According to Time magazine there are 43 quintillion unique Rubik’s Cube configurations. That’s almost as many napkin folds that have been invented by managers in the restaurant industry.
Each year, around this time, restaurateurs begin analyzing staff in hopes of finding fault with a few employees in order to cut payroll. I always looked to the managers of my restaurants because they were the ones working the least when it was slow, and bringing down the biggest salaries.
Plus, February in Minnesota was a month that needed little management skills. I always assumed I could get by without the top echelon of management and then rehire fresh minds and bodies in the beginning of April, especially if my manager or assistant manager had some notches in their personnel file that left a scar or two on their future.
It was inevitable, lurking lakeside in the winter, that most of our wait staff bailed for warmer climates, 25 miles east in the city, or headed south to Florida, Mexico, or the Islands. Usually I replaced the frigidity of winter with the warmth of an eight-burner range. I headed into the kitchen to assist the chef, as he had laid off most of the summertime line-guys. That left the manager alone, in an empty dining room experimenting with the napkin fold.
Napkin folds are a sure sign of territorial ownership. Each time a new manager walked through the door, they would initiate a new napkin fold in order to show their power to the staff. It was a way of making their mark. Eventually, I would ask in the interview process what their favorite napkin fold was and if they thought I should be using it. Of course, the answer was always positive. I finally decided that I would stop replacing managers once I found a fold I was comfortable with, and that working with a person with potential, to think outside of the box, was better than trying to train someone new.
Now I am sure that restaurant managers across the country are erasing this blog from their favorite’s page right about now. But, they shouldn’t. They need to think of techniques as people responsible for the bottom line, to build a better business. Good managers take ownership of the business they are running and think of it as their own. Nothing aggrevates an owner more than a manager who is doing nothing because the dining room is empty.
I always trained my managers, and my staff to think catering. All the time. catering is the bonus that restaurant owners don’t take advantage of.
Although it seems months away, now is the time to sit back and think of a new menu or theme for those summer parties and weddings. Get the managers focused on April. Have them prepare a marketing program and present it to the staff to see what response they get. Have the managers get on the phone and call some of your best, and their best customers, who are really clients, and find out how they are doing. Do they want to book any parties this summer. Get your customers thinking about those almost booked up weekends. Have them communicate with your vendors.
I would spent one day each week, calling my many vendors, finding out how they were surviving the winter, and letting them know that we were slow, but that we were looking towards a great spring.
I spoke with Tom Fritz Jr. last week. He and his father bought my restaurants in Minnesota, almost a decade ago. The 350 seat lakeside property that he now operates is cold and dark and frigid on the banks of the worlds largest ice rink, Lake Minnetonka. Fritz told me that he works the floor on Wednesdays and Thursdays and the chef and a line cook work the kitchen. The manager tends bar.
The wait staff works on the weekends on a rotational basis and some have become snow birds and headed south until the rink becomes passable for vessels.
I spoke with Fritz about the manager dilemma and we came to the same conclusion. The napkin fold your used to, may be better than the napkin fold you may get.