This is the summer of the busy nights- if you have air conditioning in your restaurant. And, even if you don’t and people assume that you do your place will still be packed. Restaurant owners from around the country are logging unheard of customer counts and bottom line numbers thanks to Mother Nature and possibly Al Gore.
And nothing is more conducive to staff parties with your booze and food than packed dining rooms that need extra hours to be cleaned, humid early mornings, and a staff that just busted butt and made a pocket full of cash.
Add to the fact we are all hospitality impresarios who hate to see people have an un-fun filled time, we usually start the ball rolling by buying each member of the hard working staff an after shift drink. Or, we tell the manager to do so before we leave.
Do they teach that course at Cornell Culinary? Of course they don´t. It´s not even in the curriculum because professors of fine food would never think of doing such a thing. However, owners break their own rules all the time. Not thinking that does anything to the business.
And, if they don´t give the nod for a shot or two, they seldom take action once they find out that the party lasted long enough to inebriate the two opening waitresses and the host who were supposed to freshen the dining room up in time for Sunday Brunch.
We are all masochistic. We know every time we open the gate to the Goose that we will be ordering more of that vodka on Monday and that it will have cost us our profits to be so nice.
Is there a solution to the evolving, revolving, staff bar party? Probably not. However, strict rules, which begin at the top and work down will certainly cut back on the amount of damage done to the liquor inventory, the lateness the next day and the frequency that the parties occur.
We have to face the reality that as long as we are asking people to keep an eye on the two substances that sustain life´s existence, food and drink, we are going to have a few unwanted partners along the way.
I am certainly not one to stop all staff parties. In some instances you need perks during tumultuously busy, hot, humid, sweat pouring down the brow nights to keep the staff from coping out and going to an Internet company. Plus, I have done on more occasions than I care to admit to exactly what I am preaching has to stop.
There are however two methods to save money and possible lawsuits, that I have used over the years to alleviate any problems or parties in my restaurants. And, these should be taught at Cornell.
On busy nights, hand the manager enough cash to take the entire staff to the nearest hole in the wall bar and buy them all a drink. Nothing beats an off-premise bonus. The staff loves it and the owner of the neighboring bar loves it. Most of the waiters will empty out before last call, the waitresses will leave big tips and the bartenders will reciprocate on their days off. It is a win-win.
The other method, which always works and cost virtually nothing, is the food for booze program. Find a bar that doesn´t have a kitchen. In the Marina District of San Francisco I would always use DeLaney´s or the Horseshoe. On busy nights when I could read the eyes of the wait staff saying "Get him out of here so we can have a drink", I would send dinner over to the bartenders at the nearest no kitchen saloon. They would always tell me to come in later for a drink. Of course I would send the staff over instead.
The program always worked. On top of that, my inventory was in order, my bar was clean, and the staff was always there in the morning to open up.
Boy, Peter loved those Brisket Sandwiches.
Try it. Save yourself some money and aggravation. And remember, the best friend a restaurant owner can have is the bartender at your neighbor´s restaurant.