Beep. Beep. Beep.
It’s the sound of my watch marking the stroke of midnight.
Matt’s goal is to beat the clock and make it home before my watch sings its way into the new day. Tonight, he’s not here as I listen to the sound of defeat. It was another late night at the restaurant and I’m still waiting for him to arrive home safely.
The biggest struggle that we have faced since the beginning of our relationship is our opposing work schedules. As I am getting home from my 9-5, he is just hitting the most lucrative hours of his shift. For some couples, this plethora of time apart may just be the glue that holds their relationship together. For us, it has been a source of many lengthy discussions. The good, the bad, the oh-so-lonely.
So, we bring to you, the pros and cons of a 9-5 employee dating someone in the restaurant industry.
Con: The Late Night Dinners
One of the perks of being in a relationship is having someone to share your meals with. There’s something very relaxing about ending your day by sitting down to a home-cooked dinner and a glass of wine with your partner. But when your partner is in the restaurant industry, dinner doesn’t happen at a “normal” hour. Matt and I are lucky in that his restaurant closes by 11pm, so most nights we’re able to serve up our food before midnight or shortly after. A lot of people working in the service industry are less fortunate, having gigs that stretch into the wee hours.
I tend to keep a stash of snacks around to eschew the inevitable hunger pangs as I wait for my dinner companion to join me. I’ve also learned to push back my lunch time. While most people in the office are gathering in the kitchen around noon, I wait until later in the afternoon to heat up my lunch. This helps keep the hunger at bay for my much later dinner.
Sure, I could eat alone. And sometimes I do just that. But mostly I’d rather wait and have someone to clink glasses with as we cheers to another delicious meal. And so, the late night dinners.
Pro: Save Money By Eating At Home
The plus side to the late night dinner is that it is almost always eaten at home. By the time Matt is off work, the only “suitable” option is usually Taco Bell. The temptation for happy hour drinks and apps is out of the equation, and those trendy new restaurants downtown are saved for the few nights we have off simultaneously. I could order take-out but it would be long cold before he ever got home, and we don’t own a microwave. Yes, I know, we’re weird. This means we cook. A lot. Not only do I get to spread my wings in the kitchen to learn some new tricks, but we save a ton of money by eating this way. Dinner-at-home dating – it’s a thing.
We recently discovered the German grocer, Lidl, which has allowed us to incorporate a variety of different quality products into our pantry at a very affordable price. When you’re cooking at home as much as we do, it’s important to break up the monotony of repeatedly serving the same meal. Otherwise you will have to listen to your significant other whine, “not white rice again!” a million times. Looking at you, Matt, looking at you.
Ultimately, by eating our meals at home we are saving a great deal of cash. This will be a bigger asset to us in a lump sum than the frequent so-so dinners eaten out. Besides, lunch at the office has gotten so much better. That leftover smoked duck breast and leek pizza from last night’s dinner trumps any deli sandwich I’ve ever packed.
Con: Part-Time Lover
Nope, not a nod to Stevie Wonder, just a side effect of mismatched schedules. We could often be described as two ships passing in the night. When I wake up for work, he is sound asleep. By the time he sends a good morning text, I’m beginning my emails with “Good Afternoon”. As I am clocking out for the day, he’s just getting started. Fridays have completely different meanings to us. While I kick off my heels, he’s putting on his game face. A restaurant employee does not partake in the elusive “Friday dance.”
As a restaurant employee, most holidays are spent in uniform and not in a state of relaxation. Surrounded by strangers, not family. The non-restaurant employee left to attend all events alone.
On top of that, when at the restaurant, he has no use of his phone. We go many, many hours without speaking. The t.v. character I most identify with is Mr. Big of Sex and The City.
“No, no, no, no. You don’t get it. She can reach me, but I can’t get her. EVER! How F*ck’d up is that?!”
It’s usually not an issue, but damn it if there aren’t times when not waiting 6+ hours for a simple response would be nice.
