Zine review: Service, Please! by Burum Collective

We’re used to pubs being written about by consumers and commentators – what if hospitality workers had a voice, without a commercial filter?

They don’t, traditionally, because a core function of hospitality is pandering to customers.

Said customers expect to be made to feel welcome, and appreciated. They need to believe that the places where they eat and drink are little paradises. Don’t harsh my buzz, man!

Hospitality workers writing about how annoying we are, or the indignities and injustices of their jobs, amounts to bad PR.

As the editor of the c.40-page zine Service, Please! Rachel Hendry says in her introduction:

“[There] has been something tentatively radical about creating this zine written and illustrated entirely by people who work or who have worked in hospitality.”

We might challenge that word “tentatively”. About half of the zine is dedicated to explicit calls for hospitality staff to join unions, or to show solidarity with other unionised workers.

Less directly, Douglas Nelson’s short essay ‘Hypocrisy’ highlights the difficulty of working for employers who say the right thing, and champion justice… only not for their own staff.

Other pieces express irritation at the bad behaviour of colleagues, such as those who disappear to the alleyway for a mid-rush cigarette.

There’s also a strand of depressive melancholia: accounts of derailed creative careers, repetitive shifts, and the pressure to perform cosy cheeriness on loop every single day.

Even when we’re not being utter dicks, we customers are a wearying lot. In one cartoon, by Ceara Colman, a barista is slowly ground down by one customer after another calling them hun, babe, love…

It’s good to see another piece acknowledging the existence of the colour bar in British pubs in the 20th century. Yasmin Begum’s article is about Cardiff Bay and its lost pubs, expressing nostalgia but also prompting us to think about who was welcome, and who was not.

Between heavier pieces, there are amusing illustrated snippets such as ‘Things I Have Cleaned up With Blue Roll’ and ‘Chef’s Menu Du Jour’ which starts with “Pasty De Gregg En Route”.

After reading Service, Please! on Saturday morning we went out to the pub. We ordered a half of a fancy keg beer from out of town and the person behind the bar said:

“Just to let you know, that’ll be £5.”

“That’s fine, but thanks for the warning.”

“No problem,” they replied. “I’m skint and I’d be furious if I paid a fiver for a half.”

As pubs and restaurants become ever more a premium product, is it right that those who work in hospitality should feel locked out of what they sell by low wages and tight terms and conditions?

We paid £10 for our copy of Service, Please! as a pre-order. We’re not quite sure where and how you can buy a copy yourself but will add a link here when we find out. In the meantime, start by visiting Burum Collective. You can order a copy from Burum Collective.

2 replies on “Zine review: Service, Please! by Burum Collective”

This looks great! In this vein, you may also enjoy Edward Chisholm’s A Waiter in Paris.

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