Written by  ,     December 26, 2012     Posted in Fun, Restaurant

Before this “loaded” blog goes too far, the origin of today’s post is to say once again, but never ever enough, how amazing our staff is–and especially to those who lead the rest–who set the bar so high;  A management staff that could not possibly be 2nd to anyone.

What they do, besides work tirelessly to deliver to our guests–this time of year, often 12+ hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week–is to look out for each other, to keep the whole thing on track, even at the most stressful, most exhausted times.

I could go on–individually about them all, seriously.  About the GM who after a 7 day week, so run down that she got sick and couldn’t work–and cried (litrerally) because she couldn’t be there on a busy Friday night to lead, to serve, to protect…or her assistant, who extended her own ridiculously long week, by volunteering with a smile to extend her 10 hour day by another 4 or 5 to cover the sick shift. Or the bar manager, who quickly volunteerd–without my asking–to give up a tipped shift that same night–to back up the other manager on the floor, to cover the one who was ill, for no additional compensation–simply because it was the “team” thing to do. Or our other GM–smiling ear to ear, through tired eyes and achy bones exclaiming: “Can you believe the sales we did this week?!”   Or one sous chef, after perhaps enduring the greatest stress of all for the month–fearful one minute of losing the support of staff after losing a talented and popular, but bad-for-morale prima dona chef, going into the busiest month of the year–and finding herself feeling “alone” at the top due to circumstance, but then “digging-in” with positivity and resolve, while leading a team of people who continuously stepped it up and pulled together (a result that often occurs when removing a negative force) and kicking ass night after night.  After endless days and endless hours, she smiled at me on the way towards the door, for her first day off in who-knows-how-long and said “I’ve loved every minute of it Boss”.  (I truly think that she meant it!)  

Warriors.  “Pirates” as the infamous English Chef (and general dickhead) Marco White would say.

Which brings me to another, but related topic, one I have certainly written about before.

One of the greatest ways we are able to deliver such results–to get each other’s backs and care so much about the mission, and about each other, is through our ongoing commitment to our “culture”–one of support, caring, kindness and professionalism in the face of high stress and oft adversity.  

We protect this mantra, at times, almost to a fault.

During the stress of the last month, one of our chefs “lost it”, according to a top manager– yelling, cursing, and in general, making other staff members-, particularly the service staff–feel intimidated and/or offended.  

And once again, I find myself writing this blog with the option to go in any number of directions.  Here are some of them…

* I promised the manager that I would speak with the kitchen team, after the holidays–after the stress of the season had passed.  Let’s “get over it” for now…choose your battles an all that.
* Yelling, cursing chefs are not new to our business–in fact, they were at one time, probably the norm.  It’s hot and sweaty back there–with knives, and grease, standing on hard slippery floors, for many hours.
* The wait staff should not be so sensitive.  “Don’t take it personally” we have reminded through the years.  (Easier said than done)
* Yelling, cursing chefs are simply bad for business.  Though they may create some better discipline in the kitchen, amongst some staff, they ineffectively intimidate just as many.  (of course, it takes a cerain personality profile to do this job.  The type not always as sensitive as they might-should be)
* Some waitstaff ARE, in fact, sensitive, and if they get intimidated, they stop doing the right thing– bringing customer issues to the forefront.  When the guest says that their dish is too salty, the server thinks of how f**ing “salty” the chef is, and, perhaps apologizes to the guest, or perhaps avoids the issue, or perhaps removes the dish from the bill costing the business money…but what they AVOID doing, is asking the kitchen to fix the dish-for fear of reprisal– on the guests behalf-, thereby failing to insure an ultimately satified guest AND helping the kitchen avoid later discontent.
*Achieving maximum-“Super bowl champion” performance potential is nearly impossible in absence of ultimate team “all oars in the water” mentality; when an “us vs them” dynamic is allowed to fester
*And on and on…. 

So, any way, after a couple more stressful weeks leading to a couple more instances of yelling, cursing, unprofessional episodes–and a tired and crying waitress, and rising tension amongst the service staff, and impatience from management for “having tied hands” in the lack of addressing our “slipping” of long-held standards, and our #1 mantra “Be nice”…I finally agreed to step in.  

Oh boy. Ever so quietly…with actual tension “butterflies”–to do what I knew was right–to offer my own relief for tired feet and minds of the chefs–what little I could, while also advocating for more patience and professionalism DESPITE true exhaustion.  No excuses.  

It went well.

 **Not as an excuse necessarily, for pointing fingers or cursing loudly over innocent mistakes, as they are unacceptable at any time… but it is important I think to note, that over a year ago–in an attempt to upgrade our kitchens for the good of our restaurants, our guests and the future of all involved–we began making some changes in our heirarchy, through new eyes and new standards-.

This remaking ultimately led us a month ago to the un anticipated loss of a stalwart, dependable chef of 4 years, and then…. a 40 hour kitchen employee (unrelated?), and THEN…. another 40-50 hour employee (BECAUSE–we let him go, despite knowing the downside.  As much as we liked him, he missed a shift due to an irresposnible lifestyle–a “pirates life”, and to maintain the integrity of all– our organization–what this blog is about–as we refuse to excuse those that don’t show up for work. Ever.)  and THEN….Did I mention that the pastry chef took a few weeks off to give birth to a new son?!  All this, leading to December…by far our busiest month of the year.

Do the math.

These chef’s, going into the busiest month of the year, were down somewhere in the vicinity of 150, trained, hands-on hours.  Let that sink in for a second…  

150 weekly hours GONE–of chopping, mixing, grilling, stocking, scrubbing, etc….As the “new chef” with the remaining dedicated staff and some fast new hires, managed to break our all-time December sales record, with minimal mistakes (ok, one, maybe two :), zero angry letters to the owner, no fist fights or flying frying pans, maybe one crying waitress (she didn’t cry for long)…so many compliments and positive comments….Remarkable results, actually.

I write this, as the managers and staff are showering, and getting ready to come back to work after a whole 42 hours off.  To prepare for New Year’s Eve, more specials, more celebration, more smiles…more long hours…

What can I possibly do, to show my true appreciation for all of these “guys”– As tough and swashbuckling as there ever was a pirate–with the resolve and humanity to find time to buy each other holiday gifts, to find the way to seek each other out when things get tense, to say “sorry” when a sorry is all that is needed to keep the balance… I love these people.  

They create excellence, day in and day out.  As a team.

And because of them, we will continue to be even better in the year to come.   Bet on it. 

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