What serving food at “Trinity Cafe Nebraska” taught me about agility and humanity
A few months ago, I started offering volunteer hours at Feeding Tampa, an organization dedicated to providing food for the homeless and people with compromised economic conditions. I volunteer at Triniti Cafe on Nebraska Street in Tampa on Saturday mornings. We serve a nutritious breakfast to approximately 200 people in one hour, from 9:00 to 10:00 am.
My motivation was to give back to the community, something that I enjoy as a privileged person; I consider that food is essential for any other activity in life, and Feeding Tampa’s organization seemed ideal.
However, after several weeks, I feel that Trinity Cafe has given me more than I have given myself in terms of learning about the human condition, empathy, compassion, and, surprisingly, agility and teamwork.
The team at Trinity cafe behaves like an agile team, with servers, hosts, bussers, scrapers, cooks, dishwashers, and security. There are 12 tables, and depending on the number of volunteers available, two servers are assigned per table, then they alternate the functions of server and host; Food is essential, but the conversation is also meaningful.
I know that Bussers’ work is hard because I’ve done it several times. There are three bussers to clean the stalls of the people leaving; this must be done quickly to maintain a cadence and allow people in the queue to enter the dining room. The bussers coordinate with their eyes; they must observe the dynamics of the tables and anticipate when a position will be vacated. When removing the plates, glasses, and cutlery from the tables, the bussers must place them in a bucket that they transport; they must do it in a specific order so that the scraper can throw away the waste and pass the rest to the dishwasher.
The activity begins with a micro meeting in which the coordinator briefly explains each role, the service’s rules, and the available items. At 9:00, the doors open, and customers begin to sit down.
The first 15 minutes of the service are somewhat chaotic, but then the roles are assimilated, and everything flows as long as the communication and cadence are maintained. Trust is essential and maintaining a common goal and a positive attitude are paramount.