Thursday, December 11, 2008

Small Business in a Small Town

Lately, I've discovered one more…inconvenience?...of being a small town business owner. Ex-employees do not just disappear into the general population. You meet them at the grocery store, they come to the café with their families, they stay in touch with current employees. You hear from them and about them all the time. And that is not always a good thing…

One girl in particular has been a thorn in my side the past few weeks. This is the smart-ass little high school student I fired last spring. Such a smart girl, but circumstances of her seventeen years have molded her into a cocky, brash loser always a breath away from doing the foolish thing that will land her in real hot water. How she has managed to stay out of jail thus far is beyond me.

It became obvious after I hired "S" that she had real problems with authority, and I was, apparently, going to be the authority she chose to have problems with. For whatever reason, she projected all her teen-age rebellion and angst on to her relationship with me. She hated my guts, and was not shy about making that perfectly clear to anyone who would listen. I ignored it for awhile, tried to let it slide by having my shift supervisor deal with her, rather than having any direct interaction with her. But eventually it became obvious that things were never going to change or improve; and I decided that if I had wanted that kind of crap from a seventeen-year-old, I would have had kids of my own. So I terminated her. The circumstances of the actual firing got out of hand, and I ended up losing my temper. It wasn't pretty.

For several weeks afterward, I watched my back. Not that I was afraid she would do violence to me personally, but I did have a nagging fear of coming to work in the morning and finding the front window smashed in and the dining room trashed. Possibly the only thing that saved us from that fate is the fact that the restaurant is right across the street from the police station, and this IS a small town. After a while, I relaxed and let the memory of "S" slide into the past. Only to be rekindled when she began looking for a new job and didn't have enough sense NOT to use the café as a reference. I did not trash her to any prospective employers, but I felt it would be unethical to perpetuate the fantasy that she had quit her job at the café.

Well, she eventually found another job. She works at the little grocery store up the highway from the café. My favorite little "Grocery Outlet." (My default supplier of things like lettuce, fruit, eggs—things we often run short of at the restaurant.) Wonderful. I'm happy for her. Maybe she can be successful there. Would that this could be simply a "let bygones be bygones" situation. But, alas…

A couple of weeks ago, I ran in to the store to pick up something, and saw "S" out of the corner of my eye—she was the only cashier at the only open front register. "Oh, great," I thought. "I really don't want to have this confrontation today…" I was in the back of the store sorting through the bags of romaine when I heard her call for back-up. Score! I rushed through my shopping and attached myself to the end of the back-up cashier's line, which was at the other end of the bank of registers from "S." Made my purchases and left, thinking that the Universe had smiled on me in the matter of dealing with surly ex-employees, at least for that morning.

A week or so later, one of my current employees mentioned that she had seen "S" at the grocery store. And that "S" had regaled her with this story about how I had come into the store, stood in her line but wouldn't speak to her, was extremely rude to her (I'm not sure how I communicated this rudeness if I wouldn't speak to her) and she finally had to call a manager to ring me up. I was ready to believe "P" might be embellishing this story a bit until another employee reported having the very same mystifying conversation with "S" a few days later. Oh, and "S" went out of her way to tell both of them that the only reason she QUIT her job at the café was because she was offered a job as a nanny for $15 per hour, cash. Talk about choosing your own reality!

I'm not so much angry at "S" for making up a story about the confrontation that never happened as I am irritated by the thought that now I have to be aware of what she might say about me every time we meet…or don't meet, as the case may be. I don't have time for that.

I'm utterly mystified that someone would go through the trouble to construct such an elaborate lie for what was, in the end, a non-event. What's the point? Isn't "Get Over It!" the big mantra of the younger generation these days? It bothers me that not only has this girl not gotten past her largely self-inflicted bad experience of working for me, but in her own weak and pathetic way, she's bent on continuing to paint me as the Wicked Witch of the West to anyone who will listen.

In a larger gene pool, like suburban Chicago, or Portland, or even Eugene, she could spread this crap to two hundred of her closest friends, and I would still probably never be aware of it. But out here in this two-horse town, it is right there in my face. Not only do I have to hear about her conversations with my current staff, but I have to worry about how her behavior might influence potential customers. And I don't like to be in the position where I feel like I have to be afraid to do what I need to do when it comes to staffing my business. Ugh!

This concludes today's rant. Now I have to get out of bed and get ready to face another day at that place that is the fulfillment of all my dreams and the source of all my ulcers…

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fair Business in an Unfair World

I hate it when being a small business owner presents me with moral dilemmas that I have neither the desire nor the capacity to confront.

I recently made the decision to split my grocery order in half and receive two small deliveries a week rather than one large delivery once a week. This works much better for us all around, in terms of making the best use of my limited storage capacities; plus, it controls labor dollars by keeping me from having to bring on an additional staff member just to help put the stock away. My supplier requires a $500 minimum per delivery, and since we are (finally) able to meet that requirement with bi-weekly deliveries, this looked like a no-brainer to me.

But, of course, it can’t be that simple, can it?

Ever since my old grocery company made the misstep that forced me to make the change to a new supplier, I have been very vocal with my new sales rep about how difficult it has been, as a small business in a small town, to get any service from any supplier, much less decent service. Every time I see this poor guy, I beat him up about prices and products I can’t get, just because I’m a small independent restaurateur. The whole system is skewed to favor huge, multi-unit operations. He knows it and I know it. And he knows I know it, and I’m not going to let him forget it.

This supplier’s entire pricing system is based on volume: The more you order, the lower your prices. For instance, if I buy an average of $4000 per month, my price on a case of widget sauce will be $X. If my average purchases are $5000 per month, my price on that same case of sauce will be 95% of $X. If I should be so stupid as to ask them to split that case of widget sauce for me, I will pay 25% more per unit. And, I have discovered, there are products out there that they literally will not sell me because some big chain restaurant has “confined” the stock. If this doesn’t look like a conscious, deliberate effort to put the little guys out of business, I don’t know what it is.

So, poor Mr. Sales Rep has had to sit across the table from me, twice a week for the past four months, and listen to me gripe about the system. He has tried and tried to assure me that The Company values my business, and that my puny little account is as important to them as any other. I want to believe him, but the evidence proves otherwise. In fact, last Monday he showed me something that put another nail in that particular coffin…which happens to be the “moral dilemma” I am trying to deal with now.

