Gordon Ramsay Would Be Proud

, , , , , , , | Working | July 23, 2020

I worked at the same restaurant for years, first as a bartender, then the general manager, and finally the co-owner. My partner was a friend with no restaurant experience himself, but I only had half of what my boss was asking for, and no one else was willing or able to put up the other half. During the final weeks under his ownership, my boss took my friend to the kitchen and taught him how to expedite, as a means to fulfill my friend’s request to “be useful to the restaurant.” He took to this training like a duck to water.

My friend and I took over around the middle of June, and for the entire summer, things were magnificent; you would never have guessed we were under new ownership. Then, the World Series started. Like always, the rush was out the door, with wait times nearing an hour and no seats at the bar staying empty for long. Like I did every time we got slammed, I jumped behind the bar to relieve some of the pressure on the staff. That turns out to have been a mistake.

The sheer volume of drink orders and conversations consumed me for a while. It was only during a lull that I noticed one of my waitresses crying as she trudged back to the kitchen. Upon my asking her in private, she revealed one of the tables yelled at her due to how long they had been waiting for their entrees and how many times she had to report back that the kitchen still had not finished their order. Before she had even finished this much of her tale, I pulled open our system to check on this much of the story, worried we had an NAR-worthy customer.

Two things immediately stood out. First, the table had been here for an hour and a half. Second, this was not her table. She then clarified that they could not find their original waitress and flagged her down as a substitute. Despite her many trips between the kitchen and the tables, she has not seen their waitress, either. Then, she told me that the source of it all was that the kitchen was refusing to admit this table’s order was not complete.

I headed into the back to figure out what she meant by that. I was immediately staggered. Some of my waitstaff were piled into the kitchen door, many of the cooks were clustered around the pass, my partner was leaning off the pass into the kitchen, and the pass itself was buried under an avalanche of food. When I finally regained my composure, I asked my once-crying waitress to again request the problem table’s food.

My partner slid over a barbeque bacon burger and a rack of ribs. From where I was standing, it is perfectly clear that the sauce on both had already turned into solids, so the food was room temperature at best. My waitress then stated that the table had two racks of ribs, not one, pointing at the ticket to prove it. My partner brushed her off, insisting he had handed off all of the food. I asked her to gather the rest of the waitstaff — the ones who were actually doing work right then — and gather them in my office.

Before I went to do what I was already certain I had to do, I snaked my way through the deadweight of my waitstaff and into the kitchen. My head chef and sous chef were running around cursing, while everyone else was gathered at the pass. The reason: my partner hooked a small television in so he could watch the game, and everyone else was following his lead. My chef told me he kept trying to wrangle his staff back under his command, but my partner kept telling him to lighten up and let them enjoy the game.

The final nail in the coffin came from the pass itself. Now that I was in the kitchen and my partner’s body was no longer obstructing my view, I could see plainly that the stained pits of his shirt were coming into direct contact with the customers’ food. I had little doubt the small strands of hair I could see were not from anyone’s head.

Based on all of this, I told my chef to stop cooking and instead figure out how much money we spent tonight. Afterward, I informed the bar to stop refilling drinks, and then I went up to every table and told them we had to shut down the kitchen and their bills had been comped. Even learning their experience was free did not stop the tongue-lashings from irate customers who wasted their evenings, and I could not blame them for being furious.

Finally, I headed back to my office and confronted the dutiful members of my waitstaff. I warned them that this was probably going to be the reality for the rest of my partner’s run, and if they wanted to quit now, I would give them the credit card tips they were owed now and wish them well. Between the ones I lost on this dreadful night, and the members who reached out to me the next morning after hearing of this catastrophe, we lost about 75% of the waitstaff.

When the chef confronted me with the volume of food blown and the loss for the night — I will not be so much as hinting at this figure because it is that embarrassing — he also handed over his keys. He informed me that he and his sous chef would rather work someplace where their boss did not turn their staff against them and actually valued hard work. Could not blame them, either.

Ending the refills chased away all of the customers before the game was over. Now that the population was solely staff — and I use that term loosely now — I made my way into the kitchen again, grabbed the meat tenderizer, and smashed the television. As the objections mounted, I lost it.

“IF YOU A**HOLES HADN’T NOTICED, WE SHUT DOWN THE F****** RESTAURANT!” I yelled. “GET THE F*** OUT, YOU B*****DS!”

That was the last thing I said to anyone that night. I was locked in my office alone the rest of the night trying to figure out how to ensure that never happened again.

The next morning, after my waitstaff was done quitting — as far as I knew, anyway — my partner came in furious about what had happened the night before and how I shut him out. Before I even got a chance to counter, he started demanding I replace his television before tonight’s game. Now that I knew with certainty that an encore was unavoidable, I did not play my hand. I instead told him that if he did not want me around, all he had to do was buy me out, and we could subtract the cost of the television from that. He happily agreed to be rid of me, and we went through the whole process, contracts and all; I even sold it for more than I bought it since the restaurant’s value had improved prior to this fiasco.

It was only after all of this was taken care of that my former partner noticed how empty the restaurant was and that he had paid a considerable sum for a restaurant with no head chef, no sous chef, and almost no waitstaff.

He had to close that night, and for the rest of the World Series, losing out on the immense profits that come with major sporting events. Even once he finally reopened, it was clear to everyone that the “new owner” had no clue what he was doing, and he went out of business well before Superbowl Sunday.

As for me, I went back to being a bartender. Here’s hoping I can go back to being a manager soon.

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