Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Time to make the donuts..."--Michael Vale, the actor from the Dunkin' Donuts commercial

A day in the life...part 1
7:30am--alarm goes off, and continues to go off for about six or seven minutes before I finally find the energy and awareness to turn it off. Immediately fall back asleep and wake up five minutes later realizing that if I nod off again I won't re-awaken till about 11am. Physically roll myself out of bed onto the floor to facilitate my successful rising and shining. Bedroom to kitchen for the first two of roughly 18-25 cans of diet soda I will consume throughout the coming day and night--both cans are gone within about four minutes--the caffeine no longer has any affect on me, I'm just thirsty [maybe even slightly dehydrated for some alcohol-related reason].

Kitchen to my home office for the computer. Check my company Outlook to get end-of-shift reports from managers at both our restaurants, and review my own revenue and performance e-mail from the previous night to see if I omitted or overlooked anything. Already have two new e-mails for prospective private dinners--very important people, very important event, VIP, VIP, blah blah blah [Don't ever tell people how much you matter, let them find out for themselves]. Check personal e-mail--this is where the senior manager at our other property, who technically reports to me and is an old friend of mine, will often communicate any "unofficial" news I may need to know sans the politically correct Outlook format. Next I check the Open Table feed from both restaurants [which I both love and hate] available through a link to my home computer, taking note of a number of notable reservations of various kinds.

Shower, change, feed pet and one more diet soda gets me to about 8:30am--ready to roll. I am blessed with a heated driveway and live on a fairly well-used street, so I rarely have to worry about bad weather commuting during our short but brutal winters. I grab a special bottle of wine from home which I will offer later to regular guests of ours celebrating their anniversary--I know they will enjoy it, they deserve it for their loyalty, and I already have more wine than I will ever drink and won't miss it.

9:00am--I live less than two miles from my home restaurant, and by now have settled into my luxurious closet of an office. Two voicemails waiting for me--one from the building manager about a squeeky belt from our make-up air compressor, the other about yet another private event. On this particular day I will field another 25 private event inquiries by phone and receive ten more like-minded e-mails as well as nine or ten other exchanges regarding details for previously booked events.

Before I can pop the top on diet soda #4 my assistant [who has been in the restaurant doing paperwork and answering phones since 8:30pm] tells me a regular guest of ours is on the phone with a "small" request--he wants to bring his office to dinner for an impromptu celebration tonight--26 people. He is suddenly my best friend and greatest benefactor [about $100/month, not terrible but certainly nowhere near the top of the mountain], and knows the restaurant lay-out better than I do myself--he knows we can find an area--as a matter of fact, "just put us in that private room". Well, the private room has been booked for three months, and at 8pm when he wants to dine we already have 80 reservations ahead of him. I am brusquely dismissed after offering 6pm or 9:30pm in our man dining room while he rushes off to find satisfaction with one of his other "best friends" at another nearby restaurant. Twenty minutes later he calls back and takes the 6pm with the requisite--"what's going on in town tonight? I never have these kinds of problems--I'm a regular".

While I was on the phone with our regular guest, two other calls have been sent to my voice mail. All day long I will fight to actually do things and get real things accomplished while also speaking to nearly 500 people between the phone, the restaurant floor, and my staff. Because of this, I am often rather spare with my words when interacting with our staff--many of them understand why, but some believe me arrogant or stand-offish toward them. The truth is that the amount of talking I do is very daunting to me, and I often try to save words when interacting with our staff.

11am--servers are arriving for lunch, and my assistant [also my luncheon supervisor] leaves my side to fire up the dining room. I have managed to get through the financials from the previous day and confirm a preliminary balance-out with our controller--this means no money hunt, which can be very time-consuming. That is good, and something off my list--what is not good is that a cook is missing, three cases of lettuce have arrived frozen and useless, and a server scheduled for that evening is attempting to call out "sick". While a poor liar anyway, this fellow is clearly also near-sighted. This unobservant fellow had missed the fact that I was in the same bar as he after the shift last night [though I arrived much later] and had caught sight of him ardently romancing a bottle of Patron. The server is told that he will remain on the schedule for the night, but that if he couldn't make it I still wished him the best of luck in the future. In other words, show up or you're fired. This guy is young, good-hearted, and a great server--he also drinks too much and drops "x" three or four times a week and I am losing patience. When I hang up the phone I throw away the empty can from diet soda #8