When I finished reading him my order last week, Mr. Sales Rep spent a few moments tickety-ticking on his laptop, then he turned the thing around so I could see the screen. It showed the total cost of my order, the total profit margin on my order, and my salesman’s total commission on my order. The cost of the order met the $500 minimum. The profit number I was not particularly interested in, but my sales rep’s commission was ZERO. Zero. He did not make one dime on my $500 food order, and he spent at least an hour just sitting there with me, not to mention the gas it took to get here and etc.

It seems the profit on any given order has to be a minimum of $60 before a salesman can collect commission. And apparently, that $500 minimum order does not necessarily guarantee a $60 profit for the company. So, if I place my orders in the way that makes the most sense for me—dividing it into two smaller orders instead of one big one—my sales rep makes NO MONEY on my account. How very motivational! Tell me that he is going to be just as solicitous of my business as he is of a larger account when he makes no money from me.

What the hell kind of a way is this to do business? Why is business so skewed toward the negative nowadays? Time was when sales people were compensated for any sales—maybe not very much, but if they brought in a dollar for the company, they made something on it. If they were very good, very successful sales people, they would receive bonuses for increasing sales or making large sales. They could make a good living for being good at what they did. In this day and age, however, if you bust your ass and over-achieve, you might be able to make ends meet as a commission sales person.

Why do big companies believe that the only way they can make money is to rip off their employees? The executives and the stockholders get the best of the spoils. The leftovers are thrown to the employees—those people upon whose backs the money is brought in—as if they were the dogs under the banquet table. And if there are no leftovers, the employees get shafted.

So here I am now, looking at one of the few companies willing to do business with a small restaurant in a small town…and their stupid, avaricious business policies just make me sick. I SO want to tell them to go to hell; that I won’t do business with a company that can’t even pay their sales people a fair wage. Of course, I don’t see how I can possibly do that, since there doesn’t seem to be a company available to me that does compensate their sales people fairly. But I’m not entirely okay with simply ignoring the situation. No, I’m not responsible for that company’s crappy compensation package. But I can’t help feeling that as long as we all acquiesce to the daily rip-offs of big businesses, they are not going to go away. And this doesn’t even address the havoc their policies can wreak on ME as a small business owner.

Sometimes I wish I could just keep my head down and NOT think about the more global nature of the things I do every day, or even about how the way I conduct my business affects the other members of the small community of folks that inhabit my immediate world. I wish that I could just worry about getting myself through every day, and let everybody else take care of themselves. Unfortunately, I just don’t work that way. And it’s kind of a pain in the ass...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cafe Ramble

Ahhhh…the time change! I can’t say I’m going to love that it will be getting dark at 5:00, but I think I hate getting up in the dark more than just about anything. I want it to be day when I roll out of bed, thank you very much. At least light enough to see my hand in front of my face, anyway. Of course, I went to bed at 9:00 last night, and by 5:30 I was done sleeping. My body is still on daylight savings time, evidently. So I have a couple of minutes to fire off a little post.

I’d like to say that things are perfect at the café, but the place is like a game of “Whack-a-mole.” I whack one issue back into its hole, and another one pokes its head up somewhere else and sticks its tongue out at me. While my employee issues seem to have smoothed out for the time being, now I’m having fits with my vendors. I had to switch grocery companies in August, and that was a nightmare. We’re finally getting to where I’ve found my footing with that situation, and my wine supplier bugs out on me.

I have to wonder whatever happened to the concept of customer service, particularly when it comes to restaurant suppliers. As a small restaurant in a small town, I have come to expect terrible service, or no service at all, from any vendor with whom I try to do business. You would think we were located somewhere in the godforsaken wilderness, rather than on the northern fringe of the largest population area in the state. The vendors who do condescend to deliver to this area act like they are doing us the biggest favor in the world to even consider taking us on as customers.

But maybe that’s the problem. There are plenty of customers to be had in the Portland metro area proper. Vendors don’t need to come “all the way out here” to get business. Why waste the fuel? So while Portland restaurateurs can choose from a half dozen specialty bakeries that will bring marvelous artisan breads right to their back doors every morning, I am stuck with Giant National Bakery’s five varieties of “marshmallow” bread. And have a hard time even getting that.

And then there’s the concept of fresh produce. When I sit down at a higher-end restaurant in Portland and read how “fresh local produce” is featured on today’s menu, I have to laugh (with a wistful tear in my eye.) I have not yet figured out where that commodity is to be had, and I’m pretty sure that if I did find out who provided it, they would not bring it to me. Personally, I’m beginning to think that the produce used even in the upscale restaurants in Portland is no more local or fresh than the stuff I can get my hands on; or if it is fresh and local, it’s a large part of why meals at such places are $30 a plate.

My latest run-in was with my wine vendor. I have been doing business with a little wine supplier out of Northwest Portland. I inherited the account from the previous owner of the restaurant; this particular supplier has provided wines for Old Town Café since the grand opening 3 ½ years ago. The service has always been a little…shall we say, lax, but the salesman was personable enough, and the company didn’t hold me to a minimum purchase. This was important, because we’ve only recently built our dinner business to a point where we sell more than one or two bottles of wine a month.

So my routine has been that I call my sales rep when I need wine, leave my order on his machine, and he shows up with it in a couple of days. Last week, however, when my wine did NOT show up when it was supposed to, I had to open an investigation. Several calls into layers of automated phone system hell finally put me in touch with a live human voice, which told me my wine vendor had been sold, and New Wine Company had taken over all accounts.

I had never heard of New Wine Company. And my wine rep had not so much as whispered that a sale was in the works. And New Wine Company had evidently not heard of me, because old wine rep was doing an intentionally poor job of communicating with everyone involved. Long story short, it took more than two weeks (rather than the expected two days) for me to get wine in the place; and, in fact, last Monday I had to make the thirty-mile drive out to one of the closer wineries in the area to get my own damn wine. (Which wasn’t really a hardship. It was a beautiful drive, the weather was gorgeous, and I got the wine cheaper than I would have from the dealer anyway.)

