Even at the age of 16 when I was a busboy working in a restaurant I knew that I was essential. As a server it was clear that I was doing more than just delivering food to the table. My job was to provide the much needed “dining out” entertainment that my guests were craving that brought them out to dinner at our restaurant. The hard working and talented prep cooks, fry cooks, bakers and dishwashers have always felt essential to me throughout my entire career.

No one told me that I was essential. No one needed to…. I always felt essential.

The first time I heard the term “unskilled labor” in reference to my job was by a manager who was ironically responsible for training and team building in the restaurant I was unfortunate enough to find myself working at the time. It was obvious to me that this manager was simply not paying attention. Everyone I worked side-by-side with had amazing skills. I had great respect for all of them. Sure I wasn’t getting any respect from that one “unskilled” manager, but my thinking at the time was “who needs it?” I was essential, and I knew it. Today, looking back, I think I needed respect as much as anyone else.

Respect comes from feeling good about yourself for being good (great) at what you do.

Only a short time ago, reading the news, I learned that the state was locking down businesses and that only “essential” workers were being allowed to go to work every day. “ESSENTIAL WORKERS”. It was clear that police officers, firefighters, doctors, and nurses are essential. Looking down the government list I saw, restaurant workers, janitors, delivery drivers, grocery clerks, stockers, and butchers, cooks, and our managers. In our new world mindset we are all on the list as “ESSENTIAL”.

The mindset of the world has shifted and I hope it is a permanent shift.

Finally, so many of the workers in America that have always been invisible are being seen as important. Finally the mindset of the world has shifted. They are more than essential, they are HEROES.

When I venture out to pick up groceries wearing my mask on my face and gloves on my hands, to me, the people stocking shelves, the produce workers, the janitors, and the cashiers at the stores are all heroes. When I pick up the comfort food I love at my favorite restaurant to take home, I cherish the people who are there to make my world a little more “normal”. When I drive thru a fast food restaurant to pick up a meal or even a Starbucks for just a hot coffee, I am so grateful they are keeping everything going, and keeping the world a little less scary for us all.

A little recognition goes a long way! It is important they know we see them as ESSENTIAL.

A thank you. A tip from a guest. A reminder of what they mean to us all right now is important. Even a little recognition goes a long way. It is important they feel important. The intrinsic value of this type of recognition is impactful. It is important they know they are no longer invisible. It is important they know we see them and they are ESSENTIAL.

What better way than for them to wear it on their shirt, their apron, their uniform?

Our managers should make the effort to turn our appreciation into pride and self-esteem. Yes, in the future we will need to continue to recognize their value. Putting their name on this sticker and helping them feel the pride is something you can do right now!

Write their name as big and bold as you can and ask them to proudly display it for all to see:


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