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Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography Introduction Like many other broke college students,

I spent my summers working in restaurants: tending bar, catering, but mostly waiting tables. Although many people think serving is a mindless job that just about anyone can do, I find this to be very untrue. In Learning to Serve: The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers by Tony Mirabelli, he reports, Economists such as Peter Drucker suggest that interactive service workers lack the necessary education to be knowledge workers. These economists support general conceptions that service work is mindless, involving routine and repetitive tasks that require little education (541). I find these beliefs to be very untrue. My goal is to look at the strategies and skills used by servers to read the social situation of a table in order to be effective. I want to ultimately answer the question: Why are servers undervalued in our culture? and why this stereotype is false. Serving is a charged word, with its implications of servility, of lack of skill, as well as its unavoidable gender connotations. As a server, you work in settings where customers look down upon you. Marabelli defines this profession as stated, Service occupations, otherwise know as in-person services or interactive services include any kind of work which fundamentally involves face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions or conscious manipulation of self-presentation (540). The restaurant discourse community relates to many different aspects, serving being the one I want to focus on. It is the type of discourse community that Ann

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography Beaufort defines in The Institutional Site of Composing: Converging and Overlapping Discourse Communities as A conceptual frame that is hard to see (56). This type of discourse is extremely complex because it is conformed of several types of communication that is not limited to what is on paper including menus, recipes, reservations, etc. but also social interaction with customers, vendors, front of the house employees, back of the house employees, management staff and owners. According to Beaufort, A discourse community is a social entity distinguished by a set of writing practices that result from the communitys shared values and goals, the physical conditions for getting writing done, and individual writers influence on the community (59). Everyone speaks a language. But a discourse community is a whole different idea of different languages. Discourse Community is a group of people who "speaks the same language". Restaurant discourse community is somewhat fairly complicated. It just all depends on where you work. Each type of restaurant has their own language or lexi. It is a type of language you learn while being immersed in the environment. When I started my first restaurant job, there were terms that were foreign to be that I learned were only used within a restaurant. Some of these terms or slang include on the fly meaning something that is needed quickly and 86 meaning if the kitchen runs out of a particular dish, the dish is 86. This type of lingo is what makes up a part of the restaurant discourse community.

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography

Methodology For this ethnography, my primary form of research was observation and individual conversations and interviews. I am going to conduct my study at a restaurant called Beckys Bistro, which is a fine dining Italian-Greek restaurant. Since I have worked at Beckys Bistro for almost a year as a server/bartender/hostess, I decided this would be the most successful form of research because my co-workers would feel more comfortable just talking and feel less intimidated by the questions I ask and the observation taking place than they would taking a written survey. I also included myself in this data collection while collecting insights into worker skills, attitudes, and behaviors. By recording data based off my experience and positioning in the serving/restaurant setting enables me to access unique aspects of the work that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. During a weekend shift including a Friday and Saturday night, I kept a small notebook in my order book so that I was able to take occasional notes without appearing too conspicuous. Like Seth Kahn emphasizes in Putting Ethnographic Writing in Context, It pushes you to generate, collect, analyze, and synthesize more material than youve probably had to work with in one paper before (175). Results

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography After conducting the study, I found many interesting findings. The first one I want to focus on is the importance of employees being knowledgeable with the restaurant menu. The menu is the most important printed text used by waiters and waitresses, and not knowing it can dramatically affect how they are able to do their work (544). With each participant, came different levels of knowledge with the menu. The first server I observed was Kelly. Kelly has been an on again, off again employee at the restaurant working at Beckys for over five years. She is the type of server who knows everything and anything you want to know about the restaurant as she has been in the industry for twenty plus years. Kelly is very knowledgeable with every menu item and can answer almost any question a patron may pose her with. Although Kelly does not have a college degree, she is a very intelligent woman and server. Kelly, being the server who trained me when I was first hired, has much to offer. She knows how to interact with customers, the ingredients in all the menu items and is effective when selling certain dishes that may be on special. Since stated previously that servers are considered low skilled employees, I would believe Kelly would be the employee to prove that statement wrong. Mirabelli states: In one context, waitresses and waiters knowing the meaning of the words in the menus means knowing the process of food production in the restaurant. But this meaning is generally only used when a customer has a question or special request. In such situations the meaning of the words on the page are defined more by the questions and the waiters or waitresses understanding

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography of specific food preparation than by any standard cookbook or dictionary (544). The importance of knowing the ins and outs of a menu is detrimental to the success of service you will provide to your customers. By Kelly obtaining the knowledge and certain meanings of terms on the menu, enables her to offer a superb customer experience at the restaurant, which will ultimately lead to repeat business, which must be obtained to be successful in the restaurant business. While obtaining the meanings of the language used in menus are important, being able to communicate effectively is another important skill servers must acquire. Mirabelli adds, To be a good waitress or waiter generally requires being able to perform friendliness under any circumstances. To be successful at the practice of being friendly requires performing certain techniques over and over until they can be performed on an unconscious level (551). The restaurant environment can be a very stressful one and servers must be able to perform under the pressure. Tiffany, a very laidback and personal server, is uneasily overwhelmed by the stress of a busy night or the attitude from a patron. I took notice to how calm Tiffany stays under pressure while still composing a friendly persona. Saturday night had been a completely slammed night at the restaurant and we were short two servers. The three servers on the floor, including Tiffany, and myself did not have a moment

