<img height="1" width="1" alt="" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1565360197020699&amp;ev=PixelInitialized">
  • Home
  • Crunchtime Blog
  • The Shift That Shaped My Career as a Juice Bar Bike Messenger-Turned-CTO

The Shift That Shaped My Career as a Juice Bar Bike Messenger-Turned-CTO

The Shift is an industry-focused blog series from contributors who share their inside perspectives on life working in foodservice and restaurants.

I’ve never wanted to quit anything so badly in my entire life as my first shift in the foodservice industry. 

You’ve probably heard the old adage “It’s like riding a bike” plenty of times. It’s meant to convey something easy to do. 

Easy is the last word I would ever use to describe my first shift. But, this shift also taught me some pretty valuable lessons, and set me up for some significant career growth.

Let me take you through the shift from my perspective. 

A decade ago, after graduating college with a degree in Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, I optimistically decided to move to New York City, and see what I could make of life in the big apple. Ironically, little did I know at the time that a lot of apples–and many other fruits and vegetables–would play a big role in my future, and catapult me into a career in the restaurant industry. 

Eager to put my hard-earned degree to good use, I began looking for an opening in my field of study. But, a hasty job search ended with an interview at a juice bar–and that’s where my story in foodservice begins. 

I applied for what I thought was a retail position; a cashier/order-taker at the juice bar. And when I was offered the job, I quickly jumped at the opportunity without thinking I’d need to back-pedal out of it (pun intended).

Lesson #1: Know what you’re getting yourself into.

On my first day, I wanted to quit right then and there. I never wanted to back out of something so badly in my entire life. As it turned out, the position I was hired for was a bike delivery messenger, and it paid minimum wage– $7.25/hr at the time. I decided to give it a try, even though I had no experience, no qualifications, no bike, and no messenger bag. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize I was way out of my element. This wasn’t just a neighborhood juice bar for local customers in Lower Manhattan; they made deliveries across a huge zone, even miles away into Harlem. 

I showed up true to form, looking fresh off a college campus, asking, “Which way is downtown?” while pulling up Google Maps as I held my phone up and pedaled down 8th Avenue. Did I mention this was also during a record heatwave?

My first delivery was from 14th Street to 110th Street, and that was just the first run of my shift. This ride gave me plenty of time to learn the difference between uptown and downtown, and earn a nice bruise on my collarbone from my ill-fitting, single-strap bag that made me look more like a paperboy instead of a NYC bike messenger. 

Lesson #2: Be prepared. 

I was expected to make each delivery and return to the store within a certain amount of time, measured in relation to the other delivery drivers on my shift, who I’d come to find out were far from amateurs at this. 

They didn’t just have standard bikes and bags, but custom kits, actual racing shoes that clip into the pedals, bikes worth thousands of dollars that brake by pedaling backward, combined with incredible strength, endurance, and an appetite for risk.

No hands, no brakes, no fear, awkward cargoNo hands, no brakes, no fear, awkward cargo

As I began to get to know my coworkers from all walks of life, they taught me how to navigate the city. This is how I also learned that there was an entire culture of fixed-gear riders; messengers by day and racers by night. It’s a whole scene and lifestyle, made up of both men and women. A sympathetic coworker even helped me pick out the right bag, and then invited me to a race that night in Brooklyn. I politely declined.

Lesson #3: Learn from each other. 

This was a coworker of mine, a really nice guy and a great rider, CordellThis was a coworker of mine, a really nice guy and a great rider, Cordell

Aside from the physical components involved with actually delivering the products, I also had to learn the products themselves. This juice bar had quite the inventory, and between deliveries, I spent time learning the product–the names, the ingredients, and the locations in the fridges or on the shelves. All of the orders I delivered had to be hand-packed by me, so I had to quickly learn the names and locations of about 100 different items, each with unique product names and SKUs. You'd never realize how much goes into one bottle of juice.

Interacting with customers who were interested in health and taught me about vegan and raw diets. This also helped me understand and appreciate the depth of inventory we carried, and how much our customers relied on us to have all of these ingredients on hand. Sourcing food and managing its costs is one of the most important and complex factors in the restaurant and foodservice industries. Providing a good customer experience is much more than just dropping off a delivery or ringing up a customer at the counter.

It wasn’t long before my days as a bike messenger were over. 

But not for the reason you might think.  

After a first day of wanting to quit so badly, I ended up staying six more years and unexpectedly launching my career. 

Over time, what seemed like a job I couldn’t wait to move on from became a pivotal stepping stone for additional responsibilities within the same company. In that time, the company grew from 15 to 85 corporate-owned locations, with multiple commissaries. 

First, I moved onto a project manager role, reporting directly to the COO and working on strategic initiatives, like technology implementations and safety certifications. From there, I worked my way up to earn the title of Chief Technology Officer, working directly with the CEO and COO, while handling all aspects of technology personnel, hardware, software, training, and documentation. My department grew from just me to four people, evaluating, implementing, and supporting dozens of different software systems. 

Looking back, I don’t know how I survived that first shift, but I’m so glad I did. 

I could’ve never anticipated how far it would take me–figuratively and literally. 

Which leads me to my final lesson; stick with it, because no matter what it brings, you never know the path your first shift can lead you down.

202305-CT-Bio-Template (1)