Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How Employee Behavior Can Destroy Your Business

Employees are people - some are good, some are bad and some are downright ugly. They are what the public sees, and their words and behavior can detract people from your business.

I had one who I thought was good but after she left I found out differently.

One person told me that she and her husband came for dinner one night and they were early for the buffet. She inquired of our employee (Mrs. X), when she walked past their table, as to when the buffet would be ready. Mrs. X replied derogatorily "Whenever they get their act together in the kitchen".

Mrs. X, it turned out, was a miserable negative person that actually caused people to stop coming to our restaurant. She made out like we didn't know what we were doing, that we couldn't get along and even tried to insinuate that my husband was playing around. None of it was true. Her snide remarks, penchant for gossip (which led her to be known as the "town crier") and twisting of the truth turned many people off.

When she finally quit, she came into the restaurant during a busy time, called me off to the side and cursed me out with her filthy language, called me names and then ran out. I had to the face the public with a smile on my face like nothing was wrong. The next day she did the same thing, except she found some new names to call me. The day after that she came in with her idiot husband and both of them reamed my husband out during, of course, a busy time. Her husband actually told my husband he needed his head wrapped around a telephone pole. Then they ran away. We had to deal with the public like nothing happened. When they finally got tired of these types of games, they came in like customers and tried to make out like we always got their orders wrong (even though I would repeat it back to them twice to make sure). The last time she pulled this stunt I had gone through their orders twice and repeated them loudly so the other two people at the table heard. When I brought their food, Mrs. X said she ordered fries. I broke the cardinal rule of restaurant etiquette and said "No you didn't". She said "Yes I did" and I replied quite firmly "No you didn't". Another person at the table said "No, you didn't. I heard her repeat the order back and you said no". FInally, they stopped coming in to eat.

Another employee we had loved her "f-sharps" and couldn't stop talking openly about sex. Being a family restaurant, people were not too impressed with her language. No one wanted to hear "My f***ing delusional hillbilly neighbor put up a f***ing fence between our f***ing property because he doesn't like my f***ing language." Etcetera etcetera. I think you get the point.

Two examples of people who are not good for your business. Hard as it is to actually find someone to work, you are better off doing the work yourself rather than have "help" that destroys all that you've worked for.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Employee Theft - It can happen you!

We trusted our day employees who gave us those all important days off to rest. They had the dead times - Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They both had lots of restaurant experience - one even owned a restaurant for a short time. So imagine our shock when we found out they were robbing us blind.

Not too much was missing from the till that we could figure in the beginning. They didn't take twenties and shove them in their pocket. No...they were craftier. They hid the money in plain sight.

On the counter in the open by the kitchen was a tip jar. I used to see lots of change...fives...the occasional ten dollar bill. I didn't think too much of it. It would be cleaned out once a week when their shift was done. The next week same thing.  And then one time they both took time off and we had to work their shift and I really started thinking about the tips. For a handful of people coming in, I would get maybe six or seven dollars. I wondered how they did so much in tips. So another time I had to do their shift...same thing. Five bucks or six bucks over the course of three days. Then I started to wonder...

At the same time I noticed a lot of expensive food items going. For example the cheese for pizza. We would receive a case (4 large bags) and within a day two bags were gone. There were order receipts by the till indicating pizzas but as time went on when I checked the till receipts the money didn't add up. For the pizza orders slips, there should have been the money for three large pizzas (anywhere from $60 - $70). Plus the coffee crowd, lunch and supper orders. Yet the Z-report would show $74 for the whole day. Something wasn't right.

Thankfully one got sick and had to be laid off. The other had to go for surgery so she got laid off. And that's when people started coming forward.

Yes, they had seen both of them taking not one but three large pizzas home at a time. Boxes of food left our shop. One worker fed her entire family every night she worked and when her husband was surprised by people in the restaurant who saw them, he mentioned something about paying for supper and our employee said "Oh don't worry about it. I put it on my tab and it comes off my check". This, of course, was said for the benefit of the customers. I had never seen a "tab" for food eaten. And then there was the flour and jams and peanut butter and chicken fingers and the list goes on. Some of these items we were ordering every week and wondering where is it going? Now that they are not here, our orders are up yet our stock is not depleting as rapidly.

So always trust your instincts. If the food orders and till receipts to not add up you're probably being taken. If the tips seem a bit too high for the traffic, money is leaving your till.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tips...An Owner's Rant

I allow my servers to keep 100% of their tips. This is done mainly as an incentive for them to provide excellent service. After all, if I take the tips, where is their motivation?

