Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Wake...In a Way

Today, I visited a local restaurant for the last time. Not because I disliked it, or got bad food, or didn't feel welcome. Quite the contrary, I felt most welcome and they had the best raw and fried oysters within a 2-hour drive, maybe more.

I got the call on Thursday. I was paged while in the glass warehouse and came out to my desk where my co-worker told me that Trudy from the oyster bar was on line 2. I rolled my eyes, thinking they wanted me to drop off something after work like I had so many times before. I was unprepared for what Trudy said to me though. Sunday would be their last day open as they did not have enough business to keep going. She asked me if I could look up what they had paid for all the equipment that they had bought from us so they would know better what to ask for it.

I could hear the sadness in her voice, but also a tinge of relief. The owners are 60ish and have had restaurants in Louisiana before. They knew they had a good product and thought they had a good location. Never mind that the last two restaurants in the same location lasted less than a year each. Lot's of residential surrounding them on the main road between us and Ft. Walton. No decent restaurants in the area (only fast-food chains, basically) and lots of traffic.

Unfortunately, that traffic had a hard time turning into the parking lot. There is a grass median there and you have to go 100 yards past and turn around to go back. Having it changed would have cost them $40,000, a sum they could not afford.

They had decent business for a long time and when times were good, they were getting by. Unfortunately, places that "get by" in good times are not the ones that survive when the going gets tough. Having a fairly high price point is another straw on the camel's back. In these times, the restaurants with low price points (fast food, diners) and high-end joints tend to do better. Middle of the road prices often go lacking in the customer department.

The owners are nice people and hard workers. Their offspring who they gave jobs to, not so much on the latter. The father has heart problems and probably should not have been working, but he had no choice. Sweat equity was a must, and the kids were there just for the paycheck. Never mind that the parents had put their retirement savings into the place.

Which is why it was so wake-like. This was one place that I hoped would survive and prosper and they made many friends in the area. Never mind that they were my first big sale over two years ago. They always welcomed me in. And my first beer was always on the house because I delivered stuff to them after work on my time. And they were good, decent people.

And I'm bummed. And stuffed from fried oysters and shrimp and cole slaw. But, still bummed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Running Into My Ex-Boss

Over two years ago now, I abruptly left a job with a high-class (in name only) resort in the area. It was the highest and most prestigious job I had ever had, and I reveled with the responsibility. I grabbed it with gusto and put my all into that job. I worked 80+ hours a week for 4 months until I was burnt out and running on fumes. We were warmly received and I was as proud as that dude on cable with 18 kids.

When I was finally rewarded with an Assistant Manager, things were looking rosy. Until I was told that she couldn't close at night alone. And she couldn't open, because she was too raw to place orders. And she couldn't work over-time, since she was hourly. And, oh yeah, she's bestest friends with the boss. And, boy, does she spend a lot of time in the bathroom with that allergy problem she has...snort, snort, sniff, sniff.

Needless to say (to those of you with no life who have gone back to the beginning of this pitiful blog), I walked. I had to close a "spur of the moment" private open bar for some V.I.P.'s after opening at 7am. The bar would close at 2am. While the party was at a lull, I took the time to go to the office and pack everything that I had brought with me or had bought with my own money and never got reimbursed for. All packed.

When my bartender and I left at 3am, I was carrying many bags of belongings with me. I stopped by my boss's office and left my name-tag, cell phone, keys, and a nasty note. Before that final closing of the door, I went back and retrieved the note. He didn't need me telling him why I left, he had to know why, so why give myself a badder-than-it-will-be-anyway reputation?

I heard nothing from him until a few months later when he turned up at my current place of employ. Lucky me, I was the only one on the floor to help him. I don't know why I was nervous, but I was. But, I put that behind me. My pride was on the line. And as they say, "Never let them see you sweat". He also put on a game-face and the interaction was polite, but stunted.

We hadn't talked or seen each since then, but I had heard that he eventually left that "resort" and went back to his prior job with a respectable restaurant in town. And then I got the call...

"*****, this is Ex-RM, how can I help you?"

"Hi, Ex-RM, this is Dufus (name changed to protect the guilty). I need to place an order and to check on a previous order that Chef is waiting on."

"Okay, Dufus, what is on that prior order?"

It turned out that the Chef had ordered some replacement pieces for some tabletop items that they had ordered from our competition. And our competition didn't carry those replacements, they would have to buy the whole shebang, which was ludicrous. And they wanted those pieces ASAP. Great.

After spending way too much time investigating these cheaply made items, I got them what they needed. Did I get any thanks? No, it was just suggested that next time I deliver to their establishment, I should come in the back door (no parking, I tried) instead of through the front door.

Anything to establish hierarchy. Glad to hand him off to our outside salesman. Jerk.