Do This If You Work In A Hotel Or Restaurant, And You Feel Like It’s A Dead-End Job

Original Shangri-La Resort Motel brochure, and Brickyard Mountain Resort room key

Dream, and dream big. This article is for you if you work, or have worked in a hotel or restaurant job, and you find yourself asking, “What the heck am I doing in this dead-end job?”

I’ve been a bus boy, dishwasher, host, server, ski instructor, tennis instructor, snow maker, highway construction grunt, farm worker, ditch digger, well digger, and more. Today I manage the business and life of my dreams at Harvey Mackay Academy. I get to teach and mentor people from all walks of life, and some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way started in hotel and restaurant work. I definitely dreamed of this!

Life is amazing, but it wasn’t always this way. If you work in a service job, or make minimum wage, or less, you know what I mean. There has to be a reason you’re where you are, right? Right. You simply have to believe there is a higher purpose for doing what you’re doing right now, and your vision, whatever this may be, could take you to the places of which you only dream.

Dream on, dream big.

What Am I Doing In This Job?

I remember hating my work life more than once. One of the earliest days I remember loathing more than dental work was my first restaurant job not working for my dad.

It was my first day on the new job as a bus boy at a local ice cream place called Franken Sundae located in Meredith, N.H. I was being trained by the two sons of the owner, and they were a number of years older, much taller, and mean. The biggest lesson I got from these guys was the most extreme, welt-of-a-lifetime towel whooping I’d ever gotten in my life. (Yes, I’ve had more than one.)

As if getting stiffed on tips or yelled at by an angry customer could be worse, getting your butt towel whooped by two bullies with sopping-wet dish towels is not fun. I’ll never forget the faces of these two dolts while they laughed their stupid mugs off while delivering their mighty, long blows. If you have ever been in a similar situation, you might really hate your life, too.

The Franken Sundae job lasted only as long as it took for me to end that training lesson in the attic, while I did my best to block, cry, duck, scramble, and hurl my thirteen-year-young prepubescent body down the stairs from the just a wee-bit faster than the two angry trainers chasing me out the front door. I walked home crying that day, and vowed never to work in a restaurant again. Naturally, I reported to my parents the precise reason for my prompt employment engagement ending. They showed a bit of empathy, and began to line up the next glamour job for me; bus boy at Hart’s Turkey Farm. (Guess which of the two restaurants is still there?)

Hart’s Turkey Farm, “Thanks for the job!” — Cliff, the dish washing bus boy.

Being A Bus Boy

My last hotel job was working for Ritz Carlton Hotels. I was a sales and marketing executive, which was a much different job than where I started in hotels. Overall, working in hotels and restaurants is not fun for most of us, yet millions of people do it. I worked in many food service and hotel positions until I was twenty-nine. That’s when I took all my experience, and the network I had built, to launch my entrepreneurial career. That was 1990, and I haven’t looked back since. Today I get to be what I dreamed about when I worked long, hard hours in hotels and restaurants.

When I was a twelve-years-young boy I worked as a bus boy in my father’s restaurant at the Brickyard Mountain Inn in Laconia, New Hampshire. It was originally called Shangri-La Resort Motel when dad bought it with his business partners in 1970. I got to live through the re-branding and hotel expansion with the addition of an indoor tennis bubble, a ski area, a new marina, and condos. Yay, condos! All of this was great until 1974 when OPEC decided to launch an oil embargo, and inflation shot through the roof, the Prime Rate hovered at 18 percent, or more, and nobody was filling up their gas hog station wagons to vacation in New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine. Game over. Time for mom and dad to start a real estate business, which is exactly what they did next. No wonder I’m an entrepreneur.

My father, Clifford Jones, Jr., has always been one of my heroes in business and life, and working with him in his hotel and restaurant was a magical time in my life. He and my mother inspired me to learn the sheer power of being in the food service and hospitality business. I learned to work hard as a kid, especially if I wanted spending money for myself. All of this lead to being the businessman, father, husband, friend, and teacher I get to be today.

Training Day With Dad

I’ll never forget the first lesson my father taught me when I started working for him. He looked down at me warmly, put his arm on my shoulder, gestured as his arm and hand swept the horizon of what seemed a very large restaurant, and said, “Clifford, if you learn well to deal with the general public in a restaurant or hotel, you can pretty much learn to do anything with your life. Learn how to get along with people. This is a great place to learn.”

Dad sure was right about that, and many other things it took me a lifetime to truly understand. My father talked often about the power of learning service work and hospitality. He was a master networker, and lifelong learner. Little did I know I’d grow up to be a hotel executive, and a successful entrepreneur by the time I was 30. It wasn’t easy, but dad and many other wonderful human beings inspired and motivated me to be the teacher and service worker I am today.

If you’re seeking a better job, career, a small business you can start and build, here’s what I would tell myself if I were twelve years young.

  1. You have a purpose. Everything has a purpose. Never stop searching, learning and growing in line with your evolving purpose.
  2. Chop wood, carry water. This means learn to love the routine of the little stuff like washing 4,987 banquet dishes, or cleaning 34 hotel beds and toilets a day, or sweeping an August-scorched Pennsylvania highway with a push broom, and you’ll know what the smart guys in the East meant.
  3. Hard work gets noticed. In every job you take, your boss is working hard to make sure you make him or her look good. Your boss will notice your hard work, but don’t work to get noticed. Work to build the habit of great work.
  4. “Do the job right the first time.” — Bob Foster, Sheraton Grande Hotel general manager in 1983. Former Air Force man, stud boss.
  5. Always make your boss look good, even if they get the credit.
  6. Your work will lead to work you love, and you will learn to appreciate the work you love because of what you feel right now.
  7. You are a business of one. It’s You, Inc. You have a contract with your boss to kick butt, and do the best job anyone has ever done in your job, even if you don’t get paid well, or recognized. It’s your job to work hard, build new skills, grow your network, ask for mentoring, volunteer, and stand out.
  8. The truest reward comes from knowing you’ve done your best, even if your boss doesn’t see it. You see it. That’s what counts. Always do your best. Nobody can ask for more.
  9. Network or die. Build your network with the right people by showing them you’re willing to learn, asking them to mentor and coach you to get better. Never stop.
  10. Only follow people who’ve been where you’re going, and you’ll save buckets of time.
  11. Read. Read. Read. Personal development never stops.
  12. Daydreaming is what professionals do, except we got in trouble for it when we were kids. Adults call it visualization. It’s moronic that we don’t encourage kids to dream more, and support the arts, and bring back shop class. My goodness.
  13. Never stop believing in yourself. Your worst days will be your best teacher when you look back on this. Print this article now, draw a picture or write a descriptive statement of your vision for your future.
  14. Be a lady or gentleman, and work all day to serve ladies and gentlemen. Watch what happens to your work and your life.
  15. There is no such thing as a dead-end job, only a dead-end mindset.

That’s it for now. I sure hope at least one of these ideas will help you.

Remember, purpose is the ultimate power for persistence. Find your purpose with every dish, every new customer, and every fork you pick up off the ground.

Never give up hope.




Family man, author, artist, community builder, strategic business advisor. Connect with me at

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Clifford Jones

Clifford Jones

Family man, author, artist, community builder, strategic business advisor. Connect with me at

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