Saturday, January 26, 2008

Speed Post

I have a few minutes before I have to get ready to go to the café, and I haven’t posted for awhile. So I decided that I would just sit down and start typing, unedited, and write as much as I can about…whatever.

I lost an employee last week. This is the kid I have referred to as "the last piece of dead wood on the schedule." She was an eighteen-year-old with lots of issues, not the least of which was that her mother up and moved out of town without her scant months after she graduated from high school last June. She was pretty much given the choice to go with Mom and live somewhere she was not familiar with, with a man, by the way , whom she despised, or figure it out on her own. I’m mystified that a mother could just throw her kid to the wolves like that. Poor kid ended up shacking up with a boyfriend she had been seeing for only about a month. THAT relationship didn’t end well. And, since, she’s been casting about for SOMEWHERE to live, with SOMEONE, anyone…

Trouble is, she is just not mature enough to handle this whole mess. She can’t seem to buckle down and get the idea that she is going to have to work, full-time, and make money if she’s going to live on her own. She would complain that she couldn’t live on the number of hours I gave her, than totally flake out when I scheduled her for more than thirty hours in a week. She maxed out at about fifteen to twenty. Can’t really live on your own if you’re only bringing home about $200 a week.

I felt sorry for her, so I really tried to make it work. And she was one of those frustrating kids that could do the job when she wanted to, and unfortunately would do it once in a while, so the cat was out of the bag on that one. Nothing makes me crazier than someone who CAN do the job but, for whatever reason, WON'T. Anyway, her life "got unbearable," and she suddenly had to upsticks and move in with a relative, too far away to work HERE. 

Can’t say I’m sorry to see her go…but I did try to help her, and I always feel bad when I try to help someone and they aren’t helped. Which is how it works out 90% of the time, n’est ce pas?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

east or Famine... the name of the game at the Hot Flash Café. It’s just the nature of the place.

We’re either packed or empty. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between. If there’s such a thing as a nice, steady flow of customers, you wouldn’t know it by looking at our dining room at any given moment.

And when it comes to personnel, I’m either over-staffed or desperate for help. No happy medium on that score, either.

November and December were nice. From a staffing standpoint, anyway. Perhaps The Universe knew that I was going to need to attend to other matters. We were over-staffed; so there were plenty of people to tend the restaurant while we were away. And even afterward, throughout the holidays and a week or so beyond, we had more help than we really needed. Crew members were starting to complain that they weren’t getting enough hours, but they continued to call in sick and request days off with wild abandon. Yet, there was enough slack in the schedule to be able to accommodate all the germs, drama and personal indulgence. For about a month and a half. Yay.

Unfortunately, I’ve since had yet another employee bug out on me with no notice, and one more who informed me that she will only be able to work weekends from the end of January until the end of softball season. And a third employee, one of my most steadfast, had a house fire on Christmas Eve…and while neither she nor her husband were injured, and the house was not a total loss, it has thrown her completely for a loop. She has been a bundle of tears, pouts and general high-maintenance ever since. I love her and I wish I knew what to do for her…still, it’s one more headache that I really did not need.

So, though I feel like I’ve finally come out of the overwhelmed, chronically sleep-deprived fog through which I attempted to function for the first fifteen months after my entrepreneurial baptism, things have not yet found a completely solid footing. And when it comes to staffing, I’m afraid they never will. It looks like I’ll have to get as much done as I can while I’m employee rich, but accept that I will still have to don the apron and grind my nose into the stone when such is not the case. ::Groan! ::

But here’s the really good news. I don’t know if sales were more atrocious last year (winter of 2006/2007) than I realized, or if we really have turned a corner and are headed upward for good, sales-wise. After an almost flat October, we had sales increases of 27% for the month of November, and 24% for December. And, unless something really dire transpires in the next eight days, we’ll probably see at least a 20% increase for January. So maybe all the blood, sweat, tears, and years off the end of my life are actually getting us somewhere…

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

So Little Time...

Here we are, already more than a week into the new year. I SO have not been feeling like writing. I get an idea or two in my head, I turn on the computer, and I just sit and play solitaire. It seems like way too much trouble to think hard enough to write any kind of an engaging essay. Life is not too bad right now, either. I think I just have the mother of all cases of the winter blahs.

The weather has been absolutely miserable. When it’s not dark and rainy, it’s dark and icy. Either way, it’s dark. I know the days are supposed to be getting longer. It’s hard to tell if the sun is showing up earlier or sticking around later when the clouds are so heavy you have perpetual twilight. Ugh! I REALLY need a sunny day right now!

I have a stack of things a mile high (as usual) to accomplish at the café. We just got the last Christmas tree taken down this evening, took the wreaths off the doors and peeled off the rest of the decorations. All that’s left are the poinsettias I bought from one of the local school fundraisers. They’re still alive, still beautiful, in fact. I can’t throw them away, and I know if I bring them home they will become garbage almost immediately. And there is the added concern that we don’t want the cats eating them. Not good for them at all. And I clean up enough barf around the house…I don’t need poinsettia puke added to the mix.

At least de-Christmasing has been accomplished. The million and ten other things I need to do are still weighing heavy. I have to re-do the menu. I did a rudimentary cost analysis last week and found that the price WE pay for provisions has increased over thirteen percent since last January. So if I don’t raise my menu prices, we’ll be going to the poorhouse fast. 

And I just hate to raise the prices. People are very price-conscious out here in the sticks. I’ll have them bitching and moaning for months; saying things like, "How come your prices are so high? This isn’t Portland, you know." No, it’s not Portland. But my damn food comes from Portland, and they don’t charge me any less just because I do business in the boonies. If anything, I pay more. Why don’t people get that? Duh!!!

AND I have to plan our Valentine’s special, create the menu, design the ad, figure out the decorations, try and guess how much of what to order, etc. etc. ad infinitum. This one has me kind of intimidated. Last Valentine’s Day, we didn’t do anything special, and we still had a pretty good turn out (overflow from the local restaurants that DID do something special, I imagine…) This year, I want to try to actually make the most of the day (it’s supposed to be one of the top two or three days of the year for dining out…that would make it an opportunity I can not afford to pass up!) So I’m feeling some pressure, here…shaking in my boots and cultivating my ulcer.

There are times when I’m concerned that I take this all too seriously. And times when I worry that I don’t take it seriously enough. Either way, I worry. And I hate worrying. It takes all the fun out of it…