planning to but I want to mention it anyway. Can't tell you how many times I've seen applications thrown out just because the person didn't bother to run a comb through their hair.

And everyone I have ever known in the service industry lied on their application at some point and I highly recommend it.
posted by ryecatcher at 1:47 PM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: I was planning on a button down and slacks.
posted by lewedswiver at 1:48 PM on August 13, 2011

Don't forget about the resort/themepark areas, especially since you're willing to move. They get a lot of sales volume and a lot of employee turnover and are often hiring someone.

The obvious examples here are Universal CityWalk, the area around Knott's Berry Farm (don't forget Medieval Times) and, of course, the Disneyland Resort, especially Downtown Disney. You'll want at least twenty resumes/etc. for each area, and you can probably get more sit-down places than that if you drive around a bit. I can think of three Denny's, for instance, within walking distance of the Disneyland gates. I don't recommend hitting Knotts and Disney on the same day - there's enough separate places there that you won't have time to get them all done.

Also be sure to apply at the parks themselves - each one has several sit-down restaurants (or operates some of the ones outside the parks,) and Disney asks specifically if you want to be a server, or at least they used to. As far as I know, the branded (TGI Friday's, Rainforest Cafe, etc.) restaurants outside the park gates are independently operated, though I'm not completely sure about Knott's, because you can go to the Marketplace without having a ticket.

Oh, and, for what it's worth, when I was hired at Disneyland, I put in my application on December 22nd, was interviewed on December 26th, and started orientation on January 4th, making it the second-fastest application-to-start-date job I've ever had outside of tiny family businesses. Randomly dropping off applications at non-desperate chain restaurants took more like a month just to get to the interview, and they were terrible about calling me back.

And as a general rule, the bigger/more visible the employer, the less likely you are to run into "work for an hour after the end of your scheduled shift, at half of minimum wage, doing scut work in the back, and we're rounding everything to the nearest whole hour, shaving 40 minutes off your work time" shenanigans that are, in my experience, absolutely pervasive in the restaurant business.
posted by SMPA at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2011

There must be at least 50 restaurants just within a block of the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Downtown SM is packed with restaurants.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:19 PM on August 13, 2011

When I was getting my first server job, I found it pretty tough to get anything at a nice restaurant without experience. However, I spent a full day driving to every medium-sized chain restaurant within 20 miles of my new apartment, and by the end of the day had a job, based only on experience working at a supermarket.

I also found that the chain experience was good enough to get me hired at a fancy restaurant 4 months later. (One of the ones that had explicitly turned me down for lack of experience, no less.)
posted by zvs at 4:32 PM on August 13, 2011

Also, I wouldn't lie. If they believe you, you will be dropped on the floor without training. Serving is its own art, to some degree, and I wouldn't have made it a single day without being trained, despite having good common sense. Great way to get fired and look incompetent.
posted by zvs at 4:34 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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