12:00pm--My very pleasant wake-up call to our executive chef regarding his missing cook has generated results in the unexpected arrival of the man himself--sleepy-eyed and pissed off at me because his cook didn't show. Annoyed after my conversation with the disappointing server, I am in no mood for this guy's groggy prima donna act. After a few uncomfortable verbal exchanges, I agree with him--it's my fault the guy didn't show up and my fault that someone else wasn't called before the executive chef. So from now on, I tell him, I will oversight all of his potential hires before they are approved as well as making sure none of his schedules are final or posted before I sign off on them. This guy is very talented, runs two very demanding kitchens with great success, and we usually get along very well. I have great confidence in him, which is why I agreed two years ago when he asked me if he could finalize his own hires and schedules without my approval [I am his boss]. Before he can wipe the stunned look off his face or respond, I apologize again, mention that he probably has orders starting to come in, and head back to my office for paperwork, party-work, the phones, and prep for a staff meeting.

1:30pm--Lunch mostly over, I confirm that the audio visual equipment being delivered for a private event that evening is indeed on its way and review a number of liquor and wine deliveries that were delivered and checked in late morning. I note a number of wine list changes that will have to be made before service and e-mail one salesman with a delivery error and pick-up request. Walking back through the labyrinth of our kitchen, I notice several lightbulbs out or failing, loose potatoes on the floor from a torn sack, and a tower of bevnap cases stacked in front of a fire exit. As I head through the dining room to get light bulbs, I see my mostly-finished lunch staff sitting at a booth within sight of the two remaining tables--not cool. As soon as they eye me they all jump up, with the exception of one surly slug of a middle-aged, burnt-out lifer. This guy won't make May still on the schedule--he's OK with the guests and could have a long tenure with us if he wasn't the classic bitterman, angry over the course of his life and prepared to make everyone else as miserable as he. For the hundreth time I mention to them that they are welcome to relax if everything is finished, but that they shouldn't be where the guests can see them. While heading to storage, I also notice several bulbs out in the main dining room

2:15pm--guests are gone, 10 foot ladder is out on the main dining room floor, and bulb changing has commenced. We are in an old, classically-styled downtown office building and the restaurant has cathedral ceilings--I have never felt right asking anyone else to climb the rickety, very-tall ladder to do this job. Kitchen lights are easier, and my directions about cleaning up the other problems have been followed.

3:00pm--plot private parties and large parties in the reservation system, assign the servers their stations for dinner and their opening side work. This is a job left to others in many restaurants, but I find it essential to our success that my "forces" be perfectly deployed each evening to accentuate their strengths and so I do it myself. I place my hung-over server in a small station farthest from the kitchen and the computers--he won't ruin anyone's experience with so few tables, but he will be in agony all night long. I also leave directions for an alternate set-up in case he doesn't show up.

3:20pm--chef wants to talk to me. He wants to apologize for being a dick earlier, and wants to make sure that I wasn't serious about taking away his autonomy with hiring and scheduling [he doesn't say this directly, but the gist is obvious]. I tell him that I don't plan to make any immediate changes, and then I give him some advice. He has been short-staffing and hiring under-experienced people to keep his payroll and labor rates down and thereby maximize his bonuses. When I tell him this plainly, he stares at me like I have his office bugged. I tell him that while our product to the guest has not suffered yet, it probably will fairly soon. I tell him that right now the only direct result is sloppy work, a sloppy kitchen, and an unreliable staff that adds ten hours to his own work week covering stations. I suggest that he return to hiring the best, paying them the going rates, and returning to his mainly oversight/teaching role during service. What he saves in returned dishes, waste, and training costs will more than make up for the extra payroll and labor. We will have better product costs, happier guests, and his bonuses will grow for the right reasons. I know I'm right, he knows he's caught, and I leave to go home and change for dinner service...

3:40pm--As I leave for home with diet soda #14 riding shotgun, my day is roughly half over. Stay tuned...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read your blog for the first time - I clicked onto it from another site. Great writing! You have a lot of interesting things to say.
You don't seem to get many comments, so I thought I would give you some encouragement. Please keep on posting!

9:29 PM  
Anonymous promoted hostess said...

Excellent writing! So, how does your stomach deal with 8,000 diet sodas a week?

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your write well; keep posts coming. It is interesting to hear more about the management side of things.

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, please keep on posting. I'm a hostess and I tend to give my managers hell sometimes (all about being part of the family-- they're my overindulgent fathers, I'm the suckup princess who gets things done.) So I LOVe to hear about things from the management side of things... keep it coming!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOVE this blog. You are very talented.

9:12 AM  

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