Nicole Dong’s Experience Working at a Family Owned Restaurant

Freshman Nicole Dong is seated at her table, laptop opened and papers scattered across the surface. She scribbles away at her math assignment, then turns to check her grades on Infinite Campus. But when the door opens, she jumps up and rushes to the counter, asking “Can I take your order?” The customer thinks for a bit, looking at the menu splayed across the board behind the counter. The menu has a display of various noodles, meat and rice bowls. Dong takes the customer’s order before stepping through a curtain into the kitchen, where her parents are preparing food. When the food is finished, she takes it to the customer and then sits back down at her table, ready to continue on with her assignments.

Dong works at China King, a family-owned restaurant that, according to Dong, serves Chinese food similar to that served at Panda Express. Working as a student is equally tough and rewarding.

“[Working here] has taught me about managing business. Sometimes I have to do special things for the restaurant, like managing money that goes in or out of the account, and even trying to figure out which company gives us the most profit,” Dong said. 

Dong wants to get into the business field after she graduates and believes the restaurant has been a good step to teaching her the basics, giving her some firsthand experience with business. While she is grateful for this unique opportunity to work at her family’s restaurant, it comes at a price.

“It takes away my free time to do things I wanted to be doing. I want more time to play badminton; I want to participate in tennis. But because of my schedule, I can’t go to clubs outside of school,” Dong said.

Since China King only has three people working there, Dong’s parents need her help as much as they can get, so she has to do a large portion of her homework at the restaurant. Her only off day is Sunday, when the restaurant is closed. 

Outside of working at the restaurant, Dong tries to maintain a balance with not only her schoolwork, but tries to make time for her friends as well. 

“Nicole works really hard,” freshman Sophia Saleeby, a close friend of Dong, said. “But she’s also a great friend. She’s funny and lively. I can always share a good laugh with her and I always have a good time when I’m with her.”

Another thing is that Dong’s restaurant is family owned. Nobody else works there but her family.

“I think I have gotten closer to my family by working there. But it also creates conflict, because sometimes I get yelled at, and my parents get upset with me for making mistakes.” 

While Dong agrees she has learned a lot from working with her parents, she feels that working at the restaurant causes a lot of trouble for her. She doesn’t get payed for her efforts, and she doesn’t even like cooking. But even so, she works hard, and believes that what she’s doing now will help her in the future.

“There are a lot of things I wish I could change about working here,” Dong said. “But I still don’t want to forget all the lessons I’ve learned.”