We all tend to approach the limits of snapping – mentally, physically, and emotionally, – when stress levels rise to seemingly unbearable heights. Of course these obstacles may possibly impede our plans for profit, making us a bit more irritable than we tend to be when everything is running smoothly. And, as problems mount we often feel as though we have lost control, thrusting us into a mental mode that concerns others.
With this latest heat wave over taking the country I am aware of numerous problems that owners have been experiencing with ice machines, air conditioners, coolers and other units designed to function at normal temperatures. Many have blown fuses and compressors while other appliances have fried there wiring as the heat hits triple digits.
These are all high-level, disastrous scenarios for the restaurateur. They can, in a matter of moments ruin the evening for not only one or two tables, but for everyone in the not-so-cool dining room who are being served lukewarm, iceless drinks.
Bob Shapiro, owner of San Francisco’s Light Soda, is the Guru of restaurant equipment in The City. He is an icon in the culinary equipment world. Without him, many restaurants would have faultered over the last decades. When I spoke to Bob on Monday I asked why he sounded so tired. THe fact that it was 8:00 pm had nothing to do with it. He explained that he was getting close to 100 calls a day for repair requests. One of the most important divisions of his conglomerate rents ice machines. Since he has been in business for almost as long as The Hangtown Fry has appeared on the menu at Tadich´s he controls most of the ice machine biz in San Francisco. His motto is simple, after the sale, it´s only the service. So to say he was under a bit of pressure these past few days is an understatement. Keeping the owner´s cool and the ice machines full is a hefty task.
But he hadn’t lost his sense of humor.
He explained that one customer, actually a lot of customers, called and told him they were faced with emergencies..
"Hello, Bob. This is Frank over at "?¦"?¦ I have an emergency/"
"Oh, Frank, I am sorry to here that. Was it a heart attack?"
"No Bob, what are you talking about?"
"Oh, well you said you had an emergency. Did someone in your kitchen cut their finger off?"
"Bob are you nuts. My ice machine is down."
"Frank, what´s wrong with you? An ice machine going down isn´t an emergency. That´s merely a broken ice machine."
And, yes, a broken ice machine is a major obstacle in the big picture of success. And so is that fuse blowing walk-in. Let´s not forget the beer cooler behind the bar that runs hot. However, let´s not take our eye of the ball.
We all got in this business for a handful of reasons. Some are obvious- to make a living, to enjoy our work, to hopeful build an organization that is worth more at the end of the journey than we invested in it at the beginning of the trip. Others are probably more personal.
One thing to keep in mind: It´s only food and entertainment. Of course it is important but customers, good one, will stick with you during the inconvenient times if you perform with above average style the rest of the time.
So in the future, when you call Bob or other vendors, remember not to use the word emergency. It´s only an ice machine and that falls under the category of, "Hello, I´ve got a small problem."