Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What a Difference a Crew Makes

There are some jobs that competent young people are adamantly unwilling to do anymore…and restaurant work appears to be one of them. That "you want fries with that?" mentality—the image of food service being the bottom of the social and intellectual barrel—has received way too much press. The actual fact is, restaurant work requires a level of competency and multi-tasking ability that similar "unskilled labor" jobs—like retail or light manufacturing—cannot approach. My girls have to be baristas, waitresses, cooks, bakers, receptionists, bussers, dishwashers, cashiers and clean-up crew. They have to know how to take a phone order, how to handle a customer complaint with grace and poise, how to jiggle the insides of the toilet tank in the ladies’ room to stop it from leaking, and how to balance a till, along with about a million other tasks, large and small. And all for slightly more than minimum wage ($7.80/hr here in Oregon, as of Janurary 1) because that’s all we poor starving entrepreneurs can afford. Come to think of it, restaurant work doesn’t really look all that attractive, does it? But not because it’s only for stupid losers.

When I think back now to those dark months of November, December, and January, when my crew just imploded before my incredulous eyes, it’s hard to believe this is the same restaurant. In my head, I knew all I had to do was get the right people and things would improve 500%. I knew it; but given the non-response I got to every "help wanted" ad I placed in the local papers, coupled with the fact that every person I did hire seemed to come with a ton of negative baggage, I was nearly convinced that acquiring an adequate crew was the Impossible Dream

This evening at the café, I cooked a busy dinner, aided by one of my amazingly competent recently hired young cooks. We made good food, and we made it quickly; we were organized and efficient. It was a thoroughly pleasant experience. This same young cook assisted me in the kitchen this past weekend—the chief cook’s weekend off—during the incredibly busy Saturday and Sunday breakfast hours I had sweated about all the previous week. "What if we get really busy?" I fretted. "What am I going to do??" Oh, we did the busy hours all right; but in the end, the dread was unfounded. We smoked ‘em! I honestly was beginning to doubt I would ever see the day.

But now…. Now,I’m not only beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m eagerly anticipating the day I’ll need to break out the SPF 30…

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