Now that I am a full-blown business owner, I find I am swiftly being healed of my chronic phone-o-phobia, and I have no qualms about demanding what I want. If I need something, I’ll get on the phone and track it down. And if I get frustrated with poor customer service, I am not shy about letting whoever is on the other end of the phone have it with both barrels. I had to growl and bare my teeth all the way through the process of switching our phone service to digital voice. I’ve “squeaky wheeled” my way through this process of changing grocery vendors. And I blasted Mr. New Wine Company rep when he finally did get in touch with me last Friday. I’m afraid I’m getting somewhat of a reputation as a…demanding customer. I want what I want, and I’m not going to settle for less. I’m sorry I can’t be Ms. Sweetness and Light, but I’ve never been a schemer or a cajoler. I fully expect to be able to ask plainly for decent customer service, and get it. That is what I offer MY customers…I’d be out of business if I didn’t. And I expect no less from the people who call me “customer.”

Did I say this was going to ba a "little" post? Well, the sun is up now…and it’s time to get to it. Another day, another story…

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Life? Okay. Cafe? Good!

I realized today it’s been awhile since I’ve taken the opportunity to elucidate upon the happenings at the café.

My writing muse is most typically roused by angst. If I’m miserable or I am knee-deep in shit, I want to run and write down everything I’m thinking or feeling. It’s always been my way of working through the rough spots in my life.

So I’ve not been writing about the café lately, simply because it has not been driving me absolutely crazy. I don’t feel like I’m never going to get a handle on it all. I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of having to run the place all by myself. I don’t feel like the economy has me down so low it looks like up to me…

A couple of surprisingly successful hiring decisions have me feeling like a genius…at least for the time being.

I’m not able to pay myself (yet) but at least I am able to step out of the trenches and perform the duties of an owner (for now…and how I know that can change at any moment!!!)

And, in spite of the plummeting Dow Jones and economic forecasts as bleak and confusing as a pool party interrupted by a white-out blizzard…

Old Town Café will be enjoying a 25% sales increase over last year for the month of October.

A far cry from the tune I was singing a year ago.

I don’t want to say that I feel like I finally have this figured out…because I know the minute I DO say that, someone will throw a gigantic load of excrement at the oscillator, and I’ll be wading in it and trying to scrape it off the walls in no time.

But right now, at least as far as the café is concerned…

Life is good!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love Hurts

Today was our day off.  It was a lovely early fall day, warm and bright as summer.  I had it in my mind to take a little buying trip out to one of the wineries south of here.  We stopped in at the café for breakfast, and almost immediately got into an argument…over something stupid and insignificant, as seems to be our habit of late. 

We finished our meal in silence, got into the car and drove in that same cloud of anything but amiable silence.

Eventually, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I racked my brain for a lead-in line…wondering just how to start the conversation without starting a fight.  Finally, I asked him.

“What one word would you use to describe our relationship these days?”  More silence.  I had nearly decided he had chosen not to respond.  And then…

“Strained,” came the answer at last.  And I couldn’t argue.  Because the word that had been circling round my head was…similar.

We drove on.  But I was determined not to let that silence close in on us again.

So we tore it open.  We argued.   We accused.   We laid blame and we took blame.   We thrust and parried, ducked and wove, and each landed a few really good (verbal) punches.  We arrived at our destination, stayed in the car and kept dredging it up and dragging it around for another good half hour before I think we were both just too exhausted to go any further.  And nothing, I think, was resolved.  Except that we’re still married.  For now, at least.

It has been a long, hard two years since we strapped on our armor and sallied forth onto the danger-fraught path of business ownership.  Yes, we did arm ourselves…or we thought we had.  It turns out the dragons and demons we are facing are not what and where we imagined they would be.  We find ourselves pitifully ignorant of, and therefore perilously exposed to, the actual threats we smack into head-on.

We thought we at least knew how to physically run a restaurant.  (Turns out we did once, but we had forgotten a lot of what we knew and had to learn all over again.)  We thought we could work together as a team to accomplish what one person alone cannot do.   (Turns out we can’t, andI’m not sure why “we” ever thought we could.)  We thought that, with thirty years of shared history under our belts, we would know each other well enough and love each other deeply enough to be the support system we would each so desperately need.  (Turns out that we had no idea how thin our bond would be stretched by the exhaustion and the stress of our endeavor, and that in its current emaciated state it couldn’t withstand an attack by an angry gnat.)

And tonight I’m sad and incredibly tired and…lonely.  I’ve had one friend I could count on for more than half my life.  And right now, we just don’t seem to like each other very much.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The One Senior I'd Like to See on Tuesday

As I prowled the dining room last night looking for tables to bus and patrons to schmooze, I accepted the lavish compliments of the old folks.  Tuesday is Senior Night, and they love my meat loaf.  They say it’s the best they’ve ever had at a restaurant.  Who knew a humble concoction of ground meat and secret ingredients could be such a hit? 

I smiled to myself.   Who knew, indeed?  In spite of all my thirty-five years of restaurant experience, my food tends more toward the homemade than the institutional.  The forms and flavors run to rustic and comfortable, rather than edgy and haute cuisine.  As I swiped a damp towel across a table peppered with the particulate remains of a satisfied patron’s feast, I suddenly thought about my Dad.  I thought how strange it was that, though I hadn’t learned to cook, as my sisters did, as an apprentice at Dad’s elbow in our family kitchen, the food upon which my café is building its reputation is very much from the tradition of that kitchen.  Simple, rib-sticking fare, jazzed up just enough to make it interesting. 

What I wouldn’t give to have Dad sitting at one of my tables, tucking a napkin into his shirt front and digging into my meat loaf or homemade lasagna.  He’d be 89 this year…but I’m convinced that if he were still with us, that’s exactly what he’d be doing on some Tuesday night.

I wondered, my eyes welling with stupid, out-of-the-blue tears, what he would think of my little place.  I think he would have gotten a kick out of it.  I think he would be proud.  He had this way of secretly beaming when one of us did well.  He was not a man given to effusive praise or outpouring of emotion.  But if you caught him when he didn’t know you were looking, you would see the pride and the praise in his eyes.  You could read it in the set of his tiny, satisfied smile. 

It was only after he died, I think, that I realized I lived for that smile.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today the city of Scappoose held its annual festival. Which bring the entire community to the blocks right outside the door of my café.

But what we learned from enduring the past two years' Sauerkraut Festivals is this:

Yes, the entire city parties right outside the doors…but they bring their own food.

So, this year, we decided to just…be open. And let the citizens of our fair town feel obligated to buy a cup of coffee so that they can use our bathrooms. Sigh!

Business being what it was, husband and I had the opportunity to "do" the festival. Which took all of about ten minutes. We did, however, come up with one incredible find.

An original oil painting, entered into the fine art contest at the library: 

Look familiar?