And then, of course, we have Jenny (not her real name).

Jenny worked well for the first two weeks. Lately she is doing nothing. I am making the coffee and filling the water jugs. She is motoring around but doesn't seem to be doing anything. When it's time for meals to go out, she has disappeared only to reappear a couple of seconds after we take out the meal. However, she will stand over my shoulder if I am at the till to make sure that any tip left goes into her bowl. She is around for that. And that is pretty much the only time she is around. My husband called her three times to take out a meal. The first time she ignored him. The second time she looked at him but kept watching me. The third time he came out and barked at her to get into the kitchen and she gave him a dirty look and left me alone. The thing is we have NEVER kept a penny in tips that our servers have earned. Never.

The other night I believe she was hoarding tips. She portioned out $4.00 (20%) to the dishwasher and was seen many times over the course of the night going to her purse. It was a busy night and I made a mental note of the bills and change left on the tables for tips. There were no bills in the tip bowl - only change. I know I placed a $5.00 bill in the bowl. So where was it?

And I know some people are against tipping the dishwasher and/or kitchen staff, but in this situation I believe the dishwasher should get 50%. Here's why. Jenny has disappeared again. The dishwasher has made another pot of coffee and served coffee to people. The dishwasher has refilled water jugs and taken another food order for someone that has just joined a table. When Jenny is around, people are having to get their own coffee. The dishwasher busses the tables and gets other items for the customer because Jenny is nowhere to be seen. Jenny is running around in circles...I catch glimpses of her in different areas of the restaurant...but she is doing nothing except motoring around. Jenny talks to customers (which is fine on occasion but not all the time) and the dishwasher is running plates of food out to customers. So I feel the dishwasher should get 50%. Frankly, I'm hoping Jenny quits.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Do Your Research!

There is a small restaurant for sale nearby and we heard someone bought it. The sale was conditional upon the lady selling her house which, I guess, happened so she had the money for the purchase.

Now here's what tells me the person had no clue about what she was getting into.

The restaurant has been vacant for about 5 years. The previous owners sold all the kitchen equipment. So right there, without any equipment or fans, you are looking at about $75,000 - $100,000 in cost to get the place operational. Now let's talk about the vacant building - going to need work to get it up to snuff. What the about the electrical that's been left to sit and rot? We hear the new owner went into the restaurant last weekend and thought it was too hot so she turned down the heat. Guess what happened? The water pipes in the basement burst and water was seeping out everywhere. The heat needed in the basement rose to the main level and it was too warm, but it had to be that way. Now will she ever make her money back assuming she has the money to pay for everything? No, because the town (that she obviously didn't research) can never support her enough to make back that kind of money. Yes it was cheap to buy, but it's going to be expensive to fix up and operate.

A lot of people miss that point - if it's cheap to buy, there's a reason why. You cannot skimp on equipment because the safety and health codes are exactly the same whether you are in a town or a city - you have to be up to a certain standard before you get a permit. Now what it costs you to get to that standard is what can kill you before you even start. So do your research.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Skechers Shapeups Debate

As a restaurant owner, I am always multitasking as a cook, waitress, and dishwasher. I bought a pair of Skechers Shapeups because the sales person told me they would help me tone as I worked as well as help me maintain my posture which was something I worried about as I spend a lot of time hunched over a counter prepping food or working on the grills.

And everything was fine...for a while. I wore them for about four months and thought they were great. I was relatively toned (which in hindsight was probably because of all the walking I did) but the most important factor for me was my feet didn't hurt at the end of a 10 - 12 hour day.

And then one day, out of the blue, my left knee started to ache. I wrote it off as tweaking it somehow, although I couldn't remember twisting it or bumping into anything. I had never had any knee problems and was a bit perplexed by the sudden onset of the pain. I checked various medical websites and couldn't really find the problem. Every day the pain got worse until it got to the point that my knee throbbed constantly and the pain gradually became excruciating. I thought arthritis? No...I had no symptoms of it. I had no swelling...my knee wasn''t red...it wasn't hot to the touch...there were no bruises or marks on it.  It just hurt so bad I could hardly stand it. I couldn't sleep at night because of the pain and as each day went on I started limping and lost the range of motion in my left leg. One night after another long hunt on the internet I went to sleep wondering what was going on with my knee. The next morning I woke up and the first thing that popped into my head was "stop wearing the shapeup shoes".

