The Hungry Cowboy

The Hungry Cowboy: Service and Community in a Neighborhood Restaurant

KARLA A. ERICKSON
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvm1m
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  • Book Info
    The Hungry Cowboy
    Book Description:

    At a Tex-Mex restaurant in a Minneapolis suburb, customers send Christmas and Hanukkah cards to the restaurant, bring in home-baked treats for the staff, and attend the annual employee party. One customer even posts in the entryway a sign commemorating the life of his dog. Diners and servers alike use the Hungry Cowboy as a place to gather, celebrate, relax, and even mourn. Moments such as these fascinate Karla A. Erickson, who worked for the restaurant, and they make up her new bookThe Hungry Cowboy.

    Weaving together narratives from servers, customers, and managers, Erickson explores a type of service work that is deeply embedded in personal relationships and community. Feelings, play, and emotions are inseparable from the market transactions within the restaurant. Based on extensive interviews and two years of working as a waitress, Erickson provides insights into the ways that people make contact in our society and how they build on the fleeting connections in the service exchange to form more intimate relationships.

    Written for readers, scholars, and students interested in American culture, consumerism, and community,The Hungry Cowboyoffers a case study in how consumers and producers in the marketplace perform, and how dignity, meaning, and community can all be built at work.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-346-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 SPACES IN THE MARKETPLACE WORKING, DINING, AND BELONGING AT THE HC
    (pp. 3-27)

    One day in the spring of 2000, I walked in the front door of the Hungry Cowboy, the restaurant where I worked, to pick up my paycheck. I noticed that one of the regular customers had posted a sign in the entryway of the restaurant. I was not surprised to see a sign posted by a customer because the general manager, Richard, a good businessman, knows how to capitalize on existing strengths of his business by building ties with local groups. Richard invests in local charity functions, supports school activities, and allows community groups to use the walls of the...

  5. 2 PRODUCING FAMILIARITY SERVERS AT THE HUNGRY COWBOY
    (pp. 28-60)

    In a few short minutes Julia’s narration of her work vibrates between excitement—maybe even titillation—and shame. She describes serving as an adventure she sought out as a young woman, one that continues to challenge her in ways that both reward her and discourage her. She gloats a bit when she recites her (unspoken) conversation with the customers who imagine themselves as superior to her; she reverses the logic by implicitly claiming that this is not only real work but work that also pays better than their jobs. On the other hand, at moments in the interview, Julia’s voice...

  6. 3 CONSUMING BELONGING FEELING “AT HOME” AT THE HUNGRY COWBOY
    (pp. 61-91)

    During the summer of 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Noble, who usually come in every Friday, had been missing their usual dining time for several weeks. The Nobles were ordinarily so reliably present on Fridays that when they did not come in several weeks in a row, servers and managers at the Hungry Cowboy noted their absence. Mrs. Noble had cancer a couple of years before, and their Friday night attendance was spotty during that time. Now she was in remission. Richard and the servers wondered amongst themselves if her cancer had returned. After several weeks of absence, the Nobles returned...

  7. 4 MANAGING SERVICE TRAINING AND THE PRODUCTION OF AMBIENCE
    (pp. 92-116)

    As Trevor explains, management in the service sector involves three sets of relationships: between customer and server; server and manager; and manager and customer. This triadic arrangement of power complicates the traditional, dyadic model by which most businesses train workers.

    In the traditional dyadic model, two groups of actors interact in the labor process: managers or bosses who give the orders and workers who react to manager directives. Dyadic models rely on a model of the work process that sees it as rational; that is, the model assumes that if the worker correctly follows steps one through twelve, the process...

  8. 5 FEELING LIKE FAMILY PATERNALISM, LOYALTY, AND WORK CULTURE
    (pp. 117-139)

    In March of 2002, Richard called an emergency all-staff meeting. Over the past few weeks, he had noticed that his liquor cost was skyrocketing. The liquor cost is one of the sales percentages of which managers must keep track, and on which their bonuses are based.¹ This cost had been inexplicably on the rise for weeks, so much that Richard did not receive his usual bonus. Liquor cost problems are not unusual; often a rising liquor cost can mean that employees are taking liquor home, drinking on the clock, failing to charge friends or regular customers, overpouring drinks, or drinking...

  9. CONCLUSION REFLECTIONS ON THE HUNGRY COWBOY
    (pp. 140-152)

    On good days when I worked as a waitress, I would be filled with admiration for people’s desire to know and be known, talk and connect, even across a little thing like food. On bad days, I would hear a repeated joke or opening line from a regular in the bar and think, “Seriously, can’t you get a ‘real’ life?” As I became increasingly aware of the paradox of service, I started to think about the cultural impact of service interactions. What if we imagine these funky, fun, sometimes sad interactions that happen at the Hungry Cowboy happening simultaneously at...

  10. APPENDIX
    (pp. 153-154)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 155-168)
  12. REFERENCES
    (pp. 169-186)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 187-191)