Probably not.

Hint: The painting is titled "Café in the Heat of the Day."

My café. On the right. Tables on the sidewalk and all.

Very cool.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


A lady came in for a coffee this morning, carrying one of those little mini-animal carriers made out of cute print fabric with little doggies on it.  I assumed she was carrying a…little doggie.  Some kind of purse dog, like an itty-bitty Chihuahua or whatnot…you know, the ones that cost $100 an ounce.

It crossed my mind to tell her she could not have an animal in the restaurant, but she seemed inclined to leave it in its little crate, and I didn’t think it was hurting anyone, as long as she didn’t take it out and let it run around. 

Eventually, I became overwhelmed with curiosity, so I walked up and asked, “Who do we have in here?”

She looked at me kind of sheepishly, “It’s my rat.”

Yep.  A rat.  It was, in fact, a “rex” rat—like as in it had steely grey, curly fur.  Like a “rex” cat.

It was a really cute rat.  But it was a rat.  Lady got her coffee, zipped up her rat carrier and went on her way…

A short time later, a girl walked up to the counter and asked, “Do you eat snake?”

“Uh, what?”

“Snake.  Do you eat snake?”

“Noooo…can’t say as I ever have.  Why?”

“Well I have some great pieces out here.  Really cheap.  About three dollars a pound…”

“Um…  No thanks.”

“Okay!”  And she turned around with a big smile on her face and went her merry way.

No shit.  A door-to-door snake-meat salesperson.  I guess.

I thought the full moon was next weekend…

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cleaning House

Last Wednesday, "Dumb-Ass Rehire" called in sick about an hour and a half before her scheduled shift. Mind you, she was working the evening shift—on at 5 pm—and presumably had been sick all day. Now, I know these children have a tendency to sleep until noon, but, still…

When I asked her what was wrong, her reply was, "I don’t know." What a great answer! Not, "I’ve been throwing up since last night," or "I have a fever of 102," or even "My throat hurts so bad I can’t swallow." Just, "I don’t know."

Here is a girl who, two months ago to the day, called in to tell me she wouldn’t be able to work her shift because she had homework to do (she dropped the class after a week and a half…) Here is a girl who quit with no notice last January; called me the morning of her shift and told me her life was a shambles and she needed to move too far away to work. Here is a girl who came back to me three months later begging for her job back. So I, like a sap, took her back. Bad move on my part. Oh well.

After four months of struggling to make her into an adequate employee, I had had it up to my eyeballs. And she just happened to lame out on me the day I was making next week’s schedule. Bad move on her part.

My labor has been totally out of control this summer, partly because I have been making use of some fortuitous over-staffing to give myself a bit of a breather. I’ve been able to step back, gather my wits about me, and get some administrative stuff done that has needed doing for, oh, about two years. But the economy being what it is, I knew I would have to make some changes soon. I was hoping to cut the staff through natural "back-to-school" attrition. Well, "Dumb-Ass Rehire" wasn’t going back to school, but I cut her back to two days on next week’s schedule anyhow. Reasoning that when you start cutting, you cut the dead wood first.

This apparently didn’t set well with "D-A R", because she called me fifteen minutes before she was supposed to be at work today and said, "I quit!"

Fine. Saves me the trouble of having to fire your sorry ass.

We slogged through an unusually busy day (of course) without her. With a little help from the intrepid husband, dishwasher extraordinaire.

Much as this little episode does solve more problems than it creates, it still left me with some more of that negative energy to work out when I got home from work

I re-arranged my living room.

A few more café disasters and I will have caught up on all my neglected housework…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chauvinism is Alive and Well

I’ve worked in food service for thirty-five years. In all those years, I’ve managed to ignore the male dominance of the field .  I’ve gone about doing my job, sometimes the only female among a group of males…and I always managed to, eventually, command their respect.  In time, I believed that old “the man is in charge” model had become a thing of the distant past.    
Oddly, in the past two weeks, I’ve been slammed in the face by two separate incidents of…let’s call them inaccurate assumptions based on the “boss=male” model that, obviously, still rears its ugly head in our society.  And it really pissed me off.
On Monday, I went to answer the phone at the café at about 12:30, the middle of our typically busiest hour of the day.  “Hi!” said the male voice on the line.  “I’m calling because I’d like to make you aware of a great marketing opportunity in Columbia County…” 
“Ummm…this is a restaurant, and we’re in the middle of our lunch hour, so this is a really bad time to call…” (I hate telephone solicitors, and I don’t even try to be nice or polite; I just put it all out there and then hang up.)
“Well,” says the guy, “Usually The Boss is around…”
Oh. My. God.  You didn’t just say that.
“Uh—I AM the boss.”  And I slammed the phone back into the cradle.  
I only wish I had thought to pleasantly ask him who he represented so I knew exactly with whom I was NEVER going to do any kind of business under any circumstance.  Ever. 
Today, this little old man toddles in the door of the restaurant, walks halfway to the counter and asks about soup.  My counter girl tells him about our soup and the prices.  He actsas if we're asking him to pay an arm and a leg.  But he pays for a bowl.  And then he says he doesn't want the cheese bread that comes with it.  He only wants crackers.  Counter girl takes him his bowl of soup, and he sets about eating it.
In the meanwhile, my Sysco rep has arrived, looking all clean-cut and business-like and MALE in a shirt and tie.  He and I are behind the counter comparing two different brands of napkins when the little old man walks up to the counter with a pack of crackers in his hand.  And I say, “Do you need something else?”
And he says, “Yeah, I want to talk to him.”  Looks at my salesman and says, “Did you ever think of getting better crackers in here?”
Sysco rep and I look at each other, momentarily at a loss, and then I say, “Well, this man is just a salesman.  If you want to talk to the boss, that would be me.”  Then Little Old Man goes on a little old man tirade about how we need to get Premium crackers.  These crackers (house brand of my old grocery supplier) are no good.  He’s surprised we don’t give them awayfree.  Okay, let’s forget the inanity of the whole situation.  And the fact that we DO give the crackers away free.  The point is he continued to address my salesman as if he were the one in charge…  AUGHHHH!
I feel like I have somehow fallen through a time warp back into the sixties…

