By their very nature, generalities are flawed than generalities. They are breaches in logic and often hurtful to those being minimized. For example, if I said that all chefs are nuts, you’d be correct dismissing the statement as absolutely false. And while I think we all agree that most chefs are slightly mad, it’s obviously false to conclude that all chefs are therefore certifiably insane.
The same logic applies to the assertion that all bar owners and restaurateurs are their own worst enemies. Regardless how many scores of thousands of frontline employees mutter those exact sentiments on a nightly basis, the statement can’t be true because it’s a generality and prominent exceptions must exist.
It’s true this is an extraordinarily challenging, labor-intensive business. Perhaps there should be prerequisites to owning a restaurant or cocktail lounge other than just possessing the financial wherewithal to open one, but there aren’t. In my estimation what distinguishes a great restaurateur and bar owner is how they conduct themselves when the front doors are open. It basically boils down to their treating employees with the same respect and deference that they show their guests. How rare of a trait is that?
I spoke at a trade function, after which there was a banquet dinner for sponsors, speakers and association members. By chance or design, I was seated in the corner of the ballroom with other beverage folks, a group comprised almost entirely of current and former bartenders.
It wasn’t long before we were swapping stories of agonizing nights spent behind the bar, nearly all involving an owner who had done something extremely inappropriate, or spectacularly loathsome. It was apparent that we all recalled having been mistreated through deeds, words, or ill temper by most of the owners we’d worked for. While acknowledging that there exist many bar owners and restaurateurs who don’t fit the mold, the number of similarities between shared experiences suggests that there has always been, continues to be and will always be bar owners and restaurateurs who are their own worst enemies.
If perchance you know of one of these unfortunate entrepreneurs, this might make for some good reading. Were there a set of commandments that clearly established a code of conduct for owners, the tablets would contain much of the following.
Experience dictates that an owner needs to think of himself as part of the crew and work within the established chain of command. Few utterances can derail constructive communication more effectively than the phrase, “As the owner, I think I have the right to…” Aside from stating the obvious, it’s typically followed by an emotional outburst. Especially when the front doors are open, rank has no privileges.
It’s a cruel fact, but most owners are financially comfortable and don’t necessarily living paycheck to paycheck like the rest of us. So how about leaving the Lamborghini at home and driving the family’s minivan when stopping by the bar or restaurant? Likewise, don’t hold the staff holiday party on your yacht, or palatial estate. Flaunting your good fortune can spark negative consequences.
And another thing, if an owner can’t think of anything positive or supportive to say to the staff, he should consider stealing a page from the State Department’s playbook and staple his lips shut until the impulse to speak subsides. If the comments are timely and operations related, address the issue with the appropriate manager. On the other hand, if the observation can wait until the morning, make a note and let the managers proceed unimpeded.
The owner usually can perform only one valuable function once the doors are open that being to schmooze the guests. That being said, owners should refrain from patronizing their your own establishment. Good rarely comes of it. An owner’s presence is like a virus in an organism. You’ll certainly attract undue attention from the staff, but shouldn’t that be lavished on the guests rather than your ego? Stay at home and let the managers and staff do their job.
To best protect their investment, owners need to appreciate their role in the profit/loss equation. They must ensure upper management creates a positive environment in which to work and that employees are thoroughly trained and well compensated. Collectively it fosters stability and reduces costly turnover, which inevitably leads to a more cohesive and professional staff. Can success be far off?