Now that I have your attention, let’s have a serious conversation.  This is meant to be a chat with all the stakeholders: cooks, chefs, servers, bartenders, managers, owners, dishwashers, and customers.  The end IS NOT near, in fact, restaurants have never been more important than they are right now.  Yet, all we hear is negativity.  We can’t find any employees, people don’t want to work anymore, restaurants treat employees like crap, the pay sucks and the benefits don’t exist, prices are too high, supplies are impossible to find, and profit is so small that it isn’t worth the sweat and tears.  That’s a load of negativity to digest – no wonder the title to this article makes some people believe that it’s true.

Wake up!  Most problems are really challenges and challenges can be met with a willingness to listen, to analyze, and change.  We all need to listen, analyze and change – are you willing? 

For the Restaurateur:

Are you willing to take a hard look at your business model and change how you attract, train, invest in, compensate, and evaluate your staff?  Are you willing to take a hard look at your pricing model and how you approach profitability?  Are you willing to look at your employees as your most important asset and put yourself in their shoes? Are you willing to listen to your employees who interface with guests more often than you?

For the Chef and Manager:

Are you willing to look at menus differently?  Is it possible for you to steer away from high cost, sometimes obscure ingredients that might be exciting to you but are not essential to making guests happy or setting the stage for profitability?  Are you willing to spend much more time working with and training your staff – building their skill set and showing them how to really cook from the heart?  Are you willing to listen to your employees and give them an opportunity to invest their ideas in the operation?  Are you willing to exhibit patience and empathy with your employees and know that any weaknesses they may have, are partially your responsibility?  Are you willing to invest more time catching your employees doing something right rather than pointing out those weaknesses that are partially your fault anyway?  Are you willing to celebrate the successes of your cooks and sincerely thank them for their contributions?  Are you willing to recognize that your employees have a life outside work and balance is something that is important to them?

For the Cook and Server:

Are you willing to listen and learn and to grow and expand your base of knowledge?  Are you willing to accept critique (not criticism) and know that this is part of the growing process?  Are you willing to invest the time and effort to expand your base of knowledge and grow in value?  Do you know that this is the way to move up the career ladder and eventually achieve your goal of becoming a chef, a manager, or even an owner?  Do you recognize that higher wages and greater opportunities must be earned through performance, not just being present?

For the Vendor:

Do you realize that if a restaurant is financially successful, they are in a better position to pay their bills and expand what they buy?  Do you understand the difference between good food and great food begins with the quality of ingredients that a chef receives and that this is the most important part of your job?  Do you understand that the chef cannot sell what he or she doesn’t receive?  Do you appreciate that a chef wants to view you as a partner who makes sure that what is ordered is received?  Are you willing to go the extra mile to make sure that the tools a kitchen needs to succeed are made available?  Are you willing to provide the support that a restaurant needs – support that goes beyond the ingredient and includes: marketing support, cost control support, a full understanding of ingredients and their quality factors, and payment plans that account for swings in business?

For the Customer:

Are you willing to smile at your server, thank them, and understand just how difficult their job is?  Are you willing to treat them with the same level of respect that you would expect for yourself?  Do you understand that the supply chain is broken right now, and availability of ingredients is beyond the control of the restaurant?  Are you willing to accept smaller menus because of this?  Do you understand that if you insist on seeking out that Kobe Beef Tenderloin Steak it will likely sell for $75 or more?  Are you willing to trust that the chef in an operation is talented enough to make a chicken leg that is just as special as that deluxe piece of meat?

The solutions to the challenges we face involve collaboration and creativity, a willingness to change, adaptability and investment of time and effort, empathy and support, and an appreciation for just how important restaurants are to our way of life.  We will collectively move through this period of uncertainty and rise above the challenges – we always have, and we always will.  There is still more pain to be felt, but we can never give up on just how integral restaurants and restaurant people are to a community.

This is not the time for cooks, servers, bartenders, managers, and chefs to hang up their side towels and look for another way of life.  You have invested too much of yourself already to turn your back simply because the waters are a little rough.  This is not the time for chefs and managers to throw up their arms and blame the workforce, the government, or customers for an impossible situation.  This is the time to turn the impossible into the possible and rise to the opportunities that exist – now is the time to take control – we know how to do this.


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