Last week Jeffrey Summers wrote a great comment on the Wage and Salary Ballpark blog. Summers claimed “You can’t shrink your way to success”. These are profound words that every restaurateur should print out, frame, and hang above their desks, in the lunchroom, and every other area that is used for pondering thoughts about cutting payroll.
The comment is brilliant. The philosophy is wide spread. Shrink staff is usually the first tactic used when financial wolves knock on the office door. And, it is a very wise tactic- in moderation.
But when has moderation ever become a policy in the restaurant business? Usually the first item of business after a level one staff shrink is to do it again. And after that first glowing payroll, it almost seems like it should be done again. Until, eventually, the core management of various departments, whether it be on the floor, in the kitchen or around the office have disappeared. This creates a downward spiral of efficiency that is immediately recognized by customers and translates into poor customer service. Yes, Summers hit a bull´s eye. We should all remember his words.
While on the topic of Summer – it is just around the corner and the Memorial Day Weekend is the official kick off for the season. And, in every restaurant across the country that means that the parties begin. Not necessarily with your clients, but with your staff. There are always a few waiters that don’t love to sit down at the end of a long, tough, stressful shift and discuss how great the night was once restaurants begin ramping up to full speed. On occasion, the staff enjoys kicking back with one of the boss’ cold ones when having this conversation.
In many establishments that procedure of a nightly drink for the staff could be standard operating procedure. In others, it could get you booted out of the time card slot that hangs on the wall in the back room.
Whatever your policy is- to drink on at the bar, or not to drink at the bar, after shift, should be review, posted and discussed with the staff.
When restaurants come out of hibernation and everyone starts to feel as though they are a family again- the tension ceases, relationships are formed, friendships that didn’t exist on slow nights suddenly become reconfirmed during the hours of a packed house, everyone begins to drink out of the milk bottle in the refrigerator.
This is the perfect week to keep the family together and stop any habits before they get a lot of people, and your business in trouble. Review, reiterate and reinforce your staff on site drinking policy before the weekend begins. It will set the rules for summer and will let everyone know that you appreciate their efforts but you don’t want to toast them each evening.
Ahh, Memorial Day. The weekend of the Great American Under Age Sting Operation in every community in the country. The year was 1994. The bartender was Bruce. When I asked him on that Friday evening if he had proofed the young man at the bar he quickly turned and said "I have been doing this for a decade. I know who is underage and who isn’t. You run the restaurant. I’ll run the bar.”
On Saturday evening as my lakeside palace filled up with boaters for the first time in months as though I were the first stop after a Staten Island Ferry ride I noticed the young lady at the bar. I watched as she ordered. I watched as Bruce turned to grip a glass, slowly and with style and charisma bring it to the tap of Anchor Steam. As he drew the perfect brew for the young lady, who appeared to be made up for Martinis, not hops, the phone rang.
Fred Bruntchen a neighboring restaurateur was on the other end informing me that the local police had just gotten his bartender on a sting operation.
“Was it a young woman?” I asked.
“Yes, very attractive. But she ordered a beer. We should have known.” Bruntchen said.
“Yes, and she seems to be a heavy drinker. She’s here now talking to someone on the phone.” I said as more people walked in the front door.
“Good evening officer, table for four.”
It was Bruce’s last evening.