Company: Cohn Restaurant Group—C Level
For Jessica Semian, her customers are more like friends—especially during the pandemic. As a server at C Level on Harbor Island, her best customers have made a point to come to the restaurant to relax, have some conversation and enjoy a sense of normalcy.
“I spend more time with my regulars than my friends at this point,” she said. “I see many of these people two times a week, and it is about giving the best time I can.”
But Semian’s commitment to her customers is nothing new, said Jon Boyle, general manager at C Level and Island Prime.
“She is the kind of person where people will drive an hour to sit in her section,” he said. “It is a combination of her friendliness and her care for their experience.”
Semian, who grew up in outside of Syracuse in New York state, said she came to San Diego after what she calls “the snowiest year of all time.”
“I literally had $700 and two duffle bags,” she said.
Semian ended up sleeping on the floor at a friend’s apartment, who happened to be a server at Buca di Beppo. Semian got a job there, starting her career in the restaurant industry. She joined the staff at C Level about 16 years ago.
“It’s been my little gold mine,” Semian said. “I’ve been able to meet so many people with such different backgrounds and work in the most beautiful place in the world. You can’t be cranky at C Level. You just can’t have a bad day in a restaurant like that.”
While the last year has been tough with the COVID-19-related restaurant shutdowns, Semian said she has much to be grateful for as she was hired back as soon as the restaurant reopened, and she was ready to go back.
“I’ve never been laid off in my life—certainly not twice in a row,” she said.
Boyle said it was a no brainer to hire Semian back.
“Jessie is the type of person that no matter what is going on in the industry you want her on your team,” he said, explaining that not only is she great with guests but she works well with the kitchen staff, too.
“She will go the kitchen to tell them what a customer wants. She has a great relationship with the line cooks but is always pushing for her guests,” he said.
Semian said serving in during the pandemic has its own set of challenges, learning to communicate with guests with half of her face covered while making sure to follow the health protocols so they felt comfortable and protected.
“It was emotional. Restaurant people are not good at change,” she said.
Now, with restaurants beginning to open up more and increase capacity, Semian said she is hopeful about the future.
“These experiences have made people stronger,” she said. “If you are still in the service industry after this whole deal, then you are committed to it. You are in the right spot.”