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.