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From the microscope to the “Wiesn”: Jessica Wittmann served at the Oktoberfest

While many university members take their well-deserved vacation before the start of the new semester, Jessica Wittmann, research associate at the Institute of Materials Science (ifm) and current PhD student, experienced a very special and rather unusual adventure. She fulfilled a childhood dream and worked for 17 days as a waitress in the legendary “Schottenhamel” festival tent at the Munich Oktoberfest. We asked, of course.

“And another day done!” – Jessica Wittmann is happy about the end of her workday at the Munich Oktoberfest around midnight; Image: private

Dear Ms. Wittmann, how are you and how did you experience the days at the Oktoberfest?

“The first few days were characterized by adrenaline, anticipation, tension and also curiosity. It took me a few days to get used to the surroundings, the hustle and bustle, the noise and also the physical exertion. The worst day for me was the 4th day, when I was really physically exhausted. Despite many doubts, I pulled through the 17 days “Wiesn” but and after the “Bergfest”, so half the time, you admittedly already counting the days. But the entire team of waiters and waitresses carries you on – that’s extremely motivating.”

Of course, the vast majority of people only know the Oktoberfest, the largest folk festival in the world, as a guest. But what does the daily routine of a waitress look like?

“It starts with the service teams, i.e. the waiters and waitresses who are divided into teams, preparing their service area before the Wiesn gates open. That means cleaning the tables and benches or setting up the menus. In addition, the reservations for the respective day are checked in advance. Depending on the type of reservation, further preparations such as tablecloths, snack benches, special table settings, etc. must be made. Special reservations can also mean special menus and so-called memos. A memo contains, among other things, various wishes of the guests, such as special orders like pretzels to the Brotzeitbrett or various dessert requests.”

The official tapping of the Oktoberfest has traditionally taken place in the Schottenhamel marquee since 1950 – the “Wiesn” itself was celebrated in 2022 in its 187th year. Image: private;

How did your job at the Oktoberfest actually come about – after all, you can’t just sign up there?

“The job came about through an interplay of different circumstances. After the two-year Corona break, various personnel changes have occurred in the waiter team and new staff was partly sought. The reasons for the personnel changes are manifold: family planning, operations, other priorities, etc. Since the partner of my firm godmother served for several years already in the Schottenhamel tent, thus the consideration came in the acquaintance circle for suitable occupations to look for. He knew that I already served for approx. 15 years both on various people and meadow festivals and in the catering trade and therefore I got a call from him one day. He asked what I was doing from September 17 to October 03 and if I would like to do the job. After that, everything happened quite quickly: first, of course, I had to clarify with my supervisor at the university whether I was allowed to work. After the internal acceptance, an application had to be written here as well, and within a very short time I then had the final acceptance to work at the Wiesn 2022 in the Schottanhamel festival tent as a waitress.”

What specific experience do you have to have?

“Strictly speaking, you don’t have to have any experience at all – except the joy of waiting tables. However, it is an advantage if you have relevant experience in the industry. This includes, for example, experience as a waiter at folk and meadow festivals or in the gastronomy sector. The more experience you have, the easier it is to understand and apply the bar and kitchen system used there. For example, a young waitress colleague in the neighboring service had no waitressing experience at all. But she mastered it and learned everything in a very short time. This example shows quite well that with enough motivation and will, a lot is possible.”

Jessica Wittmann with her direct waiter colleagues Peter; picture: private;

What fascinates you about the job?

“For one thing, that waitressing is an exciting contrast to my current work for me. It challenges and encourages you on completely different, very multi-layered levels. On the other hand, I’m delighted when guests go home after a visit to the Oktoberfest and thank me for the wonderful evening and the good service. Feedback like that is great, motivating and ultimately lets you know that you’ve done a good job. When such praise even goes to the festival hosts themselves, in this case the Schottenhamel family, it is a great honor for every waiter or waitress. Another fascination is certainly the cohesion in the team of waiters. You support each other in many areas, be it in the preparation, such as pinning the Häuberl, or tying the apron. Not to forget: Everyone pulls together and motivates each other” And she adds

That’s a really great team spirit that ultimately carries you through a tough 17 days of continuous stress.”

Jessica Wittmann

What happens after that at the university?

“After three days of recuperation leave, I will immediately dive back into the research world and dedicate myself to my currently ongoing research project “KH Bett” with new, fresh thoughts. There are a few experiments and test series on the schedule that will be carried out until the end of the project. Through the 17 days of Wiesn, I was able to gain some distance, which now allows me to pursue the project goals with new approaches and different perspectives.”

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