Pro: A Strong Appreciation of Time Spent Together
Having mismatched schedules and limited time together is definitely a bummer. However, Matt and I have chosen to make the time we do have together actually count. Very few are the nights we aimlessly thumb through the t.v. channels, sitting in the same room but largely ignoring one another. I spend plenty of my alone time doing just that. (Why is Netflix so frustratingly difficult to find good material on? Help a girl out if you have any good suggestions!)
Having limited time to spend with each other means our time together is always intentional. Be it a brief conversation over coffee or a mini getaway, we are very aware of taking advantage of the time we do have. Limited time = more meaningful time.
When we first started dating, we agreed that Sundays would be our day. There’s been times where we have juggled multiple jobs, but always negotiated having Sunday off from each gig before accepting a position. That is not always an easy task, especially in the restaurant industry. Even so, we prioritize the importance of having at least one day of the week to spend together and with our families and friends. Having that day to look forward to throughout the week has been imperative.
If you’re navigating the waters of dating someone with a schedule completely opposite of your own, find just one day, or part of a day, that you can save for each other every week. It makes a world of difference!
Con: The One Day Weekend
When you work in the restaurant biz, Saturdays almost always do not belong to you. One of the busiest days of the week for diners, it’s also one of the most profitable days for the employees. Therefore, if you’re in the business of lining your pockets, you don’t want to take off too many Saturdays. As such, Matt and I are always cramming our ever growing to-do list into one day. Sometimes our Sundays together feel like a marathon, jam packed with both chores and other activities.
Not only do we always miss out on Saturday events, our mini getaways are almost always on a Sunday/Monday rather than a Saturday/Sunday. As a 9-5 employee it is far easier for me to have a Monday off than him a Saturday. The biggest downside to this is that so many awesome places we want to visit cater to the weekend crowd and close their doors on Mondays. I’ve failed to take this into consideration when planning trips around restaurants and breweries in the past. Learn from my mistake and Google your brew spots ahead of time!
Pro: Grocery Shopping is a Breeze
It’s no coincidence that the grocery store is most crowded after 5pm and an absolute disaster on the weekend. If you work 9-5 you generally have no choice but to battle the crowds if you don’t want yet another night of Chinese take-out. Run in really quick to pick up that stick of butter you need for dinner, and you’ll likely find yourself standing three carts deep waiting to check-out.
However, if you’re so lucky to be dating someone in the restaurant industry, you can skip the long queues and send them during off-peak hours. In the middle of the day, while the rest of us are slaving away at our desks, they can freely wander the aisles without running into a traffic jam of incompetent cart-pushers. You know the type. Matt can complete his shopping trip in a fraction of the time AND usually has better selection of produce. Numerous are the times, mid post-5pm shopping battle, I have sent him photos of empty shelves, completely picked over – leaving me with the choice of going home empty handed or with a wilted head of lettuce.
This year, Matt was even able to get his hands on the coveted cheese advent calendar Aldi released in November. I tried my luck after work to pick us up another, but they were completely sold out by that time. Grocery shopping during the day for the win!
Pro: Living that Foodie Lifestyle
So, you don’t necessarily need to be in a relationship with someone from the service industry to enjoy the foodie scene. However, when you are, it is omnipresent. Matt’s every day exposure to the latest and greatest trends at work always make their way into our kitchen and liquor cabinet. While I am and always will be a sucker for a simple plate of spaghetti with a big glass of cab, I welcome the foods I once considered “weird” onto my plate and their perfectly paired counterpart in my glass.
Some days, when I work from home, I am lucky enough to eat like an Italian on my lunch break. Antipasti and big glass of vino included. Checkered tablecloth, not so much.
Since I began dating Matt, I have expanded my palette. I have tried all kinds of new-to-me foods, learned to appreciate a nice wine, and have grown leaps and bounds with my own skills in the kitchen. I very well could have ventured down this path without his assistance, but when you’re dating someone in the restaurant industry, it’s not just a hobby. It is a lifestyle.
I wouldn’t dare trade our cheese boards and home brews for anything. Even if I do have to wait until midnight to enjoy them!
Are there any other pros and cons you could add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Megan & Matt