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I Hate Wi-Fi

I swear, I’m going to have to off the wi-fi at the café.  I don’t know how much good will I’ve sown with the thing, and it has been the source of some of the most traumatic interactions I have had with “customers.”  Customers in quotes because they really aren’t customers.  If they were, they wouldn’t so resent being asked to buy something, or move to a smaller table, or wrap up their hours-long internet sessions so we can close the restaurant. 
Not everyone who uses a free wi-fi connection at a restaurant is an ass-hat.  But the tendency toward ass-hatism does seem to run in the breed.  They are not just freeloaders, they are militant freeloaders.  With a penchant for hollering, blustering, threatening and promising revenge when they don’t get what they want—which is free, unmolested access to any available wireless internet signal, no strings attached.  Apparently I maintain my nice atmosphere and play my soothing jazz, offer clean restrooms and cushy leather seating for their comfort alone.  There’s no one else in the world; and the concept of a paying customer taking priority over their freeloading butts never enters their minds.
Today’s exchange ultimately deteriorated to Mr. Internet Freeloader (after having bought a drink only because he was asked to do so and proceeding to make use of my facility for over an hour) finally packing up his $3500 laptop and attempting to trespass into my kitchen to shout his parting jab at me.  At which point I went on the attack, insisting that he get OUT of my kitchen, and OUT of MY restaurant before I called the police.  And I did not whisper.
Luckily, this all happened nearly at the end of my shift, because the day was thereafter completely shot.  I ate dinner, came home, and went on a 90-minute cleaning binge in an attempt to channel some of that bristling negative energy into something positive.  So now, I have a jerk-off customer to thank that I have a clean (well, it looks better than it did J) house, and I can sit here writing about my crappy day without watching the animal hair tumbleweeds roll down the hall.
Is that what’s known as making lemonade?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ten Minutes: Work Worries

Just what I needed.  One more thing heaped on top of the pile of things that need my immediate attention.  A couple of months ago, my sales rep from my (then) grocery purveyor screwed up royally.  He was responsible for receiving my payments and banking the money every two weeks.  Except there was a payment he seemed to have misplaced, because it didn’t get banked until the same time as the payment I gave him two weeks later.  The credit department almost refused to ship my order because I was over thirty days past due on two invoices.  Except I wasn’t.  I had given the numbskull the check, but he didn’t do what he was supposed to do.  Long story short, I caught him lying to me, the credit department, and everyone else he could think of just to keep his own butt out of hot water.  So I fired him.  His company lost my account.
So I am now in the process of transferring my business to another grocery purveyor.  Which should be easy, right?  I mean, this new company is the largest food service grocery supplier in the country.  They should have everything I need, right?  And at great prices, right?  And I should get better service, right?  If only it were that easy.
I had no idea how stupidly difficult this was going to be.  It’s not like I can go into a store, look at the stuff, and start loading it into my cart.  Nope.  I have to sit across the table from a guy with a laptop, try to describe what I used to get (and  lot of this stuff is private labeled, so I can’t just say, “I need Joe Blow’s French fries.”)  He can’t get me samples, and there is no way he personally can be familiar with every one of the ninety million items his company carries.   So I end up ordering things I have no idea what I’m getting, trying it out and giving it the thumbs up or thumbs down. 
I have to say, I’m not very comfortable using my customers as guinea pigs.  Several of our most popular items have been difficult to pin down.  Really simple stuff like potatoes or fries or salad dressing.  Turns out my fries were an exclusive product of my former supplier.  When you have customers telling you that you have the best fries in town, and now you can’t get them anymore, THAT is a big problem.
And salad dressing prices have been shooting up so meteorically, I’m having a bitch of a time finding the same quality at the same price point I had been used to.  Here’s an example of what prices are doing these days—I’m paying over $17 for a gallon of salad dressing that was just over $11 at the beginning of the year.  Unbelievable.  So of course, one pain in the ass (changing food suppliers) has led to another pain in the ass (realizing I’m going to have to raise my prices again, like, yesterday….) 
Augh!  It’s all in a day’s work.  I keep holding out the hope that someday I might even start making some money at this.  At the moment, though, it isn’t looking too good.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Today's Special: Life Lessons

Although July has been a blessedly restful month for me at the café, it has not been without its dramas.  The “I want hours, no I don’t” scenario has continued to play out with several of my longer tenured employees.  Fortunately, I am over-staffed at the moment, so when they decide to crap out on me at the last minute, I either have so many people on the schedule that we won’t miss the miscreant, or there are plenty of people available to call to cover a shift.  For a short time, that fact alone seemed to have caused the old staff to get religion.  Knowing that there were others available and willing to step in when they flaked out gave them a little something to think about.  Sadly, that seems to be wearing off, now, and they are back to their old ways. 
Cook in Training No. 1 continues to be the star of this particular show.  Back in June, after graduating from her high school completion class, she left me a long, impassioned note about how she was now available to work any hours, wanted to work forty hours and, in fact, needed the hours/money in order to pay her bills.  And then she requested a week’s vacation.
After her return about four weeks ago, I took her at her word and started giving her as many hours as I could send her way.  None of my girls works a forty-hour schedule, not even the good and faithful “D,” who is the closest thing I have to a manager.  Hours of operation and the timing of rush hours, coupled with the fact that these guys seem to burn out if I give them any more than 35 hours a week, have dictated this policy.  So Cook No. 1 got between 30 and 40 hours on the next three schedules.  Essentially, she got exactly what she asked for, within my ability to grant it.
By the end of the first week of her new schedule, Cook No. 1 was already draggin’ her wagon.  All we heard when she showed up for work was how tired she was, and she was the first one to raise her hand if the need arose to send someone home early.  Odd behavior for someone who needed the money so badly, but I figured perhaps it would take a few weeks for her to get used to working so many hours.  (This in itself is crazy to me…when I was her age, I was working 45 to 50 hours with one day off a week.  AND I was young and in love, and future husband and I still seemed to have time to have a life and advance our relationship.  Yes, I know, this smacks of  “I walked to school uphill both ways in the snow when I was your age…”)
Long story short, after three weeks of working what passes for full-time these days, young Cook had apparently had her fill.  She went home sick two days in a row the fourth week.  But found time to research and register for some school program for which she will begin classes August 11.  And left me a note about how she was sorry, but she needed to go back to school and would only be available to work Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays after school started.  Was I surprised?  Not really.  Was I disappointed?  Not really.  I knew in my heart that young Cook did not want what she was asking me for. 
In another life, I would have been proud to fill the role of mentor in her life.  She’s a smart, talented girl, and if she wasinclined, she could have become an important part of our team.  Working at the café could have been a valuable learning experience for her, instead of a constant tug-of-war between her issues and her desire to rise above them.  It’s been obvious for some time that the issues  were winning. 
At least someone has turned this into a learning experience:  ME.  I’ve learned something about these young girls who have grown up in single-parent households, the kind of young women who, for good or ill, constitute a large percentage of the labor pool available to me.  These girls have one huge handicap:  young, irresponsible Gen-X mothers.  Who have raised their daughters, especially the older ones,  mostly as free day-care for younger siblings, and handy shoulders upon which to unload their messed-up parents’ dramas.  There's more of a co-dependent relationship going on here than a parent/child relationship.  More often than not, the daughter has had to take on the role of the adult.
In the olden days, our drive to become autonomous human beings caused us to lash out against the traditional authority figures in our lives: our parents.  They got the brunt of our teenage angst—that torturous time of life when adulthood is both the prize and the punishment toward which we are hurtling hell bent for leather.  But for these girls—who are essentially parentless, and were royally gypped when it came to childhood—that angst, that “Here, give me a hand…no, don’t touch me” stuff needs to find another outlet.  So folks like teachers and, unfortunately, bosses, get smacked in the face with it.
Yet that in itself  wouldn’t be enough to deter me.  I mean, I get it.  I understand that, as a business owner, I’m set up to play the “Evil Boss” role in people’s lives.  And I have been largely successful in combating that stereotype.  But these goofy mothers throw up yet another roadblock for me:   They viciously defend their title of “mother,” and they are extremely threatened by the existence of another competent woman taking any kind of role in their daughters’ lives.  In short, the mothers hate me (no, they don’t know me personally, but they hate the idea of me…) and are not shy about letting their daughters know it in no uncertain terms.
I’ve made it a personal policy to be available to help and mentor any employee who should so desire, but I’m not trying to BE anyone's mother (though heaven knows many of these girls could use one…) If I can contribute to a young person’s long-term welfare, I am happy to do it.  In fact, it’s one of the rewards of the job.  But I’m not about to play tug-of-war with some deranged parent for the affections of her daughter.  That’s sad for me…but it’s a disaster for these young girls. 
I wish things could be different.