At that point I could hardly walk and the pain was constant whether I sat or stood or laid down. That day I wore a pair of sandals to work, put ice on my knee at every opportunity, took two Advil and borrowed a knee brace from a sympathetic coworker. The pain subsided a bit and I was actually able to have a slightly better sleep that night. The next day I put the knee brace back on, took two more Advil, slipped on my sandals and went to work. Twice I had a brief pain in my knee that hardly lasted at all and I was actually able to walk without a limp. I even caught myself crouching a couple of times to reach for something and felt no pain. The next day I went through the same routine, except I had no pain at all and didn't need Advil. I put on a pair of running shoes and had complete range of motion back in my leg.

I have since thrown out the Shapeups and will never, ever recommend them to anyone.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

High School Students - Do Not Apply!

I've given high school students a crack at working at the restaurant and all I can say is they are no longer welcome as employees.

From cell phones to dates to breakups to gossip - I've had it. Talking to them is pointless and trying to get them to work is like pulling teeth.

And how many parents have come to me with their stories of their kids who need a job and they're such good workers? These parents need a reality check after I stupidly took their word and hired their precious little angels who did nothing but stand around trying to find a cell phone signal or lip off when asked to actually work for the money I pay them.

One "angel" who was hired to do the dishes on Mother's Day stood around eating fries while her mother, who was serving, ran around like a crazy person and did the dishes for her daughter.

The last "angel" was a real gem. Great with customers which is what kept her around for a while. Couldn't handle more than two tables but was excellent with the people she had. Couldn't write out an order properly - a simple thing like ask them how they like their eggs and she rolls her eyes at us and says "I don't eat eggs" so no one's egg orders came back at breakfast. One day she left six tables unattended and stood at the sink and told me " I just feel like washing dishes today".  Then, on a very busy day I got told, when I asked her to assist the other senior people (who have 40 years of restaurant experience between the two of them), that "I didn't come here as an assistant!". And of course, my favorite story, is when I, as the owner, was at the till and she physically shoved me out of the way to input her bill. That was her last day.

So high school students are just not hired anymore. Bottom line. I don't care how good you are or how hard you want to work - your fellow students have ruined it for you.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Public Utilities and Small Businesses

Our hydro bills were outrageous this past winter in the restaurant. We had to add heaters to the building just to keep it warm enough for people to sit in without a jacket. Because it was our first winter in the building and the previous owner didn't tell us anything, we didn't know where the leaks were until we were in it. Also, the large fan over the cooking area in the kitchen (which is required by law) was sucking up a lot of heat from the premises. And if scrambling to add heaters wasn't bad enough, we had Manitoba Hydro on our case constantly because we were behind on $1,500+ a month hydro bills.

At first they told me I HAD to do direct deposit payments. Why, I asked? Because you are a business. Why I asked? It's not like I'm going anywhere if I have a business here. Because you have to was their answer. I was told I had to send them a void cheque by fax and they would automatically deduct the money each month from my account. Can't I pay you when the bill comes? No, I was told. Can I scan and email you a void cheque? No, I was told because they don't have email. I said I am looking at your information package and the email address is right here. No, we don't have email, I was told. Actually, let me correct that...I wasn't told but the woman barked at me and started raising her voice. Okay...

So we carry on and since January and February are very slow months in the industry (not to mention record levels of snowfall and bad highway conditions keeping people away), I tried giving them $500 a month (to show good faith) and because I knew as the warm weather approached our bills would decrease and we would catch up. I discussed this with them and their answer was "you're behind in your payment". Yes, we are but can we go on the budget plan? No, because you have to be in business for a year before we put you on that. Okay...so can we make some sort of payment arrangement? How is $500 a month I ask? Can you do more they ask? Well, I don't know because I don't know how busy the restaurant will be. You will keep getting further behind they tell me. No, I say, the bills will go down as it warms up and we will indeed catch up some time around May. You should look into adding more insulation, they tell me. I said we would be reinsulating the premises, however, we couldn't do that until the weather was warmer. Apparently, nothing I said was good enough for them and I constantly deal with phone calls threatening disconnection.

So we do have a contractor on board who will start work when the weather is better. I will take advantage of some of Hydro's insulation programs (that they never mentioned but my contractor found). So all I have to say is thanks for helping support small business, Manitoba Hydro.