Moonlighting – Why It Makes Me Better at My Day Job


By day, Amy Spartz is head of human resources at Gravie and by night, she oversees operations at the Minneapolis restaurant she owns with her husband Jeff. While moonlighting at the Aster Café certainly adds commotion to Amy’s life, it also makes her better at her day job.

I have a regular day job – part time mind you, but it’s still a good part of my week. I work in human resources for Gravie. I do regular day job things like go to meetings, talk about the direction of our company and our people, and work on issues large and small.

I also have a regular night job. I own a restaurant. I do regular restaurant things like review menus, study our labor rates, talk about special events we’re hosting, and speak with our guests about their experiences. Unlike my day job, the restaurant is open 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, 350 days a year. While my physical time at the restaurant is usually late afternoons and evenings, my mind is often occupied by its operations ’round the clock.

The fact that I have two jobs, two very different jobs, is a great conversation starter. These are some of the comments I get:

That sounds fun.

That sounds terrible.

I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant.

It might be easier on you if you just give me your money instead of losing it in a restaurant. At least one of us would be happy.

 After a recent and particularly long day, I was thinking, why do I do this?! But after some time passed and I wasn’t feeling so woe is me, I started to think about it from a new perspective. Does moonlighting make me better at my day job?

Switching gears can be hard and sometimes clumsy, but it can also be refreshing. Instead of thinking about one set of problems obsessively, I have to turn off part of my brain and switch on another part. When I come back to Gravie after an evening at the restaurant, I’ve had a break from Gravie thinking. I can look at problems differently, or at least come back to work with a different perspective on the same problem. It’s kind of like a mini brain vacation. Well, maybe not actually like a vacation, but just like after a vacation or a long weekend, it’s often the case that some time away is exactly what the doctor ordered.

When switching between two totally different work environments, I get a nice blend of structure and planning, collaborating and individually contributing, and some good adrenaline boosts here and there from the surge of a crowd or a looming deadline. It keeps me on my toes and ready for whatever’s going to be thrown my way.

Thinking about the same thing in the same way usually results in something stale. Doing a 180 from Gravie to the restaurant forces me to stop processing one set of information and data points, and instead forces me to focus on an entirely different set of information and data points. When I come back to my day job at Gravie, I am actually refreshed, rather than exhausted like some might expect.

The challenges of an ever-changing healthcare landscape and a startup company trying to make the industry better, and the growth and operations of a busy restaurant initially seem to be vastly different and non transferrable. But both companies are growing and evolving, trying to keep the delicate blend between innovation, creativity and process, and execution and structure. In both places, people are working every day to delight customers through incredible service, and by offering products that are appealing and serve a purpose in the market. It’s really only the types of products and services that vary. And it’s those variances that keep so many parts of my brain alive and dancing—sometimes late into the evenings and through the weekends. But when it comes down to it, who doesn’t love a good dance?