MY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION REQUEST
While I don’t know what the future holds for the hospitality industry, I do know that an introspective glance back never hurts as you make plans and promises for the coming year. I grew up at a time when in grade school we practiced crawling under our desks as a preventative measure against a nuclear war. My parents cried for joy when I was vaccinated against Polio. I came of age with 8-track tapes and still enjoy Zagnut candy bars. If it doesn’t test your mettle to hear from someone who has crested fifty years in life, read on!
I started working for my first restaurant when I was fifteen years old and was glad to have found a part time job. The daily challenge of providing food and drink to an unknown number of patrons and making a business out of transforming strangers into regulars had an allure for me that continues to this day. It suited me and I stayed.
Now when I say ‘suited,’ do not mistake that for a belief that I had some sort of a special gift. I am not a famous chef, but instead I grew into the role of manager because I had a knack -- a knack for thinking, talking and doing. Subsequently, I led and managed places of my own, as well as places for other folks of all sizes and styles: restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, casual service, quick-service, fast-service, entertainment complexes, single units, multiple units, local, national and U.S. government-owned.
As is likely the case for many of you, I am visited by ghosts of the past during this time of the year. They weave and wisp through my mind reminding me of where I have come from and how rocky that road has been. Just imagine…when I started out in this industry there weren’t any POS systems or computers in the office and people blew their cigarette smoke right in your face every chance they had; I watched as red meat was frightened out of fashion, then back in, out again, in; Disco (the music and the lifestyle) self-emolliated before my eyes (and rightly so); I made some money when Country music galloped into the city and lost some when sports became a 24/7 fixation; and I flirted around the abyss of addictions that vanished many of my friends with the slow efficiency of a hand crank meat grinder.
During those earliest years I must’ve asked a half-dozen people how to correctly pronounce ‘sushi.’ And ‘going green’ used to mean that someone was about to hurl. I never went anywhere without my pager. (Where did they all go?) AIDS, M.S., Lyme disease, C.F.S. , the big C. have all wreaked their loveless havoc upon my loved ones I have worked around or through blizzards, blackouts, floods, wars, tornados, sewer main line breaks, and super scary natural gas leaks. (FYI, the hospitality industry brethren were always the second responders to any community crisis.)
How about you?
Have you heard lately from a ghost of the present day? That silent but boisterous partner in all of your hospitality business quests…The Specter of Pressure? That’s right; the unseen breath thief who seems to shout, “I’m riding shotgun!” as you jump in and start driving up and down your punch list. “S.O.P.” reliably rears its ugly head as you try to make payroll when you’re “a-lit’l-bit-short”; when you must renegotiate down a lease with a cranky landlord when you’re behind on rent; as you discover that nobody has made the quarterly tax payments; when a junkie is tapping on your temple with his piece and you’re praying that you can remember the safe combo on the first try; when top talent jumps to a competitor leaving you high and dry; when your pipes burst in January or the HVAC quits in July; when gift card sales fall short of bringing in the year; when the crazy person in front of you threatens to kill you as you stand between him and his ex-wife/girlfriend, your new server (suddenly the protection offered by a restraining order seems tantamount to waving a red flag at a bull). Yes, if you have chosen to pursue a career in hospitality management/ownership, you may as well acknowledge living with the Specter of Pressure,