Written by Patti Larson
Photo by Elizabeth Martinez
Caitlin Duffy believes being a restaurant server should be a prerequisite for everyone prior to launching into whatever career they may have planned. “I enjoy it, every day is different, good or bad, and I enjoy the pace,” she shared. “I like the people, too, and getting to know them,” she continued.
But that age old “Waiter Rule”, or how you treat a server reveals a lot about your personality? “That is absolutely true, and it teaches you a lot about people. Servers are often invisible, not that everyone treats us poorly, but you definitely learn a lot in this industry, about how to communicate and how to be respectful. There’s a difference between being a server and being a GOOD server.”
Caitlin has called Long Beach home for seven years, but she got her start in the restaurant business in Newport Beach, having grown up in nearby Huntington, a product of the suburbs and beach life. There she worked her way from cashier to management level, “but it was a fast casual restaurant and not necessarily where I wanted to be,” she said.
Once Lola’s Mexican Cuisine in Long Beach started recruiting for its second establishment in Bixby Knolls, a friend encouraged her to apply. Fortunately, Caitlin was hired and now happily splits her talent there between bartending and serving.
“The great thing about working as a server is, you can still pursue outside interests or dreams. It’s a balancing act. Personally, it allows me to return to school and get my Bachelor’s degree.” Even though she’s not on the classic college path, “it’s been more of an 11-year plan,” she chuckles, she is determined to finish at CSULB with her degree in Child Development and Early Education so she can pursue her passion.
“I love kids and I think it’s so essential that they get a decent start, because they’re our future,” she said, which is why when she’s not mixing margaritas and serving up delicious Mexican fare, she’s helping out at the Child Development Center at LB City College or at the LBCC Child Development Club.
“I’m a behind-the-scenes sort of person, and I want to make a difference for families that are experiencing struggle or facing hurdles, to make it easier for them and ultimately their children,” she shared. Eventually through her network of philanthropic friends she hopes to piggyback on their expertise and have a fundraiser to benefit kids and learning.
But that doesn’t mean she’s abandoning her restaurant gig any time soon. There are other benefits to be had outside of tips and access to great food. “One thing that working at a popular restaurant like Lola’s affords is exposure to great culture and other venues I might not otherwise be around. Like when we cater a museum or park, somewhere outside the restaurant. Even if I don’t get to experience the venue since I’m working, it’s still cool to see what’s there and what goes on.”