Monday, June 30, 2008

And in Today's News...

With two new employees and a returning college student firmly in place, I’ve gone out on a limb and decided to take a desperately-needed “week off” from the café.  I was to the point where I was so tired I was consistently on the verge of either dissolving into tears or breaking something over somebody’s head.  Not a good place to be when you have to worry about dealing with employees and customers.  Last week, I sat down to wolf down a quick bite of lunch at work…I was reading the paper and my eyes welled up ridiculously  when I came upon a story about some woman saving a couple of falcon fledglings from drowning in the Willamette River.  It was then that I knew it was absolutely essential for me to carve out a few days of R & R.

While I stepped out in faith and created a vacation schedule for myself this week, I kept waiting for some employee disaster that would make it impossible for me to take the time off after all.  Possibly Assistant Cook Number One would decide never to come back from her vacation.  Or Flaky Cook would develop some unforeseen sudden drama in her life, as she is wont to do from time to time.  Or one of my new hires would decide she didn’t really want to work for me, and would just…stop showing up.  Any one of these disasters would have been unsurprising…in fact, I fully expected some such nonsense to transpire.  But, wonder of wonders, by Sunday afternoon when I dragged my exhausted butt out the side door of the restaurant after twenty-eight days without a day off, not so much as a vapor of crew drama loomed on the horizon, threatening to deep six my anticipated rest. 
Still, if the past twenty-four months have taught me nothing else, I’ve learned to never count on something good happening until it actually DOES.  And of course, Monday morning, as husband and I settled into our al fresco seating and let my crew feed us breakfast, a dark cloud of employee flakiness blew in and threatened to pummel my parade.   I believe I’ve mentioned the girl who came to me eight weeks ago begging for her job back after quitting with no notice in January, and I, like a dumb-ass, rehired her (for the sake of expediency, let’s call her “Dumb-Ass  Rehire.”)   Well, this morning, she called in ( expecting me to not be there.  I’m sure she was a bit nonplussed when my counter girl handed me the phone.)  But she charged ahead bravely with her yarn that she would not be able to come to work because she had too much homework that she had not done over the weekend (she worked four hours on Saturday and had Sunday off, so if she didn’t do her homework, it wasn’t her job that prevented her from doing so.) 
I was not surprised or shocked or blind-sided by this development.  And I’m impressed with how quickly I was able to deal with it.  Much as I wanted to go off on Dumb-Ass Rehire about what constitutes an excused absence (not having homework done is not on the list), I stopped myself short and simply explained to her that if she felt she was not going to be able to work a scheduled shift, she needed to find someone to work for her.  And, luckily, Assistant Cook Number One is back from vacation, so there was actually someone for Dumb-Ass Rehire to call to take the shift.  Crisis averted.  Husband and I finished our breakfast and continued on our merry, no-pressure way. 
However, I AM going to have to dump Dumb-Ass Rehire.   ::Sigh::   I’ll worry about that when I get back from my “vacation.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blah, blah, blah.

