Although no less creative, my Restaurant Creative Consulting Team has disbanded.

The common denominator of working a near-illegal number of hours, at the same quirky place, is now a factor for only one of us. We’re still close in the way women who share murky secrets and harrowing experiences are. We still communicate on our private Facebook page. Best of all, some or all of us, have gathered for various social occasions, resulting in more murky secrets and a reaffirmation of our friendships.

A situation comedy about where we all are now would rival a “Seinfeld” reunion, the premise being “When is it time to punch out for good?” That, in turn, leads to a not-so-amusing, but equally as absurd discussion about ageism in an industry where, for many reasons, youth reigns supreme.

So where are these cohorts of mine, and why?

One of us has moved Downeast so her son and parents can have a daily love-fest. She was my Sunday Funday partner in crime, and honestly, one of the very best bartenders I’ve ever worked with. She reports loving her desk job with benefits, but those of you who like cocktails with flirty names should hold a moment of silence.

One of us works a few lunch shifts in town and has traded fast, but not easy cash, for a calmer quality of life. A cancer survivor and several years my junior (who isn’t?), The Dude of all Dudes realized the toll the job takes on the subconscious long before the rest of us.

Our beloved Queen Bee recently bought a house with her beau, booked it to Vegas, and got married. Upon her return, she threw a stellar bash and took a “real job” in finance. At last notice, she was working one bar shift a week at a Munjoy Hill great. With the industry in her bloodstream, she toys with giving it up forever, but looks for ways to fit it into her taxing schedule.

Another one of us has a newborn, and is an entrepreneur who loves country living. Also one of the best, her low tolerance for crap from customers (to say nothing of management) inspires me to this day.

The one team member who works at the original OK Corral is our voice of reason and infinite kindness. A fixture before the rest of us came and went, I still turn to her for the good in bad industry situations.

And me? I’m working full time at The Forecaster, and “part time” at a place with it’s own drama, excitement and pageantry. It’s the first Maine restaurant of my employment where Number One and Carlykardashian haven’t made their presence known.

Hesitant to “get involved,” I’m trying to stay friendly, yet professionally detached. It’s a tall order when my resume and driver’s license were etched in stone back in the dark ages.

“I just want to come in, do my job well, and leave,” I told the boss, and then, her boss, during the interview process. Translation: “I want to make money, not decisions.”

It’s a new one for me, but I’m keeping my mouth shut when something not quite right happens during service.

“I don’t want to be anyone’s supervisor or perform managerial duties,” I continued in my hiring interview. These days, I’m not offering experienced-based opinions, or, making any suggestions to enhance, change or modify anything.

Unless I’m asked, that is. And then, God help us, because the flood gates are bulging.

Next week: Local industry veterans (and a few newbies) chime in on hospitality industry ageism as I take a look at the statistical demographics of hospitality people in Maine, New England, and the rest of the county.

Peas & Q’s

Q — How will tipping standards change if minimum wage goes up for servers? Am I still expected to tip 20 percent? — Mary M., Scarborough.

A — This is a stinky can of worms I’ve already been asked to open many times. Tipped employees should not be penalized for earning a cost-of-living wage increase like everybody else. I’m standing firm on this, even though the adjustment will be difficult for the house. More on this to follow, for sure.

Sidebar Elements

Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to [email protected], and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.

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