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography to breathe. Tiffany was the only one who did not crack. She completed her work as efficiently and fast as possible, but she was confronted with tables that had been neglected since she had been so busy. Tiffany calmly apologized to the tables that she neglected, carefully analyzing the different types of personalities she was confronted with, explaining how busy she was and reasoning with them as best as she could. By the end of the shift, Tiffany was exhausted but she dealt with the emotional stress from her patrons by indulging in a few alcoholic drinks. Chris M. Anson and L. Lee Forsberg in Moving Beyond the Academic Community, states, The greater the individuals ability to interpret the constituent elements of the environment in a positive, self-determining way, the more quickly the individual achieved resolution, both with him or herself and within the workplace (225). I believe Tiffany mastered the ability to interpret the constituent elements of the environment in positive, self-determining way that allowed her to reason with her unhappy patrons and create a positive outcome from a negative situation. Discussion/Analysis/Implications Serving, as a professional, is so underestimated because people do not take the time to understand or learn about the different skills, terminology and knowledge that must be put forth in order to be successful in the service industry. While some may overlook taking food orders as mindless or low skill work, many do not realize the steps required completing this task. Different customers, from regulars to new timers to the picky eater all contribute to the way a server

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography must approach each person. Customer service is a large factor in the service industry and is good customer service is what everyone expects, but many do not understand the process that must be completed to delivering good customer service. If it were up to me, I think everyone should have to be employed as a server at some point in his or her lifetime. It gives you a completely different outlook when dining out and maybe this would be a way to convince those who doubt the knowledge and skills of servers as more than low skill or incompetent. When relating the results back to the topic of a professional discourse community, you come to the realization that the restaurant discourse community is compiled of many aspects as other communities. Although the restaurant discourse community may differ from a standard community, it still offers the basic qualities including language, environment, people, attitudes, etc. To truly dine well, society requires excellent service. The past several decades have allowed a field and an industry devoted to just that excellent service. How those service providers communicate to ensure guest satisfaction is a topic vital to the continuation and evolution of restaurants. The more studies that can be devoted to an understanding, the more likely that service and the business of service will continue to dominate our economy and way of life.

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography Work Cited Anson, Chris M., and L. Lee Forsberg. Moving Beyond the Academic Community: Transitional Stages in Professional Writing. 2nd ed. Vol. 7. N.p.: Sage Publications, 1990. Print. Written Communication. Beaufort, Anne. "The Institutional Site of Composing: Converging and Overlapping Discourse Communities." Writing in the Real World: Making the Transition from School to Work. New York: Teachers College, 1999. 30-61. Print. Kahn, Seth. "Putting Ethnographic Writing in Context." Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing. By Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky. Anderson, South Carolina.: Parlor, 2011. 175-92. Print. Mirabelli, Tony. "Learning to Serve: The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers." Writing about Writing: A College Reader. By Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 538-56. Print.

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography Appendix Interview Questions: How did you get the job at Beckys Bistro? I have seen servers working in bars and restaurants, but as a customer. I am sure my impressions of what they do are far different from the way that servers see the same things. Do you agree with this? What would I have to do, as a server, to do a good job and survive and make sense out of what goes on? Inform me on what you do each night, the problems you have, just everything that goes into being a cocktail waitress. What is the difference between taking orders and serving orders? How do you react to rude customers? How well do you know the menu? How long have you been employed at Beckys Bistro

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography Reflective Essay After completing this essay, I found this to be very difficult for me to write. There were many different ways I could have gone with this ethnography and I initially had trouble picking a path to follow and study. I also found it difficult to properly execute what an ethnography requires including format, information, quality of writing, etc. I do not believe that I fully understood the topic I was studying which caused much difficulty when converting my findings into a paper. The reading you gave me to use Learning to Serve: The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers by Tony Mirabelli that was outside of our classroom was perfect. It really helped me structure my ethnography and helped me understand what I should include, what I should be studying and understanding a restaurant as a discourse community. I really enjoyed that it was a reading that focused directly on what I am studying and I found the topic he chose to study very interesting and use his study as a skeleton for my own. Ann Beauforts The Institutional Site of Composing, Converging, and Overlapping Discourse Communities was another reading I found very helpful and useful. I liked the way she dug deeper when defining what a discourse community was and what exactly makes up a discourse community. One of the readings I was not very fond with and did not find very helpful was Sam Dragga and Dan Vosss Cruel Pies: The Inhumanity of Technical

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography Illustrations. I did not find this reading to be very helpful for me in general or for project three and I had difficult getting through this reading as I found it very dull and bland. Metacognitive knowledge, which involves knowledge about cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge about ones own cognition, in my own discourse community as well as in a professional discourse community has taught me the importance of recognizing the values and goals while writing. This not only helped me develop my knowledge but also my awareness, self-awareness and selfreflection. By acquiring these skills, I am more comfortable when writing in different discourse communities and understand the importance of properly executing appropriate language across communities. While gathering my primary data, I was able to take a step back from the serving position and focus on observing different techniques and tendencies that occur. It also gave me the opportunity to focus on aspects I never thought twice about before completing this ethnography. When you give yourself the opportunity to remove yourself from your typical ways, you allow yourself to learn more than you expected and further your knowledge and education within your profession. In my essay, I think that I was able to provide a detailed version of the findings I compiled. I was able to prove the point that servers are not incompetent or low skilled. I did have trouble with the introduction. I am not sure if I included a

Michaella Pietro ENG 3840j Project 3: Discourse Community Ethnography quality synthesis of profession discourse communities as they relate to my own. With having trouble with this part of the project, I also had trouble later on when I was required to connect my academic conversation on professional discourse communities. I would appreciate guidance when executing this topic and what I am lacking in describing my discourse community compared to a professional discourse community.