I realize I haven’t had much to say lately about life at the café.  I’ve posted little celebratory entries about our successes.  Those successes have worn me to an absolute frazzle.  Last night, I sat down to write a “catch-up” post.   I typed for an hour before I realized that I had no chance of making what has been going on in my life funny, interesting or entertaining.  It’s just been like slogging uphill through a downhill lava flow.
I’d like to say that we’ve turned a corner, that we’re confident now that we’re going to make it.  And there are those days when I look out into the dining room and understand that this is not a restaurant that is going to be closing its doors from lack of sales any time soon.  But generously interspersed among those days are the ones when people stay aggressively away, and I am beleaguered by negative speculation:  Did we make someone sick?  Did we slight the wrong person?  Did we finally make the mistake that is going to spell our doom in this unforgiving little town?  And I’ll realize that someday I may be able to rest in the confidence that we are a success, that we’ve been fully embraced as a fixture of the town.  But that day has not yet come. 
As I continue to face down the challenges, great and small, that the restaurant throws in my face, I’m starting to get seriously worn down.  I’m wondering, why?  Why do I KNOW that if I have to be away for a day or even a few hours, my crew is going to get slammed?  Why do I KNOW that if we take pains to be prepared for a busy rush, it is perversely NOT going to happen?  Why, after two years, are these the only things I can accurately predict about my business?
And I am sick to death of trying to keep the place adequately staffed.  Staffing has been a thorn—no, a stiletto—in my ass since day one, and that has remained an infuriating constant.  I can safely say that I have two girls that are utterly dependable.  They are the two girls who remain of the original staff.  It is a huge bruise to my ego that I have not been able to personally recruit any employees who have turned into ultimate successes. 
Flaky Cook is back in a new incarnation, and she has been the polar opposite of her former self.  She shows up, she works any hours I give her, she has even begun to take on some responsibility for the operation as a whole, rather than donning the apron, going through the motions, and cutting out the door as soon as her shift is over. But her history keeps the question mark tattooed on her back.  I try to ignore it, but I will always know she is capable of completely flaking out on me.  It’s probably best to keep that in mind.
My staff was cut by 25%, and the scope of my labor pool seriously reduced, when I made the decision last month to stop employing high school students.  Let’s just say I came to the realization that hiring high-schoolers was a failed experiment.  I have enough trouble trying to manage irresponsible adults who can’t give priority to what they do for a living.  I can’t take responsibility for molding the characters of kids whose parents have not felt compelled to impart any kind of decent work ethic to their progeny.    
Then there is the case of Assistant Cooks Number One and Number Two. Hired in early 2007, they were supposed to be the foundation of my future staff.  I’ve worked very hard to make cooks out of those two…and they both had the natural talent to be successful at the job.  And for awhile, it looked like they might just be my first recruiting successes.  But alas, it was not to be.  Surprise.
Number Two is gone.  She worked her last day a week ago.  She finished her pharmacy tech internship and immediately dropped us like a hot rock to accept a “real” job.  I did everything but stand on my head to work around her schedule and give her the hours she needed/wanted while she was in school, and this is the thanks I got. 
Which brings us to Assistant Cook Number One.  The one I have been training and grooming for over a year to step up and take on some real responsibility once she finished her high school completion classes.  (And who has consistently assured me that this is exactly what she intended…) As I did with Number Two, I’ve stood on my head to accommodate her school schedule, and played tug-of-war with her recurring personal dramas.   She graduated last Sunday, almost two years late (she’s nineteen and a half).  I wish I could say that the way is clear, now, for her to focus on her job and take on a huge role at the café…in short, for her to make good on her promises to me.  Unfortunately, it looks like I am losing the tug-of-war with her drama.  The job gets shoved further and further down her priority list as she skates from one “crisis” to another.  She is starting to look and perform very much like Flaky Cook did just before she disappeared off the face of the earth last June.  I don’t expect Cook Number One to be with us a whole lot longer.  In fact, I’ll be surprised if she lasts out the month.  And I am anticipating a painful and dramatic termination.
Of course I’ve tried to bring on some new talent to at least soften the blow when Cook Number One does go down in flames.  And of course this has been the source of even more frustration.  In desperation, I brought back a girl who begged for me to re-hire her after SHE quit with no notice back in January.  She wasn’t exactly the best available athlete; she was the ONLY available athlete.  So I brought her back.  Let’s just say that she hasn’t done a night-and-day metamorphosis a la Flaky Cook.  She was an adequate-to-poor employee in her earlier tenure.  And she hasn’t changed an iota.  She is little more than a warm body.  But that seems to be the best I can expect, these days.
Then there was the girl I hired in March.  The one I hired against my better judgment, but was convinced by a combination of desperation and assurances by people on my staff who knew her to give her a chance.   At first, I wanted to believe that this temporary loss of discernment was not going to come back and bite me in the ass.  She performed no less than adequately-to-poor.  She showed up, most of the time…  With a little coddling (and who have I NOT coddled in some way to keep them on the schedule?) I thought we might make it work.
Two weeks ago, she called the café in hysterics, wailing that she had to quit so she could go into re-hab.  For heroin.  Jumpin’ Freakin’ Jehosophat….!  If you think that didn’t have me seriously questioning my judgment, not to mention my powers of observation…
So …I ended up writing it anyway, didn’t I?  I told you it wouldn’t be funny or entertaining or even interesting.  It’s just the same old long, sad tale of woe.  I realize that I’m wallowing around on the bottom of the roller coaster just now, and that it will surely head on up to another peak soon.  In fact, last week, probably because we were down to our lowest staffing level in over a year, we did some record business.  And then yesterday, with a new girl to train and an adequate staff on the schedule, I wondered if we had forgotten to unlock the doors.  Which is why I’m so bloody exhausted and frustrated that everything looks black to me.  
We have two new girls starting this week, one girl who is back from college for the summer, and I have two more good prospects waiting in the wings.  So maybe in a week or two, things will be improved to the point where I won’t feel like I’m crawling up Mt. Everest with the whole restaurant strapped to my back. 
I’ll let you know.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Going With the Flow

Wow! It’s been over a week since I posted anything.

The truth is, I’ve just been tired and strung out and overwhelmed by the café for the past few weeks, and I think my tales of woe are probably getting a little boring. I so desperately need a couple of weeks where I can just put it on cruise-control and give myself a little bit of a rest. Unfortunately, this "economic downturn" (read Bush Administration cluster-f**k) we’ve been experiencing has kept me chained to the restaurant, whether I am there or not. I cannot afford to take labor costs, food costs, or sales for granted, not even for part of a day.

Take yesterday, for example. First day of the Memorial Day weekend. Last year’s numbers indicate that we will not be particularly busy. People on their way out of town and all that.

So, after a slow lunch grinds to a close, I look around and decide that there’s no reason to keep my tired body upright any longer than necessary. I outline detailed instructions to the good and faithful "D," and head for home. Where I promptly fall asleep in my recliner. Husband arrives home a few hours later, and we decide to mosey over to the café and let them feed us dinner.

We arrive. We sit. The place is not exactly hoppin’, but it’s not empty either. We order our dinner, and a few more parties come wandering in. As we wait for our food, it becomes obvious that the floor staff is getting a little overwhelmed, so we pop up and down, greeting and seating folks, take them drinks…take their orders…

Our food has hit our table, but we are nowhere near it. There are seven tickets hanging in the kitchen, and nothing coming out. No salads, no soups…I sneak back into the kitchen to help, and the head cook starts a litany of all the things we are out of (already.) Out of lasagna. Out of spaghetti noodles. Out of chicken parmesan. Out of soup. Almost out of salad greens. As I run around trying to re-stock the entire kitchen while we are trying to get orders out, I wonder WTF they were doing this afternoon during the two and a half hours I wasn’t here. Within ten minutes, I am speed-warming soup, have two pots of water going for more pasta, and am flinging instructions out to the husband in the service area, where he has set up our portable butane burner in order to cook more marinara and Alfredo sauce. 

