Thursday, June 07, 2007

"No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair"--General George S. Patton

"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown"--William Penn

Very often, one of the last guests in our lounge on any given night is one of the finest attorneys not just in our state, but in the country. He has routinely turned down the offer of federal judgeship, and has personally handled some of the most intricate and perplexing non-criminal legal matters to surface in the last twenty years. He is immensely wealthy and successful, respected and envied. He is usually one of our last lounge guests because his offices are across the street and when he is finished work he often walks over for a late snack and nightcap. This man regularly works well past ten each evening, and is often the last person to leave the large law offices that bear his name.

Years ago when I was much younger, I was foolish enough to try to have my own restaurant. With my meager "fortune", I over-extended myself terribly and bought into a small, failing fine dining property. For nearly eighteen months I worked like a dog, regularly logging 20 hour days as I tried everything to keep this poor place afloat. I would often be on the road to work by 6 or 6:30am, and as I drove from my bad neighborhood through an adjacent luxurious one I often saw one of the richest men in the world driving himself to work at the same time. Returning home each evening in the wee hours, it was not unusual for me to again see this same billionaire heading back to his riverside mansion. I was discouraged that our respective "jobs" and personal economies were so far removed from one another, but remained perversely pleased that at the very least we shared the same work ethic.

The Maestro, Sirio Maccione, was famous for swooping into his dining room to change ashtrays and pour wine. After the 9/11 attacks, he stayed at Le Cirque nearly all the time personally answering the restaurant's phone so as to provide a solid connection to his distraught guests and friends. Even now, with restaurants spanning half the globe and tremendous personal wealth, he insists on working the floors of his restaurants and staying in the mix.

I am tired, exhausted in fact. My days off in 2007 so far can be counted on the fingers of three hands, with a few digits left unused. My willingness to physically work, to "get my hands dirty" so to speak, coupled with a predilection for not suffering fools particularly well has left me with a very small management support staff. Perhaps I am a poor teacher or perhaps the quality of the "student body" is degrading, but no matter the reason it has been nigh impossible for me to fill out the management ranks in my own restaurant.

On the rare occassion that I roll out of here at a decent hour and can check out the competition for a late snack or drink, I am nearly dumbstruck by the seeming legion of manager-types roaming the aisles, especially in the corporate houses. My salesmen tell me that very few of those people stick--that there is constant turnover and rampant incompetence, but I am starting to wonder if I shouldn't lower my standards anyway and see what happens. I see very much, just ask my staff, but I do not see all--and what I miss could be costing us in some way or another. I would hate to think that my stubbornness is keeping us from the $1 or $2 million more in sales we need to crack that Top-100 Highest Grossing restaurant list.

On the bright side, there is help on the way, finally. A recent acquisition is a little short on practical experience but long on work ethic, intelligence, and willingness to learn. He has to be watched and makes his share of rookie mistakes, but also asks the right questions and rarely makes the same mistakes twice.

On the horizon though, is the free agent signing that has kept me swimming against the current no matter how much I want to let myself sink. Coming soon to a ten-year old steakhouse possibly near you is the restaurant version of the five-tool player. Able to book private events [something I despise], great with guests, sharp enough to handle the front door on fill-in, and mature enough to understand how to act and behave at all times.

Wish me luck. I don't know if I will ever relax enough to hand over the keys to the kingdom while I still wear the crown, but it will at least be nice to know that I can.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Promoted hostess said...

Never, ever, lower your hiring standards. It's like cheap clothes--they unravel and have to constantly be replaced--in the end costing you far more. Besides, I don't think you could let yourself buy into the warm-body hiring mentality.

May your new hires eventually help to make your work life much easier--and hopefully more fun.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see another post from you. And maybe you will be able to let up a little, and get some decent time off. You deserve it. Thanks for the post again. Bob

1:43 PM  
Blogger Food Service Ninja said...

I have to go with the hostess on that one esp on the management team. If your taking on weak managers you will end up with even less days off.

Given your location I assume the talented management pool is more of a small pond especially the fine dining part of it.

Are you attempting to recruit from outside your area?

8:36 AM  

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