As I was walking through my dining room on a murderously slow evening, I glanced over to the bar and noticed four waiters hovering around the hook. The bartender was also in on the action, apparently not noticing the few customers at the opposite end of the bar or the scowl on my face. I had been contemplating selling the restaurant for months and each step towards the huddle moved the decision-meter towards the “For Sale” sign.
Once penetrating the wall of shoulders I saw a beautifully prepared plate of sautéed scallops, oven roasted vegetables along with a healthy portion of wild rice with golden raisins. The plate had been positioned on the bar so each of the employees had a fair chance of sharing the meal. Four forks had been prepared for assault and the team of waiters- who each had customers- had their backs turned to the floor as they sat down to enjoy dinner. Someone else’s.
“We’re eating these scallops. They were a mistake,” James, a Psychology major who was taking his third semester off, said calmly.
“A mistake? That’s two that have been made in the last 10 minutes.” I said.
I went on to explain that the first mistake was the actual mistake and the second mistake was anyone assuming that once food is cooked and transformed from its natural form it becomes public domain. Unfortunately for the staff, I still owned the food.
Within moments they had finished their meal. In order to prove a point, I presented them with a check- which they split- I hate that- and they quickly went back to work.
Staff food and beverage consumption is a difficult situation to deal with. There are numerous ways to handle the problem.
Many restaurant owners simply toss all of the kitchen mistakes away – guaranteeing nobody on staff would ever think of paying a chef or cook to make a mistake or two each evening. Other owners allow their employees to delve into a well done steak, or an over cooked pasta.
When the thirst for consumption moves towards beverages – whether it is bottled water, coffee, espresso, soda beer, wine, or booze, the problem escalates to heights often unimaginable.
I know of a general manager – a partner in a restaurant- who was recently questioned as to whether or not a he should be drinking bottled water as he was walking through the eatery – before it was opened – by his partner. The partner thought it set a bad example for the staff.
Food and bev rules span the gamut from strict and adhered to, to seldom ever enforced. The quandary on how to deal with the loss of product through employee consumption – and that’s what it is – constantly affects owner’s bottom line. Yet, they don’t always realize the loss of revenue is happening in front of their very eyes.
One rule does hold true, however. Set a standard policy and procedure and stick to it. Once you begin to waiver, you will never be able to get back on the policy track. If you decide you need to implement a rigid consumption policy, develop it, share it with your managers, have a staff meeting, and review the new policy for everyone to read and sign.
Once the rules are clear, it will make it easier for your staff to understand who owns the food and beverage.
And, if you were wondering- the scallops, I was told, were delicious. Those waiters, however, were bad tippers. Isn’t that always the way with split checks?