Our dinner has been whisked off our table and thrown into the warmer, where it will heat up and dry out until such time as we can resume our meal.

So…..augh! It was busy, and it wasn’t pretty. And we had to comp some stuff. But I think all the patrons left happy. If it took too long for them to get their food, we acknowledged it and tried to make them happy. Not like in some places where your server hides in the kitchen until your food comes out, and you never hear so much as a "sorry this took so long." I don’t know if we recruited any regular customers last night. But I think we at least didn’t make any enemies.

And this morning…we were all prepped and ready for a busy day. But last years numbers lied to us once again (surprise); so here I am sitting in my recliner and finishing up this post I was too tired to wrap up last night.

I would like to tear my hair out, but it’s sunny and it’s a holiday weekend…so I think I’m just gonna go have some fun and relax while I can. I’m sure some kind of big disaster will come up before the weekend is over…

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I stayed up until 2:30 am with my computer in my lap, trying to decompress from an extraordinarily crappy day. The following is just sort of stream of consciousness, isn’t great writing and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I’m going to post it anyway. Because it’s my journal, and maybe seeing this in print will help me get over it.

It was a jolly day, all in all…

I had service men trying to tear the covers off dusty filter panels in the dining room ceiling in the middle of lunch.

I had the landlord pestering me about turning on the swamp cooler, then telling me it wouldn’t work and intimating he might want ME to buy a new motor for it (ummmm…NOT.)

I had the health inspector wander in on his twice-yearly "surprise" visit.


Just after I made the always difficult decision to terminate an employee who’s been hanging by a thread for the past two months, I had another employee call in and take her place at the top of the $#%* list.

That last proved to be my personal undoing today. I’m so upset, I’m numb.

Three days ago, we did a tremendous Mothers’ Day worth of business; the crew was laughing, singing, making jokes while cleaning up the horrendous mess. I was counting the money, I was dog-ass tired, but the happy voices lifted my spirits immensely. "This is it," I thought. "We have finally made it. We are a group of people that can laugh and have fun together, but we can turn on the afterburners and really crank out the food. This is as good as it gets."

Today was nearly as bad as it gets. One of my heretofore most valued young employees, after having called in sick once already this week, calls in a half hour before her shift with yet another personal crisis which will cause her to be unavailable to work. And all I could think was, "Oh my god, what is the MATTER with these children!?!"

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, what has happened to the good old fashioned American work ethic? This girl today called in to say her boyfriend had been injured at work and she had to rush over there and take him to the emergency room.


Let’s assume boyfriend really WAS injured at work badly enough to need urgent medical care. Then why didn’t WORK call 911 and have him transported to a hospital? Why did my employee have to play paramedic and ambulance driver?

Obviously, one of two things is going on here: Either the entire story is bull crap from start to finish, or employee’s boyfriend’s employer is really dodging a worker’s comp bullet. When I tried to encourage my employee to figure out some other way to deal with this "crisis" she acted as if I was the biggest bitch in the whole wide world. "I’m sorry…this is more important than any job…!" she huffed.

This self-same employee collared me after our last employee meeting and raked me over the coals about how I was punishing her for going to school (and requesting additional days off besides her school days) by not giving her enough hours to enable her to pay her bills. Obviously this was true, because a NEW employee was getting more hours than she was!

I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with this schizophrenic "I need hours, I can’t work" bullshit. Today was really the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. This girl who basically accused me of being an unfair, punitive bitch when it came to doling out hours, and claimed that she, by right of seniority, deserved more than she was getting…calls in two out of the five days she has on the very next schedule. And then once again makes me feel like a bitch for questioning her reason for calling in.

Today’s story was at worst a lame lie….at best a ridiculous way for someone who "needs the money" to handle a crisis. I gave it some thought: Flashed back thirty-some years to when I was young and in love, husband-to-be and I were co-habitating, and maybe something happened to one of us at work. Would we have called our mate, or have allowed our mate to be called in a panic, to drag us to the emergency room?

No. We would have gotten transportation to the emergency room, got our x-rays or stitches or whatever, called our significant other and said, "Hey, I’m at the emergency room because I hurt myself at work. But there’s no reason for you to rush over here. I’m fine and I’ll see you when I get home." There would have been no panic, no crisis, no emergency. And, I’m sorry, part of making the decision to leave or not to leave work would have naturally been, "What bill am I now not going to be ableto pay because my paycheck will be x number of dollars short if I miss a shift?" (Even though we wouldn’t have had to worry about the hospital bill, because in those days there was a such thing as employer-provided health benefits that actually paid medical bills.)

But today, life is lived at 100 mph, punctuated by high drama and histrionics. Everything is a crisis. You don’t take a breath and think about how to deal with a situation with the least amount of panic and pathos. You run around like a chicken with your head cut off. You make (poor) snap decisions in the heat of the moment.

The last thing in the world you take into consideration is your job—especially a crappy, unglamorous job like cooking at a restaurant (ew!)—and the people who may be depending upon you there. You only work there because it’s what was available. You make it very clear at all times that it’s "just a job." Oh, you want every gimme and benefit of the job, but you have no intention of committing to it in return. Any more than you’ve ever committed to anything in your short life—parents, school, relationships. If you commit to something, that puts a burden of responsibility on you that you have no intention of accepting. Because then you would have to consider how your actions affect other people. It wouldn’t be ALL ABOUT YOU anymore, and we can’t have that. It always has to be about YOU.

So now I’m stuck with one of my longest-term, best trained employees either on the verge of quitting (or being fired) because every other thing in her life takes priority over her job, and I cannot count on her to fulfill her responsibilities at work at the expense of anything else. I was just about to hand this girl a great big piece of responsibility. I had discussed it with her the last time I worked with her. And now I have to put her on a back burner somewhere, only schedule her when I know that it won’t be a disaster if she craps out on me. If she decides to stay at all. I don’t want to fire her, but she’s useless if I can’t use her skills and experience in key positions.

And once again I’m left realizing that the only one I can really count on is myself. And that I cannot run that restaurant by myself.

And wondering if I just should not just give up.